Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.



Mother Rescues Baby from CAS

April 12, 2005 permalink

Lisa Heughan
Lisa Heughan

Another mother has escaped from CAS with her baby. In this case, the mother is a 38-year-old woman, Lisa Heughan, who took her six-week-old girl, Graciana Heughan, from visitation. The OPP and Toronto Police Service (pdf) have issued Amber Alerts. Once again, be on the lookout for a mother caring for her child!

Addendum: The mother and unharmed baby were found by police early on April 13. There are grounds for suspicion when police take action against a person, but cannot say why. Here is all that is known of the reason for the intervention, from an article in the National Post:

Ms. Heughan, Det. Briggs said, suffers from "very serious mental issues," adding she has a history of problems with drugs and alcohol.

The Children's Aid Society removed the baby from the woman's custody shortly after the birth at St. Michael's Hospital.

"There was an incident that occurred at the hospital after the child was born involving the mother that caused some concern for Children's Aid," said Detective Constable Joe Verissimo last night.

Press reports include much salacious material from the mother's past as a B-movie actress.

Addendum: On April 20, 2005 a press release from the Children's Aid Society of Toronto warned news editors to suppress the names of the persons involved in this case. The Society fears that when the girl grows up she will be harmed by the discovery that her mother loved her.



Attention News Editors:

Privacy necessary for children who are subject of child protection proceedings

TORONTO, April 20 /CNW/ - A recent AMBER Alert in the city of Toronto has raised difficult privacy issues for all who deal with child protection proceedings. Publicity is needed during an Amber Alert in the hopes that the public may help find an abducted child. But where there are child protection proceedings the law prevents the publication of information that would identify a child, the child's parent, foster parent, or a member of the child's family.

Reporters, editors and Children's Aid Society officials have to operate with these conflicting goals.

Last week the alleged abduction of a child from a CAS office by her mother prompted a province wide Amber Alert. The Amber Alert was successful and the child was returned to foster parents who are caring for her. The Alert was based on the overriding concern for the safety of the child. Now, however, the child has been returned to safety and the relevant section of the Child and Family Services Act and the rationale on which it is based must take precedence.

Section 45(8) of the Child and Family Services Act states:

No person shall publish or make public information that has the effect of identifying a child who is a witness at or a participant in a hearing or the subject of a proceeding, or the child's parent or foster parent or a member of the child's family.

While this law makes it more challenging for both the media and CAS to keep the public informed about important issues, the privacy, and well being of the child must come first.

The paramount purpose of the Child and Family Services Act is to promote the best interests, protection and well being of children. Section 45 is intended to strike a balance between the need to protect a child and the right of the public to be informed. It protects the privacy of children and their family members from stigmatization and emotional trauma, which can be caused by publication of identifying information together with sensitive evidence of the case. "We must consider privacy rights for even very young children," says Persaud, "we live in an electronic age. When a child grows older it would be quite easy for them to find out information that could cause them great personal trauma."

Participants in child protection proceedings are free to go to the media to tell their story but identifying information cannot be published.

The first AMBER Alert program was established in Arlington, Texas in 1996 after the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman. AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert programs cover most of North America.

The Children's Aid Society of Toronto works with children and their families when children have been or are at risk of being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused or neglected. The Society also develops and implements child abuse prevention programs. The Society is one of 53 children's aid societies in Ontario, and it is the largest such organization in North America. There are approximately 825 staff, 650 volunteers and 360 foster families at the Society. In 2003/2004, we served more than 13,300 families and more than 32,000 children. Additionally, more than 3,500 children were in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto during 2002/2003. For every child we brought into our care, we helped nine more to stay with their families in their own home.

For further information: Melanie Persaud, Manager, Communications, Children's Aid Society of Toronto, (416) 924-4646 ext. 2086

Source: press release