For years sympathizers with the Bayne family dominated the readership of this blog site. Then I took a break but began again to write about Ayn Van Dyk, autistic 12 year old removed from her family to undergo assessment and investigate her family life. This was occasioned by her afternoon skip over the family fence and a wander down the street. She could not be found for three hours. Other readers, occasional and curious take a peek. Some with vested interest in the Ministry of Children browse as well. Be assured that the parents and advocates of child protection reform who comment here are not a small troublesome faction of uninformed complainers.
Critics exist across Canada and in enlightened countries around the world. Critics are calling for greater accountability for the child protection segment of child welfare. That is what must be understood and processed by responsible parties.
Please hear me say that I believe child protection agencies do serve a vital function to safeguard children. Note that I am saying just as emphatically that child protection departments overstep their mandate.
Residents, neighbours, family members, teachers, doctors, social workers and other professionals have all been informed that they are legally bound to report situations in which they observe or even feel that a child may be maltreated. This has unquestionably rescued some children from dangerous environments. Yet critics will say that this pendulum of social responsibility has swung far too far, and the power to apprehend children and remove them from parental homes is now frequently messing up families and children’s lives due to nothing but a misunderstanding, or false or exaggerated alarms.
Further, child protection offices in B.C. are required to follow up on every report of suspected unsafe or abusive treatment of a child, even a report anonymously submitted. CP workers must then acquire all the information they can to accurately identify risk and then to rate the potential level of harm. That ranking establishes whether the child is in immediate need of protection or whether the investigating SW must investigate further or assist the family. What I do not know is whether these SW choices are subjectively made or whether the process is standardized, that is, that there are standards in place to help the SW to objectively review gathered information and to downgrade the bias of a call-in report.
There is still some supreme damage done to people by frivolous, false and exaggerated reports which are accepted by child protection SWs so they become the substance from which child protection decisions are made. Occasionally a child protection case becomes high profile when the public hears about it through media dissemination. Often such cases have been marked by unique characteristics, such as parents having racist views or parents whose views about child rearing are born from religious conviction but in such cases the complainants are castigated as fringe members of society.
Paul and Zabeth Bayne did not shake their little girl. A judge decided that. But that was the reason why their children were removed initially and why MCFD applied for continuing care. Her father Derek Hoare and her mom Amie, did not neglect their autistic child Ayn nor were they careless. MCFD has told them that. Derek still is primary caregiver for his two sons, one of whom is also autistic. The MCFD was relentless not in helping the Baynes, but rather in unsettling them. Now tell me that something does not have to change. Ayn has celebrated two birthdays while away from her family already, when her case could have been settled judiciously and compassionately and responsibly in the interests of the child no later than one month after she was removed from her school in June 2011. Doesn't something have to change?