Wednesday, February 12, 2014

THE NEEDS OF A CHILD - TWO STORIES - Story Two by Ray Ferris

Nova Scotia foster parent training
Yesterday you read about Rosanna who was removed from foster parents Don and Elizabeth. Ray Ferris told the story from his experience with the foster parents and yesterday's blog entry was a Ray's note of support for them and his condemnation of the MCFD Director's action.

But that was one story, and today's story cites an occasion when the Ministry got it right when they did not keep a foster child with a set of foster parents. Ray continues today with "Murderers terminate life. The director destroyed the life of this girl and destroyed her future."

Elizabeth fought tooth and nail to get back her daughter. She had many supporters who were horrified at what had happened. Both adopted daughters were devastated and they both told me that the allegations were preposterous and that they had grown up in a wonderful and loving home. Nobody had bothered to ask them what they thought. Anyway Elizabeth tried publicity, demonstrations and so on. I encouraged her to get her file under freedom of information and this revealed a lot of internal muzzling of staff. We also learned that the director had been very untruthful with everyone. When I read the hundreds of documents obtained from the privacy commissioner, I discovered that there had been no fewer than 25 different ministry functionaries involved in the closure of this home. Some of the staff were quite upset at what had happened, but they were warned to keep quiet.

I could write a book on this case, so I will just say that these are the sort of people that made me hold foster parents in great respect and I hate to hear foster parents being criticized as a group. Very few people could hold a candle to Don and Elizabeth H.

As a result of press publicity a woman went to Elizabeth for help with her case against the children’s ministry and Elizabeth passed her on to me. This lady was from the other side of the coin.

Mrs. Z. and her husband were immigrants from an east European country and they had several children. They were hard workers and self-supporting and very religious. The issue arose when their ten-year-old son became seriously ill and had to be admitted to hospital. The doctors found that he was severely diabetic and he was close to death on admission. He would need lifelong insulin shots and a careful dietary regime. Mrs. Z was in total denial about this. She refused consider any injections for her son. She insisted that the power of prayer would heal him and that it would be a sin to do otherwise. Visiting in hospital became a problem because they spoke to their son in their native language and so it was difficult to monitor the visit. The parents encouraged him to refuse his shots and to leave the hospital and come home. The director had little choice but to take the boy into care.

When the woman contacted me by phone it was a little difficult to converse because her English was limited. She went on and on about what God wanted and how she had been badly treated by the social worker. I asked her if she had a copy of the court report and she said she did not, but her lawyer might have one. I told her it was her right to have a copy and she could send it to me. To make sure I sent her a letter by regular post as she had no email. I asked her to get a copy of the court report from her lawyer and send it to me and to show my letter to her lawyer. I promptly got a letter from the lawyer with the court report, which was fair, factual and clear. I convinced me that the director had no choice. The lawyer billed herself as a mediator as well as a lawyer and I phoned her because I wanted to see if the court report was as fair as it looked. She was very correct, but she was obviously given a tough case to defend. She found the social workers to be very reasonable and they were hoping the lawyer could persuade the parents to agree to a return under supervision which would include careful monitoring of the boy’s medical needs.

What could I do? I wrote her a letter copying her lawyer and the social work supervisor. I told her that the social worker had acted very correctly and without their intervention she would most likely have lost her son. I urged her to accept the counsel of her lawyer and the social worker. I also suggested that she go to her priest or minister and ask for spiritual guidance and to show him the copy of the court report, so that he knew the reality of her son’s medical conditioning. I could not imagine her priest condoning her denial and he had a better chance of persuading her than I could.

Ray Ferris is a frequent commentator and occasional post writer here. Ray speaks and writes from a vast experience of 31 years in public service in general public welfare and child welfare, child protection, as a social worker, district supervisor, work among aboriginal peoples, long term foster care supervisor, family court coordinator, director of alcohol and drug counselling. Ray is the author of 'The Art of Child Protection'. He is a decided critic of aspects of MCFD policy as exemplified by the manner in which the Bayne family were treated these past four years. He has written today's piece.’)

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