Episode 1 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION
Ron Unruh's Preface: For the next several days I am presenting a series of posts under this broad title of Improvements for BC Child Protection. The content derives from a ten-page document prepared by Ray Ferris for members of the B.C. legislative assembly. The segments for this blog are prepared with his permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade. Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at email@example.com.
Written by Ray Ferris.
CURRENT PROBLEMS WITH B.C. CHILD PROTECTION
In assessing problems within British Columbia's Children Protection it is helpful to note the conclusion at which The Seebohm Commission in Britain arrived in the 1960s, that there were many problems of a non-administrative nature in the British social services and that they could not be solved by administrative changes. There have been many serious problems in the child protection services of British Columbia, but the repeated attempts at solving them have exclusively been through administrative and legal devices, all of which have failed. Indeed it could be argued that they have sometimes made the situation worse.
The problems in the children's ministry are many and complex. Unsuccessful practices often become entrenched and heavily defended, so to tackle them all would take years. In view of this, I am only making suggestions based on clear evidence and which would require no structural changes and only one legal change. First I will define the problems and then the suggested solutions. Illustrations have been included to define the problems clearly.
Today, Problem #1 of 4. ACCESS TO EFFECTIVE LEGAL REPRESENTATION
No child should be deprived of the care of the parents and no parents deprived of their children for lack of good legal representation through lack of funds. At present a parent has little chance of successfully opposing a director. Directors simply outgun them with legal firepower and run them out of money. The legal debts can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Here follows a persuasive citation of Illustrations.
Case 1. The Baynes - Sold Home - I start with the Bayne case, because it has been covered on both CBC Go Public and Fifth Estate and can be named. This is a prime example of the worst practice in child protection and is thus mentioned in more than one section. What is troubling is that the actions of the director were supported to the top of the ministry.
In a nutshell, three small children were kept in limbo for nearly four years on one piece of expert opinion evidence. An opinion that was rebutted by ten more-qualified experts. Moreover the case was pursued for two years after the director's counsel had advised them to return the children under supervision. The Baynes hired a lawyer who failed to ensure that any of the basics of the CF&CSA were followed but pursued a course of suing a physician for malpractice. He charged the parents $60,000 and abandoned them when the money ran out. They sold their home to pay for legal fees and costs. They would have had no chance, had not the late Doug Christie represented them gratis for two years. The thousands in court costs were raised by a justice society.
Case 2. Mother - $750,000 - CM fled an abusive marriage in the U.S.A. and came back to her home in Victoria. Her aged parents could not help her and after being denied social assistance, because she had not yet found accommodation, she requested voluntary care for a short period of time for her two children. She was a qualified professional who would soon find work. The social worker agreed, but at the last minute apprehended the children and CM found herself in a protracted court case to get back her children. A well-known criminal lawyer took her case as legal aid and eventually succeeded in having the children returned under three months supervision. At the expiry of the order the director requested an extension of the order with more severe restrictions; in spite of the fact that the social worker had made no contact until the last day of the order. The director spent a full week in court, just quibbling about the terms of the extended order. At the end of the week the judge granted a three-month extension, but declined to change the terms. He warned the director not to come back to court without compelling new evidence.
The defense lawyer estimated that she had given about $750,000 worth of free legal services.
Case 3. Family - a $200,000 bill - A family appealed a continuing care order against them. They won the appeal and the children were returned with no conditions. They had to remortgage their home to pay the $200, 000 in legal fees.
Case 4. Family - $200,000 bill - This case was very similar to the preceding one and both were from immigrant visible minority backgrounds. There were two differences. In this case they had to sell their home to pay the $200,000 in legal fees and a new hearing before a different judge was ordered. The new judge returned the children.
Case 5. Mother - Millions Owed - This case was being heard simultaneously in Provincial family court as a protection case and in Supreme Court as a divorce and custody hearing. The mother finished up with custody of the children, but the director was siding with the father, so the mother had to contend with the director's deep pockets. She finished up owing her lawyer over a million dollars.
Case 6. Foster Mom - Sold a Farm - An indigenous foster mother wanted to adopt her two and a half-year-old indigenous foster daughter whom she had raised since birth. The director wanted to ship the child across the country to relatives who were strangers. The indigenous natural parents thought that they had placed the girl as an indigenous adoption placement, but the director took the child away anyway. On discovering that indigenous adoptions were recognized in the North-West Territories, the foster mother obtained an adoption order and a birth certificate in her name from British Columbia. The director fought a protracted court battle with them in both NWT and BC. The parents sold their home to raise the million dollars in legal costs and relatives raised a mortgage.
Case 7. Father & Mother - $100,000 - In a current case a retired engineer's second wife was much younger than he was and of a visible minority race. He had grown children by his first marriage and two young sons by his current marriage. The boys were apprehended because of aberrant behaviour at school. Mother does appear to be of a rather nervous disposition and it was discovered that the late Dr. Abraham Hoffa, using megavitamins, had at one time treated her for anxiety. The father contested the director's application, but after spending $100,000 on legal fees he just gave up. An attempted plan with a relative fell through. On learning that the parents would no longer oppose the director's action, the children were returned under supervision.
Tomorrow, Problem #2 Child & Family & Community Services Act is Routinely Ignored