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Commentary on OACAS Proposals
March 24, 2005 permalink
The OACAS proposals to amend the Child and Family Services Act are the subject of more comments. Here is a critique by Dr Dolores A Sicheri, followed by comments from an internet discussion group. Note also the letter to Marie Bountrogianni from three members of the Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services, posted here in an untimely manner.
Evaluation of the OACAS Position Paper on the Reform of the CFSA
The OACAS wants the Ontario Government to give it a bigger blank check to deliver child welfare services. The proposed changes will further erode the rights of children and families. It will give these agencies "Gestapo" powers with no accountability. They will answer to no one, not even the Minister.
- It sidesteps the legal issue involving the repeal of Section 43 of the penal code issue by placing a civil ban on any corporal punishment of children including spanking. This use of corporal punishment will be grounds for apprehension or "taking into care."
- The family conferencing process will lack confidentiality. It will be subject to the same reporting process detailed elsewhere in the Act. The CAS will train the mediators to their standards. This will be a biased process
- Any family squabble will cause "emotional trauma to the child." This is too broad. It punished both parents. It will force shotgun divorces.
- Caregiver behaviours are too broadly defined and subject to interpretation. Parents are often labeled as mentally ill when they are simply defending their parental rights. If the parent is a target, any alcohol or porno are grounds for removal of the child. Porn especially is a subjective thing. A casual sexual relationship might be interpreted as porno and as causing emotional harm. The CAS will be judge and jury for morality issues.
- Residential placement for "special needs" children should not require the termination of parental rights or the finding of protection. It does not guarantee funding for "special needs" agreements.
- We are now going to apprehend young adults capable of marriage and going into military service as "children." Some 18 year olds will be adult and others will be children.
- The OACAS wants the need for legal warrant to seize the child be eliminated but be retained for child already in care. The CAS can seize any new child with armed force without a warrant. A warrant will only be used to return to CAS a child already in care. This will further erode the legal rights of families to a legal process. They will no longer have the same protection of due process as criminals. They will be less than criminals.
- They will require professionals working with children to report under penalty of fine or loss of license.
- The implementation of the differential response model for low risk cases is a positive step.
- Permanency planning means that at six months, the child is free for adoption. The age of the youngest child sets this time limit for the entire sib group. The CAS will be done with the parents in short order. There will be none of these expensive drawn out legal battles.
- A place of safety can be any group home. It will use its Fast Track System to keep files on everyone and to share them with others without consent. George Orwell's 1984 has finally arrived.
- The word "kinship" is broadened to include the child's community. This is too broad even for the aboriginal child. It will include the foster parent. These "kin" can be paid.
- They can collect information on you without your consent and transmit it all over the country. There is nowhere you can hide from them, "the Children's Gestapo."
- Anonymity is guaranteed all the snitches except the professionals
- If an error is made, the error remains forever in your file. It cannot be expunged.
- The child does not testify. They can use only their doctored notes.
- Agreed statements of facts can be used at a later time to re-apprehend children. Cases can now be based on what happened in the remote past.
- Long term private custody orders can be given to kinship which will now include foster parents.
- The criteria set forth for "status review application" will render it impossible to obtain.
- Restraining orders can be obtained even for children who have yet to be found in need of protection.
- One will be prosecuted by the Crown Attorney legally for failing to report. CAS will not incur the legal cost of prosecuting these professionals.
- The case can be brought in a different jurisdiction from where the child and parents normally reside. It will make it difficult for the poor parent to pursue the case in a remote jurisdiction.
- Protection supersedes the "best interest of the child"
- The CAS wants the supervision order to state that it has both care and custody of the child.
- If the child dies in CAS care, the protection order ends and the parents can pay the funeral expenses.
- Protection orders started elsewhere will be continued in Ontario. One cannot run away to another jurisdiction.
- The CFSA case can run simultaneously with a custody divorce case but it has to be disposed of first before a final order is made in divorce court.
- Ontario can go to another jurisdiction to pick up a child on whom it already has a protection order.
- The Ministry and the Board of Directors will no longer hear the client's complaints. The complaint process has been deemed irrelevant as no one can overrule the Executive Director. The CAS will be an entity onto itself.
- The Child Abuse registry has been eliminated because of the excessive legal costs it generates with expungement lawsuits. This Fast Track Information System is a more comprehensive system.
- If the organization becomes insolvent or collapses due criminal misconduct, the Board of Directors will be protected from prosecution much like the officers and employees of the Society. The Board of Directors will have no legal liability.
- The computer checklists will replace the team of professionals used to assess risk. Common sense in the evaluation process will no longer exist.
- The Minister will no longer have input into the framework of the legal 5-year review of the Act.
Dolores A. Sicheri MD FRCPC
Parents Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services
March 22, 2005
On an internet discussion group, the provision to open records to crown wards after reaching adulthood received some criticism. The OACAS proposal opens the records, subject to some exceptions. The fear is that every case will be treated as one of the exceptions, thereby changing secrecy from an informal administrative policy as it is now, to a policy mandated by law.