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OACAS Wants More Power for Children's Aid

March 14, 2005 permalink

The OACAS has released its Proposed Child and Family Services Act Amendments (pdf file). As expected, they include many provisions expanding the powers of Children's Aid:

  • A child is now anyone under age 18. This should eliminate the habit of crown wards returning to their natural families at age 16.
  • The term "crown ward" is changed to "permanent ward". This is no real change, just an attempt to eliminate a term that has become ugly.
  • Warrants will no longer be necessary to enter a private place for purposes of removing children. Forget a half a millennium of common law protections against the police.
  • The penalty for not snitching is to increase from $1000 to $5000.
  • In a concession to the realities of foster care, protection orders now end with the death of the child. This may be some help to parents who wish to sue for wrongful death.
  • A provision allowing Children's Aid to assist a family by placing a homemaker with the family to help care for the children is to be eliminated.
  • Complaints within Children's Aid need no longer be heard by the board of directors.
  • The Child Abuse Register and Child Abuse Review Teams are to be eliminated. Information may now be shared between Children's Aid Societies without parental consent, eliminating the need for the register. The Child Abuse Register was eliminated by the 1999 legislation, but that section was not proclaimed into law.
  • A set of somewhat technical sounding changes further erodes the standards for "evidence" used in court proceedings against a family.

Some provisions expand the reasons for taking a child away from his parents:

  • Corporal Punishment. The criminal code, and the Supreme Court of Canada, explicitly permit parents to engage in corporal punishment. Now, it will be forbidden with the CFSA. So parents will not go to jail for spanking, they will just lose their children.
  • Domestic Violence. When mom and dad have a squabble (as slight as raised voices), the children will go into foster care.
  • Significant Alcohol and/or Drug Usage. This seems to be directed toward marijuana and cocaine. But curiously, the word drug in the wording may let CAS take kids from diabetics, while a clever lawyer may argue that Cannabis sativa is an herb, not a drug.
  • Exposure to Pornography. Is it best to shield children from sex, or teach them at the earliest possible age? This used to be a matter for parental discretion, but no longer. Anything that could be deemed pornographic is grounds for child removal. And with the definition of a child expanded to age 18, any teenaged boy with a copy of Playboy could get all his younger siblings removed to foster homes.

There is one set of provisions that seem to be genuine reform. When an adopted child is issued a birth certificate, it will identify the connection between parent and child as adoption, rather than as at present, suggest that the adoptive parents are the birth parents. The legislation does not give the child the right to see his original birth certificate, even after the child reaches the age of majority.

Another reform lets a person see his own records. This includes the ability of adult children to look at their records, and the right of parents to examine the records of their children. The OACAS seems to be responding to a lot of criticism with these suggestions. It remains to be seen whether foot-dragging will nullify these reforms.