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Anne Patterson on CAS
November 24, 2010 permalink
In an addendum Ian Gillespie wrote about last week's rally in London. He has published a response from Anne Patterson. Links to some of the stories she mentions have been added by fixcas.
CAS Controversies Abound
Further to my column today, reader Anne Patterson forwarded me a letter she wrote a few months ago, cataloging some of the controversies surrounding the Children’s Aid Society.
Here’s an edited version of Patterson’s letter:
“I’ve been fighting to get the Ontario Ombudsman to have oversight of the CAS, which is exhausting. Some of the following cases and situations further explain why:
- The Jeffrey Baldwin case . . . What happened to him will haunt me, I think, forever.            
- The Katelynn Sampson case.      
- “Finding Normal,” (CBC) a documentary where a child was living in a group home, and was drugged enough to kill a small horse on medication while being sexually abused. His grandparents were able to finally rescue him with the help of a proper doctor – he should not have been in the system in the first place. 
- The shocking Globe and Mail report, citing over half of crown wards are on medication not approved for adults.
- The Randal Dooley case.
- The Toronto Sun group home article, where a group home was so bad, it was covered in feces, littered with pornography. . . . It was closed down, but that it was allowed to even reach that point is simply horrifying.
- The Elman report, citing a list of 90 dead children killed in one year under CAS, and a list that the McGuinty government refuses to let anyone investigate as well. 
- The Matthew Reid case.           
- The Douglas Moore case. 
- The baby Jordan case.
- The horrifying series of articles from the Hamilton Spectator last month, where two little boys were involved with both CAS agencies in the area. A social worker had been in the home the very day one of the little guys had to dial 9/11. The police testified that it was a vile, putrid, deplorable dungeon that these children were living in. . . .dead rats, and two filthy, urine soaked bunk beds. . . . Too close to the Baldwin case as well. Haunting.
- The Cornwall sex abuse report, which is historical, and conveys serious allegations of sexual abuse.
- The two Windsor sex abuse cases involving yet again foster parents.
- The Toronto CCAS foster pedophile case, where again CAS staff were involved.
- Oh, and the Ontario audit in which 4 CAS agencies were audited. 
There is much more, but this gives you a glimpse into the horrifying catalogue of things that have transpired with the 53 CAS agencies. That the McGuinty government has left such a mess, has allowed it to continue, and that he blatantly refuses to have the Ontario Ombudsman sort this out is beyond bad politics, it is to me negligent at the highest level of government, and it is a despicable, pitiful, disgusting shame.
The past is a very wicked ghost when it comes to those agencies, but that it is still going on after this many years is beyond unacceptable. It says to me that the government, Ministry, and their respective counterparts have much to hide.
Above all kids are suffering the most and surely Ombudsman oversight at the very least is long overdue. ”
(signed) Anne Patterson
Source: London Free Press
CAS Responds to Criticism
Last week, I wrote a column about a group of protesters gathered at the Children’s Aid Society headquarters on Oxford St., (beside Fanshawe College).
In essence, the protesters were lobbying for support of Bill 131, a private member’s bill (introduced by NDP MPP Rosario Marchese) that would allow the provincial ombudsman (Andre Marin) to investigate complaints about hospitals, long-term care facilities, retirement homes, school boards and Children’s Aid Societies.
After the column ran, I got a call from local CAS executive director Jane Fitzgerald, who invited me to sit down with her for a chat. So I did.
Our meeting lasted about 90 minutes, but the essence of Fitzgerald’s message was this: 1) In order to do its job (and protect vulnerable children), the CAS needs the community’s trust. 2) The CAS doesn’t oppose oversight by the ombudsman (in fact, that will be a political decision), but there are already a number of checks and balances in place to deal with complaints.
Fitzgerald outlined some of the oversight tools that are already in place:
- Unlike some CAS agencies in other provinces, the Children’s Aid Society of London & Middlesex is governed by a community-based board.
- The CAS is under the legislative oversight of the court system. The agency, for instance, is required to go before a judge and show just cause whenever a CAS worker believes a child needs protection.
- Anyone experiencing problems or concerns with the CAS can discuss the matter with their CAS worker, the worker’s supervisor and then the program manager/department director.
- If those efforts don’t bring satisfaction, the complainant can make a formal request (in writing) to the Society’s Internal Complaint Review Panel.
- If still unsatisfied, a person my apply for a review by the Child and Family Services Review Board, which is an independent, external panel that reviews complaints concerning child welfare services in Ontario.
On top of all this, Fitzgerald said the CAS may also be investigated and reviewed, in the case of a death, by the coroner’s office and the province’s Pediatric Death Review Committee.
Fitzgerald said the checks and balances already in place are “comprehensive” and expressed concern that another level of oversight might add another level of “administrative burden” that would detract from the time and efforts spent dealing directly with foster children and their families.
“We live every day with the realization that not everyone is going to be happy with what we do,” said Fitzgerald. “My fear is that we keep adding more and more layers of oversight, and less and less people are doing the work (of protecting vulnerable children).”
But Fitzgerald (pictured below) also stressed that she supported the protesters in their attempts to protect vulnerable children.
“I love that I live in a country where people are allowed to speak out for the rights of children,” she said.
Source: London Free Press
Response from fixcas:
It is good to see that Jane Fitzgerald does not oppose oversight by the ombudsman.
- CAS is run by a board of directors, but that is not a form of community control. CAS boards are tightly controlled by management, often staffed with employees as puppets. Efforts to get true community representatives elected to the board have been stonewalled by refusing membership, refusing membership lists and failure to announce the time and place of board meetings.
- Almost totally false. CAS should get court approval prior to child removal, but does not need it in case of emergency. Guess what? Every case is treated as an emergency. When the case gets to court, the issue is not whether the child should be removed, but whether parents are fit enough to get him back.
- Unhappy parents can discuss their concerns with CAS. Yes, but when unhappy with a neighbor, you can discuss the problem with the neighbor, and on not getting relief you can appeal to the civil courts or report the matter to the police. No such additional relief is available for CAS matters.
- A reader with screen name hebbs commented: Ms. Fitzgerald. Should you ever have a complaint about me and or my conduct, please submit it directly to me and or one of my family members and I’ll be sure to deal with it as efficiently as I can. Remember, once the complaint is denied… That’s it, you have nowhere to turn for appeals. Good Luck with that! Complaining to the society is just another form of appeal to the person causing the problem.
- The Child and Family Services Review Board will deal only with certain kinds of complaints. But worse, in a recent Muskoka case the CFSRB ruled that the children's aid society had acted improperly and ordered it to make changes. Instead of complying, CAS just filed papers in a court and ignored the CFSRB decision.
Deaths in CAS care are tightly guarded secrets. Only about one name a year gets into the press, for the rest even the number of deaths is in dispute.