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Unemployed Baby Snatchers

December 22, 2011 permalink

Ever wonder where that paycheque deduction called "EI" goes? Chances are you thought it was to support workers who lost their job. Turns out some of it is helping baby snatchers. In this feel-good article the Toronto Star shows how some EI funds are going to foster parents.



Foster-to-adopt parent qualifies for EI parental leave

Ottawa is allowing working parents participating in a pioneering Ontario foster-to-adopt program to qualify for parental leave.

The change comes in the wake of a Toronto Star story last summer about the Children’s Aid Society in St. Thomas, in southwestern Ontario, which is working to ensure every child who is removed from a neglectful or abusive home is moved only once.

Under the agency’s “foster-to-adopt” program, if the child can’t go back home and becomes a Crown ward, the foster parents automatically become the adoptive family. The approach is aimed at stopping the harmful practice whereby vulnerable children bounce through numerous foster homes while child welfare officials determine if it is safe for them to return home. And it aims to ensure every child who becomes a Crown ward ends up in a forever family.

Many foster-to-adopt families have two parents in the workplace and when infants are placed in their homes, parental benefits have never been denied, said Dawn Flegel, director of services for Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas and Elgin County, which serves the community of about 70,000.

But those benefits were called into question last summer when Jolean and Mike Anderson began the foster-to-adopt process for a second time with a baby girl, June.

Jolean, who had taken parental leave a year earlier when the couple adopted their son, Carter, was shocked when her second leave was rejected.

EI officials denied the nine-month parental leave claim because they said her foster baby wasn’t legally available for adoption. They also threatened to recoup the money she was paid during her first leave with Carter.

If the EI decision was allowed to stand, it would have had huge implications for the agency’s foster-to-adopt model, said Flegel, who helped the couple launch an appeal in August.

But in September, Flegel was advised that Ottawa had changed its interpretation of the legislation. Jolean’s parental leave claim was accepted even though the baby girl she and her husband were fostering was returned to her birth mother in November.

No other eligible parent has been denied parental leave benefits since then, added Flegel, who credited the Star story for sparking the change.

“We were so happy to hear this,” Flegel said this week. “We give credit and thanks to EI for thoroughly reviewing this, taking into account our perspective and doing the right thing for families.”

Although Flegel hopes the decision means systemic change that will bolster other Children’s Aid Societies across the country to consider St. Thomas’ foster-to-adopt model, a spokesperson for federal Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said the government has “nothing to announce at this time.”

“Our Government (has) committed to reviewing Employment Insurance legislation to ensure that the needs of Canadians are fairly met,” Alyson Queen said Tuesday.

Since the Star’s story, the St. Thomas CAS has had numerous inquiries about its program, including calls from adoption officials in Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

Source: Parent Central (Toronto Star)

Santa applies for EI