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Child and Family Services Act Revised

June 6, 2005 permalink

Today the Ontario government began a media campaign promoting its changes to the Child and Family Services Act. This is the most consequential legislation relating to family law -- by comparison, the scuffles over the Ombudsman's report and the Adoption Disclosure Act were mere sideshows. Articles were placed in the newspapers and included media appearances by Marie Bountrogianni. In every medium, the new act is promoted as furthering adoption.

The text of the proposed law is not available on the Ontario Legislative Assembly website, so the press-release by the Minister of Children and Youth Services is the only available source. Part of it follows below. Translated out of social worker jargon, it looks pretty scary.

"Creating more legal options beyond traditional adoption". It is hard to see what this may be. Homosexual adoption? Adoption by single parents? Permanent placement in a group home? It is unlikely to be something better for children.

"Supporting families after an adoption". In social worker jargon, support means social workers issuing orders. So even after a child is adopted, he will remain under social worker control.

"A new funding framework for children's aid societies". In the past, the actual funding rules for Children's Aid Societies have been bureaucratic secrets. This is unlikely to change, so we will have no way to know whether the assertions in the press release are factual.

"Resolve more cases outside the courtroom through more collaborative solutions". Does this mean that parents will no longer have recourse to the courts to get their children back?

There is no suggestion anywhere that natural parents are part of the solution to foster care. The emphasis on expanding adoption means that the Ontario government has no intention of reducing the theft of children from parents. And there is no suggestion anywhere of repatriating children from foster care, even when the family infirmity justifying the child removal has been repaired.



McGuinty Government To Make Adoption Possible For More Children
New Legislation To Help More Children Find A Permanent Home

TORONTO, June 6 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government intends to introduce legislation today that would, if passed, reform the province's adoption system so that more children can find a safe, secure family to grow up in, Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni announced today.

"The current system is too rigid," said Bountrogianni. "We need to help more children find a permanent, caring home by making adoption more flexible for individual children and friendlier for parents."

There are approximately 9,000 children, who are considered Crown wards, in the care of Ontario's children's aid societies, but current legal and structural barriers make three-quarters of them ineligible for adoption. Proposed changes would make adoption more flexible and provide a wider range of options so that more children can be placed with a family on a permanent basis.

"Children move between foster homes and group homes an average of every two years," said Bountrogianni. "This kind of instability can affect a child's education, self-esteem and their ability to form meaningful relationships as they grow up. We want to help our children grow up in permanent, nurturing families."

The proposed changes are part of the government's plan to reform Ontario's child protection system so that more children and youth in the care of children's aid societies thrive in safe, stable, supportive homes. The plan includes:

  • Making adoption more flexible for children by allowing more children to be adopted while keeping important ties to their birth family and community
  • Creating more legal options beyond traditional adoption so children and youth can be placed in a permanent home
  • Making the process consistent for adoptive parents by simplifying the application process, creating a province-wide registry to help match available children with prospective parents and supporting families after an adoption.

The government's plan also includes working with children's aid societies so they are better equipped to place children in permanent homes and are more effective in matching their level of response to the individual needs of each family. A new funding framework for children's aid societies will help them to be more accountable and sustainable so they will be there to protect children who need them in the future. The legislation would also help resolve more cases outside the courtroom through more collaborative solutions.

"Clearly, the government recognizes the monumental value that a permanent, caring family represents to a child who has been abused or neglected," said Pat Fenton, Executive Director of the Adoption Council of Ontario. "We are delighted to see it taking concrete steps today to help these vulnerable children."

"Instability affects every part of a child's life," said Bountrogianni. "These children and youth live in fear because they think no one loves them or wants to invest in them. These changes would help those children and youth know what it means to have a family."

[two backgrounders and a fact sheet follow in the original]

Source: press release

Addendum: An Act to Amend the Child and Family Services Act is now online.

The biggest, and most dangerous, change for families is in new section 20.2(1). It provides that the Executive Director of the Children's Aid Society can "consider" alternative dispute resolution. New section 223.1(1) provides for alternative dispute resolution to be defined by regulation. It is likely that the government intends some kind of administrative hearing before employees of Children's Aid. So now when your child is taken by Children's Aid, you will have no recourse outside of Children's Aid itself.

Section 61(8) provides for review in cases where a foster parent disputes the decision to remove a crown ward in his care for more than a year. The party adverse to the foster parent gets to appoint the person conducting the review.

Section 68 defines the internal complaints procedure. It will still exist, but the right of aggrieved persons to a copy of the procedure is eliminated. They can get only "information concerning the review procedure", those glossy pamphlets with lots of smiling faces and no substantive content. It also eliminated the right to internal review for matters dealt with by a court, so this paragraph may become moot in most cases.

There remains no legal recognition of the reality that natural parents provide better care for children than any substitute.