Children’s Aid Society workers should be reined in
Thank you Kevin Libin, Ombudsman Andre Marin and MPP Andrea Horwath for exposing Canadian Fascism. Children’s Aid Societies are infected with ideological feminists that often do more harm than good to children and families.
Shame on the Ontario Liberals for resisting proper accountability and pandering to feminist ideology.
Children’s Aid Society workers should be reined in, critics say
Kevin Libin, National Post Published: Friday, June 12, 2009
Canada‘s child-welfare agencies, says University of Manitoba social work professor Brad McKenzie, have among the broadest intervention powers in the Western world. Caseworkers come armed with vaster powers than any police officer investigating crime. It is an immense authority easily abused, without vigilant restraint.
It is time, critics say, they were reined in.
"The social worker system, as it applies to children, is out of control, seriously out of control," says Katherine McNeil, a children’s advocate who has worked with families in Nova Scotia and B.C. "And nobody’s doing anything about it."
"They violate all kinds of privacy and rights," says Chris Klicka, senior counsel for the Home School Defense League, which represents Canadian and American parents.
Whether we wanted it or not, knew it or not, over time, the work of child-welfare organizations has become "parenting by the state and the imposition of their value system on other people," says Marty McKay, a clinical psychologist who has worked on abuse cases in the U.S and Canada. Provincial agencies have the power to intervene when children are considered "at risk" of abuse or neglect – even if none has actually occurred. Or, where spousal abuse happens, but kids are untouched. And what they do with the children they take can sometimes be worse than what they suffered at home.
The government’s role in protecting vulnerable children treads an impossibly fine line. Without anonymous complaints, and the power to interview and apprehend, some children would undoubtedly suffer terribly. Accordingly, legislators grant workers astounding licence: a social work graduate, fresh from college, can enter a home without warrant; apprehend children without due process; and commandeer police officers to enforce his or her efforts. A caseworker can order children dressed, fed, medicated, and educated any way they consider appropriate. Parents who do not submit risk losing custody, even visitation of their kids. Or have them taken away permanently.
It is an authority that is sometimes severely misused. When that happens, Ms. McKay says, families can be traumatized in a perversion of the very system designed to prevent abuse.
The anonymous process, for example, invites bogus tips – commonly from divorcing parents, for instance, since agencies can unilaterally alter custody arrangements. Most complaints prove "unsubstantiated": 55% according to the most recent Health Canada study.
And some child-welfare workers also exploit their tremendous clout to behave unethically, prejudicially or illegally.
"Some of them get a real power complex because they have a bachelor of social work, or a masters, and they suddenly have this power [to] apprehend," says Ms. McKay. "They throw their weight around." She sees in some workers a "police mentality." It may be a coincidence, but in the largest English-speaking provinces, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario (Quebec data are incomplete), the number of children taken into care by provincial agencies between 1993 and 2001, rose a remarkable 97%, 63% and 72% respectively.
Prof. McKenzie is encouraged by a nascent trend in Canadian agencies away from historic, heavier-handed investigative and apprehension focus, and toward working more co-operatively with families to improve home conditions.
Studies show that under the current system, he says, "generally we find that the majority of children that are served [by welfare agencies] do well" – meaning they thrive at school, seem generally well-adjusted, are free from abuse and neglect. About 15% to 20%, he says, do not.
Last year, Ontario MPP Andrea Horwath tabled a private member’s bill to make Children’s Aid Societies answerable to the provincial ombudsman, something Ontario’s Children and Youth Services has repeatedly resisted (ombudsmen in some other provinces, such as Alberta, have that authority). Ontario’s CAS typically refuses to share files with its Child Advocate; in his annual report released earlier this year – which found 90 children in provincial care died in 2008 – Irwin Elman called it "almost impossible" to get information necessary to investigate potential agency wrongdoing. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled parents could not sue child-welfare agencies; provinces, it ruled, owed no "duty of care" to families. The lack of oversight, says Ms. McNeil, creates departments accountable only to themselves.
In 2001, two judges in Simcoe, Ont., criticized the CAS there for "arbitrary use of government power" and unreasonableness "verging on blind obstinacy" in fighting to keep children from being adopted by certain foster parents. Several parents interviewed for this story claim to have faced false accusations and bullying from caseworkers harbouring apparent agendas.
Even when acting with utmost professionalism, whether agents are able to provide children a better, safer environment than where they came from is not certain.
"Children’s Aid has no business placing into care a child that they can foresee is going to come out worse the other end than when they went in," Ms. McKay says. "If that’s the best they can do, just leave them."
Two teens charged in connection with the recent double murder near Edmonton were in care of a ministry-licensed group home – a place neighbours say they warned the government for years was poorly monitored. In March, a 15-month-old baby in care of Alberta’s Children and Youth Services suffered critical head injuries in a foster home; in the past four years, two Alberta children have been killed by foster parents. A 2008 report found Alberta caseworkers regularly placing kids in unsafe conditions, including abusive situations.
Last year, seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson was killed in Toronto in care of a foster parent with a record of violent crimes, and in Vancouver, police discovered minors in provincial care working as prostitutes. In 2002, Jeffrey Baldwin was abused and neglected to death by a couple with a known history of child abuse but were nonetheless granted custody of the five-year-old by the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. A 2006 CBC investigation uncovered Ontario caseworkers drugging a seven-year-old Ontario boy into a stupor with massive doses of psychotropic medications, which a psychiatrist would later find had "no actual treatment value," except making him more compliant in his group home. While in his drugged state, he was sexually abused by fellow residents.
"They need to go back to the basics," she says. "Do the children look well-nourished? Do they have bruises on them? Are they molested? Is the house crawling with cockroaches? If not, they’re not being abused or neglected."
But with powerful, generally unaccountable agencies, dependent on justifying their place in a world far improved from the cruelties of J.J. Kelso’s Victorian Toronto, the need to intervene in more cases, for more reasons, may make such discipline difficult. "I would love to just demolish the system and start from scratch again," she says. "Because it’s gone very far awry here."