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Tour Bus in Cobourg
August 9, 2011 permalink
The traveling tour bus has reached the children's aid society of Northumberland in Cobourg.
Travelling protest targets local CAS
NORTHUMBERLAND -- A busload of protesters stopped at the Children's Aid Society of Northumberland's Cobourg location Monday en route to Ottawa via small-town Ontario, alleging corruption, lack of accountability and the sale of children by children's aid organizations across Canada.
It was an emotional protest with mothers holding pictures of dead children and participants using a bull horn to broadcast their complaints to the local Children's Aid Society (CAS) workers within the Burnham Street headquarters.
"Our main concern is that the CAS has no accountability," Chad Wells of Peterborough said after handing the bull horn to another protester.
"I have custody of my three children." he said, but he charges the process of working through the Kawartha-Haliburton CAS to achieve custody of them revealed inner workings of the organization that continue to concern him.
Even though a social worker who knew both him and his wife provided firsthand information, as did two shelter workers, the investigative team didn't back off and only worked against him more, Wells said in an interview. Eventually the truth won out but it was a long haul only ending about six months ago, he said.
It is not that communities don't have a real need for CAS organizations to protect children abused in their own homes, but there must be more accountability, Wells said.
Alfredine (Linda) Plourde of Stoney Creek started Protecting Canadian Children and expressed the same complaint. It was her organization that planned the bus route starting at Tory Opposition Leader Tim Hudak's office last week and which will stop at small towns in Ontario on the way to Ottawa.
The tour is to "bring public awareness" about children dying in custody, she said, adding that, in her view, the CAS is "above the law and is not being held accountable."
Plourde said that the CAS is all about increasing its funding by increasing its caseload.
She recounted firsthand experience of when her grandson was taken into care in a foster home, saying he had been abused there before reaching court five days later. Plourde said she wrote the judge and offered a plan of care and other information. As a result of this and other action, the boy is now back in his own family, she said. He has, however, recurring issues related to his foster care treatment, she said.
Stories like Plourde's, and those provided on the protest line by people from different parts of Canada, support her impetus to create her organization which, she said, has become "the children's army." It is to counteract the business-like operation of CAS organizations, she said.
Rose Bray of the Kitchener area was holding signs that read "They are Hunting our Children" and "Stolen kids want to go Home."
Bray said the CAS is taking children because they are living in poverty or need medical care, not because of abusive situations. Because family courts are held "secretly," she said, people in general don't know what is going on. She also charged that the CAS "sells" children through its adoption process.
Bray also said she is working to widen the Ontario Ombudsman's role so that it can investigate the operation of the CAS.
"He can investigate lottery tickets, but not our children," Bray said.
CAS Northumberland executive director Rosaleen Cutler counters that while the Ombudsman can't investigate directly, it can investigate the findings of the Child and Family Services Review Board which is a complaints mechanism for CAS clients.
"We are very much accountable," she said.
In addition to the review board, the CAS is responsible to its own board and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Cutler also said.
As it relates to the courts, if after a child is taken from a home and if the CAS doesn't convince the court of the need for re outside the home and receive a court order after the mandatory five days, the child must be returned, she said.
There is also a court-appointed legal representative for the child involved through the Office of the Official Guardian, Cutler said, as well as an internal client complaints procedure within the CAS, she added.
Cutler said she talked to Wells, who was outside on the line, and said what is needed is to establish a "dialogue" provincially. She said she also talked to staff who were very concerned about the protest going on outside their building.
Contrary to what protesters suggest, the number of children in care in Ontario is "steadily declining."
Northumberland has an average of 500 cases, with 100 children in care, Cutler said.
Source: Northunberland Today
Addendum: A thoughtful commentary.
Children's Aid Society Needs Fresh Approach
On August 9th, 2011 an article appeared in our local daily about a travelling protest of CAS offices in small town Ontario that visited Cobourg yesterday. Wish I'd known they'd be there, I would have found time to stand with them. Over many years as a social justice worker I've heard countless tales from berefit family members whose children have been snatched by the agency, earning them the moniker "the baby snatchers". The agency is a key player in the war against the poor where more and more of their daily lives are unfairly criminalized for the sin of not having adequate incomes and not living an idealized middle class lifestyle or finding a way out of poverty.
Add to that the chaos in our family law system where no judge and no lawyer has the time to really understand the cases they handle, instead just trying to get through the day's work in time for dinner. This leads to the families seldom having the opportunity to stand up in front of the judge and tell their story so decisions are made without real input from them. Of course, erring on the side of safety for the children, that often means the CAS workers are taken at their word without being challenged for accuracy, or even hearsay and second and third hand so-called evidence. Their statements wouldn't last a minute in criminal court because they often have no hard evidence and offer no proof of their claims. Sadly, the court just takes their word for it as if they are always correct in their agency and self-serving assessments and not just one side in a dispute.
Nobody wants to see kids hurt or neglected and it would be unfair to suggest the CAS doesn't care. They do. But they've been allowed to develop very questionable practices that go unchallenged and are terribly unfair and prejudicial against the families of the kids taken and kept away without a firm basis to do so.
The Children's Aid needs an overhaul, starting with an attitude adjustment so they learn that families belong together and their role is to help them stay together by providing support. Right now they act like police, only concerned with punishing those they perceive as less than perfect. There are some workers who are in the wrong profession and are better suited to be jail guards. Power like they have shouldn't be delegated to law and order types whose own need to be in control relegates the interests of the children to second place behind their own power trips.
I hope the protesters see justice for all the families in Ontario suffering under the heavy and often unjustified burden of CAS scrutiny. It's time the agencies' practices were examined in the light of day and fixed as quickly as possible. Hiding behind phoney confidentiality that only works one way is just not acceptable anymore, and neither is tearing families apart when the time lost between parents and children can never be regained.
Source: Northumberland View