By Ray Ferris (This piece is one of a series Ray will write here.)
Since the enactment of the Child, Family and Community Services Act the use of lawyers has dramatically increased. Now that proper training in the act has become uncommon, the social workers rely on legal advice for every function.
Interviews with clients have become so adversarial that they are often conducted with counsel present. This intimidates clients to the point where they feel they too must have an advocate present. It should be obvious that the legal profession and the courts have a very old tradition of being adversarial. It is also well known that the more adversarial the culture, the more financial benefit goes to lawyers, so they have little incentive to negotiate.
The adversarial culture is so deeply ingrained into the legal profession and the judiciary that they seem unable to think in a different way. They just cannot help it. This culture now permeates the family court and processes have become as formal and adversarial as criminal court. The informality allowed in the act is soon forgotten.
It has often been said that courts do not dispense justice, but they dispense law. Family courts do not protect child welfare, they dispense process. This process often becomes so lengthy that child welfare gets drowned in process. No wonder many people are now wondering whether the family court is no longer suitable for deciding protection cases. Ways and means should be sought to have cases heard before some sort of panel of experts and only sent to court if unavoidable.
Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' This is the first in a series of pieces Ray will write here. You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at email@example.com.