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February 19, 2013 permalink

Yesterday on family day there were vigils in different parts of Ontario for children harmed by the child protection system.

From Picton:

Here are photos from the Picton Ontario Rally & Candle Light Vigil in memory of all of the children and families whose lives have been unnecessarily destroyed because of the unlawful and immoral actions of the Private Corporate Children's Aid Societies in the Province of Ontario for no other reason than their own financial gain! [1] [2] [3] [4]. There are many more at the source link.

Source: Curtis Kingston

There is also a video from Picton on YouTube and local copy (mp4).

Pat Niagara gathered rally pictures from Chatham, Picton, the Niagara region and Brantford on YouTube with a local copy (mp4). Earlier in the day a group raised awareness by distributing flyers at Family Day Free Skate events in the Niagara region, also on YouTube with local copy (mp4).

There is one photo from the Chatham vigil, covered by the enclosed CK Review article.



Children’s Aid prevents families from being together on Family Day

McNaughton Avenue West and St. Clair Street, Chatham Ontario
CAS protestors gather at McNaughton Avenue West and St. Clair Street on February 18, Family Day.
Photo CKReview

Family Day is a day of togetherness, fun, a happy time with those who mean the most to us. For those separated from their families however, Family Day is a cold reminder of their pain.

That pain was clear in Chatham on Monday, as protesters braved frigid temperatures to spread their message that Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) needs oversight. Many judgements by Children’s Aid are overturned by the courts. Instances of abuse in foster homes are shared continually by a group of people dedicated to educating the public about the horrors they see.

Lee Bolton of Chatham has been a key organizer locally in protests against the CAS, known locally as Chatham-Kent Children’s Services. Bolton said, “Our focus is to educate the public. People decide we are all bad parents, but when people see the cases that come before the courts they are often shocked that the parents have done nothing out of the ordinary.” In an example of that, a woman travelled from London to share her experience. A daughter she had not raised came to live with her at age 15. The two did not get along, as the 15-year-old was told she could not have boyfriends overnight, and she would not be allowed to smoke pot at home. The girl complained to CAS that she was abused, and she went to live with her father. Now the mother has lost custody of her other children to CAS, based on false allegations by an estranged daughter.

That kind of story is not uncommon among CAS protesters. Hence the need for education according to Bolton. In an ironic twist Bolton points out that on Family Day, there were no supervised visits for those who legally can visit their kids. “The Chatham-Kent Children’s Services is closed on Family Day, meaning there will be no visits for family members who are separated and entitled to see their children,” she said, “these people have been through enough.”

Many CAS protesters will tell you that some people deserve to have CAS intervene, some children are terribly abused. Many times they point out the abuse within foster homes themselves. It isn’t that they seek to abolish the CAS, it is that the system itself needs revising.

The solution for the protesters is to have Ombudsman oversight of CAS. The way things are now there is no oversight of the CAS. Courts are heavily weighted to the CAS, who are armed with expensive lawyers who compete for the right to take children away from families who have no legal background. Much like how if a principal tosses a child out of his school, there is no court of appeal. The MUSH sector, which stands for municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals and includes CAS, long-term care facilities and police, is something that the Ombudsman of Ontario has worked towards having oversight for over 30 years.

Ontario is the only province that has no oversight of children’s aid, who are not a government organization. The Ombudsman of Ontario reports that more CAS complaints were received in 2011-2012 than complaints about police or hospitals.

Emphasizing the point, there were four times more complaints and inquiries about CAS than there were about school boards and ten times more than there were about universities. Of all the MUSH sector, only municipalities had more inquiries and complaints than the CAS. This is for a private institution, unlike police and school boards, that exists for making money.

As the protesters stood out in the cold, some people honked in support as they drove by. One car however drove past slowly and a woman’s voice could be heard saying “bad parents”. While in the comfort of her family, she took her time to remind the protesters of the ignorance out there and why they are there in the first place. The protesters thoughts in return? Said one cold looking grandmother with a sign in her hand, “Let’s hope her behaviour is not held against her by CAS. That kind of behaviour could be used against her at a custody hearing.”

Source: CKReview

The Picton Gazette and The Pioneer (Quinte) covered their vigil.



Picket requests Children's Aid accountability

Bill would give Ombudsman oversight ability

Picton vigil
ADVOCATES Members of the Canada Court Watch advocacy group spent their Family Day evening walking along Picton's Main Street in support of Bill 110 to allow the Ombudsman to review private Children's Aid Society actions and complaints.
(Adam Bramburger/Gazette staff)

Picton was the site of one of 10 demonstrations across Ontario this Family Day calling on the government to make Children's Aid Societies more accountable.

Curtis Kingston, a spokesperson for the advocacy group Canada Court Watch said the group is trying to gain support for Bill 110, which would make now-private Children's Aid Societies subject to reviews by the province's Ombudsman, just as government departments are.

"All we're asking for is accountability," said Kingston. "In my dream world, the Children's Aid Society would be a government agency that is held accountable."

Kingston said his organization chose Picton because a recent operational review by the Ministry of Family and Children's Services in light of sexual assaults in foster homes brought about some scary information.

"A lot of our fears were actually proven," he said. "Seldom had criminal record checks been done and as of Jan. 12, not one foster or group home was legally a place of safety."

He indicated a desire to see the ministry carry out similar reviews for all Children's Aid Societies within the province and act on the findings that come forward.

"This isn't just an issue in Prince Edward County, it's an issue across all of Ontario," he said.

Kingston noted that in that operational review of the local Children's Aid Society, the provincial rate for compliance with the Child and Family Services Act was listed at just 66 per cent.

He said many would really like to see a system where there is more government oversight of the agencies and some type of review board to turn to if there is a problem with a child protection worker, just as there is for social workers and police officers.

Kingston said such demonstrations have usually been met positively by the people in Picton because here, they know about the scandal that plagued the local C.A.S. Elsewhere, he said some have assumed the group is just disgruntled parents — a group he says shouldn't be dismissed either.

"Why are they disgruntled? A lot of people had good reason to be upset with the C.A.S," he said. "Before this review became public, that wasn't as evident. Now, those concerns are starting to be covered in the media."

Kingston said he is hopeful that with more people becoming aware of the situation, they'll join the lobby.

Bill 110 was referred to the porovince's Standing Committee on Justice Policy after Queen's Park politicians pushed it through second reading last October.

Source: Picton Gazette, page 24

Picton vigil
A rally and candlelight vigil was organized by Members of Canada Court Watch and the Ontario Coalition for Accountability to protest Children’s Aid Society and to promote the need for government accountability on the organization Feb. 18 in Picton. Here, Danielle Bloomfield looks down at her sign. She says her whole life she has had foster brothers and sisters and oftentimes questioned the decisions made to put them there.
Photo by Marta Iwanek

CAS under spotlight at protest

Picton location chosen for the rally following ministry investigation of significiant issues

A small group gathered to air big grievances against children’s aid societies, on Family Day in Picton.

Across from a Tim Hortons at Main and Walton streets, about a dozen people stood on the street corner, holding up signs against Children’s Aid and demanding an ombudsman and more oversight into each society.

Kelly Leveque carried a petition in her hands and wore a sign around her neck that read ‘Children’s Aid Destroys Families.’

“I have been fighting them now a total of 21 years,” said Leveque about Children’s Aid. “They [CAS] are destroying families that don’t need to be destroyed.”

Organizer Curtis Kingston of Canada Court Watch, chose a Picton location for the rally because of a recent news story detailing an unreleased government investigation into significant issues by Prince Edward County CAS in screening foster homes, as reported by The Belleville Intelligencer.

“The Picton CAS and multiple CASs in the area kept stating that this was one occurrence, one issue, somebody fell through the cracks and so on,” said Kingston.

“But what we’ve come to find out is that this wasn’t just one foster parent.”

Since November 2011, three former foster parents have been convicted of sexual abuse and another three foster parents were charged with sex crimes in the fall of last year, according to the Intelligencer.

“The reality is that we do need child protection. Obviously there are kids that need to be apprehended or they need help. They are getting abused,” said Kingston.

“My issue is when children get taken for frivolous reasons, and then they get put into homes that are definitely no better from where they were taken from in the first place.

“We’re trying to raise awareness on the issues so that hopefully one day CAS will be held accountable for their actions,” said Kingston, who says the societies need oversight, specifically an ombudsman.

Mark Kartusch, executive director of Highland Shores Children’s Aid Society said, “Our first and primary goal always is to make sure that children can stay with their family always.”

Kartusch said Highland Shores, newly amalgamated Northumberland and Hastings Children’s Aid societies, looks for extended family, or kinship, first.

The rare cases when a child needs to be placed into a foster home, case workers have five days to be in family court and provide justification for removal.

“I certainly understand that the public has the right to express their viewpoint,” Kartusch said. “Clearly it’s upsetting when children are brought into our care and removed from their homes. That’s why it’s a last resort.”

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services funds and monitors CASs, develops policy to support the child welfare program, and licenses children’s group homes and foster homes, said spokesperson Bre Betts, spokesperson for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.

If a family feels they haven’t been taken care of properly, they can file a complaint with the Child and Family Services Review Board. Someone trained in assessing situations, other than the primary caseworker, will investigate the complaint.

The Ombudsmen of Ontario has the authority to investigate occurrences in the course of the administration of a governmental organization.

The Ombudsman has not interpreted this authority to investigate children’s aid societies which are independent legal entities in Ontario, said Betts.

Kartusch says Highland Shores CAS has many effective mechanisms in place to screen potential foster homes and deal with complaints.

“Every time you add another oversight mechanism, you’re adding cost to a system that’s all ready burdened,” says Kartusch. “How many is too many?”

The rally continued into the night, with a march down Main Street followed by a candlelight vigil.

Source: The Pioneer

Family Day