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January 12, 2012 permalink
In what may be a new response to criticism, two CAS executive directors have sent letters to the editors of local newspapers. The first is Janice Robinson, responding to criticism at the December 7 rally. It is enclosed, along with comments by fixcas.
Notes in red are by fixcas
Letters to the Editor
CAS defends itself after accusations
To the editor:
Recently in newspaper articles about protests against the Children's Aid Society of Haldimand and Norfolk, we were described as "corrupt" and our workers as "perjuring themselves." While I recognize the right of protestors to speak out, I am writing to give you information about your Children's Aid Society in order to balance the viewpoint.
Child abuse and neglect exists in our community. This year, your CAS received over 1,450 referrals of children in need of protection. The third highest source of these referrals, year after year, is from parents themselves who call on us for help with their children. We currently are working with 1,185 children in the care of their own families.
A few naive parents call CAS expecting help with their own children, but often regret doing so after seeing the CAS response. More malicious calls come from divorced parents trying to get the upper hand against their ex.
We respect the strength of families and their work to improve the lives of their children.
Sometimes, children are not safe with their caregivers and we must find another place for them to live until they can return home.
We are deeply aware of the impact that this has on a family and we view the removal of children from their families as a last resort. When it does happen, we must appear in family court within five days to have that decision reviewed by a judge.
The child's parents have the opportunity to be represented and have their views heard. Currently, there are just over 300 children in the care of the Society.
The first hearing is the only one at which the parents can challenge the propriety of the apprehension. Since most parents can't hire a lawyer within five days, parents normally lose the opportunity to be represented when it matters most. From then on, all they can do is try to prove they are worthy of reunification.
Primarily, kin and foster parents provide care for these children, guided by the principle of "doing what a good parent would do."
Families and children who do become involved with the CAS have a voice in deciding their future. We have a very clear and transparent process for people to complain about our services. We treat every complaint seriously and thoroughly.
Children are routinely excluded from court hearings in their own case, usually not even informed that they are taking place. Sometimes even close adult relatives of the family are excluded as well.
Our CAS staff is dedicated to the well-being of children.
They receive in-depth specialized training and they follow strict legislated procedures and standards that guide every step of their work.
They are on duty 24 hours of each and every day
I hope this gives the reader a little more information about your local CAS.
I encourage everyone to visit our website at www.cashn.on.ca to discover more about us.
Sincerely, Janice Robinson, MSW Executive Director
When we clicked through to the cashn website, the first thing coming up was a request for money, "Please donate". And what about the workers "perjuring themselves"? Janice Robinson never once claimed CAS workers are truthful.
Source: Dunnville Chronicle
In another part of Ontario, Muskoka CAS executive director Marty Rutledge responds to an opinion piece by Anne Larcade. Both are enclosed.
Child abuse, angels and the right to protection
This week I attended a Christmas dinner and party for approximately 70 people, 40 of whom are children who are in care of foster parents and group homes in Huntsville. These children often are Crown wards who are in the care of the Childrenís Aid Society due to neglect and/or abuse. Another handful are special needs children who have been placed in care, in order to access care and services only available through the Machiavellian process of seeking help through the Childrenís Aid Society. These children desperately need care and services that are not available to parents directly in their homes, which would allow families to stay together.
I was reflecting on the millions of families this holiday who will be together and yet are immune to the realization that so many children are lost — caught between a rock and a hard place.
The children were beautiful, dressed in their holiday best. The room was graced with many angels. There were the people who care for these children like their own with love in their eyes and souls. A woman who does music therapy played guitar while helping the children in the talent show. She had the magic of love and pride while watching the children in their amazing show of talent and their performances. The spirit of the holidays got me reflecting on the true meaning of love and charity. There was the five-year-old girl who cut off 13 inches of her hair to give to cancer victims for wigs.
There was the little boy who was to return home for the holidays by Childrenís Aid Society mandate, while his foster parent worried that the relative that had burned him would hurt him again.
A young lad recited a poem about the true meaning of love. A mother who had recently put her complex special needs son in care to access the level of service and care he needs was in tears with her heart breaking in two. Foster parents lovingly cradled a four-month-old baby they are adopting who was born to a heroin addict and sent to them in Huntsville from a Native reserve up north.
Here we have these unbelievable foster parent angels who give homes and love to these children, but there is a tremendous gap in accountability when it comes to Childrenís Aid Society oversight to ensure their safety and make the best decisions for the welfare of the children. Often these decisions are made by the society and not by the foster families that love these 'lost children.' Thet have to conform to the system of the society that has become their legal parent.
Children's aid societies are still immune from scrutiny. They are still shielded from independent investigation of serious complaints about their treatment of children or the conduct of their staff — either by the Office of the Ombudsman or any other independent investigator.
Every year, the Ontario ombudsman is forced to turn away hundreds of people complaining about childrenís aid societies. They are powerless to investigate these cases. Since 2006 their office has received 2,587 complaints about childrenís aid societies.
The Children's Aid website quotes the following statistics:
- 77,089 allegations of abuse and neglect were investigated by Childrenís Aid Societies
- 27,816 children were in the care of a Children's Aid Society for protection from child abuse and neglect
Of the children who were cared for by a society during the year, 9,468 came into care upon completion of abuse investigations:
- 6,565 are children that had not previously been in care
- 2,903 are children who were returned to care due to new child protection concerns
- 9,199 are Crown wards (51.3 per cent)
- 2,383 are former Crown wards age 18 to under 21 (13.3 per cent)
- 60 are children with special needs who are in care under a special needs agreement (0.3 per cent)
- 2,512 children in care are of First Nations or Aboriginal ancestry (13 per cent of all children in care)
It is, of course, up to the government to change this situation, and since the first ombudsman, Arthur Maloney, made the argument in 1975, Ontario governments have said no to ombudsman oversight. This is despite the fact that every other province in Canada allows its ombudsman to oversee child protection.
This is the government's choice to make, and if its choice is to shield children's aid societies from independent oversight there is something wrong. At a time when the public increasingly expects openness and transparency from government, children's aid societies — recipients of $1.4 billion in government funds each year — remain cloaked in secrecy and subject only to limited oversight, even from the government itself.
In my opinion it's high time Ontario passed legislation to allow the ombudsman the oversight of Children's aid societies, like every other province.
Wishing you and your family a holiday of peace, good health, friendship and prosperity. May you enjoy the beauty of Muskoka, and have time to share laughter with friends.
Anne Larcade lives in Huntsville with her two sons aged 15 and 21. She is the president and COO of Sequel Hotels and Resorts, which manages hotels and resorts throughout Canada, and is based here in Huntsville. She is a well-known speaker and has appeared on national media, television and radio on subjects such as tourism, services and rights for severely challenged children, and on leadership values and culture in business.
Source: Almaguin News
Children’s aid societies are accountable
Re: Child abuse, angels and the right to protection, Dec. 21, 2011 Huntsville Forester article.
In the Dec. 21, 2011, edition of the Huntsville Forester Anne Larcade contributed opinion article, Child abuse, angels and the right to protection. Ms. Larcade did a wonderful job of portraying the critical role foster parents provide in the child protection system. They are special people who extend themselves to care for very vulnerable children, frequently under difficult circumstances. I applaud Ms. Larcade’s recognition of foster parents and echo her appreciation of these committed professionals.
Ms. Larcade then goes on to speak to systemic issues relating to child protection. The rule framework that directs how child protection is delivered in Ontario is multi-layered and quite complicated; therefore I can fully understand how in the opinion piece there would be significant errors of fact.
The article suggests that in Ontario, children are admitted to the care of Children’s Aid Societies for the sole purpose of access to services. In 2001 the then Minister of Community and Social Services John Baird, issued a directive that no child was to be admitted to the care of a Children’s Aid Society solely for the purpose of accessing services for special needs.
Since that time every jurisdiction in the province has access to system navigation processes and funds that are intended to support families in accessing the special services that they require — up to and including residential care. Children are not admitted to care in Muskoka solely for the purpose of accessing service to support a special need.
Ms. Larcade also suggests a “gap in accountability when it comes to Children’s Aid Society oversight.” It is true that the Ombudsmen does not have direct oversight, that does not mean that they do not have input and authority. The model in Ontario is that the Minister of Child and Youth Services is accountable to the Ombudsmen. Complaints lodged with the Ombudsmen are directed to the Minister and then through government processes for system accountability a local agency such as Family Youth and Child Services of Muskoka is held to account for any complaint. The province chose not to stop at that level and put in place an independent panel; the Child and Family Services Review Board is fully mandated under the Child and Family Services Act and operates independent of government to hear and resolve complaints brought to it relating to child protection. We are not “shielded from independent investigation” as suggested by Ms. Larcade, that statement is simply not true. The review board is also accountable to the Ombudsmen. When you add our obligations under the legislation, judicial reviews, coroner’s reviews, licensing reviews and so on, it can be strongly argued that Ontario has the most rigorous accountability model in the country.
Last, Ms. Larcade suggests that Children’s Aid Societies make decisions exclusive of foster parent input. She suggests “Often these decisions are made by the society and not by the foster families…” Foster parents are but one group with a right to be involved in the decision making process. Decisions about the future of a child often involve the birth parents, grandparents and other significant family members. In the case of First Nations children the Band has a legal right to participate and develop a plan for the child’s care. When the matter is before the court all of these interests have a legal right to be included in the decision making process. In fact, specific to foster parents, Children’s Aid Societies are obliged under The Child and Family Services Act to serve foster parents with a “Notice of Hearing,” which is an invitation to come to court and be heard relative to the planning for a child who is in their care. Further on this point, the province has recently acted to make it more possible for foster caregivers to become permanent guardians of children in their care through amendments to the legislation.
These changes allow for custodial orders under the Children’s Law Reform Act although the application was made under the Child and Family Services act. In addition, under the provincial permanency guidelines, Societies are allowed to provide episodic financial support to these families to support their success. When all is considered, foster families have a variety of rights embedded in legislation and are clearly seen as our partners in the care of children in our collective care.
On a final note, thank you to Ms. Larcade and to the Forester for creating an opportunity for this important dialogue and most importantly for shining a light on the good work of the foster families in our communities.
Family Youth and Child Services of Muskoka
Source: Metroland / Cottage Country Now
In his praise of the Child and Family Services Review Board, Mr Rutledge failed to mention that when the board makes an unfavorable decision, his own Muskoka CAS fails to comply, or that another Ontario CAS appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in an effort to avoid compliance with the CFSRB.
Addendum: Bobbie Gellner responds directly to the letter of Janice Robinson.
Canada Court Watch supporter responds to Children's Aid letter
To the Editor:
In response to the letter written by Janice Richardson, MSW Executive Director of Children's Aid Society of Haldimand- Norfolk, I would like to clear up yet again a few points that were misrepresented.
Ms. Richardson claims that, "Recently in newspaper articles about protests against the Children's Aid Society of Haldimand-Norfolk, we were described as "corrupt" and our workers as "perjuring themselves". First point of clarification is that these protests are not directed at only Haldimand- Norfolk CAS, but at all 53 Children's Aid Societies across Ontario on a rotating basis.
Second point of clarification, as I personally have witnessed on numerous occasions and in too many cases to count, is the fact that on a regular basis these workers do and will continue to perjure themselves.
We as an advocacy group are well aware of the need for child protection and that child abuse and neglect does exist in our communities. Stated by Ms. Richardson is the fact that the third highest source of these referrals is from parents themselves. What is the highest, Ms. Richardson, perhaps it would be the malicious and vindictive calls made by a disgruntled neighbor, ex-partner or even a family member?
Ms. Richardson states that sometimes, children are not safe with their caregivers, and how is being abused in foster care or a group home any safer?
Ms. Richardson then goes on to state that, "Families and Children who do become involved with the CAS have a voice in deciding their future. We have a very clear and transparent process for people to complain about our services. We treat every complaint seriously and thoroughly."
Would that be the Internal Complaints Process where the panel is entirely made up of CAS board members or employees? And how about the complaints process through the Child and Family Services Review Board where a complaint cannot be considered if a matter is before the courts or that the courts have already decided or matters that fall under other decision making processes under the Child and Family Act or the Labour Relations Act?
I take it Ms. Richardson has never had to call a worker to set up an access visit or to inquire about her child's well being while in care. If she had, she would be aware that the workers are not on duty 24 hours a day as the only way of reaching any specific worker is to leave a voice mail and you may receive a call back in 24 to 48 hours.
I hope this truly gives the reader the truth about your local CAS.
I encourage everyone to visit www.canadacourtwatch.comand www.fixcas.comto find out more.
Bobbie Gellner CCW Advocate
Source: Dunnville Chronicle