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CAS Forcibly Separates Parents
December 5, 2014 permalink
The Midland Mirror has a CAS story sympathetic to the impacted family, though with names altered. The father has been forced out of the family and has to sleep in a friend's truck. The mother has to care for their two children alone.
Penetanguishene couple fighting Children’s Aid Society order
Man says past drug addiction, mental problems no reason to keep him from kids
* Editor's Note: The names of the family members have been changed to protect the identity of the children *
PENETANGUISHENE – Tim Lansing is not allowed to see his children.
Within the last year, the 31-year-old Penetanguishene man had a mental breakdown, was addicted to drugs, and spent time in jail and mental-health facilities.
He also underwent rehabilitation treatment and completed programs for substance abuse and is now drug-free.
But the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) of Simcoe County will not allow him to see his two children – something he and his wife, Angela Baker, 27, are fighting.
“I’m not scared of him. I don’t hate him. He’s the father of my kids,” Baker said. “We’re not bad people.”
CAS could not release specifics regarding their case for privacy reasons. A spokesperson could only speak in general terms about the organization’s policies.
Lansing is also not allowed to be in their shared home while the children are there, so he is sleeping in a friend’s truck. He said he has spent $500 on gas from running the engine overnight for heat.
The couple said they believe the CAS is focusing too much on him and not their children, and they want him to be allowed to come home.
The trouble began in March when Lansing had what Baker describes as a “mental breakdown.”
He said he became hooked on crushed Ritalin, which he compared to cocaine, and started to become depressed and paranoid.
“I was just so high all the time,” said Lansing. “She saw the snowball effect.”
Baker said he was always pacing and trying to explain things to her, but it came out half-baked like he had already run through part of the conversation in his head. When she would walk away in frustration, he grabbed her face to make her listen.
“It became intimidating,” she said.
Baker said she explained to children Sharon, 6, and David, 4, that “daddy was sick in the head.”
Baker knew he needed help, so she called 911 one day to get him to a hospital for a mental-health assessment. Police arrived and arrested him after she explained what had been going on at their home.
Lansing said he was only taken to a doctor after he repeatedly smashed his head into the plastic partition in the police car until he bled.
“Otherwise I would be going to jail,” he said. “They arrested me in front of my daughter’s school at 3 p.m.”
Lansing was taken to Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, where he stayed for six weeks. He said he was diagnosed with “major depressive disorder,” commonly referred to as depression.
He was charged and taken to Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene. He later went to a facility in Brockville, where he completed several rehabilitation programs. When he got out, he lived at a friend’s house for about a month and then went home.
“There was no issue. The kids were extremely happy because they hadn’t seen their dad in six months,” said Baker.
An anonymous person alerted the CAS Lansing was back home, she said. Once the organization became involved, she said, she tried calling their caseworker several times, but could almost never reach him.
CAS arranged a meeting with the couple and several community supports, but Lansing said he felt “judged.”
Baker said they were told they could be with their children separately, but not together as a couple. Now, she said, the CAS has banned Lansing from seeing his kids at all.
This has presented problems for the couple, as Baker does not have a job and the family lives off Lansing’s disability cheque. He has the only driver’s licence and vehicle in the household.
When one of their kids was sick recently, Lansing had to pick up the medication and quickly drop it off. Otherwise, Baker would have had to take a cab to a pharmacy – a cost they cannot afford.
‘It’s like living two lives,” said Lansing.
Anne Burgess, communications co-ordinator for the Simcoe County CAS, said she could not comment on Lansing and Baker’s case.
“Every file is different. We look at what strengths (families have) and work with (them) to protect children,” she said. “We work with families very closely. We only work with children through their parents.”
Burgess said the organization refers families as needed to community services, including for mental-health issues, and to shelters for housing.
Children are typically taken out of a home in severe situations where there is a “concern of harm,” she said, but “we like children to see their parents.”
“Often, when parents are separated, there are reasons they can’t be together,” she said.
If parents have a problem with their caseworker, a team of supervisors becomes involved. It is “fairly rare” for a family to get a new caseworker, Burgess said.
The CAS has a “full complaint process” that begins internally, she added. It can go from caseworker and supervisors to the organization’s executive director and a review panel of board members. If issues cannot be resolved, a complaint can be filed with the provincial Child and Family Services Review Board.
“Ideally, we want to work with families,” Burgess said. “We don’t want to have a confrontational situation with them.”
Source: Metroland/Midland Mirror