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CAS Improvements Needed

February 5, 2006 permalink

Past London Free Press articles on the subject of Children's Aid have been favorable to the child protectors. Here is an opinion piece printed in the paper on Friday, February 3, 2006, not availiable online.



Children's Aid Must Protect kids at Risk

The trial of Torontonians Elva Bottineau, 54, and Norman Kidman, 53, in the death of their grandson, five-year old Jeffrey Baldwin, raises many questions about the Catholic Children's Aid Society (CCAS) of Toronto. A child is dead after being placed in the care of his maternal grandparents. The CCAS, which removed Jeffrey in the first place, must bear some responsibility in this tragedy. They are legally in charge of enacting child protection laws under their mandate and would have made some type of recommendation about this case. Also disturbing is the notorious Edith Sanders abuse case in London. Imagine having been adopted by a torturer who ended up being Canada's oldest female inmate, escaping a terror comparable to a concentration camp, including the fact the victims were ruthlessly branded with an "E" on their arm, and having to fight in a courtroom for years to get justice.

The abuse and torture profoundly affected many lives; the damage is incredible. A woman adopted by her, Kim Campbell, as well as the daughter of Sanders, and a woman kept as a slave, endured a long battle. It took decades for Sanders to be held to account. She was sentenced in her 80s to four years in prison. Superior Court Justice Edward Browne, who presided over the case, described it has having featured the most appalling evidence he had heard in 40 years.

Sanders died in September 2004, but litigation asking for responsibility by both the London police and the London Children's Aid Society remains. Campbell is in her late 40s and survived her own horror show of abuse, as well as witnessing the savage abuse of Beatrice Feick, the woman kept by Sanders as a slave. Feick is in many ways an older version of Jeffrey Baldwin, the difference being she is alive, which is amazing considering the tortures inflicted on her. The fact that an evil torturer was allowed to foster and adopt children or even raise her own, is incredible. The fact that a couple who had a history of child abuse had custody of Jeffrey is even more incredible. In both tragedies is a much larger issue: Where is the responsibility of Children's Aid Societies?

Bill 210, introduced by the provincial Liberal government, has made various recommendations for changing adoption, fostering and child welfare. I support some of these changes in addressing the needs of children. Of concern is Section 68, which reframes the process of official complaint procedures against a Children's Aid Society, nullifying the few mechanisms of complaint against them.

Numerous groups want the CAS to be more accountable, considering the volumes of other abuse cases historically, as well as those that continue to come to light. John Dunn, president of the Foster Care Council of Canada, is one of many who are concerned. Dunn has said the section removes responsibility from these agencies, leaving victims to complain to the perpetrators. Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin recently approached the standing committee on social policy concerning Bill 210 to ask for investigative powers to oversee complaints regarding the Children's Aid Societies of Ontario. Anyone who is concerned about such serious cases of abuse should consider supporting the recommendations by the ombudsman. A petition to urge the government to give the Ontario ombudsman authority to investigate the CAS can be found online under the Foster Care Council of Canada.

It would be unconscionable for the government to remove responsibility from these agencies for ensuring child safety. It is a sad commentary when children are dead and others will suffer years of trauma due to the failure of the system. More sad is that both of these horrific tragedies could have been prevented in the first place. As a society, we have a responsibility to protect children - and so should the very agencies specifically designated for this purpose.

Anne Patterson is a London freelance writer.

Source: Anne Patterson,