Part Three of Nine
Resolving Systemic Problems in Child Protection Services
By Ray Ferris
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Define the Problems
Yesterday, Ray said, "In cases where there is compelling evidence that a continuing care order must be made, it is especially important to proceed through court with dispatch so that planning can go ahead without harmful delays."
I am going to show some example of fairly recent cases to show how very badly everything can go wrong. I do this in order to analyse the process and to show both systemic and non-systemic failures. All these cases have some things in common.
Let us take the B. case heard before chief provincial courts judge Thomas Crabtree. Three small children were held in the limbo of interim custody and temporary care for nearly four years before being returned home. The following things transpired. They could only raise $60,000 for their defence and they had to sell their home to do it. When the money ran out, so did their lawyer. They could not find an experienced family court lawyer to take their case without a guarantee of $100,000. Their case would have been lost if they had not found a lawyer who acted virtually pro bono and had the Canadian Alliance for Justice not covered the many costs. During the time the children were in care only infrequent contact with the parents was allowed. Any visiting was short and subject to the most stringent supervision. The children were moved several times from one foster home to another and they all suffered severe anxiety disorders after care ceased. The following facts in the case are noted.
The crux of the case rested on one piece of expert opinion evidence. A doctor claimed that an injury to a newborn child was deliberate. Ten other medical experts disagreed and rendered the opinion unreliable. There was only one piece of factual evidence in the case and that was not disputed. This was the fact that the child sustained an injury. The argument was as to whether it was accidental or deliberate. Several other crown witnesses had no factual evidence, but could only offer opinion, conjecture and hearsay.
2. Time lines.
The hearing lasted for 22days spread out over three years. An additional five days were taken by crown counsel to sum up his case. This was the same counsel who had advised the director to return the children nearly two years earlier as the case was not viable.
The important time lines of the act were not followed. No written notice was ever served, as required by the act.
4. The judge deliberated for four months and then made an order, which was beyond his powers, and he had to retract it and issue another order. He made a minimal protection finding and made a temporary order. By this time the children had been in interim custody for well over three years, so in effect the judge put the children into a form of temporary care for three and one half years. This exceeded the intention of the act three and one half times.The judge left it up to a psychologist to be chosen by the director to determine the outcome of the case. He then relinquished the case to another judge.