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Fed-up Grannies

November 21, 2008 permalink

Ontario's custodial grandmothers are mad as hell, and plan to show it to the government. Betty Cornelius was financially ruined by the legal cost of saving her abandoned grandchild, then took in foster children to help pay her own rent. She couldn't put up with CAS making the rules for her own home.



Woman's crusade for children

Grandmother, founder of advocacy group plans demonstration for kinship families

Dave Brown, Citizen Special, Monday, November 17, 2008

Hundreds of Ontario grandmothers are making plans to symbolically abandon thousands of children on politicians' doorsteps next week. It's part of an attempt to focus public attention on a need for some serious rethinking.

There are an estimated 20,000 kinship families in the province. Those are people who have taken in abandoned or abused children who happen to be relatives, and 68 per cent of them are grandmothers. Because they are related to the children, they don't qualify for the benefits given foster families. They struggle by on meagre pensions, and save the province millions in child care payments.

The plan is to collect abandoned dolls, name them after real abandoned children, and abandon them. They want dolls that show signs of having been used and abused, like their grandchildren were.

protest against Mormon church
Betty Cornelius, who won custody of her abandoned grandchild, created Cangrands after learning she was not eligible for financial help because she is a relative.
CREDIT: Peter Redman, Canwest News Service

It's the brainchild of Betty Cornelius, founder of Cangrands. Since the Bancroft-area woman appeared on CTV's W5 last year, telling the story of the political abandonment of children and their grandmothers, her organization's membership has exploded. It now has 35 chapters in five provinces, and 600 members.

She calls Cangrands "the club none of us wanted to join." When her grandchild was abandoned by drug-addicted parents, she stepped in. It cost her $28,000 in legal fees to get court-ordered custody of the child. Although she was putting her comfort on the line, she was the only person in the case paying her own legal bills.

After her win, she qualified for $231 a month under Ontario's Temporary Care Assistance (TCA) program. Since she couldn't call a relative a foster child, she signed on as a foster parent, hoping to earn some badly needed extra money.

A 12-year-old girl arrived, with a flat monthly care rate of $1,500, plus a $350 clothing allowance, plus $150 for her birthday, plus $350 for Christmas.

Mrs. Cornelius is a believer in "my roof -- my rules," and when told she would have to allow the girl to smoke in the house and be sexually active, she got out of the fostering business. Then she learned that changes were being made to the TCA program and she faced losing it, and dental and extra health benefits. She knew she wasn't alone, so she started organizing. She found support through Ontario's New Democratic Party and a bill appeared on the floor at the legislature. It would have drawn new definitions for a foster child. Being related wouldn't be such a great penalty. Liberals closed ranks and it was defeated.

Then she saw International Children's Day (Nov. 20) approaching, and started organizing the doll campaign. She has particularly targeted area MPP Madeleine Meilleur, the minister of community and social services. On Children's Day, she's calling for demonstrators at the minister's constituency office and at the main entrance to Queen's Park.

The campaign asks people to get involved by showing up at 11 a.m. at the offices of all provincial politicians and asking questions like 'Why is our child-protection system so anti-family?'

Last time I checked, in 2003, there were 5,400 children's group-home beds in Ontario and the province paid an average daily rate of $182 per bed. That crosses $1 billion every three years. Those beds were all occupied, because the system was crying for more.

Attend court when pre-sentence suggestions are being heard and you'll frequently hear the convicted portrayed as a victim, because he/she grew up "in the system." It is acknowledged that the state is a poor substitute for family, so leniency, please.

In 1952, at age 13, I listened to a child-protection worker explain how me and my two sisters would be placed in foster homes. (She said mine had a swimming pool.) Our father had died at age 42. The worker said she couldn't allow three children to be among six people in our grandparents' two-bedroom apartment.

The thought of losing family was, to me, as traumatic as the sudden death. Our mother went to work, and we were raised by our retired grandparents. For two years, I was happy to sleep on a living-room sofa. Those years are good memories. I never went to bed without being told I was loved and I never, then or now, doubted it.

Our grandparents insisted we walk tall, keep our heads high and make them proud. In that way, we weren't stunted by our lack of money, cigarettes and sex. But a small portion of what the system was willing to pay strangers could have made those years easier.

Source: The Ottawa Citizen