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.



Between a Rock and a Hard Place

May 26, 2005 permalink

Today Ontario Ombudsman André Marin released his report Between a Rock and a Hard Place (pdf) to the public, local copy (pdf).

André Marin
André Marin

The following quote from the report shows that the senior Ministry officials are clueless, and suggests a weak ministry manipulated by the career bureaucracy:

103 How prevalent is this phenomenon? It is impossible to say precisely. Senior Ministry officials advised my Office that the Ministry is unaware of how many children with severe disabilities are currently in the protection of Children's Aid Societies either under Temporary Care Agreements or society or Crown wardship orders because their parents are unable to provide necessary residential care. The Ministry advised that it has never investigated the issue of whether there are Children's Aid Society files in which protection concerns have been "manufactured" so that children with severe disabilities could obtain residential placement.

In response to scandal, Mrs Bountrogianni said:

The report was written in February, it was given to me in March, and I did indeed immediately act. Those 30 families were given the services they needed, following the process of the communities solving the problems and finding the resources for those children, and they didn't have to go to the courts to give up custody of their children.

According to Mr Marin, Mrs Bountrogianni lied, or in his more diplomatic words, failed to appreciate that the problem exists. The services mentioned were in fact not delivered.

The Ombudsman deals with families of severely disabled children. He estimates there are 150 to 200 cases of parents humiliated by being compelled to sign documents officially abandoning their children. Mother Tina Grignard reports:

That was the most disgusting lowest point of my entire life. I so regret going. ... When I walked in the corridor, there were about 30 people there and I wanted to die. I work for the Ministry, the rent geared to income office. I recognized many of our tenants in that court. It was kind of awkward. This is a small community ... My CAS worker ... walks in the door and I clearly heard three different people say "[the CAS worker]" is here and [she] comes, walks right over to me and sits beside me and starts talking. So now its been confirmed that I'm here not for divorce court but I'm here for Children's Aid. So I just wanted to die. I was just so embarrassed.

Mrs Grignard's unease is the consequence of the true reputation of Children's Aid. Not a good experience indeed. We wonder, will Mr Marin now go on to deal with the humiliation, and horror, of thousands of parents who find that their children do not return from school, or who have their children kidnaped (protected) by armed policemen invading their home?

Mr Marin identifies the problem that handicapped children are shoehorned into the child-protection system, without grasping why child-protection bureaucrats prefer crown-wardship over in-home assistance to competent parents. Once a child is a crown-ward, the bureaucracy presents the legislature with the dilemma of providing funding, or letting children go without food and shelter. Since legislators will not take the latter choice, continued funding is assured. No such assurance exists when providing in-home assistance.

164 On a final note, I feel the need to point out that parents have expressed palpable fear of the consequences of coming forward to my office to complain. They are concerned that they will be punished by the bureaucrats that they depend on to assist them. I intend to monitor the outcome of my report and vigorously act, if there is any sign of reprisal against those who have demonstrated the courage to speak out against this manifestly unfair situation.

This is the problem Dufferin VOCA, and other CAS opponents, have faced for years. We have hundreds of stories of abuse of families in the name of child protection, yet must remain silent in nearly all cases, because of the threat of retaliation by Children's Aid. Unlike Mr Marin, we cannot protect families with the powers of government.

Mrs Bountrogianni has responded with a press release in which she promises more money, increasing the bounty on the heads of Ontario children payable whenever Children's Aid succeeds in snatching a child. She does offer to repatriate children taken into custody. Since the laws of Ontario permit publishing family names when there is no protection involved, we are waiting for the names of repatriated children.

Addendum: CBC reporter Jane Hawtin speaks to André Marin and mother Cyndi Cameron. (mp3) runs 7:36.

Source: CBC