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Bring in the Ombudsman
March 20, 2013 permalink
Christina Blizzard calls for oversight of Ontario's children's aid societies, citing four cases of outrageous foster care going back to the 1990s. What would she say if she could write about the hundreds of foster children that died in that period without a name?
Give Ontario ombudsman powers to investigate Children's Aid Society
TORONTO - It's sickening. It's depraved.
And it's outrageous.
In a supposed civilized society such as ours, how could a pretty baby girl be handed over to a monster?
How could the Children's Aid Society commit a child to the care of a man who's not biologically related to her, who had a criminal record and who subjected her to years of sexual and physical abuse?
Yet, as Toronto Sun reporter Sam Pazzano reported last week, that's what happened.
Mac Bool Hassan was found guilty recently of 13 criminal offences for sexually and physically abusing the girl.
Pazzano quoted the now 20-year-old woman speaking in anger about the CAS: "Children's Aid ruined my life because I could have been adopted as a baby," she told him.
"Instead they thought it was in my best interest ... to be placed into this man's care. He was a single man with a criminal record who had no connection to me. Why would he want to parent me?"
What's it going to take to get government to provide accountability to CAS? These precious children are the most vulnerable in our midst.
Yet time and again, we fail them.
Add this young woman to the shameful litany: Jordan Heikamp, Randal Dooley, Jeffrey Baldwin.
Jordan, just five weeks old, was left to starve to death in a women's shelter while under the watch of the Catholic Children's Aid Society in 1997. He weighed 4 pounds, two ounces when he died -- four ounces less than his birth weight.
Randal Dooley, 7, was beaten to death in 1998. Teachers at his school called the CAS who, incredibly, told them it was a police matter and were not heard from until two weeks after his death.
Jeffrey Baldwin, 5, was murdered in 2002 by his grandparents -- who'd been awarded custody of the child by the CCAS -- even though both had previous records for child abuse.
Ombudsman Andre Marin has for years asked the government for the power to investigate the CAS.
"There is a huge gap of accountability," he told me in phone interview Tuesday.
"We're in this new phase of governing where we hear promises of fairness," Marin said.
This province is the only one in the country where the provincial ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the child protection system.
"It's completely unacceptable," Marin said.
Since 2006, five bills have been presented to the legislature that would give the ombudsman oversight.
The last one, sponsored by Hamilton Mountain New Democrat Monique Taylor, passed second reading. It died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued.
"There's absolutely no reason for this young woman to have lived the life she lived," Taylor said in an interview.
"How do we get to these decisions of where this child was placed? How did it come to that? (Ombudsman) oversight is absolutely necessary," she told me.
Burlington Tory Jane McKenna agrees and supports ombudsman oversight personally, although her party has not yet formulated its official position on the issue.
Children's Minister Teresa Piruzza said it's not one of her government's priorities.
"There are appeal processes in place and ultimately the ombudsman has the ability to look at appeals that come forward, but at this point, given the structure of the CAS and the board of directors, I would have to say, it's not something we are looking at at this point," she told me.
That's too bad. Because children are being robbed of their innocence.
And they're dying.
If that's not a government priority, we need a new government.
If all we have to offer abused kids is handwringing and empty gestures, we're complicit in that abuse.
Do you think the ombud should have power to investigate the CAS?
A day after posting, the results were:
98% Yes 367 votes 2% No 9 votes
Source: Toronto Sun
The next day Christina Blizzard looked for a politician willing to question the government on child safety. It was a futile as Diogenes' search for an honest man.
Ombud oversight of CAS needed to give vulnerable children voice
TORONTO - I was listening for a politician who’d have the courage to speak out in question period Wednesday on behalf of abused and murdered children.
Someone who’d demand that no little girl ever be placed in the hands of a monster again. That no child would spend her precious childhood being raped and savaged by someone who’d been entrusted with her care.
Toronto Sun reporter Sam Pazzano recently reported the case of a young woman whom the Children’s Aid Society handed to a pervert when she was just two years old. That creep physically and sexually abused her from age seven and through her teen years.
I was waiting for a politician to demand that Children’s Aid Societies in this province be made accountable.
The silence was deafening.
Who speaks for children in this province?
Not Children’s Minister Teresa Piruzza, who told me this week her government was not looking at giving oversight of the Children’s Aid Society to the provincial ombudsman.
After that interview, her aide contacted me to assure me the Liberal government was “committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children and youth receiving support and protection from Ontario’s children’s aid societies.”
Well, blah, blah, blah.
“We have taken strong action to ensure the accountability of CASs, requiring them to have clear, transparent and consistent complaint review procedures,” said the spokesman.
Complaints? How can a two-year-old complain?
“Additionally, we have increased the mandate and powers of the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB) to independently review complaints related to CASs, as well as decisions of CASs and adoption licensees,” said the e-mail.
“The ombudsman does have the authority to investigate complaints about the Child and Family Services Review Board and may report and make recommendations arising from such a review.”
Well, blah and more blah.
Here’s why we need ombudsman oversight.
In an interview this week, ombudsman Andre Marin, the province’s crusading watchdog, told me he gets 500 complaints a year from people asking him to take up their issues with the CAS.
“This is from a constituency that knows we have no jurisdiction, but they need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on,” he told me.
Five times, opposition MPPs have brought bills to the House that would open up CAS to his scrutiny. The last one died on the order paper when former premier Dalton McGuinty quit and shut down the legislature. This despite the fact that McGuinty had assured Marin privately that they wanted to broaden his mandate to include the CAS.
The result is that we ricochet from one horror story to another. From Jordan Heikamp, the five-week-old baby who starved to death in 1997 in a women’s shelter while under the care of the CCAS to Randal Dooley who was murdered at age seven, despite his teachers calling the CAS — which did nothing.
An inquest ruled in 2001 that Jordan’s death was a homicide. Both his mother, Renee Heikamp, and Catholic Children’s Aid Society worker Angie Martin were charged with criminal negligence, yet the case did not proceed to trial after the judge ruled the whole child welfare system was to blame, not the mother or the case worker.
So a baby starved to death — and no one was punished.
Meanwhile, I heard from countless loving families who were refused foster children or were not allowed to adopt for often trivial reasons — one suspects, because if a child is adopted, the CAS loses funding.
Whenever these cases come up, the CAS cite privacy laws for not speaking about it.
They use the privacy laws as a shield to hide their own incompetence.
If we gave Marin oversight of these agencies, he could probe where journalists and other members of the public cannot. He could get to the truth and report who failed these poor, vulnerable children.
And stop this endless litany of shame.
Marin has been successful in rooting out lottery scams, G20 excesses, government ineptness and bureaucratic heartlessness.
It’s time to have him speak for the children who are alone and unprotected in a cruel world.
We, collectively, are all these vulnerable children have. We, collectively, must do better.
If we don’t stand up and demand society take better care of them, then we should all hang our heads in shame.
Source: Toronto Sun