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Between a Rock and a Hard Place
May 26, 2005 permalink
The following quote from the report shows that the senior Ministry officials are clueless, and suggests a weak ministry manipulated by the career bureaucracy:
103 How prevalent is this phenomenon? It is impossible to say precisely. Senior Ministry officials advised my Office that the Ministry is unaware of how many children with severe disabilities are currently in the protection of Children's Aid Societies either under Temporary Care Agreements or society or Crown wardship orders because their parents are unable to provide necessary residential care. The Ministry advised that it has never investigated the issue of whether there are Children's Aid Society files in which protection concerns have been "manufactured" so that children with severe disabilities could obtain residential placement.
In response to scandal, Mrs Bountrogianni said:
The report was written in February, it was given to me in March, and I did indeed immediately act. Those 30 families were given the services they needed, following the process of the communities solving the problems and finding the resources for those children, and they didn't have to go to the courts to give up custody of their children.
According to Mr Marin, Mrs Bountrogianni lied, or in his more diplomatic words, failed to appreciate that the problem exists. The services mentioned were in fact not delivered.
The Ombudsman deals with families of severely disabled children. He estimates there are 150 to 200 cases of parents humiliated by being compelled to sign documents officially abandoning their children. Mother Tina Grignard reports:
That was the most disgusting lowest point of my entire life. I so regret going. ... When I walked in the corridor, there were about 30 people there and I wanted to die. I work for the Ministry, the rent geared to income office. I recognized many of our tenants in that court. It was kind of awkward. This is a small community ... My CAS worker ... walks in the door and I clearly heard three different people say "[the CAS worker]" is here and [she] comes, walks right over to me and sits beside me and starts talking. So now its been confirmed that I'm here not for divorce court but I'm here for Children's Aid. So I just wanted to die. I was just so embarrassed.
Mrs Grignard's unease is the consequence of the true reputation of Children's Aid. Not a good experience indeed. We wonder, will Mr Marin now go on to deal with the humiliation, and horror, of thousands of parents who find that their children do not return from school, or who have their children kidnaped (protected) by armed policemen invading their home?
Mr Marin identifies the problem that handicapped children are shoehorned into the child-protection system, without grasping why child-protection bureaucrats prefer crown-wardship over in-home assistance to competent parents. Once a child is a crown-ward, the bureaucracy presents the legislature with the dilemma of providing funding, or letting children go without food and shelter. Since legislators will not take the latter choice, continued funding is assured. No such assurance exists when providing in-home assistance.
164 On a final note, I feel the need to point out that parents have expressed palpable fear of the consequences of coming forward to my office to complain. They are concerned that they will be punished by the bureaucrats that they depend on to assist them. I intend to monitor the outcome of my report and vigorously act, if there is any sign of reprisal against those who have demonstrated the courage to speak out against this manifestly unfair situation.
This is the problem Dufferin VOCA, and other CAS opponents, have faced for years. We have hundreds of stories of abuse of families in the name of child protection, yet must remain silent in nearly all cases, because of the threat of retaliation by Children's Aid. Unlike Mr Marin, we cannot protect families with the powers of government.
Mrs Bountrogianni has responded with a press release in which she promises more money, increasing the bounty on the heads of Ontario children payable whenever Children's Aid succeeds in snatching a child. She does offer to repatriate children taken into custody. Since the laws of Ontario permit publishing family names when there is no protection involved, we are waiting for the names of repatriated children.
Addendum: CBC reporter Jane Hawtin speaks to André Marin and mother Cyndi Cameron. (mp3) runs 7:36.
Chartier Free on Bail
May 26, 2005 permalink
Thu, May 26, 2005
Mother charged with abduction free on bail
By Sean McKibbon, Ottawa Sun
An Ottawa woman charged with abduction and breach of probation after allegedly taking her four children to Sweden was released on bail yesterday.
Marie Emilie Chartier, 35, was released on $400 cash bail and conditions that she reside in Gatineau with her ex-husband and that he also sign for a $1,000 bond.
She was ordered to have no communication with her four children, Marie Alexandre, 12, Michael, 8, Aniel, 6, and Mariel Charlotte, 5, and not go within a kilometre of her kids' school or her mother's house where the children reside.
Chartier was banned from having any weapons and given a 10 p.m.-7 a.m. curfew. She was also ordered to surrender any passports to the court.
Chartier and the children were returned to Canada on May 16 by Swedish authorities.
Police say Chartier approached Swedish officials on March 31 asking for permission to remain in the country. She said yesterday following the hearing that she turned herself in in Sweden after realizing she would not be granted refugee status there.
Ottawa police sent out an Interpol alert after Chartier allegedly took the children from their grandmother's house on March 15.
Source: Ottawa Sun
Star Supports Adoption Disclosure
May 26, 2005 permalink
The following article from the Toronto Star. The Star ordinarily is supportive of the power of government and social services, so their opposing position in this article is indicative of a change of opinion.
May 26, 2005. 01:00 AM
The real shame about adoption
We don't need more sealed files or vetos that ensure even more secrecy, says Valerie Hauch
"Unmarried and pregnant — you have sinned. For shame!'' Such finger-wagging reproofs were not uncommon for a different generation of women who dared to have sex outside wedlock and unlucky enough to have it bear fruit.
In fact, moral denunciation of perceived wanton behaviour has been such a powerful force in society that it lingers today in the debate about whether to pass the provincial government's adoption disclosure bill.
Ontario's Privacy Commissioner Anne Cavoukian says it will be an invasion of privacy for women who gave up babies if identifying information is released — their lives would be ruined.
But the government's proposed bill already carries a stringent "no contact'' veto that could be levied by the birth parent or adoptee.
In any event, to assume that adult adoptees are going to swoop down on their biological parents and admonish them for proceeding with adoptions, or make judgments of a moral nature, is absurd. What they want is information, knowledge, to find the missing pieces of the biological puzzle that is part of discovering self.
What adoptees are up against is the same sort of patronizing attitude that governments and society have taken for generations toward the voiceless person in the adoption equation: "Only we know what's best for this child and what's best is that the child know as little as possible."
To assume that the release of a birth name and other pieces of information is going to have such dramatic effect on a birth parent's life is to ensure that ancient, unjust, hypocritical mores endure. That is the real shame.
Most reasonable people today would not look down on any woman who gave up her child for adoption.
The women who fear trauma in meeting the adult version of the baby they gave up — and some who became pregnant from rape or other awful situations have just cause — would not have to meet them, if they asserted a veto. To go farther with the veto, however, punishes the adoptee, who has the right to basic information that is part of his or her identity.
It is ironic that the societal system that contributed to the very trauma that unmarried pregnant women endured, in being pressured to give up their children, was so successful that even today those women fear what others would think of them if it were known they had an out-of-wedlock child.
The hospitals that used to encourage these young women to "forget'' about the children they carried for nine months often advised them not to even look at their babies after birth.
I know, because I was one of those babies. My unmarried biological mother gave birth in Toronto in the 1950s but she didn't take the advice a nurse gave her. She took a look. And she decided not to put me up for adoption right away. She hoped, by placing me in private foster home, that she and my biological father could work things out.
Although they would go on to marry and stayed together for 20 years, they decided when I was 2 1/2 years old to put me up for adoption.
It's a decision I respect, considering the circumstances and times. But it never meant I didn't want to meet them.
Many adoptees — and having met many over the years I've concluded it has nothing to do with whether their lives with their adoptive parents were happy or not —just want to know about their roots.
They want to meet someone else with their nose, their penchant for drawing, their inexplicable love of water (once you meet a biological relative you become aware of the amazing possibilities that much more than hair colour is inherited.)
I don't believe any adoptee should expect involvement in a biological relative's life. But it can be serendipitous when it happens.
That said, adoptees should be prepared for the fact that they may find people they don't like. If you can't ready yourself for any possibility, don't go looking.
In my case, it was easy to search. When I was adopted, the birth certificates still included the birth name (which in my case was my biological father's). I had the added advantage of having been baptized in Quebec (my mother is French Canadian).
Quebec baptismal certificates included the parents' occupations. That made tracking down my biological father and sending him a letter (when I became an adult) fairly easy.
We've never met; his choice, his right. My choice and my right was to ask.
There was surprise on his side at being found, but no expression of trauma. However, I suspect if he'd been allowed a veto to me getting any identifying information — this is what Cavoukian is proposing — he would have used it.
And what a shame that would have been.
I might not have found my biological mother, cousins, both my biological father's brothers and other relatives, many of whom have become very dear and enriched my life.
I might never have found out my great-grandfather on one side was a poor immigrant from Spain who became a wealthy merchant in Newfoundland. The house he built is now a heritage home and bed-and-breakfast in St. John's.
I might not have learned that his daughter apparently dated one Chester Crosbie, father of former MP John, or that the Newfoundland family, at some point, was rumoured to have been involved in certain tradings of alcoholic substances back in the days when such dealings were, well, illegal, b'y.
I wouldn't have known about another relative who was considered a bit of a rebel in her day because she didn't want to get married, loved to sing and had a stunning voice and was paid to use it at weddings and other events. Eventually a man came along who caught her fancy or she wouldn't have ended up as my grandmother.
I'd never have gasped when I saw the picture of a great-aunt who looks uncannily like my daughter.
These are the stories of family. Everyone has them. Except adoptees.
We don't need more sealed files and hidden records or vetos that ensure even more secrecy.
We need openness, tolerance and a break with any mentality that smears "shame' 'on everyone involved in an unplanned pregnancy.
Knowing our personal histories adds colour to our lives and makes us aware that we are not islands and alone, but part of an incredible, ongoing continuum of generations.
Valerie Hauch is a Toronto Star writer and editor.
Source: Toronto Star
VandenElsen Living Will
May 26, 2005 permalink
Carline VandenElsen has left a living will. Authorities have limited their embarrassment by refusing media access to Carline. According to André Lefebvre, she is in solitary confinement and limited to one visitor per week, who can visit her only behind glass through a telephone connection.
Ombudsman Ignores Ongoing Cases
May 25, 2005 permalink
Dr Dolores A Sicheri reports that the investigation by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin is turning into a whitewash. She says:
The Ombudsman has had hundreds of calls regarding this investigation. Cathy Penshold from the Ombudsman's Office had told several parents that Mr. Marin is only to investigate seven cases of his own choosing.
The parents who rights were already terminated for access to services, are out of luck. These parents were looking for some justice. He is going to limit his investigation to those whose rights are presently being threatened.
Cases where children have been severed from parents are not over and done with. The injury continues every day.
Queen's Park Rally
May 24, 2005 permalink
The following news report comes from Canada Court Watch. The mainstream press imposed a total blackout on this news item.
Thousands of Canadians rally at Queen's Park in support of traditional marriage and family values
By Mike March - Social Justice reporter
Thousands of everyday Canadians, young and old and from almost every walk of daily life and cultural group congregated at Queen's Park on holiday Monday to demonstrate in support for traditional marriage and family values.
The massive show from the public was fueled by the recent passing of Bill C-38 by the Liberal government as well as the recent exposure of government corruption within some high ranking members of the Liberal Party of Canada.
The government's Bill C-38 was intended to allow gays and lesbians to marry persons of the same sex and to force the will of the minority, special interest, gay and lesbian groups upon the majority the people of Canada.
Leaders of all major religions and cultural groups spoke about how the principles of democracy have been ignored by the Canadian government in this issue.
Speakers spoke of how the government committee which had been set up to study the issue was stacked in favour of those who support the gay and lesbian agenda. Well established organizations such as the Knights of Columbus with over 70,000 members were not invited to be a part of the committee process.
When it came to support of the traditional definition of marriage there was full agreement from representatives all major cultural groups, including Christian, Jewish and Moslem that legalizing same sex marriage was wrong and the way in which the courts are imposing this minority view on the majority of the people of Canada, clearly is a violation of the principles of democracy.
Most citizens in the crowd said that they were fed up with the Liberal Party and its policies which they felt were undermining the very foundations upon which the nation of Canada was built. Many said the family unit was the foundation for Canadian Society.
Although a very small, ragtag group of gay and lesbians were gathered at the southern end of Queen's Park waiving rainbow flags, they were hardly visible amidst the throngs of mainstream Canadians who had come to Queen's Park in support of the traditional definition of marriage.
Source: Canada Court Watch
OACAS Demands Secrecy
May 24, 2005 permalink
Today the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS)posted a notice on its news site:
NOTE: The Child and Family Services Act Section 45(8) prevents the publication of information that identifies a child, the child's parent, foster parent or member of the child's family when the child is the subject of a child protection proceeding. Therefore, OACAS will not be posting news articles that fall into this category.
The OACAS also issues press releases, such as in the case of Lisa Heughan, urging news editors to withdraw the names of families in cases where the names have already been published.
There can be no doubt that the party protected by the secrecy is not the child, but the child protection bureaucracy.
In the case of Marguerite Dias who attacked Madelene Monast with a machete on suspicion of being a snitch, many Canadian newspapers printed the story without the name of the attacker, even after she was sentenced to prison. Some newspapers also suppress the names of Carline VandenElsen and Larry Finck, the parents in the Halifax standoff. Sending people to prison and withholding their names is the methodology of medieval tyrants, not countries respecting the rule of law.
May 23, 2005 permalink
Stunts by Fathers-4-Justice are becoming too numerous to mention. In a reference to Pinocchio's conscience, F4J has placed 6800 crickets in 37 location across Canada. The Ontario locations are courthouses in Newmarket, Milton, Oshawa, Whitby and Toronto (Jarvis St and University Ave), as well as the offices of MPs Colleen Beaumier (Brampton West), Colin Carrie (Oshawa), Bill Graham (Toronto Centre-Rosedale), Mark Holland (Pickering/Ajax), Jack Layton (Toronto), John McKay (Scarborough East), Bev Oda (Clarington), Carolyn Parrish (Mississauga Centre), Judy Sgro (York West), Belinda Stronach (Newmarket/Aurora), Paul Szabo (Mississauga) and Joe Volpe (Eglinton/Lawrence).
In British Columbia Spiderman climbed the Pattullo Bridge and the Incredible Hulk climbed the Alex Fraser Bridge. In Montreal today Robin climbed the Jacques Cartier bridge, for a while stopping all traffic.
Following is a Toronto area news story about one of the incidents.
Crickets dumped in Newmarket court
May 19, 2005
Protesting unfair treatment of fathers in divorce cases, the group Fathers-4-Justice Canada said they dumped 200 live crickets on the family court floor of the Newmarket courthouse Monday.
The act may have gone unnoticed at first, but will be evident in the coming weeks and months when the crickets begin chirping, spokesperson Steve Osborne said.
"It's the gift that keeps on giving," he said.
The Great Canadian Cricket Caper hit a number of other courthouses across the country in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of fathers in family court.
"We want equality in family law," Mr. Osborne said. "Fathers should be given equal time with their kids. All parents should be equal."
Source: Yorkregion website
Support for Adoption Disclosure
May 23, 2005 permalink
John Dunn has made a Submission to the Social Policy Committee (pdf) in support of the proposed Adoption Information Disclosure Act
Thoughts on Halifax Standoff
May 22, 2005 permalink
Today the Halifax Herald published two stories on the Shirley Street standoff, one on Carline VandenElsen's hunger strike, the other below.
Child protection system comes under scrutiny
Expert says laws up to date, despite criticism of cops' handling of standoff
By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE / Staff Reporter
A year ago, a three-day police standoff in Halifax involving a five-month-old girl, her parents, her grandmother and heavily armed officers thrust child-welfare issues in Nova Scotia into the spotlight.
During a controversial nighttime effort to enforce a court order authorized under provincial child-protection laws, police were rebuffed by the youngster's despairing parents.
An officer rammed the front door of 6161 Shirley St. about three times before a shotgun was fired at police from inside the house.
The 67-hour siege ended with the death of the baby's 79-year-old grandmother, Mona Finck, due to natural causes.
Larry Finck and his wife, Carline VandenElsen, were eventually charged and recently convicted in connection with the incident. They'll be sentenced in late June.
The couple's child, now 17 months old, is in foster care.
Mr. Finck and Ms. VandenElsen are in custody awaiting their fate. Ms. VandenElsen began a hunger strike Saturday to protest her plight.
She said she sees no alternative.
"My husband and I are the first Canadian parents to be convicted of acting to protect our offspring," she said in a strongly worded release.
Critics of how police and child-welfare authorities handled the case have said the province's child-protection laws need to be changed to keep more families together.
Dalhousie University law professor Rollie Thompson, who helped with the task the last time the legislation had a major revision (1989-90), said Nova Scotia's statutes are in line with other jurisdictions in Canada.
"It was a significant modernization from the 1976 statute," he said.
Mr. Thompson said that compared to Ontario, which made major changes to its law that allowed authorities to take many children from their parents, Nova Scotia is doing well.
"The Ontario child-welfare system is clogged with children who've been taken into care or been placed into care after a court order," he said.
Mr. Finck and Ms. VandenElsen had run afoul of the law before. He's done time for abducting a daughter from a previous relationship in Ontario in 1999; she has triplets from an earlier marriage who are in the care of her ex-husband in Ontario.
Ms. VandenElsen was originally acquitted of abducting the triplets, who are now about 12 years old, but she will be retried in Stratford, Ont., this fall.
That acrimonious custody battle has long played out in Ontario courts. "It is unlikely (the three children) can remember a time when their parents were not fighting over them," a court document says.
In Nova Scotia, aside from well-publicized criticisms of how Halifax Regional Police and child-welfare officials handled the standoff, there have been calls for an inquiry in the case.
Last summer, Ms. VandenElsen urged Canadians to demand a public probe - an investigation rejected by the provincial government - into the neighbourhood episode that made headlines across the country and prompted letters to the editor of this and other newspapers.
"Let us all ask ourselves what we would have done if we had been confronted with the same situation," a Halifax woman wrote this newspaper in July. "Just being awakened in the middle of the night is terrifying enough, without the purpose and the episode that followed."
The siege was also punctuated by unorthodox behaviour by Mr. Finck and Ms. VandenElsen. Police never fired a shot but used a robot to make deliveries to the house.
The couple's contempt for the child-protection and justice systems was front and centre in the form of a sign Mr. Finck placed outside a window. It said All to Hide the Criminal Abuse of Children by Lawyers.
Theresa Brien, a spokeswoman for regional police, said recently the department doesn't "have any reason to believe that we didn't follow proper procedure" during the standoff.
"However, we do conduct an operational review of . . . major incidents, and this would be included in that," she acknowledged.
Ms. Brien said the internal review is ongoing but she couldn't say when it would be finished.
She said operational reviews are done to examine police conduct and learn potential lessons from a particular incident.
Though some Shirley Street residents praised the actions of police, others who followed the event in news reports felt the department mishandled the situation.
"This confrontation surely underscores the need for a searching public debate to examine policies governing the creation and use of militarized police emergency response teams," a Kings County man said a year ago in a letter to this newspaper.
He said such public scrutiny would ensure deployment of emergency response teams "is consistent with fundamental principles of restraint and proportionality in the use of force."
At trial in Halifax, Ms. VandenElsen was described as a protective, loving mother. Court heard her lawyer at the time, Burnley (Rocky) Jones, stop short of saying her cause justified her means.
"It always boils down to the fact that she has this undying deep love and connection to her children, and because she has taken certain actions as a mother she is now facing these serious criminal charges," he said.
On May 12, Ms. VandenElsen and Mr. Finck were convicted of several charges by a Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury. The verdicts came after two days of deliberations following a nine-week trial marked by outbursts and accusations by the defendants.
Nova Scotia's child-welfare and family-services staff deal with about 14,000 families in the province, a government official said last May shortly after the Shirley Street standoff ended.
Of those, some 700 cases a year appear before the courts. About 30 cases involve a youngster being taken into protective custody, the province has said.
The Children and Family Services Act sets out 14 situations in which a child requires protection. But the law stipulates that details of individual cases are to be kept confidential which, critics have charged, makes it difficult to know if the system is working as it should, and who's to be held accountable if it isn't.
Asked about the Finck/VandenElsen case, a spokeswoman with the Community Services Department declined comment.
"This matter is actually still before the courts, on appeal, and because of that fact . . . we're not really able to provide any further information," Terri Green said recently.
Mr. Thompson didn't want to comment on the child-welfare system in the context of the Halifax standoff because, he said, it is so unique.
"It's like talking about a moon that comes through the solar system once every so many hundred years."
He said the case "tells us nothing at the moment. In terms of the broader system and the day-to-day parents that I've represented and other people represent, . . . it tells us nothing about that."
Speaking about provincial legislation, Mr. Thompson said child-protection laws are "a kind of a check" on resources and "the approach" of social workers in the field.
"Legislation isn't what drives the system," he said in an interview. "What drives the system is resources and the approach of child-welfare authorities - the resources they have available to them to do their job, and the general social-work culture and approach in child protection."
Mr. Thompson said in general, "there's not been a demand for massive changes in (child-welfare law) in Nova Scotia at this point."
What's important, he said, is "that on a day-to-day basis what matters is the . . . services available to parents. The statute is not that helpful in that subject."
On May 13, Mr. Finck served notice he wanted their convictions stayed, claiming he and his wife were entrapped by police, but Justice Robert Wright ruled against his motion.
Court documents filed three days later confirmed what many observers predicted would be the next chapter in the saga - the couple are appealing their convictions.
Source: Halifax Herald
An inquiry into the case of Carline VandenElsen and Larry Finck must be avoided at all costs. If held, it would have to reveal the contents of the complaint leading to the warrant to apprehend the baby. They are frivolous, or we would have seen them by now.
Rollie Thompson is quoted as saying: "It's like talking about a moon that comes through the solar system once every so many hundred years".
Oh? Just in Dufferin county, with only 50000 people, social workers enter a new home on a weekly basis, and always do so with one or more armed policemen as escort. It's hard to believe it happens in Nova Scotia, with nearly a million people, only once in centuries.
Every day Carline VandenElsen and Larry Finck are incarcerated and separated from their baby, the Province of Nova Scotia is adding to its atrocity. Carline VandenElsen's demise at the end of her hunger strike would relieve the child protectors in Nova Scotia, since it would end their continuing atrocity.
The police are conducting an operational review of the siege. Here are some suggestions:
These improvements will bring Canada up to the state-of-the-art in child protection.
Hell House Revisited
May 21, 2005 permalink
New York Magazine reports on the Jackson case. An apparent atrocity by adoptive parents is not what it seems.
Faced with a number of children with an eating disorder that was expensive to treat, New Jersey instead dumped four afflicted boys for adoption by a single family, the Jacksons. In many cases like this no scandal develops and the state rids itself of an expensive nuisance. But sometimes, as in the Jackson case, the family full of problem children comes to public attention. Then the state turns on the hapless adopters, accusing them of abuse. In the Jackson case the accusation was of chronic malnutrition.
Hell House Revisited
Vanessa and Ray Jackson are being prosecuted for starving their adoptive sons. But the kids may have starved themselves—as the state of New Jersey looked on and did nothing.
A few weeks ago, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson—the New Jersey couple accused of starving their four adoptive sons—received a plump envelope from the state’s Division of Youth and Family Services. The Jacksons are used to such communiqués. The state is seeking to terminate their adoption rights over the four boys; it has also removed two adopted girls and a foster daughter from their large home in Collingswood, a comfortable village near Camden. But the envelope contained none of the now-familiar legal notices or court filings. Instead, the Jacksons found four handmade greeting cards forwarded from Keziah, 13, one of their adopted girls now living with a foster family. The cards marked events long past: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, an anniversary, and a birthday. It’s been more than a year since the Jacksons have seen Keziah, whom they adopted when she was less than a week old. As a condition of bail, a judge ordered them not to communicate with any of the children or come within 500 yards. It had taken the state this long to forward Keziah’s greetings.
“We couldn’t answer the letters, because of the restraining order,” Raymond Jackson told me earlier this month, going public for the first time since the couple’s legal odyssey began. “She has no idea how much these meant to us.” He reached for the envelopes, which were festooned with heart-shaped stickers and girlish affirmations like MISS YOU! and SUPER PARENTS!
“She wrote, ‘Have a good Father’s Day without me. Don’t worry too much about me, I’m doing great,’ ” Jackson read out loud, his voice breaking noticeably. “ ‘I still love you very much. Sometimes I cry about you. Hugs and kisses, Keziah.’ ” He reached for another card, on which Keziah had written, “I still love you very much, no matter what happens—I love you till the day I die.”
Keziah’s package has arrived at an especially charged moment. Indeed, in the next few weeks, a family-court judge is expected to sever parental rights over the adopted children. And sometime next year, the Jacksons will stand trial on 28 counts of assault and child endangerment. They could spend the rest of their lives in prison.
The star witness against them will be their oldest adopted boy, Bruce, who launched the Jacksons into tabloid infamy last year when he slipped out of the family home on a late-night mission to scavenge food from neighborhood trash bins. He was disoriented, shoeless, cold, and extremely malnourished. At the time, Bruce Jackson was 19 years old, but no one knew it to look at him. When Collingswood police officers arrived on the scene, they estimated he was 7 years old; he stood only four feet tall, and once they took him to a local hospital, they learned he weighed all of 45 pounds. Later, when police arrived at the Jackson household, they found three other stunted and scrawny boys. The combined weight of all four—Bruce; Keith, 14; Tyrone, 10; and Michael, 9—was just 136 pounds, about as much as a full-grown Rottweiler. Some had head lice and badly rotting teeth.
As investigators looked more deeply into the Jackson home, the pattern of maltreatment appeared to take on a malicious cast. Everybody else in the very crowded, Evangelical household was obviously well-fed, in some cases even overweight. State officials soon surmised that this was a gruesome, Cinderella-like story: In a scheme to bilk adoption subsidies, the adopted boys were being systematically deprived. “This is the most horrible, most significant child-abuse case we’ve ever had,” Camden County prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi said this summer when he announced the indictments. The parents argued that the boys suffered from eating disorders that kept them from developing properly, but the media discounted that scenario in favor of the more lurid, and seemingly more empirical, one of perverse parental neglect. After a reporter for the New York Post peered into the disheveled Jackson home, a headline writer there delivered the bywords that have stuck to the case ever since: INSIDE HELL HOUSE. Even the usually sober New York Times jumped right past journalistic convention, confidently bypassing “allegedly” to assert in an editorial that the four Jackson boys “had been systematically starved by their adoptive parents over a period of years.”
But if this were so, why would an adoptive daughter—also deemed a “neglected child” in the indictment because of conditions in the home—still think of the Jacksons as “super parents”? It could be a vicarious instance of Stockholm syndrome—unwarranted emotional identification with her brothers’ captors and tormentors. Or the 13-year-old might have been party to the Jacksons’ alleged scam, blissfully gorging herself as her brothers starved.
But a sustained look at the Jackson case suggests that the parents’ initial explanation of events—and Keziah’s portrait of the mood within the family—may be closer to the truth. Adoption records and medical documents indicate that the boys—Bruce most of all—were placed with the Jackson family in part because they already suffered from the very medical and psychological traumas the parents now stand accused of causing. Interviews with numerous family friends—including a lawyer, a doctor, a child-welfare advocate, and a police officer who saw the children every week—all dispute the prosecutors’ case down to its smallest particulars. There is no denying that the boys were grievously malnourished. But there’s a world of difference, in the view of the Jacksons’ allies, between the deliberate starvation and neglect that Raymond and Vanessa Jackson stand accused of and the inept struggles of two well-meaning foster parents who were in way over their heads, tasked with caring for needy children in an overcrowded household of limited resources.
“I know some people had doubt” about the Jacksons’ claim to innocence, says Ellen Beckwold, a friend from church. “But I didn’t. No, there’s no way this is possible.” Other parishioners say that just weeks before Bruce’s escape in October 2003, the family attended a church buffet, filling their plates without any signs of desperation, fear, or pathology.
Harry Thomas, pastor for the Evangelical Come Alive New Testament Church in nearby Medford, New Jersey, where the Jacksons worship, considers them a model family. Still, he concedes the children apparently lacked appropriate medical care. Thanks to the coordinated attention of physicians and psychiatrists, Bruce has since gained more than 50 pounds and shot up to five feet; his brothers have scored equally dramatic gains. “If they were malnourished, they were malnourished,” Thomas says. “But were they purposely starved? Was an anorexic person purposely starved? A bulimic person purposely starved? No. They may do it to themselves. But it’s certainly not their parents’ fault.” The fault, he believes, resides with the Division of Youth and Family Services, or DYFS (pronounced “DYE-fuss”). DYFS officials pushed 35 foster-care children through the household in a decade and permanently placed difficult kids there without providing special training. Vanessa has a high-school diploma, and Ray’s only higher education is from the Camden County Police Academy, for a former job as a sheriff’s officer. “It’s kind of like dropping off an anorexic girl at your house,” Thomas says, “and saying ‘Just love her like you do the rest of your kids.’ And then coming back ten years later and saying ‘You’re starving this girl!’ ”
Today, the Jacksons live in a small and extremely tidy one-story house south of Collingswood. On the refrigerator door are layers of family snapshots, and hanging on the wall in the living room are several framed portrait photographs of the Jackson clan. Since the day they were arrested, Raymond and Vanessa have remained silent, on the advice of attorneys, but they invited me to their home one evening recently with Pastor Thomas’s encouragement, believing their silence has done little to counter the perception of their guilt. “We did this for the state,” Raymond Jackson says, explaining why they took in so many children. “I believe it’s a responsibility to mentor some kids . . . And then all of a sudden, for the state to say that I would do harm to some kids?” He shakes his head. “We don’t like boys, they said? Well, if we hated boys . . . ” The idea strikes him as so impossible that he can’t complete the sentence.
The couple began taking in foster kids in 1991, following the example of Vanessa’s mother. Seven-year-old Bruce Roy II, as he was known then, arrived that December. He was their third foster child, and like the others he was considered an emergency placement, expected to stay only a few days, Raymond Jackson recalls. It was immediately clear that Bruce was a damaged child. He was very small and didn’t make eye contact, but instead stared at the kitchen floor and laughed to himself inappropriately. “He wasn’t crying. Most kids would,” says Jackson. “He was standoffish. But the thing that made me notice he really was different was when he went to the bathroom on the kitchen floor—he peed on the kitchen floor.”
The boy’s language skills also seemed delayed. The Jacksons’ biological daughter LaRae was 10 when Bruce turned up in the house. She recalls how he fixated on an illustrated place mat, pointing out a banana and asking what it was. “You’d go, ‘Banana,’ and he’d go, ‘Oooh, you said that word!’ ” she says. “Then he’d put up another picture, and he’d be like, ‘What’s that?’ ‘Telephone.’ And he’s like, ‘Oooh, you said that word!’ ”
The reasons for Bruce’s state of arrested development were no mystery. His childhood had been hijacked by chaos and abuse. Social workers separated him from his mother when he was just 5 months old, citing her for neglect. From there, he went to live with his paternal grandmother. But before long, DYFS accused his father of abusing the infant. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bruce Roy Sr. fled to North Carolina with his son in tow, apparently evading the DYFS charges. DYFS workers followed and returned the child to New Jersey. (Citing a court order, DYFS officials refuse to comment on Bruce’s past, but Bruce told police that his father’s abuse was sexual in nature.)
As Bruce settled into the Jackson household, his strange behavior persisted—and grew more elaborate, says Richard Josselson, the high-profile Haddonfield attorney spearheading the defense. Throughout his teen years, Josselson says, Bruce wet his bed. He was disruptive at school, where he reportedly stole other kids’ lunches, and once before ran away from the Jacksons’ home.
But most of Bruce’s odd conduct involved food. The boy would rampage through the house’s cupboards on bulimic-style binges, devouring food in such quantity that he would vomit. “He would come down, and he would eat practically everything he could eat that was edible,” Raymond Jackson says. “There it would be, all around—peanut butter and jelly and milk and cookies and bread . . . He would eat so much he threw up.” Bruce would also gorge himself on things of no nutritional value—raw rice, kibble from the guinea pig’s cage, tubs of cocoa butter, Jackson says.
Several of the Jacksons’ biological kids, who joined the interview along with their mother, Vanessa, say they noticed the same behavior. “He’d eat whole tubes of toothpaste,” says 21-year-old Verneé, a recently certified medical assistant. “We never used to keep toothpaste upstairs in our bathroom,” agrees Raymond Jr., 19, “because he would eat it. He would eat the whole tube.”
The bingeing got so out of hand, the Jacksons say, that they introduced remedial measures, including an alarm system on the kitchen door—a measure that the county prosecutor calls a lock, and points to as key evidence of the elder Jacksons’ perverse cruelty. “This was strictly for Bruce,” says Raymond Jr. “To keep him from bingeing.”
But the Jacksons say the more damaging eating disorder occurred between meals. Bruce apparently suffered from what doctors eventually diagnosed as “rumination.” Throughout the day, he would surreptitiously draw the contents of his stomach back up into his mouth, re-chew the regurgitated food, and swallow it again. “Bruce would put his hand over his mouth like this,” Raymond Jr. explained, tightly clenching his lower face with his hand. “But you could still see his cheeks expand.”
The family videotaped him doing it, hoping to shock the boy out of the behavior by showing him how awful it looked. The footage is surreal—all the more so because Bruce appears to be regurgitating his food almost unconsciously. His cheeks puff and sink as the acidic contents fill his mouth, and a look resembling satisfaction comes over his glassy eyes.
According to one of the nation’s foremost experts on infantile eating disorders, Dr. Barton J. Blinder of UC Irvine, little is known definitively about rumination. It typically occurs in children who suffered early-life traumas like abandonment, mistreatment, starvation, or lack of attachment with a parent. “There definitely is a relationship between attachment and the development of competence in feeding and appetite regulation,” he says. “In extreme cases, it can be part of a complex psycho-neuro-endocrinologic disturbance, where the child’s appetite-regulation system is not shaped up, doesn’t consolidate, because of a lack of contact.”
Standard therapy involves careful behavior modification in a hospital setting, sometimes accompanied by hypnosis, antispasmodic medication, or electroshock. If not treated early on, experts say, it can readily lead to something called “nonorganic failure to thrive,” a condition in which a child may not gain weight or height, despite ingesting normal amounts of food. If Bruce’s condition fits that general pattern, no other cause may be necessary to explain it. However, prosecutor Sarubbi has discounted all psychological or medical explanations, saying that genetic tests have ruled out such disorders—even though, in turn, medical experts maintain that eating disorders are not accompanied by any known genetic markers in the first place. In a recent telephone interview, Sarubbi expressed doubt that any of the boys had ever been officially diagnosed with any sort of eating disorder. If doctors note otherwise in the boys’ medical records, Sarubbi says, they did so at the prompting of Vanessa Jackson. When she informed them of an alleged earlier such diagnosis, they merely carried it forward, he contends.
But the record, at least in Bruce’s case, seems unequivocal. Bruce’s biological father, Bruce Roy Sr., told the Philadelphia Inquirer last year that Bruce started regurgitating as a very small child: “He wouldn’t do it when other kids were around, but he’d do it around me.” In a Newark Star-Ledger interview, he went on to claim that Bruce was hospitalized six times for food-related reasons—all before his arrival at the Jacksons’ home in 1991. According to the Jacksons’ defense team, however, the family never was certified as a special home service provider—the classification that would qualify them to foster medically unstable children. Such a classification would have triggered specialized training for the Jacksons, and an additional level of support from DYFS.
Instead, in one nine-month period in 1995, DYFS placed three other at-risk boys in the Jackson home. According to a thorough review of the boys’ medical histories compiled by the New Jersey State child advocate Kevin Ryan earlier this year, all three had early growth issues. Michael was already in one of the lowest percentiles for height before he arrived in the Jacksons’ home; DYFS noted Michael’s stature in files, calling it “genetic,” but soon a doctor would suspect the stunting effects of fetal alcohol syndrome, according to the Ryan report. This is consistent with what Vanessa and Raymond have told people about Michael.
Keith, who arrived in the household a few months later, is Michael’s biological brother, though they had been separated for some time. According to his medical records, Keith “presented with some of the stigmata of possible fetal alcohol syndrome,” and had been diagnosed with failure to thrive, eating “issues,” and small stature—all before setting foot inside the Jackson home. Finally came Tyrone. Born prematurely, he spent his first few months in a foster home for medically fragile children; there was one other placement before he was transferred to the Jacksons as a seemingly healthy and normally developing 18-month-old. However, within six months, his growth stalled, and a year later a doctor noted apparent fetal-alcohol-related symptoms and diagnosed “failure-to-thrive syndrome” three times before his adoption was finalized, in 1997.
The Jacksons claim that the three younger boys further complicated their preexisting conditions by starting to mimic Bruce’s rumination soon after they arrived on the scene. Photos seem to show them pulsing out their cheeks just as Bruce did. Eventually, their disabled biological daughter, Jeré, 22, also took up the behavior. “I know exactly what it was; I know exactly how to do it, “ she told me, holding her hands awkwardly in the air. “I asked Bruce. He said, ‘It comes up like throw-up.’ ” Verneé Jackson also admits she would ruminate on occasion.
Experts like Blinder grant that this sort of concentration of the already rare behavior of rumination defies the odds, to put things mildly: “Somewhere buried in the medical-curiosity literature, you might find another case,” he says. But it’s at least plausible—especially given their uniformly chaotic backgrounds and the increasingly institution-like setting inside the fast-expanding Jackson household. “Can children learn these behaviors? Yes, that can happen,” says Dr. Mae Sokol, a specialist in child and adolescent eating disorders at the Creighton University School of Medicine.
The Jacksons gradually adopted all four boys, as well as a pair of girls who were in much better physical and psychological shape: Keziah, now 13, and Jacee, now 6. Throughout, DYFS inspectors hailed the Jacksons as accomplished foster parents who were “doing an excellent job” and providing a “nurturing, stable environment” for the children placed with them. The children were always well turned out, and the house was always clean. The “Hell House” captured by the New York Post was actually the product of a ham-fisted police search following the Jacksons’ arrest.
“The Jacksons in any other circumstance would have been on the cover of Adoption Weekly. You would have been holding these people up as examples to the community,” says Paul Alexander, a union officer representing DYFS workers in southern New Jersey. “All those kids came with baggage. Man, you’d be having dinners in their honor.”
The indictment says the Jacksons failed to take their children to doctors, and this is true—to a point. Early on, the Ryan report shows, Vanessa brought Bruce to a series of medical services, including a gastroenterologist and at least one therapist. In one year, he had four exams relating to eating abnormalities. The other adopted and foster children also had regular medical checkups until 1997. Since then, however, the appointments stopped. To Sarubbi, this is proof of “extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
It is a hard oversight to explain. According to Josselson, the Jacksons stopped taking Bruce to specialists because they were told his bizarre practices were “behavioral,” which they took to mean a problem of discipline. They felt there was nothing doctors could do to help any of the boys. “From my understanding, the children just weren’t sick,” says Josselson, describing the parents’ way of thinking. This went for the children’s physical ailments as well as their psychological ones. Several of the boys had rotting teeth, a by-product of the rumination, which the parents took as unavoidable. “I know they were advised at some point that essentially nothing could be done to save the teeth because of this continuous rumination, and they kind of just accepted that,” Josselson says.
In her defense, Vanessa Jackson, the mother, says none of the biological children received medical care during this period, either. “I did not do them any different than my biological ones,” she said firmly. She, too, had not seen a dentist in years, and is missing most of her upper teeth, a fact I found startling but significant when we first met. Right or wrong, the Jackson household doesn’t seem to regard the loss of teeth as anything all that exceptional.
All of which restates, in a way, the central dilemma propelling the Jackson case: How do you assess parents’ failure to accommodate the needs of children with demanding developmental challenges? Put differently, where is the line drawn between inept parenting and criminal abuse? Typically, the legal response is to remove the child to safety and leave it at that, experts say. “If the parent is doing the best they can, [and] for whatever reason that’s not enough, that typically is considered civil neglect, not criminal abuse,” says Philip Genty, a Columbia Law School professor of family law. In Camden, the police and prosecutors think that’s hardly enough. “I don’t buy that they didn’t know what they were doing,” says one area law-enforcement official. “They weren’t too helpless to apply for increases in their adoption stipends.” Indeed, the prosecution’s emerging theory about motive in the case is that Raymond and Vanessa kept taking in kids for the subsidy money granted in connection with such placements. Even so, the total yearly payment of about $30,000 to the Jacksons is well shy of a windfall. The family was so strapped the summer prior to Bruce’s hospitalization that their power and gas were shut off for several months, and were only reinstated when Pastor Thomas and Come Alive paid their outstanding balances.
The prosecution team had another reason to suspect the worst of the Jacksons. Earlier in the year, another horrific New Jersey child-starvation case had stormed through the media. In January 2003, the live-in boyfriend of a Newark go-go dancer named Sherry Murphy wandered into the basement of the house they shared and discovered she was keeping two foster sons, ages 4 and 7, in a locked basement room. Both kids were severely malnourished and lying in their own bodily waste. Investigators later found the decomposed body of a third boy in a sealed plastic container. That case, in which Murphy has been charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, and assorted child-endangerment counts, has yet to go to trial, but it sparked an immediate reform of state child-welfare laws and a shakeup of the DYFS system. So when a second starvation case surfaced, involving another foster family, the tabloid press and New Jersey officialdom were primed to react forcefully. Demanding action, Governor James E. McGreevey let it be known that news of the Jackson boys’ condition “angered and shocked” him.
Indeed, the news was shocking. This much is undisputed. On October 10, after two in the morning, Bruce Jackson sneaked out of the third-floor room he shared with his four brothers and slipped outside through an unlocked side door. He reached a blocky apartment complex two doors away and began to comb the garbage cans for food. The clatter alarmed Mike Byrd, a cook, and his wife, Jennifer Spurlock, who lived on the third floor. “I pushed the window up and told the person to get out of the trash,” Spurlock recalled in an affidavit she provided a Jackson-family attorney and confirmed to me. “He yelled back, ‘I am hungry.’ ”
While her husband dialed 911, Spurlock plied Bruce with questions. He responded by saying he didn’t have any family and couldn’t recall his last name. He also said he had walked in his socks from downtown Camden, four miles away, though he was just a few yards from home.
Over the next few days at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Camden, Bruce gave a series of interviews to detectives from the prosecutor’s office. What emerged from them was a harrowing portrait of the Jackson home as a Dickensian compound of neglect, abuse, and agony. As Bruce told it, the other children flourished while he and his brothers were locked out of the kitchen, forced to eat uncooked pancake batter, and eventually driven by their desperate hunger to chew on wallboard and fiberglass insulation. (A judge has deemed him non compos mentis, and an appointed guardian did not answer phone calls seeking comment.)
In a videotape of one interview, a copy of which was given to me by a friend of the family, he seemed extremely logy and confused as he told a detective he never left the house to play, suffered a near-permanent sentence of time-out on the stairs while the rest of the family frolicked, and was forced to cut the lawn manually with shears. He went on to say his mother frequently hit him with belts and choked him with her bare hands when he regurgitated. He acted out his mother’s choking method by placing his own hand tightly around his throat in clawlike fashion. “With her nails,” he said. “Dug it in my neck.”
The detective, Eric Wren, pressed Bruce for more details. “What was your normal meal? What would you usually eat at the Jacksons’?”
“Stuff that’s not cooked,” Bruce told him weakly. He compulsively scratched his arms in the manner of a street person, and his eyes were mostly shut.
“Stuff that’s not cooked?” Detective Wren repeated. “Is that what they would feed everybody? Or just you?”
“It’s me and my three other brothers,” Bruce answered. “Keith, Michael, and Tyrone.”
One can easily understand how police were disposed to take Bruce at his word, given the horrifying condition they found him in. They arrested Raymond and Vanessa Jackson and held them in jail until Pastor Thomas posted their bail.
The problem is, none of the other kids has corroborated the most disturbing parts of Bruce’s testimony. In fact, in their own videotaped interviews, even the three boys allegedly kept on starvation diets openly contradicted Bruce’s account. Michael told his police interviewer a regular day consisted of three meals plus two snacks; his menus included lasagne, casseroles, pancakes, and Lunchables. Keith said he usually ate three meals a day. Tyrone did say that his mother would sometimes forget to give him dinner, and also mentioned eating uncooked pancake batter, one of Bruce’s more dramatic allegations—“It’s nasty,” he said. But he perked up when asked to describe his typical lunch fare, which he said includes peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
The adopted daughters weighed in with detailed descriptions of their brothers’ propensity to vomit in ways consistent with the stories the parents told me. “Weird brothers,” a shrugging Keziah explained to the officer who questioned her. “My mom would try to get them to get strong, be like healthy and stuff—she would feed them vegetables, mashed potatoes . . . ”
If Bruce is right, if life in Collingswood was in fact Dickensian, then everybody else in the family—and everybody in the extended community of the Come Alive congregation—is simply wrong. Or else they’re in on the scam. Increasingly, that’s just what prosecutors suspect.
One law-enforcement official says a novel theory is gaining ground there to suggest the whole Come Alive community suffered from a kind of religious mania, whereby the Jacksons’ fellow parishioners unwittingly egged them on to child endangerment as a sick form of spiritual theater: “Let’s say the Jacksons kept the boys sickly so that at church they would get praise for being good Christians—for ‘taking in the ones nobody else wanted.’ When in reality they were the reasons the boys were sick in the first place.”
While the Jacksons are, by most accounts, devoted congregants at Come Alive, nothing suggests they’d be possessed by this sort of crazed spiritual one-upmanship. They attend Sunday services just 60 percent of the time, says Pastor Thomas, who reviewed attendance rolls; Raymond also attends Wednesday-night Bible-study meetings. Early news accounts made a great deal of the elder Jacksons’ rousing the children for morning prayers at 5 A.M., and wall hangings that acquired an ominous aura in the context of the breaking scandal—e.g., an admonition outside the kitchen door to “Stop and think and pray before entering.” Yet Come Alive appears to be a fairly standard-issue nondenominational suburban pastorate. Evangelical music is its main stock-in-trade—Pastor Thomas started out as a “Jesus music” D.J. in the seventies, and the music-heavy liturgy was what originally drew Raymond Jackson, who had a brief career as a gospel singer in the late seventies and early eighties, into the fold.
The only respect in which the Jacksons stood out in the congregation had little to do with their devotional intensity or their sideline in foster care: They were among the few black members in a mostly white fellowship of some 350 souls. Nevertheless, the church was the main focus of the family’s social life, and nearly everyone there vigorously disputes the prosecution claims that Raymond and Vanessa were neglecting their children, let alone starving them systematically.
“I sat three rows behind the Jacksons every Sunday,” says Frank Jacobs, a parishioner who has funded two health clinics in Haiti. “Distended stomachs? I never examined them, but no, I never saw anything like that at all . . . When you first see the Jackson kids, you could tell there was something wrong. As far as what my wife and I knew, the Jacksons would take in foster kids who were pretty bad off.” Dan Hutchins, another parishioner, dropped his own kids off at the Jacksons’ for informal day care on as many as six days a week for five years. “No way, shape, or form were my kids in harm’s way there,” he says. “My thought on it is this: If that was the case and [the Jackson boys] were starved, they would be afraid or something. There would be some fear tied into it, and [they] wouldn’t have been as open or outgoing. And none of that was ever there. They were very outgoing, never afraid, always laughing and having a good time.”
Still, the Jacksons did act in one way that placed the kids further out of the orbit of monitoring by public authorities: They homeschooled their children, once their adoptions went through, which is legal and completely unregulated in New Jersey. Though Come Alive members regularly dropped by the Jacksons’ home or visited with the children in church—or saw them dance in church special events, for which the clan was locally famous—they weren’t tracking their milestones or comparing them with other children. As a result, the boys’ failure to grow often escaped notice. Up to last fall, for instance, Keith, Tyrone, and Michael were all in the same third-to-fourth-grade Sunday-school class, even though their ages were 9, 10, and 14—correlating, respectively, to grades four, five, and nine. “I don’t know why they were in that class. I can’t answer that,” says their Sunday-school teacher, Joan Sink. “I thought they were very much younger.”
DYFS, meanwhile, continued not to notice anything amiss with the Jackson boys. Once adoptions are finalized, children move out of the agency’s jurisdiction. But because the Jacksons had a foster daughter in the home, Division of Youth and Family Services agents made regular visits there—38 times in the past three years, in fact—without growing alarmed.
As I sat across the kitchen table from Raymond and Vanessa Jackson one warm night, I found it hard to picture them as perpetrating the sort of cruel and systematic abuse they’re accused of. Mainly, they seem bewildered by the past year’s dramatic turn of events—and still dazed by the loss of their adoptive children, all of whom were sent back into foster care following the couple’s arrest. Their biological daughter LaRae struggles for the right metaphor to express the strangeness of it all: “It’s like you’re a dog and everyone’s saying you’re a cat. But you know that you’re a dog. This is weird.” For his part, Jackson won’t entertain any personal resentment, even as exasperation edges into his voice: “I know Bruce loves us, I know he does,” he says. “But sometimes I think about how my life is completely turned around. And it’s because he told a lie. He told a lie on me. He told a lie on us.”
Source: New York Magazine
Letter from Children's Aid
May 21, 2005 permalink
The most revealing statements come not from critics, but from Children's Aid itself. Here is the Executive Director of Peel Children's Aid suggesting that it is improper for a father to publish information about his own family. The letter below contains several instances of "withheld to maintain confidentiality". These phrases are in the original CAS letter, not editing changes by fixcas. CAS refuses to provide the names of family members to their own father.
PEEL CHILDREN'S AID
PROTECTING CHILDREN AND SUPPORTING FAMILIES
May 5, 2005
Mr. Karol Karolak
5530 Glen Erin Drive
Dear Mr. Karolak:
I am writing to you to address an issue that has come to my attention. I have recently learned that you have circulated confidential correspondence regarding the various complaints processes that you are currently involved in to individuals not involved in the complaint processes. The correspondence identifies members of your family and other individuals who have been involved with your family in a professional capacity, some of whom are not subject to or involved with the current complaints processes.
Peel Children's Aid recognizes your right to utilize the various complaint processes legally available to you and in fact, we have engaged in several processes to provide you with due process in this area. These are outlined below:
In 2003, you filed a formal complaint with the Society concerning the Society's handling of your referral to the Society in 2002. The Society investigated your complaint in accordance with its four level internal complaint process, the final step of which is a review by an Appeals Committee of the Society's Board of Directors. The Board of Directors through their appeals committee heard your complaint and concluded that the Society had fulfilled its mandate with respect to child welfare. This complaint process did not identify any professional misconduct by any staff involved with your referral.
The Society completed its internal complaints process in October 2003 and advised you by letter of November 14, 2003, of the conclusions of the Society's complaint process. Also in this letter, the Society advised you of your right to have the Society's Board of director's decision reviewed by an independent third party appointed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Section 68 CFSA Review).
You asked for and received the independent third party review, which was carried out by Mr. T. Giesbrecht, the Director appointed by the Ministry. In his Report dated September 15, 2004, Mr. Giesbrecht's review reached the following two conclusions:
"The Society dealt with the provision of its substantive services, namely the protection of the welfare of (name withheld to maintain confidentiality), adequately and on a timely basis. Sufficient personnel and resources were deployed in a timely manner to effectively and efficiently serve the wellbeing of (name withheld to maintain confidentiality) and (gender withheld to maintain confidentiality) family. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services requires Societies to provide a standard of service at a high level and my describing the Society's adherence to this high standard as adequate is to confirm that the service provided to (name withheld to maintain confidentiality) and the Applicant and their family was of a high quality."
"I further find that the Society dealt with the provision of its review services prusuant to Section 68 of the CFSA for dealing with complaints of persons regarding services sought or received from society in an adequate and timely manner in that the internal and external review processes were provided in accordance with the Ministry approved complaints process and access to all levels of the complaint process were made available to the Applicant in a timely manner."
Mr. Giesbrecht specially notes the high standard of service with which your referral was handled and he did not identify any professional misconduct by any staff involved with your referral or subsequent complaint.
Our concern is that in accessing the various complaint processes legally available to you, you have gone beyond the necessary and acceptable steps of engaging in a complaint process. You have released to the public, without consent, the personal and private information of your family members and the professionals and organizations involved with your family. This release of personal and private information is damaging to the individuals involved and further, is an invasion of their privacy. It is not appropriate for you to share your compliants or the personal and private information of others with the general public. Mr Karolak, I am urging you to engage in your complaints processes in a manner that maintains the privacy and confidentiality of all involved.
I trust you recognize your obligation to maintain the privacy of the above-mentioned individuals and will act accordingly in the future.
Peel Children's Aid6860 Century Avenue West Tower Mississauga ON L9N 2W5 T 905 363 6131 F 905 363 6133
Carline VandenElsen Reacts
May 20, 2005 permalink
Carline VandenElsen, convicted of crimes for her part in a standoff with the police over custody of her baby Mona-Clare, has responded with a press release. André Lefebvre has established a Carline VandenElsen blog, including events in the lives of both parents well before the birth of Mona-Clare.
Mona-Clare was a 5 month old, happy, healthy nursing infant at the time she was seized by police in Halifax after they attempted to break into her grandmother’s home in the middle of the night with a battering ram and machine gun.
Police claim they were enforcing an apprehension order for the Children’s Aid Society of Halifax.
May 21st marks the 1st anniversary of the death of 79 year old Mona Mary Finck and the disappearance of baby Mona-Clara.
Her parents Carline VandenElsen and Lawrence Finck were recently convicted for abducting their baby and face years of imprisonment for allegedly depriving state authorities of her custody.
No one has explained the apprehension order or why the Children’s Aid Society went after Mona-Clare when she was yet a fetus.
VandenElsen will begin a “starving for the children” campaign and will not eat until Premier John Hamm and Justice Minister Michael Baker agree to investigate the actions of police and child welfare authorities, and the disappearance of her baby.
She urges the public to demand why hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been expended to fell her family. She feels no child, parent or family member should suffer such intolerable pain , suffering and exploitation.
VandenElsen and Finck believe that thousands of children across Canada are being criminally abused by state authorities and lawyers in a multi billion dollar family law industry and it MUST STOP.
May 19, 2005
Addendum: On May 21 the Halifax Herald carried a story on Carline VandenElsen's hunger strike.
Finck and VandenElsen Appeal
May 19, 2005 permalink
Larry Finck and Carline VandenElsen have appealed their convictions to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Refer to the standoff page for two news stories.
Long Knives for Adoption Reform
May 19, 2005 permalink
A bill is pending in the Ontario Legislature that would allow natural parents and their adopted children to reunite by seeing each other's records once the child reaches the age of majority. This measure would substantially limit the power of social service agencies over their wards. The long knives are now coming out in the form of press releases alluding to those rare cases in which a parent can be harmed by reunification. Following is one from the National Post.
Suicide fears over plan to allow greater access to adoption files
CanWest News Service
Thursday, May 19, 2005
TORONTO - Elderly women are contemplating suicide, fretting about ruined reputations and reliving horrific rapes as a result of a proposed Ontario law that would open adoption records to birth parents and adult adoptees, the province's privacy commissioner warned yesterday. "There are countless defenceless individuals who have written to me, begging me to speak for them and to allow them to preserve their confidentiality," Ann Cavoukian told reporters before presenting her concerns to a legislative committee yesterday. The source of the angst is legislation introduced earlier this year by the Ontario government that would make the province's adoption disclosure regime one of the most open in the world. If passed, adoptees over the age of 18 will have the automatic right to obtain copies of their original birth and adoption records, including their original name and, in many cases, the identities of their birth parents. Similarly, one year after an adoptee reaches 18, birth parents will have access to the adult child's birth and adoption records, allowing them to know the child's post-adoption name. To protect those who want no reminders of the past, the proposed law will also give both birth parents and adult adoptees the right to put a "no-contact" notice in their files.
Hearings on Foster Drug Trials
May 18, 2005 permalink
A committee of the US Congress today heard testimony related to the drug trials using foster children. A witness and four panelists are listed on the hearing page. All defended the existing drug trial procedures, suggesting at most that more advocates should be in place.
Through the courtesy of Leonard Henderson, we have the submissions by the Alliance for Human Research Protection to the committee, not mentioned on the congressional website. These submissions identify the actual drugs tested, and the purposes of the trials. Mr Henderson comments:
Not a single invited witness remotely represents the interest of the children who were targeted and used as human guinea pigs to test experimental AIDS drugs and vaccines!
Not a single invited witness represents the concern of the African-American and Latino community whose children were targeted.
Not a single invited witness represents any of the child welfare agencies or research institutions that are under federal investigation for their role in the enrollment of these children.
Class Action in Ontario
May 17, 2005 permalink
The following text from the website of law-firm Roy Elliott Kim O'Connor describes a step in the lawsuit by Anne Larcade:
Special Kids Class Action
On May 13, 2005, the Ontario Divisional Court released its decision in the appeal of Larcade v. Ontario and certified the lawsuit as a class proceeding.
This lawsuit, launched on May 8, 2001, seeks damages of $500 million for all families who have suffered because the Ontario Government failed to meet its legal obligation to provide services for severely disabled children. These services were to have been provided under Special Needs Agreements issued by the Ministry of Community and Social Services, or through local Children's Aid Societies.
Sometime in 1997, the Ontario Government unilaterally stopped issuing Special Needs Agreements and forced an unknown number of families to surrender custody of their special needs children in order to access life-saving services.
In June 2003, Justice Cullity of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, dismissed the application for certification of this class action. The Representative Plaintiff's appeal from Justice Cullity's decision was heard by the Ontario Divisional Court on March 29 and 30, 2005. On May 13, 2005, the Divisional Court overturned Justice Cullity's decision and certified the lawsuit as a class proceeding.
Further updates will be provided.
For further information on this class action, please e-mail your enquiries to email@example.com, or contact our offices at (416) 362-1989.
Douglas Elliott, President of the International Lesbian and Gay Law Association, was the lawyer representing the Metropolitan Community Church of Ontario in the court case that legalized same-sex marriage in Ontario. This kind of lawsuit is a way to get law enacted directly by the courts, bypassing the legislature. The Larcade suit may be in the same category. If successful, it will open a large additional source of funding for a group of disabled children. Who can administer this money other than the Ministry for Children and Youth Services through its subsidiaries, the Children's Aid Societies? Mr Elliott is seeking to increase their power at the expense of families.
May 17, 2005 permalink
The mother returned from Sweden for fleeing with her children has now been charged with a crime, and her children have been returned to Canada, where they face a future mired permanently in the care of hired hands. Motherhood is a criminal offense in Canada. This report is by radio station CFRA in Ottawa.
Missing Kids Return Home - Mother Charged
Josh Pringle, Monday, May 16, 2005
An Ottawa woman and her four children are back in the Capital after a worldwide search by Ottawa Police.
35-year-old Marie Emilie Chartier was wanted after allegedly abducting her four children in March and fleeing to Sweden.
Chartier was escorted back to Canada by Swedish authorities on Friday. Her children arrived back in the Capital on Sunday.
Police say the children are "happy, healthy and tired."
Chartier has been charged with abduction and breach of probation.
The world search began in March when the four children were allegedly taken from their grandmothers home.
The search led investigators to Sweden.
Source: CFRA website
Larry Finck Speaks
May 15, 2005 permalink
Canada Court Watch posted this interview with Larry Finck (mp3) made after his conviction.
Chartier Back in Canada
May 15, 2005 permalink
A woman who fled Canada with her children in March is back in Canada. The news is sketchy on details of how she was returned, but it likely was in handcuffs. Here is the bulletin from CFRA in Ottawa:
Mother Accused of Kidnapping Children Back in Canada
Josh Pringle, Sunday, May 15, 2005
An Ottawa mother accused of kidnapping her four children and taking them to Sweden is back in the Capital.
The Foreign Affairs Department says Marie-Emilie Chartier was returned on Friday to Canadian authorities.
Ottawa Police will not confirm whether Chartier is in custody.
Foreign Affairs says the four children will be arriving back in Canada later this week.
Source: CFRA website
Addendum: Here is a comment on the case, also dated May 15, 2005:
The Ottawa Citizen wrote about this story, and the fact of the matter is that this mother had her kids under the CAS authority for an unknown reason, although it is stated that she was NOT abusive to her kids. The article went on to suggest that she was fleeing an abusive ex-husband and that the kids were under the CAS authority at her mother's, (the kids grandmother's) house.
As executive Director of the Foster Care Council of Canada, I would like to make it known that the mother was merely protecting her children from the threats of her husband, and is not a criminal. I suspect that the mother of the four children, who is a former teacher, knows very well the authority and power of the CAS, and had reason to believe that her ability to maintain contact with her children was being threatened by the CAS and she fled.
As a non-abusive mother, she needs as much support as possible, to maintain the ties between her children and herself, not be charged with a criminal offense for being a loving mother.
Please forward this message on to whom ever you can, and contact the Ottawa Children's Aid Society to demand that this mother maintain contact with her children no matter what. This woman should not be punished.
You can email the Ottawa CAS or phone them at the information below:
1-613-747-7800 (Ask For Executive Director)
You can also contact the Minister of Children and Youth Services to ask her if this mother deserves to lose contact with her children for trying to protect them. Please send us the response if you get one from the Ministry.
Minister of Children and Youth Services: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Foster Care Council of Canada
Police Surround Family
May 13, 2005 permalink
For followers of Children's Aid, the following case is nothing unusual. The family reports that they are still together, and have not been served with legal process, so it is legal to report the full story with names.
- "Patricia Ellis" <Patricia.Ellis@rogers.com>
- "CANADA COURT WATCH / JUSTICE NEWS" <email@example.com>
- Wed, 11 May 2005 21:51:26 -0400
- [justicenews] CAS or Nazi SS
Would you report on our story?
We are a family that has been continuously persecuted by the CAS with the help of the armed Waterloo Regional Police Service.
On April 25, 2005 we requested that Superintendent Kevin Chalk of the Waterloo Regional Police Service and President of the CAS Board of Directors assist us with a meeting with the Board to discus the cowardice crimes (fraud, forgery, perjury, coercion of a child, destruction of evidence and kidnapping) committed against us.
On May 3, 2005 our home was surrounded by 3 armed police and a CAS officer. The road was blocked-off and they entered our home to question Aneurin over an accidental fingernail scratch on our sons head. We have no criminal record, no criminal charges, no mental illness, no alcohol or drug addictions, and neither of us smoke tobacco or marijuana. It would appear that our only crime is that we are black, with children and choose to protect them from the criminal CAS.
We believe that a lot of people in our great country are starting to see a likeness between the CAS and the Nazi SS of the 1930's.
Aneurin & Patricia Ellis we live in Canada our Phone number is 519 569 8693
Halifax Standoff Couple Convicted
May 12, 2005 permalink
This evening in Halifax Carline VandenElsen and Larry Finck were convicted of most of the charges against them. They both face substantial jail time as a result.
On May 19, 2004 police appeared at their home to take their baby daughter Mona-Clare. Ordinarily, when falsely accused by the police, the correct action is to cooperate with the police, then prove your innocence when the matter comes before a court. But in the Halifax case, the parents had previously lost four children through the family court system, all without ever having been accused of causing harm to their children. They knew from experience that there was no relief to be had in the courts. So what are parents to do when the police come for their children? Meekly give up their children? Shoot back at the police? There is no correct course of action for Canadian families, and will not be until family courts halt the practice of removing children without cause.
For more, read two dozen news articles about the trial.
Ombudsman Issues Report
May 12, 2005 permalink
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin issued a preliminary 42 page report to Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni on whether parents of disabled children are being forced to relinquish custody. The report is confidential.
Congress to Investigate Drug Tests
May 12, 2005 permalink
Yesterday a committee of the US House of Representatives annnounced hearings on the use of foster children for drug tests. Following is part of the press release:
FROM THE COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RESOURCES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 11, 2005
CONTACT: (202) 225-1025
Herger Announces Hearing on Protections for Foster Children Enrolled in Clinical Trials
Congressman Wally Herger (R-CA), Chairman, Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on protections for foster children enrolled in clinical trials. The hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 18, 2005, in room B-318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 2:00 p.m.
In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only. Invited witnesses will include experts familiar with issues related to the enrollment of foster children in clinical trials. However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Subcommittee for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Wally Herger said: "This hearing will explore issues surrounding the placement of foster children in clinical drug trials, including under what conditions participation is permitted. We are concerned about recent allegations involving the enrollment of foster children in such trials. This hearing will help us assess whether there is any substance to these allegations and if so, what response is appropriate."
Source: US government website
May 12, 2005 permalink
The problems of CAS having too much power over families are to be solved by giving CAS more power. To understand Marie Bontrogianni's letter to the Toronto Star, note that "making more services available" means more funding for Children's Aid, "supports" in social worker jargon are people who coax, or coerce, others, and "special needs" means handicaps.
May 12, 2005. 01:00 AM
More services now for special needs' children
Province forsakes parents of disabled
Your recent editorial about children with special needs identifies some of the complexities in this difficult issue. I take issue, however, with your suggestion that our government has "failed to address" it.
The solution to the problem lies in making more services available to families of children with special needs, so that they can access the supports they need in their communities. And while it is true that the previous government failed to invest in children, our government boosted spending on children with special needs by $74 million in just our first year -- an increase of 15 per cent in a single year.
One important area of investment is children's mental health, which received $25 million last year -- the largest investment it has received in more than a decade -- and will increase again by a further $13 million this year.
A second investment is in children's treatment centres, which provide physical rehabilitation for children with physical and developmental disabilities. In addition to an operating increase, we committed funds to build two new centres in regions that didn't have one and expand four other centres. These investments won't solve the whole problem. But the reality is there are more services for children with special needs today than there were a year ago, and there will be more next year than there are today. We will continue to build a system that meets the needs of children and families.
Minister of Children and Youth Services, Toronto
Source: Toronto Star
Bountrogianni Expands Children's Services
May 11, 2005 permalink
Marie Bountrogianni has found another $270 million to use to further strengthen the hand of social service agencies at the expense of families. Here are her remarks to the provincial legislature yesterday:
Hon. Marie Bountrogianni (Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration): I'm pleased to rise in the House today to inform members of the historic commitment we are making in partnership with the federal government to help Ontario children and families.
I was honoured to host Prime Minister Martin and Social Development Minister Ken Dryden on Friday at the St. Marguerite d'Youville Children's Centre in Hamilton. Together, we signed an unprecedented agreement in principle for the early learning and care of Ontario's children, a commitment founded on the principles of quality, universal inclusiveness, accessibility and development. These four principles reflect values that are shared not only with the federal government but with every provincial and territorial government from coast to coast, and they are shared by child care workers and advocates, children's health professionals and parents.
In Ontario, these principles are the cornerstones of our Best Start plan. At its core, Best Start is a massive expansion of child care and early learning. That means making more quality, regulated child care spaces available to more families and providing more subsidies so that more families can access those spaces. But it's much more than that. Best Start also includes vital services that help children develop and arrive at school ready to learn: infant screening, hearing programs, speech and language therapy and many other services that support early childhood development. All of these services, including child care, will be available in community hubs in schools so it's easy for parents to take advantage of them.
In the past year, we've already created 4,000 new subsidized spaces and we're moving forward aggressively to provide more quality child care spaces for more Ontario families. Quality, affordable early learning and child care helps prepare our young people to arrive at school ready to learn, thrive and excel.
We are pleased that the federal government is providing Ontario with approximately $270 million this year to help build a national early learning and care program. That is in addition to the approximately $570 million that is already provided for child care in Ontario. These are important investments: investments that pay dividends for decades as children grow into productive contributors to Ontario's economy; investments in families whose parents can work outside the home knowing their children are in a quality child care program.
Together, we are creating a seamless system of services for young families and, together, we will see the results: more quality, affordable child care, more parents able to balance the demands of work and family, and more children getting the best possible start in life.
As I looked around that child care centre on Friday, I saw a lot of happy people who have been working on behalf of children for decades. We committed to them that we would work with our partners to deliver a quality, affordable child care program, and that's what we're doing. But the most important commitment is to the thousands of children in Ontario. To them, we are providing a lifelong gift of learning and care. They deserve nothing less.
Source: Ontario Hansard
Press Skeptical of Bountrogianni
May 11, 2005 permalink
The Windsor Star today questions the actions of Marie Bountrogianni in the matter of disabled children. They suggest she was untruthful when claiming that she only recently heard of the problem, and that in spite of her public statements, parents are still required to give up custody to get treatment for their children. Reissuing a directive that failed in the past can only fail again in the future. Mrs Bountrogianni worked closely with the child protection system before entering government, and may have assimilated the habit of deception endemic in that trade.
Ailing kids' parents doubt CAS directive
Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni ought to have known more than a year ago that parents of severely disabled children were essentially being forced to relinquish custodial rights in order to get the services they required, say some local parents.
"I have contacted Marie Bountrogianni's office," said Jennifer Bray, who recently signed a temporary care agreement with the Children's Aid Society for her mentally disabled son.
"People in her office have corresponded with me. This has gone on for a year and a half that I have corresponded with the ministry."
The issue gained public attention April 25 when new Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin looked into claims that parents of severely disabled children cannot access the services their kids need and therefore feel they have no choice but to sign away custodial rights to the Children's Aid Society.
Bountrogianni says she learned of the problem about two months ago.
"Although the issue had been raised before, it's come to her attention more recently that the scope of the problem is greater than anyone initially realized," Bountrogianni's press secretary Andrew Weir said Tuesday.
"That's why she responded urgently with a strategy in the regions to develop specific plans to meet the needs of those children and their families."
Even before Bountrogianni's ministry finishes its own investigation, she has reissued a directive for children's aid societies not to require parents to give up custody rights of their children if they don't require protection.
But Bray says once parents say they can't cope anymore -- because residential services aren't readily available -- the CAS automatically considers it a potential child protection case.
"All kids with special needs require protection," Bray said. "It's the way that they word it. The CAS is doing a very good job helping me out, but I just don't like that I have to sign away my rights to receive help."
Dolores Sicheri, a founding member of anti-CAS protest group Citizens for Social Morality, believes Bountrogianni's directive is toothless because it has been issued before by this government and the previous government.
One woman, who did not wish to identify her developmentally disabled teenage sons, said she will have to relinquish custody to the CAS so they can continue living in a group treatment home. She said she thinks the government should change the law and reinstate guardianship to parents where there is no protection issue.
"But I'm two weeks away from having to sign away my parental rights permanently, so I don't know if anything will happen in time.
"It's not fair. I haven't done anything wrong. Signing away custody is heartbreaking."
Source: Windsor Star, as copied by OACAS.
Bountrogianni Wants to Help Parents of Disabled Kids
May 9, 2005 permalink
In the continuing scandal of parents forced to relinquish custody of disabled children to get specialized care, Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni has denounced the policy, and declared her intention to eliminate the practice, re-issuing a directive to that end.
As long as her statements are genuine, and the directives are in place as she stated, this should cure the problem for now, since Children's Aid Societies are unlikely to defy an order from the minister. But her directives did not address one of the most serious problems, the funding. Children's Aid gets funding from the province for each child-day of foster care. Under ordinary circumstances, they get $71 per child day, and give the foster parents $27, leaving $44 per day to fund their own operations. That comes to over a quarter million dollars for a baby or toddler held until age of majority. For children classified as special needs, the numbers get bigger. For an insight into how much bigger, Gary Putman, Executive Director of Dufferin Children's Aid, told the Orangeville Banner on March 30, 2004 that care for what he described as "needy" children cost $210 per day. It was not clear from the article whether that was his net or gross, but either way a young needy child is good for over a million dollars for Mr Putman's agency.
Mrs Bountrogianni does not say what the funding formula will be for disabled children who receive services without loss of custody. Will the Children's Aid Society still get its megabucks? If so, someone is bound to ask: "What for?". Why should Children's Aid get paid for doing nothing while a parent arranges services from a residential care facility? But if Children's Aid does not get the megabucks, will the money go to the parents? Not likely. If properly implemented, residential care for parents retaining custody should be a lot cheaper than the current arrangement.
Toward the end of the Windsor Star article below, Mrs Bountrogianni announces her intention to provide more money for children's services. But it is precisely the large amount of money provided to Children's Aid that drives them to seek custody of children, and will continue to do so once the public spotlight is off this issue, and they can return to business as usual.
Parents of disabled kids win support
Minister reissues order to CAS
Children's Aid Societies in Ontario should not force parents to sign away custodial rights in order to get residential treatment for their severely disabled children -- which some parents say is happening -- the children's minister says.
"The children's aid societies are there for protection," Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni said in a phone interview. "They are not there to take parental rights away from parents of severely disabled children."
New Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin last week announced that his first investigation will look into complaints from parents who claim they were essentially forced to permanently relinquish guardianship of their children to the CAS in order to get the services they require.
Bountrogianni said she welcomes the review by the Ombudsman, who monitors government agencies, but says even before her ministry finishes its own investigation she has re-issued a directive for children's aid societies not to require parents to give up custody rights of their children if they do not require protection.
"I understand it is happening in Windsor so I want to rectify that immediately," Bountrogianni said Friday. "I've given a re-directive to children's aid societies not to take parental rights away, that if there is no protection issue and a very seriously disabled child comes to their attention they should get together with community agencies -- as they do in Hamilton -- to find help for that child.
"There are some parts of the province that do that better than other parts of the province."
Jennifer Bray complained recently when she was forced to give up custody of her 11-year-old mentally disabled son Wesley.
She'd called an ambulance to stop him from wildly kicking her in her vehicle.
He lived in a facility in London but when he was released she had not choice but to sign away guardianship for one year in order to get help, she said.
For the care to continue after a year, Bray was told she'd have to give up guardianship permanently
"To take custody as a parent away -- I don't understand that," she said last month. "I fell violated."
Bill Bevan, executive director of the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society, said no children come into care locally without at least some concern about protection.
"By the time they get to the children's aid society, they're saying 'I cannot cope,'" Bevan said. "When you get to the point where you're not coping well and you feel so stressed that you're not able to manage this child with such behaviours, that puts the child at risk."
Nevertheless, Bevan estimates his agency handles about two cases a year in which -- if funding and services were more readily available -- parents could have avoided dealing with the CAS.
About four years ago, Bevan said, children's aid societies could enter into special-needs agreements with parents, providing residential service for severely disabled children without changing custody -- a system he considers beneficial.
Bountrogianni said some children's aid societies still manage to help seriously challenged children without taking away parental rights. But the Hamilton MPP acknowledged that differing intervention could be a function of how many services are available in various communities.
"What happens here in Hamilton when children with severe disabilities are brought to the attention of the CAS is they immediately have emergency meetings with all community agencies and try to find placements for the children," she said. "They don't take the kids away. They find help for them."
Bountrogianni said that when she found out about two months ago that parents were relinquishing custody of their children in order to get help, she was "quite upset."
She wants to do two things to ensure this situation does not continue. She wants to channel more money to children's mental health and other services. Her government announced in its first budget last year that it would increase funding in that area by 15 per cent, or $74 million -- the first increase in 12 years -- though she says more is needed.
Bountrogianni also said she wants to make a policy change, including changing the law if necessary, but wants more information first.
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ...
May 6, 2005 permalink
The two pretexts for family courts to break up families are child protection and divorce. The latter affects a larger number of children. Fathers-4-Justice in the United Kingdom has engaged in a series of high-profile stunts over the last two years that have placed family law on the political agenda.
Now a similar campaign in under way in Canada. On December 1, 2004 two F4J members dressed as Batman and Wonderwoman climbed the facade of the University Club in Toronto, where the Family Law Bar was gathering for its annual Christmas Meeting. The demonstrators were arrested and charged.
Today the pair appeared in court in Old City Hall in Toronto. To draw attention to the occasion, a demonstrator dressed as Superman climbed scaffolding near the courtroom. Other events by F4J Canada occurred the same day in Montreal and Yellowknife. Following is one of the many news stories on the incident.
Friday, May6, 2005
Look Up In The Sky...
Many young children consider their fathers to be superheroes and on Friday some dads displayed their alter egos at old City Hall.
People strolling along Queen Street may have spotted Superman perched in scaffolding outside the courthouses - Batman and Wonder Woman were also close by. The caped crusaders from the organization Fathers 4 Justice staged a protest to fight for the rights of divorced dads and demanded changes to the judicial system so they can have equal access to their children.
Brad Mastin, who has one son, was dressed as the Man of Steel and gave a voice to some of the frustrations fathers across the country are feeling.
"We're good enough to be a father 365 days a year, but as soon as we split up with our ex-spouses we don't get to see our kids anymore," he said. "In the beginning I got to see my child for five years and now it's been three years, over three years that I've seen my son."
Distressed dads in Britain have organized similar protests. In 2004 one father, dressed as Batman, dodged tight security and made his way up to a balcony at Buckingham Palace to make his opinion known.
Mastin climbed the scaffolding and hung a sign that read "Fighting for your right to see your kids." Police eventually talked the man down from the platform.
"It's parental alienation," Mastin explained. "It happens all over the country, all over the world, and we just want to see our sons and daughters and be part of their lives."
Source: pulse24 news website
Anne's Brother Speaks
May 6, 2005 permalink
In the continuing case of the 13-year-old girl Anne hiding from Children's Aid, her brother has written a letter to caseworker Stephen Rainey. He reveals that CAS has ordered Anne's mother to prevent contact between Anne's younger sister and the rest of her family.
More Experiments on Foster Kids
May 4, 2005 permalink
The Associated Press has approached ten states with questions about their policy on using foster children as experimental subjects in medical tests. Besides New York, six more states reported at least some use of foster children. No Canadian news agency has so far asked the same kind of questions. Is there any chance of this scandal spreading to Canada?
How Some States Handle Child AIDS Testing
The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 4, 2005; 2:14 PM
-- What researchers, state officials and foster care agencies in various states told The Associated Press about the use of foster children in AIDS drug experiments.
CALIFORNIA: No foster child can legally participate in clinical trials without an order of the state juvenile court. A spot check of several counties said they could not locate any records or officials who could recall ever approving a foster child for an AIDS drug trial.
COLORADO: Carol Salbenblatt, a nurse who recruits children for studies at Children's Hospital in Denver, said there have been very few permanently placed foster children enrolled in studies. "I would say very few foster children have been enrolled and only under very stringent guidelines," she said.
ILLINOIS: At least 193 foster children have been enrolled in nearly four dozen pediatric AIDS clinical trials since the late 1980s, including more than two dozen currently participating, according to records released under a state open records request. None are believed to have been appointed advocates.
LOUISIANA: Tulane University said four foster children have been enrolled in pediatric AIDS trials since 1992, and each time a judge was asked to approve. Nanette Russell White, a spokeswoman for the state foster agency, said three years ago a 16-year-old from Thibodeaux, south of New Orleans, participated in a drug trial after getting "huge amounts of information" on "possible risk or harm. The child didn't suffer adverse effects, she said.
MARYLAND: Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore says some patients who have participated in AIDS clinical trials are foster children, but declined to provide exact numbers. The university does not believe it needs to provide advocates for the children under its interpretation of federal regulations. "Johns Hopkins believes that the opportunity to participate in the PACTG trials should be made widely available and not be denied to children because they are in foster care," spokeswoman Staci Vernick Goldberg said.
NEW YORK: At least 465 New York City foster children were enrolled in AIDS studies dating to the late 1980s. Though city policy required the appointment of advocates, city officials could only find records that 142 got them. The city has asked an outside firm to investigate and also is revising its policy on the use of foster kids in medical experiments.
NORTH CAROLINA: Dr. Ross McKinney, a pediatric AIDS expert at Duke University, said a small number of foster children were enrolled in his studies, mostly during the late 1980s before better treatments were available in the marketplace. He said he always got permission from the state guardian for the foster children and tried to reach the biological parents as well because "it was their child first and foremost, and in most cases foster care was temporary and the children would return to their parents."
TEXAS: State and county officials couldn't locate records about foster children used in AIDS studies, but Dr. Mark Kline, a pediatric AIDS expert at Baylor College of Medicine, said some of the children he enrolled were in foster care, mostly from the Houston area. Kline said he couldn't recall ever appointing advocates for the children but took great care to make certain families understood the risks and benefits.
TENNESSEE: At least since 1990, state law has generally prohibited the use of foster children in medical experiments. "Specifically prohibited from approval is any research that uses juveniles for medical, pharmaceutical, or cosmetic experiments," the latest state foster care rules adopted in 2000 state.
WISCONSIN: State officials said they wouldn't consider medical experiments. "The Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services has absolutely never allowed, nor would we even consider, any clinical experiments with the children in our foster care system. Our goal to make sure children are nurtured in safe homes with strong families," spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said.
Source: Washington Post
Family Prevented From Caring for Daughter
May 4, 2005 permalink
The following story from CBC News reports that the teenaged girl from British Columbia seeking alternative medical treatment in the United States has been sent back to British Columbia.
It appears from the story that the girl's health will be better with her Canadian doctors than with the alternative, and that is the only kind of case of involuntary medical treatment that reaches the press. These articles, containing snippets of privileged information, can only come from the social services system. In cases where the proposed treatment is harmful to the patient, such as unnecessary psychotropic drugs or confinement to a mental hospital, the press remains silent, and no one in social services feeds them with information. Even in the present case, the lack of names makes it impossible to confirm the accuracy of the story.
For the dangers inherent in involuntary care, refer to an interview with Thomas Szasz on The Therapeutic State, or a speech by Siv Westerberg, in which he shows that the police state has been supplanted by what he calls the socio-medical totalitarian state. The oppression is not conducted by the army or the police, but by persons the public initially thinks of as their friends: doctors, therapists, teachers and social workers.
Teen back in B.C. for cancer treatment
VANCOUVER - The Okanagan girl who has been fighting to avoid blood transfusions as part of chemotherapy treatment is back in hospital in Vancouver, says a source in the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families.
Doctors in B.C. have told the 14-year-old, who is a Jehovah's Witness, that they need to have the option of giving her blood transfusions while she's getting chemotherapy treatments.
The teen and her family then fled to Ontario to avoid that court order. But an Ontario judge ordered her to be returned here.
Now under government guardianship, she was flown back to Vancouver onTuesday night. And the ministry source says she is now at B.C. Childrens Hospital.
While Children and Families deputy minister Jeff Berland will not confirm the girl's whereabouts, he admits it will be a tough hurdle if the girl actually does need a transfusion.
"It will be tricky, but it isn't the first time these kinds of cases have happened in Canada. They happen from time to time and doctors and social workers have established ways of working through them," he says.
Berland also says his officials and hospital staff will work with the parents to try to restore relationships that has been damaged by all the court action.
"Our hope would be that we'll be able to work with the parents and restore to them their rights and responsibilities as soon as possible, " he says. "It's not our intention to deprive the parents of their role of planning for their daughter."
More on Foster Kids as Guinea Pigs
May 2, 2005 permalink
On a New York radio program Amy Goodman interviewed a New York City councilman, a representative of the Alliance for Human Research Protection and the Commissioner of the Administration for Children's Services (ACS).
The number of children used in the tests, initially reported as 50, then 100, is now disclosed as over 465.
The law requires parental consent for this kind of trial. But for children in ACS care, the legal rights of "parent" vest in a bureaucrat. The bureaucrat is sure to follow the orders of his superior in preference to protecting his ward, so parental consent is a sham, as is brought out in the interview.
ACS Commissioner John Mattingly lost credibility with his answers. When asked for the true number of children involved in the tests, he gave a 321 word politician's answer without really shedding any new light on the question. More than a year after the scandal broke in the press, he was unable to name any of the pharmaceutical companies involved, though the BBC identified GlaxoSmithKline. He did not identify the drug involved in the tests, or the scientists.
The program Democracy Now has a transcript of the interview and a link to an audio "Segment" in real media format.
Treatment Forced on Girl
May 2, 2005 permalink
Sad stories like this appear in the press from time to time. A girl whose life might be saved by medical technology refuses treatment because of her parents' religious beliefs. Should we give her the treatment anyway?
The powers that Children's Aid accumulates with these heartbreaking stories are rarely used for life-saving treatments. In day-to-day cases, they are used to force children to take psychotropic drugs. The quoted story contains information known only to Children's Aid, so they must have fed it to the press.
Cancer teen search slows
By ROB LAMBERTI, TORONTO SUN
The search for a cancer-stricken B.C. girl, believed to be hiding among fellow Jehovah's Witnesses in the Toronto area to avoid blood transfusions, stalled yesterday as authorities prepared to go to court.
Although Toronto Police aren't actively seeking the 14-year-old, expecting the issue to become a court battle, an order of apprehension issued in B.C. remains on police computers.
Late Saturday Judge Peter Jarvis of the Ontario Superior Court held a hastily called hearing about the girl.
Some cancer patients require transfusions because chemotherapy inhibits the production of blood cells.
Doctors want the authority to give the girl a blood transfusion if they determine she would die without one.
"What we have here is a case whether a capable person of any age can decide her treatment," said Shane Brady, the family's lawyer.
Although Jehovah's Witnesses say blood transfusions go against their beliefs, religion is not the primary issue, Brady said.
The hearing is expected to resume at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Superior Court in Toronto.
The court and police don't know where the teen, her 43-year-old dad and 41-year-old mom are, but Brady said they will be at the hearing.
The hearing is to challenge an April 11 B.C. Supreme Court ruling ordering the girl to undergo blood transfusions.
B.C. courts ruled the girl is capable of making a decision, but B.C. law requires that a person be 19 years or older before they are allowed to refuse lifesaving medical treatment.
Brady denied that the family came to Ontario last weekend to enter a more lenient judicial jurisdiction that would override the B.C. rulings.
He said the teen is between chemotherapy treatments and came to Toronto seeking a second opinion from the Hospital for Sick Children and, if necessary, from a U.S. hospital.
He refused to say if he knows where the family is staying, but he said authorities in Ontario, such as the Children's Aid Society, know her whereabouts.
The girl had surgery to the right leg to remove a tumour.
Brady said the teen is seeking an alternative to blood transfusions. He said reports that she needs urgent transfusions were "grossly unfounded."
The teen, who usually covers her bald head with a hat, is believed to be using crutches or a wheelchair. An air ambulance to return her to B.C. is on standby, sources said.
Source: canoe website
A Priest's Story
April 30, 2005 permalink
The Wall Street Journal has an article about a priest falsely accused of sexual molestation. The motive for the accusations is to get settlement money from the Catholic Church.
In the 1980's there was a wave of prosecutions of daycare operators for ritual Satanic abuse of children in their care. Notwithstanding the absurdity of the accusations, hundreds of people were convicted and jailed. In at least some cases, such as the Amirault case, the convictions were supplemented by large insurance payouts to compensate the purported victims. The first journalist to write critically of the prosecutions was Dorothy Rabinowitz. In an article in Harper's, and later many articles in the Wall Street Journal, she exposed the fallacious cases against Kelly Michaels in New Jersey and the Amirault family in Massachusetts. The tide turned, and over the next 13 years, all of the criminal convictions fell apart, and the prisoners have been freed.
A decade later, large numbers of Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse. Many have been convicted and are serving time, and the church has paid millions of dollars in damages. Now the same Dorothy Rabinowitz has written an article in the Wall Street Journal questioning the truth of the allegations against one convicted priest, Gordon MacRae. If this kind of journalism spreads beyond the Wall Street Journal, we may see more cases of falsely accused priests.
Today in the US and Canada, millions of families have been broken up by family law in its two main forms, divorce and child protection. So far no journalist of the Rabinowitz caliber has seriously questioned the actions of the family destruction industry. Maybe in the future another series of articles exposing the sham of child protection will open up the eyes of the public at large to the atrocities now occurring daily.
NO CRUELER TYRANNIES
A Priest's Story
Not all accounts of sex abuse in the Catholic Church turn out to be true.
BY DOROTHY RABINOWITZ
Saturday, April 30, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT
Nine years after he had been convicted and sent to prison on charges of sexual assault against a teenage boy, Father Gordon MacRae received a letter in July 2003 from Nixon Peabody LLP, a law firm representing the Diocese of Manchester, N.H. Under the circumstances--he was a priest serving a life term--and after all he had seen, the cordial-sounding inquiry should not perhaps have chilled him as much as it did.
". . . an individual named Brett McKenzie has brought a claim against the Diocese of Manchester seeking a financial settlement as a result of alleged conduct by you," the letter informed him. There was a limited window of opportunity for an agreement that would release him and the diocese from liability. He should understand, the lawyer added, that this request didn't require Father MacRae to acknowledge in any way what Mr. McKenzie had alleged. "Rather, I simply need to know whether you would object to a settlement agreement."
Father MacRae promptly fired a letter off, through his lawyer, declaring he had no idea who Mr. McKenzie was, had never met him, and he was confounded by the request that he assent to any such payment. Neither he nor his lawyers ever received any response. Father MacRae had little doubt that the stranger--like others who had emerged, long after trial, with allegations and attorneys, and, frequently, just-recovered memories of abuse--got his settlement.
By the time he was taken off to prison in 1994, payouts for such claims against priests promised to surpass the rosiest dreams of civil attorneys. The promise was duly realized: In 2003, the Boston Archdiocese paid $85 million for some 54 claimants. The Portland, Ore., Archdiocese, which had already handed over some $53 million, declared bankruptcy in 2004, when confronted with $155 million in new claims. Those of Tucson, Ariz., and Spokane, Wash., soon did the same.
Father MacRae's own Diocese of Manchester had the distinction, in 2002, of being the first to be threatened with criminal charges. According to the New Hampshire attorney general's office, the state was prepared to seek indictments on charges of child endangerment. To avert prosecution, the diocese signed an agreement much publicized by the attorney general's office, acknowledging that it was likely that the state could obtain a conviction. (Attorneys familiar with the issue had their doubts about that.) Meanwhile, claims and payments continued apace. By the end of 2004, the Diocese audit showed a total of $22,210,400--so far--in settlements.
That the scandals that began reaching flood tide in the late '90s had to do with charges all too amply documented, and that involved true predators, no one would dispute. Nor can there be much doubt that those scandals, their nonstop press coverage, and the irresistible pressure on the church to show proof of cleansing resulted in a system that rewarded false claims along with the true. An expensive arrangement, that--in more ways than one.
No one would be more aware of that than Gordon MacRae, whose infuriated response to the Nixon Peabody attorney included reference to "the settlement game." He didn't trouble to mention the cost the game had exacted in his case. For the last few years, he has shared a 7 1/2-by-14-foot cell with one other inmate at the New Hampshire State Penitentiary. For this, he is thankful as only a prisoner can be who had had the experience of being housed, his first five years in prison, with eight men in a cell built for four. Every inmate ever placed in such a cell lives in fear of having to return, and he is no exception, he notes. Still it had been easier on him than some around him.
"I had an interior life--others had less."
At St. Bernard Parish in New Hampshire, the patient, energetic young Father MacRae was the one chosen for work with troubled teenagers, invariably assigned to drug addiction centers. Through it all he remained oblivious to snares that might lie in the path of a priest for the young and needy. He was soon to be educated.
In the spring of 1983, 14-year-old Lawrence Carnevale cried bitterly upon learning that Father Gordon, whom he adored, was to move to another parish, and threw himself onto the priest's lap. He made phone calls to Father Gordon at his new parish. Within a few months, the youth told his psychotherapist that Father Gordon had kissed him. Three years later--expelled from his Catholic high school for carrying a weapon--he told a counselor that the priest had fondled him and run his hands up his leg. At roughly the same time, he accused a male teacher at St. Thomas High School of making advances to him, then made the same allegation against his study hall teacher at Winnacunnet High School. Police Detective Arthur Wardell, who investigated, concluded in his report that this was a young man who basked in the attention such charges brought him, and that there was no basis to them.
Lawrence Carnevale nonetheless had more revelations of abuse a decade later. In 1993, he alleged that Father MacRae had held a gun on him, and had forced him to masturbate while licking the barrel. Clearly, his narrative of trauma had undergone extraordinary transformation. Prosecutors and their experts invariably explain such dazzling enrichment in the charges as being the result of an accuser's newfound courage. They would have occasion to make numerous explanations of this kind throughout Father MacRae's trial. Though Lawrence Carnevale's own case would not come before a court, his charges would play their role in bolstering a 1994 criminal case brought against the priest. He would have the satisfaction, as well, of hearing the presiding judge cite the torment and lifelong pain Lawrence Carnevale had suffered at the hands of Father MacRae.
A decade earlier, his stories had also had their effect on Father MacRae, who was unnerved by them, depressed by the suspicions they raised. He had no idea of the disturbances yet to come. In 1988, 17-year-old Michael Rossi, a patient at the Spofford Chemical Dependency Hospital, asked to meet with him. Not long into their talk, which was supposed to be about his addiction, the man became agitated, exposed himself, and began telling him about his other sexual encounters at the hospital. Father MacRae walked quickly away, his memories of the Carnevale accusations still fresh, and declared he was about to open the door--a threat that chastened the patient enough to zip up. Before walking away, though, he had a final, warning query for the priest: "This was confession, right?"
Gordon MacRae now recalls the words with some wryness, though at the time he was far from sanguine. He discussed the incident with his superiors, along with his fears about having to disclose, to police, details of an encounter the Spofford patient had declared a "confession." Msgr. Frank Christian offered reassurances. Father MacRae was suspended nevertheless, pending an investigation. Two months later, state police who conducted an investigation declared the case unfounded and closed it--which did little to keep the Spofford incident from feeding the suspicions of Detective James McLaughlin, sex crimes investigator for the Keene police department, then just beginning what was to become a considerable career in his field, particularly for his stings involving child molesters.
Other factors, too, had played their role in focusing his attention on the priest, not least a letter sent by a Catholic Youth Services social worker after the Spofford Hospital incident. The letter informed the investigator of authoritative information the worker had received that Father MacRae was a suspect in the murder and sex-mutilation of a Florida boy. It was a while before word from Florida police, revealing the story as bogus, caught up with the social workers and police in Keene. Meanwhile, Detective McLaughlin was busy interrogating some 22 teenage boys whom Father MacRae knew or had counseled. Despite determined, repeated questioning, he could find no one with any complaints about the priest.
He did, however, have teenager Jon Plankey, who claimed that Father MacRae had attempted to solicit sex from him. The charges stemmed from a convoluted conversation in which the Plankey boy, saying he would do anything for the money, asked for a loan of $75, which Father MacRae declined to give. Jon Plankey had already made a molestation complaint against a Job Corps supervisor, and he would go on to charge a church choir director. He also charged a man in Florida with attempted abuse.
As the Plankey saga showed, the role played by the prospect of financial settlement from the church tended to announce itself with remarkable speed. Jon Plankey's mother worked for the Keene Police. Even before Father MacRae was aware of the accusations, then-Msgr. (now Auxiliary Bishop) Frank Christian received a call from Mrs. Plankey informing him that she had learned that Father MacRae was being investigated on solicitation charges involving her son, and that a settlement would be in order if the diocese were to avoid a lawsuit and lawyers. The Plankeys' claims were duly settled out of court (after added claims that the priest had taken pornographic pictures of Jon).
Father MacRae, summoned to meet with Detective McLaughlin, was informed that there was much evidence against him--including the Spofford Hospital incident--that the police had an affidavit for an arrest, and that it would be in everybody's best interest for him to clear everything up and sign a confession. On the police tape, an otherwise bewildered-sounding Father MacRae is consistently clear about one thing--that he in no way solicited the Plankey boy for sex or anything else. "I don't understand," he says more than once, his tone that of a man who feels that there must, indeed, be something for him to understand about the charge and its causes that eludes him. On a leave of absence from his duties at the parish, depressed over the return of undiagnosed seizures in the recent year--which had not plagued him since early childhood--he listens as the police assure him that he can save all the bad publicity.
"Our concern is, let's get it taken care of, let's not blow it out of proportion. . . . You know what the media does," they warned. He could avoid all the stories, protect the church, let it all go away quietly. At one point Father MacRae asked for the recorder to be turned off for a moment, lest his answer to questions about a male parishioner's visit to him embarrass a woman in the community. From here on the interview continued unrecorded. As far as Father MacRae could see, the police had knowledge of a terrible wrong he had done the Plankey boy that could endanger him, psychologically, for life. He recalls that when he thought to ask for a lawyer--a request Detective McLaughlin denies, today, that Father MacRae made--he was told that would only muddy the waters. Here was his opportunity to take care of things, avoid arrest, an eruption of media attention damaging to the church. After four hours of interrogation, Father MacRae agreed to sign a statement that he had endangered the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanor. Before affixing his signature, he saw that the detective had added the names of three more boys. Nobody, he was told, is going to believe you solicited just one boy.
Shortly after, Sgt. Hal Brown, Detective McLaughlin's partner in the interrogation, alerted reporters to the confession, via a press release, which produced the inevitable storm of media publicity, "Though no sexual acts were committed by MacRae," it noted, "there are often varied levels of victimization." The release went on to commend Officer McLaughlin for his excellent work.
About his own moral lapses--grave violations of his vows--Gordon MacRae required no clarifications. He was a priest who had failed twice to resist temptation, once, briefly, with a married woman who had declared her love and need for him--a saga with elements of "The Thorn Birds" and, in larger part, farce. There was a one-night encounter, during his leave of absence from the parish, with Tony Bonacci, a highly intelligent 16-year male friend and a dependent of sorts. Tony had himself initiated the encounter--never to be repeated, his entreaties notwithstanding--he told Father MacRae's attorney. All irrelevant, Father MacRae says, today. "I was the adult."
The results were, in any case, disastrous, at least as regards Tony, who made himself a tool of the prosecution in the case against Father MacRae, if a highly ambivalent one.
Given probation after his signing of a confession, Father MacRae took a job at a center for priests in New Mexico, where he received, one day, a strange letter from a Jon Grover, now in his mid-20s--a member of a family he had known well back in Keene, N.H. The letter-writer referred to many sexual encounters in detail, and observed that "the sex between us was very special to me." The priest wrote back that the writer must be an imposter, since the real Jon Grover would have known that no such thing had taken place.
It was the first of several sting attempts by Detective James McLaughlin, whose own reports testify that he wrote the letters himself. Jon's older brother Thomas--now, like his brother, deep into plans for a civil and criminal case alleging that the priest had molested him a decade earlier--took a role in a different sting effort. This was a series of phone calls to the priest, which Detective McLaughlin was supposed to record. It was no small testament to the primary goal of all these efforts that those calls originated--as the phone records show--from the office of Thomas Grover's personal-injury lawyer. The possibilities of a lawsuit caught the attention of an increasing number of Grovers: 27-year-old David Grover informed police, in 1992, that when he heard a report of financial settlements in the notorious Father James Porter case in Massachusetts, he had had to pull his car over and weep, because he had been overcome, suddenly, by his memories of his victimization by Father MacRae.
In early May 1993, while in New Mexico, Father MacRae was arrested on the basis of indictments in New Hampshire. He now faced criminal charges from Lawrence Carnevale, Jon Grover and Tony Bonacci, who chose to leave the country to avoid testifying. There would be, in the end, just one trial--on accusations by Thomas Grover that the priest had assaulted him sexually during counseling sessions in a rectory office, and elsewhere.
With a lawyer, and minimal funds, Father MacRae prepared for the battle, though nothing could have prepared him for the pres release issued by his diocese shortly before his trial. Carried all over New England, it declared: "The Church is a victim of the actions of Gordon MacRae just as are these individuals . . ." Newspapers, carrying the release, edited the words to "alleged actions." This statement by his diocese, effectively declaring him guilty just as he was about to go to trial, shook him to the core. It was explained, to Father MacRae's outraged representative, that the release had been "carefully crafted," as Msgr. Christian put it, to address "concerns about Father MacRae raised by the media"--testimony to the terrors of adverse publicity now affecting diocesan officials and their policies, and not in New Hampshire alone. In his summation at the trial to come, the chief prosecutor did not neglect to remind jurors of the statement by the priest's own diocese.
If the events leading to Father MacRae's prosecution had all the makings of dark fiction, the trial itself perfectly reflected the realities confronting defendants in cases of this kind. For the complainant in this case, as for many others seeking financial settlements, a criminal trial--with its discovery requirements, cross-examinations and the possibility, even, of defeat--was a highly undesirable complication. The therapist preparing Thomas Grover for his civil suit against the diocese sent news, enthusiastically informing him that she'd had word from the police that Gordon MacRae had been offered a plea deal he could not refuse, and that the client could probably rest assured there would be no trial. On the contrary, Father MacRae would over the next months refuse two attractive pretrial plea deals, the second offering a mere one to three years for an admission of guilt.
Throughout his testimony, Thomas Grover repeatedly railed at the priest for forcing him to endure the torments of a trial. He would not have much to fear, in the end, in these proceedings, whose presiding judge, Arthur D. Brennan, refused to allow into evidence Thomas Grover's long juvenile history of theft, assault, forgery and drug offenses. In New Hampshire, where juries need only find the accuser credible in sex abuse cases, with no proofs required, this was no insignificant restriction. The judge also took it upon himself to instruct jurors to "disregard inconsistencies in Mr. Grover's testimony," and said that they should not think him dishonest because of his failure to answer questions. The jury had much to disregard.
The questions he did answer yielded some remarkable testimony related to the central charges--that in the summer of 1983, at age 15, he had been repeatedly assaulted sexually by the priest, in four successive counseling sessions in the rectory office and another time elsewhere. Confronted with inevitable questions about why he would come back, after the first terrifying attack on him, for a second, third and fourth session, Mr. Grover told the court that he had an "out-of-body experience." Also that he had blackouts that caused him to go to each new counseling session with no memory that he had been sodomized and otherwise assaulted the session before. Such attacks during counseling (sessions Father MacRae notes he never held) weren't the only traumas inflicted on him. The priest had also chased him with his car.
"And he had a gun," the accuser had testified in a deposition, "and he was threatening me and telling me over and over that he would hurt me, kill me, if I tried to tell anybody, that no one would believe me. He chased me through the cemetery and tried to corner me." Mr. Grover spoke also of the priest's stash of child pornography, an ever more prominent theme in the prosecution.
One of the defendant's early encounters with the Grovers, a family with eight adopted children whom he met in 1979, occurred when he drove past their house and was flagged down. The youngest child, age 5, who had wandered into the pool, lay near death from drowning while his mother and a nurse worked in vain to bring him back. Father MacRae rushed in, picked the child up, and got the water out of him so that his lungs functioned.
During his testimony, Thomas Grover cited the saving of the child as one of the means the priest had used to insinuate himself into the family so that he could molest him and his brothers. In a time when any gesture of friendship or kindness can be translatable, in a courtroom, into evidence of "grooming" for sexual seduction, priests like the accused were indeed vulnerable. He had no doubt bought too many pizzas, made too many small loans, opened his doors too often, for the age of suspicion.
More than halfway through the trial, as Thomas Grover's testimony began to pose ever more serious credibility problems, the prosecutors offered Father MacRae still another plea deal--an extraordinarily lenient one to two years for an admission of guilt. Relieved though his attorneys would have been if he'd taken it, they were unsurprised at his refusal. "I am not," he told one, "going to say I am guilty of crimes I never committed so that the Grovers and other extortionists can walk way with hundreds of thousands of dollars for their lies."
The jury that the accused thought must acquit him, came in with a verdict of guilty within 90 minutes. Left entirely without funds and facing the three other trials yet to come, Father MacRae agreed to a postconviction plea deal on all remaining charges--one to two years to be served concurrently with the sentence yet to be handed down in the Grover case. Scarcely a sentence at all. His defense lawyers, departing for other business, urged him to take the deal, which Father MacRae described, then and after, as a negotiated lie.
Among the witnesses testifying at the sentencing hearing was Lawrence Carnevale, whose chronicle of claims of abuse had begun with a kiss. At least two church staff members recall that, back in the 1980s when all this was beginning, the youth told them that he had a hit list and that Father MacRae was at the very top--an announcement that came just after Father MacRae stopped accepting the young Carnevale's nonstop collect calls to his new parish. Also testifying at the sentencing hearing was Mr. Carnevale's psychologist, Allen Stern, who opined that the chief cause of Mr. Carnevale's lifelong psychological problems were "the sexual events that took place with Father MacRae." Was his diagnosis Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Not quite, the psychologist explained, it was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Delay.
At sentencing, Judge Brennan charged that the priest had groomed and exploited vulnerable boys. He had assaulted Lawrence Carnevale, said the judge. "You destroyed Mr. Carnevale's dream of becoming a priest." The judge had harsh words too, for Father David Diebold, the only priest to come forward to speak in defense of Father MacRae. Above all he was incensed at Gordon MacRae's lack of remorse, "your aggressive denials of wrongdoing." "The evidence of your possession of child pornography," the judge declared, "is clear and convincing."
Detective McLaughlin says, today, "There was never any evidence of child pornography."
Having given his reasons, the judge then sentenced the priest, now 42, to consecutive terms on the charges, a sentence of 33 1/2 to 67 years, Since no parole is given to offenders who do not confess, it would be in effect a life term.
The priest, who spends his days working in the library, and provides advice, when asked, on everything from marital to immigration problems, now faces discipline of sorts, for that refusal to say he is guilty. It has put him in the category considered "program failures," with the result, he has been told, that he will be moved from the quarters now considered privileged to a prison in Berlin, N.H.
In the years since his conviction, nearly all accusers who had a part in conviction--along with some who did not--received settlements. Jay, the second of the Grover sons--who had, Detective McLaughlin's notes show, repeatedly insisted that the priest had done nothing amiss--came forward with his claim for settlement in the late '90s. And in 2004, the subject in the Spofford Hospital incident, Michael Rossi--"This is confession, right?"--came forward with his claim.
"There will be others," predicts Father MacRae, whose second appeal of the conviction lies somewhere in the future. His tone is, as usual, vibrant, though shading to darkness when he thinks of the possibility of his expulsion from the priesthood--a reminder that there could be prospects ahead harder to bear than a life in prison.
Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Anne's Father Reports
April 29, 2005 permalink
Canada Court Watch has posted a letter from Anne's father (pdf) giving more details about his family's ordeal. It suggests that lawyer billings in the case are approaching a quarter million dollars, and that an anonymous letter to his employer reported enough damaging material from the CAS files to place his continued employment in jeopardy. See also Anne's full story.
Government Response to Cameron Case
April 28, 2005 permalink
On March 21 the London Free Press reported on the case of Alex Glinka and Cynthia Cameron, who were required to relinquish custody of their son Jesse in order to get him needed residential treatment. The case brought on much press coverage and a discussion in the Provincial Legislature.
The announcement by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin on April 25 of a special investigation into the policy requiring parents to give up custody in exchange for treatment was welcomed by CAS reform groups -- for example, a letter by John Dunn (pdf).
Today the Globe and Mail printed an article that may show the government's intention on this issue. With the phrase "according to a copy of the directive obtained by The Globe and Mail", the article surely is the product of material supplied by the Ontario government. It starts with the usual political tactic of blaming your predecessor, John Baird. In short order, it suggests that additional funding will solve the problem. Really? In cases where Children's Aid offers to treat a child in exchange for custody, they already have enough funding. Maybe they need a policy change instead. Still, over the next weeks or months, we can expect an announcement of more funding for Children's Aid, further strengthening their hand at the expense of parents.
Ontario Tories cut funding for disabled kids, paper shows
By KAREN HOWLETT
Thursday, April 28, 2005
TORONTO -- The roots of a controversy dogging the Ontario government over its treatment of severely disabled children date back to 2001, when its predecessors at Queen's Park pulled the plug on funding for support services.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services sent a directive to the province's children's aid societies in January, 2001, ordering the agencies not to enter into any new special-needs agreements with parents of disabled children.
According to a copy of the directive obtained by The Globe and Mail, the ministry said special needs should be met by "other more appropriate community service providers."
But local agencies did not have the resources to provide support services, Children's Aid Society officials and parents say. As a result, they said, families were left to fend for themselves or sign away custody of their children to a CAS in order to gain access to support services.
"We obviously see it as a problem," John Liston, executive director of the Children's Aid Society for London and Middlesex, said yesterday. "If services had been available, would they be on our doorstep? I don't think so."
A video about the situation entitled An Act of Desperation prepared by his office says it all, he said. "A parent only does this out of desperation and a sense that if they don't, the child will be worse off."
Prior to the directive, the province helped families who needed to put severely disabled children in residential treatment without requiring the families to give up custody.
The government was put on the defensive this week after Ontario Ombudsman André Marin launched an investigation into whether parents of children with severe disabilities are being forced to give up custody of a child to gain access to support services.
He said his office has received complaints from half a dozen families.
Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni said in an interview that the answer lies not in reinstating the special-needs agreements but by providing the funding to train and hire more therapists so that disabled children don't have to wait as long to receive help. She said the government has already provided $200-million for children's services in last year's budget.
John Baird, the former Progressive Conservative minister who signed the directive, said it was never the intention that parents would have to give up custody of a child. The directive explicitly states that "parents will not be forced to relinquish custody" in order to access special needs.
When he learned in 2001 that parents were being forced to do just that, he said he secured an extra $28-million in government funding for services. "I thought it was abhorrent," he said in an interview. "I said, 'This practice will end immediately.' "
But the practice did not end, said the CAS's Mr. Liston. Many parents are forced to go through the anguish of walking into a courtroom and effectively saying, "I'm abandoning my child," he said.
Tina Grignard of St. Thomas is one of the lucky parents who narrowly escaped having to give up custody of her 11-year-old son, Jordan, who has Down syndrome and severe behavioural problems.
When she began looking for help, Ms. Grignard said, everyone told her to go to the CAS. Jordan was moved to a group home in Guelph a year ago, where he is doing extremely well, she said. He was initially placed under a temporary custody agreement with the CAS. Three weeks before the CAS was to assume permanent custody, and after she had made countless phone calls and wrote numerous letters to provincial government officials, funding came through, she said.
Source: Globe and Mail
Foster Children Used as Guinea Pigs
April 24, 2005 permalink
A scandal broke in New York on February 29, 2004 when The New York Post published three articles by Douglas Montero describing the use of foster children as guinea pigs in drug tests. Wendy McElroy wrote a commentary for Fox News at the time. In November 2004 the controversy was renewed when the BBC broadcast a program New York's HIV Experiment based on the story of foster mother Jacklyn Hoerger.
While this story lacked some essentials, such as the name of the drug used, or the scientists in charge, it was a damning account. Wendy McElroy published a second story.
Now the city agency is investigating. From the story, it appears that a whitewash may be under way. Here is a story from the New York Times:
Private Firm to Investigate AIDS Charges Against City
The city's Administration for Children's Services has hired an outside research firm to investigate allegations that the city inappropriately put foster children into medical trials for AIDS drugs in the 1980's and 1990's and that foster parents who objected to the trials lost custody of the children.
The agency also said it would form a panel of national health care experts to review the findings of the investigation, to be conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based nonprofit research group. The agency's commissioner, John B. Mattingly, said he thought that children's services had acted appropriately but that he has asked for the outside investigation to allay concerns raised by some reporters and by a minority advocacy group. Most of the children in the trials were African-American or Hispanic.
"We are taking this step because, while we believe that the policies in place at the time reflected good practice, we acknowledge the need for transparency in all of our dealings with the public," Mr. Mattingly said. "For us to be effective in our mission to protect New York City's children, we must have a sense of mutual trust with those families we seek to serve."
Accusations that the city had allowed babies in foster care who were not perilously ill to be used in medical testing of AIDS drugs were first reported in The New York Post in 2004.
At the time, officials from the agency and from the hospitals where the trials had taken place said they had been legitimately conducted on only foster children dying of AIDS who had no other medical options at the time.
But when Mr. Mattingly took over as commissioner last August, he decided to do an internal review of agency records to be sure that no inappropriate trials had been conducted.
Yesterday, he said that exhaustive reviews of available records had produced no evidence that the agency acted wrongly. The review by the agency staff, he said, determined that about 465 children had taken part in the trials between 1988 and 2001, with most participating before current treatments for AIDS became commonly available.
He said that according to the records only two children were removed from foster parents who refused to undergo the trials and that both of those children had serious medical conditions that required treatment.
But Vera Hassner Sharav, the president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a Manhattan-based medical watchdog group that has pressed for a more thorough investigation, said that the agency could not be relied upon to conduct a fair investigation. She said that documents filed with the federal government showed that many of the foster children were only presumed to have AIDS. "It's a hell of a thing to give a child toxic drugs when they are only presumed to have AIDS," Ms. Sharav said.
Source: New York Times
Addendum: Wendy McElroy has another article reacting to the announcement of the investigation by ACS, Transparency Crucial for Accountability.
Psychotropic Drugs Forced on Children
April 23, 2005 permalink
The May/June 2005 issue of Mother Jones Magazine contains an article showing how drug companies collude with government agencies to force psychotropic drugs on unwilling children.
This article comes from the May/June 2005 issue of Mother Jones Magazine.
When state mental health officials fall under the influence of Big Pharma, the burden falls on captive patients. Like this 13-year-old girl.
ALIAH GLEASON IS A BIG, lively girl with a round face, a quick wit, and a sharp tongue. She's 13 and in eighth grade at Dessau Middle School in Pflugerville, Texas, an Austin suburb, but could pass for several years older. She is the second of four daughters of Calvin and Anaka Gleason, an African American couple who run a struggling business taking people on casino bus trips.
In the early part of seventh grade, Aliah was a B and C student who "got in trouble for running my mouth." Sometimes her antics went overboard -- like the time she barked at a teacher she thought was ugly. "I was calling this teacher a man because she had a mustache," Aliah recalled over breakfast with her parents at an Austin restaurant.
School officials considered Aliah disruptive, deemed her to have an "oppositional disorder," and placed her in a special education track. Her parents viewed her as a spirited child who was bright but had a tendency to argue and clown. Then one day, psychologists from the University of Texas (UT) visited the school to conduct a mental health screening for sixth- and seventh-grade girls, and Aliah's life took a dramatic turn.
A few weeks later, the Gleasons got a "Dear parents" form letter from the head of the screening program. "You will be glad to know your daughter did not report experiencing a significant level of distress," it said. Not long after, they got a very different phone call from a UT psychologist, who told them Aliah had scored high on a suicide rating and needed further evaluation. The Gleasons reluctantly agreed to have Aliah see a UT consulting psychiatrist. She concluded Aliah was suicidal but did not hospitalize her, referring her instead to an emergency clinic for further evaluation. Six weeks later, in January 2004, a child-protection worker went to Aliah's school, interviewed her, then summoned Calvin Gleason to the school and told him to take Aliah to Austin State Hospital, a state mental facility. He refused, and after a heated conversation, she placed Aliah in emergency custody and had a police officer drive her to the hospital.
The Gleasons would not be allowed to see or even speak to their daughter for the next five months, and Aliah would spend a total of nine months in a state psychiatric hospital and residential treatment facilities. While in the hospital, she was placed in restraints more than 26 times and medicated -- against her will and without her parents' consent -- with at least 12 different psychiatric drugs, many of them simultaneously.
On her second day at the state hospital, Aliah says she was told to take a pill to "help my mood swings." She refused and hid under her bed. She says staff members pulled her out by her legs, then told her if she took her medication, she'd be able to go home sooner. She took it. On another occasion, she "cheeked" a pill and later tossed it into the garbage. She says that after staff members found it, five of them came to her room, one holding a needle. "I started struggling, and they held my head down and shot me in the butt," she says. "Then they left and I lay in my bed crying."
What, if anything, was wrong with Aliah remains cloudy. Court documents and medical records indicate that she would say she was suicidal or that her father beat her, and then she would recant. (Her attorney attributes such statements to the high dosages of psychotropic drugs she was forcibly put on.) Her clinical diagnosis was just as changeable. During two months at Austin State Hospital, Aliah was diagnosed with "depressive disorder not otherwise specified," "mood disorder not otherwise specified with psychotic features," and "major depression with psychotic features."
In addition to the antidepressants Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, and Desyrel, as well as Ativan, an antianxiety drug, Aliah was given two newer drugs known as "atypical antipsychotics" -- Geodon and Abilify -- plus an older antipsychotic, Haldol. She was also given the anticonvulsants Trileptal and Depakote -- though she was not suffering from a seizure disorder -- and Cogentin, an anti-Parkinson's drug also used to control the side effects of antipsychotic drugs. At the time of her transfer to a residential facility, she was on five different medications, and once there, she was put on still another atypical -- Risperdal.
The case of Aliah Gleason raises troubling -- and long-standing -- questions about the coercive uses of psychiatric medications in Texas and elsewhere. But especially because Aliah lives in Texas, and because her commitment was involuntary, she became vulnerable to an even further hazard: aggressive drug regimens that feature new and controversial drugs -- regimens that are promoted by drug companies, mandated by state governments, and imposed on captive patient populations with no say over what's prescribed to them.
In the past, drug companies sold their new products to doctors through ads and articles in medical journals or, in recent years, by wooing consumers directly through television and magazine advertising. Starting in the mid-1990s, though, the companies also began to focus on a powerful market force: the handful of state officials who govern prescribing for large public systems like state mental hospitals, prisons, and government-funded clinics.
One way drug companies have worked to influence prescribing practices of these public institutions is by funding the implementation of guidelines, or algorithms, that spell out which drugs should be used for different psychiatric conditions, much as other algorithms guide the treatment of diabetes or heart disease. The effort began in the mid-1990s with the creation of TMAP -- the Texas Medication Algorithm Project.
Put simply, the algorithm called for the newest, most expensive medications to be used first in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression in adults. Subsequently, the state began developing CMAP, a children's algorithm that is not yet codified by the state legislature. At least nine states have since adopted guidelines similar to TMAP. One such state, Pennsylvania, has been sued by two of its own investigators who claim they were fired after exposing industry's undue influence over state prescribing practices and the resulting inappropriate medicating of patients, particularly children.
Thanks in part to such marketing strategies, sales of the new atypical antipsychotics have soared. Unlike antidepressants -- which have been marketed to huge audiences almost as lifestyle drugs -- antipsychotics are aimed at a small but growing market: schizophrenics and people with bipolar disorder. Atypicals are profitable because they are as much as 10 times more expensive than the old antipsychotics, such as Haldol. In 2004, atypical antipsychotics were the fourth-highest-grossing class of drugs in the United States, with sales totaling $8.8 billion -- $2.4 billion of which was paid for by state Medicaid funds.
At a time when ethical questions are dogging the pharmaceutical industry and algorithm programs in Texas and Pennsylvania, President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has lauded TMAP as a "model program" and called for the expanded use of screening programs like the one at Aliah Gleason's middle school. The question now is whose interests do these programs really serve --
THE TEXAS MEDICATION ALGORITHM PROJECT got under way in the mid-1990s just as the new generation of antipsychotic drugs was coming on the market. For some 40 years before, medications like Thorazine, Haldol, and Mellaril were given to patients with schizophrenia or psychosis to silence their voices and calm their agitation. But they caused terrible side effects, including sedation, social withdrawal, and tardive dyskinesia, which causes muscle and facial tics and strange jerking movements like those in people with Parkinson's disease. Many patients would refuse to take them -- when they had a choice. Some sued drug companies and doctors for failing to warn them about the side effects and won large awards.
Into that environment, drug companies brought out the new atypical antipsychotics and began describing them in almost miraculous terms. The drugs -- including Janssen Pharmaceutica's Risperdal, Eli Lilly's Zyprexa, Pfizer's Geodon, AstraZeneca's Seroquel, and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Abilify, as well as a slightly older drug, Clozapine by Sandoz -- were said to be more effective than the first-generation antipsychotics and less likely to cause motor problems and other side effects. "A potential breakthrough of tremendous magnitude," Stanford University psychiatrist Alan Schatzberg gushed to the New York Times. Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, added that now "the long-term disability of schizophrenia can come to an end."
Despite the hoopla, not all doctors immediately embraced the new drugs, and many patients bounced haphazardly between the old and new antipsychotics. "They complained that whenever they got new doctors, their whole medication regimen usually changed," says Dr. Steven Shon, the medical director for behavioral health for the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
In 1995, Shon began talking with researchers at the UT-Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas about the use of algorithms to address these random prescribing practices. From the start, the process of creating the algorithms reflected the extensive ties between academic psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry. UT-Southwestern was a major research center stocked with investigators conducting drug trials paid for by pharmaceutical companies.
One of Shon's key collaborators was Dr. John Rush, a nationally known psychopharmacologist who has extensive ties to industry. Rush declined to speak for this article, but according to a disclosure statement appended to one of his published articles, he has received grant and research support from 14 pharmaceutical companies, has served as a consultant to 11, and has been a member of 10 drug company speakers' bureaus.
Together, Shon, Rush, and the then-chair of UT-Southwestern's psychiatry department convened panels of experts who drew up "consensus guidelines" for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression -- blueprints on which drugs to give patients in what order and combination. Of the 46 members of the three panels, 27 have conducted research on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, served on drug company speakers' bureaus, or served as consultants to a drug company, according to a review conducted for Mother Jones by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a watchdog group that maintains a database on the financial links of researchers.
For the drug companies, TMAP represented an opportunity. Their products were given a high priority in the algorithm, and if the algorithm was widely followed, it could mean thousands of prescriptions and millions of dollars in revenue. The industry didn't miss the chance. "We went to the pharmaceutical companies or, actually, they approached us because they are always dropping by," Shon told Mother Jones. "Once we created the algorithms, they said, 'Could you use any financial help for any materials?' And we said, 'Yeah,' because we have to publish manuals. We have to create training videotapes."
Shon says the initial creation of the TMAP guidelines was underwritten by state funds, along with $3 million in grants from foundations, including $2.4 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a charity set up by the estate of a former chief executive of Johnson & Johnson, the parent of Janssen. Shon insists that no industry money went into the creation of the guidelines, though a 1999 paper he coauthored outlining the "development and implementation" of TMAP acknowledged grant support from seven pharmaceutical companies.
Shon also told Mother Jones that his department received only $285,000 from drug companies for TMAP's training materials in the program's "feasibility testing stage." But Nanci Wilson, an investigative reporter for KEYE-TV in Austin, reviewed the DSHS accounts, and her analysis indicates that gifts from pharmaceutical companies totaled $1.3 million from 1997 to July 2004, at least $834,000 of which was earmarked for TMAP. For example:
- Janssen Pharmaceutica, the maker of Risperdal, gave $191,183 "to help support further developmental activities of TMAP" or in general support of TMAP.
- Eli Lilly, the maker of Prozac and Zyprexa, gave $47,000 to "help fund the collaborative effort to develop medication best practices for the treatment of major depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders." All together Lilly contributed $103,000 to support TMAP.
- Pfizer, the maker of the antidepressant Zoloft and the new antipsychotic Geodon, contributed at least $146,500 for TMAP.
While not refuting Shon's statement, DSHS spokesman Doug McBride says he is "aware" that industry donated $1.3 million. Representatives of pharmaceutical companies contacted by Mother Jones denied that their contributions were intended to shape TMAP. "We didn't participate in the development or influence the content," said Janssen spokesman Doug Arbesfeld. "It was an arm's-length contribution." Heather Lusk, an Eli Lilly representative, said contributions to TMAP were "educational" grants made by a company grants office that "is completely independent of any kind of sales and marketing function."
Pfizer's Jack Cox pointed out that nonprofit mental health advocacy groups also raise and spend money to influence policy. "There's an assumption that our money is dirty and corrupt," he said. "I beg to differ."
AS THE TMAP PANEL MEMBERS worked on the protocols, drug companies aggressively promoted the new antipsychotics across the psychiatric landscape. Their key selling point: that they were more effective and caused fewer serious side effects than the older antipsychotics, especially Haldol, the most widely used. Though it did approve six atypicals, the FDA was dubious of some of these claims. "We would consider any advertisement or promotional labeling for Risperdal false, misleading or lacking fair balance if there is a presentation of data that conveys the impression that [Risperdal] is superior to [Haldol] or any other marketed antipsychotic drug product with regard to safety or effectiveness," an FDA official wrote in a 1993 letter to Janssen Pharmaceutica. But the letter was only made public 53years later, when journalist Robert Whitaker quoted it in his 2002 book, Mad in America. Most prescribing doctors were left in the dark. (For more on how drug companies manipulated clinical trials for atypicals see motherjones.com/spinningdoctors.)
The largest study to date, a review of 52 clinical trials including more than 12,000 patients published in the British Medical Journal in 2000, found "no clear evidence that atypical antipsychotics are more effective or better tolerated than conventional antipsychotics." A 2003 study comparing Zyprexa, the top-selling atypical antipsychotic, and Haldol, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found the new drug "does not demonstrate advantages compared with [Haldol] in compliance, symptoms or overall quality of life."
The new drugs now appear to be associated with higher suicide rates and to cause tardive dyskinesia, too, though perhaps at lower rates than the first-generation drugs. They can cause rapid weight gain and thus an increased risk of diabetes. In September 2003, the FDA required the makers of all atypicals to add to their labels a warning that the drugs can cause hyperglycemia, diabetes, and even death. Janssen was also made to send doctors a letter conceding it had misled them when it said that Risperdal does not increase the risk of diabetes. In fact, the company had to admit, it probably does.
When TMAP's schizophrenia algorithm was finalized in 1997, however, it did exactly what industry representatives must have hoped for: It called for the newest, most expensive drugs -- five atypicals -- to be used first. If a patient does not respond well to one of those drugs, a second member of this group should be tried. If that drug also fails, a third drug should be tried, this time either another atypical or an older antipsychotic. The guidelines for major depression and bipolar disorder similarly favor new drugs.
"When [the drug companies] saw the newer medications were there, they liked that, of course," says Shon. "I know that has raised questions in people's minds: 'Why are the newest, most expensive first?' Well, the newest, most expensive are either the most efficacious and/or the safest."
But that assertion is increasingly disputed. "When atypicals came out, they looked a little better in effectiveness and a lot better in terms of side effects," says Mike Hogan, Ohio's mental health director and former chairman of President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. "These days, they look perhaps a tiny bit better in terms of effectiveness, but increasingly it's not clear whether the side-effect profile is better or just different."
Ohio adopted a TMAP-like algorithm in 2001 but with a critical difference. According to Hogan, it's merely a guideline for prescribing doctors to consider. But in Texas, state officials put far more pressure on its physicians to follow the protocols. Under regulations codified by the legislature in 1999, doctors in state-owned and state-funded mental health entities must follow the algorithm, or justify a different course with a note in a patient's file -- a hurdle that sends the message that such deviation should be the rare exception.
As the TMAP guidelines began to be adopted in 1997, Texas Medicaid spending on the five atypical antipsychotics skyrocketed from $28 million to $177 million in 2004.
MANY DOSES OF THESE DRUGS went to patients like Aliah Gleason. She was one of 19,404 Texas teenagers prescribed an antipsychotic in July or August of 2004 through a publicly funded program, according to ACS-Heritage, a medical consulting firm hired by Texas to investigate the use of psychotropic drugs on children. Nearly 98 percent were atypical antipsychotics -- unapproved for children and prescribed "off-label," a controversial practice in which doctors legally prescribe FDA-cleared drugs to patients, such as children, or for conditions, such as depression, for which they are not approved. The report found that more than half of the doses for antipsychotics appeared inappropriately high, that almost half did not appear to have valid diagnoses warranting their use, and that one-third of child patients were on two or more medications.
When she was transferred from Austin State Hospital to a residential facility on March 18, 2004, Aliah was on five different medications, putting her on the extreme end of a growing practice known as polypharmacy that worries many doctors. "This is a complicated regimen using powerful psychotropic medications in a barely adolescent girl, so I would be quite concerned about it," says Dr. Joseph Woolston, a Yale University professor and chief of child psychiatry at Yale-New Haven Hospital. "It isn't grossly, acutely dangerous, but it is sedating and would make it difficult for a child to experience the world in a normal way. If you or I were on that regimen we would have a lot of trouble attending to work or school. We don't have any idea what that combination of medications does to a developing child. It may have a number of long-term side effects." He also suspects that the drugs may have been used as much to control the angry reactions of a girl who was hospitalized against her will as to treat any mental and emotional problems.
Dr. Clifford Moy, clinical director of Austin State Hospital, says that while the hospital's philosophy is to avoid using more than one member of any particular class of psychiatric medication, using multiple drugs from different classes is often the best way to treat a patient with multiple symptoms. While declining, for privacy reasons, to discuss Aliah's treatment, he said medication and restraint would never be used for punitive purposes or merely to promote compliance with hospital rules, but only in the case of a "significant emergency behavioral situation." He added that forced injection of an antipsychotic -- which happened to Aliah several times -- might be used "if there were a legal consent for an oral antipsychotic medication, which the patient refused." Such consent was apparently provided, in Aliah's case, by the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services.
The 46-bed child and adolescent wing where Aliah stayed was not, like the rest of Austin State Hospital, obligated to follow TMAP. Its treatment regimens were influenced more by CMAP, the children's algorithm not yet mandated by the legislature. CMAP steers clear of providing protocols for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder -- the disorders that atypicals were designed to address -- in part, says DSHS's Doug McBride, because there's "little scientific evidence" as to what the appropriate regimen for kids would be. CMAP does, however, call for combining atypicals with antidepressants for children diagnosed -- as Aliah was -- as suffering from depression "with psychotic features." McBride defends such off-label use of prescription drugs, saying that the FDA approval process "is not the end of clinical and other scientific evidence on the use of that medication."
Beyond their technical dictates, the algorithms established a culture that affected which medications were prescribed. Steven Shon, who, along with his colleagues, had led training sessions for the staff of Austin State Hospital, argues that the algorithms were designed to prevent irrational and excessive medication. Yale's Woolston agrees with the goal, though not necessarily the reality. "Algorithms are supposed to cut down on people using medications inappropriately and to take into account medication interaction," he says. "Where they become a problem is when people use them as a mandate, forget their own clinical judgment, and believe that when you're in doubt, you're supposed to move forward in the algorithm and add more medication."
Medications can be invaluable, and some patients say their lives have been transformed by atypicals. But algorithms reinforce the perception in both psychiatry and popular culture that mental problems always require drug treatment. "An algorithm may put blinders on a psychiatrist and create the presumption that the only clinical approach to problems is to use medications," Woolston says. If a patient doesn't respond to a particular medication, a doctor relying on an algorithm may think they need to use or add a different medication, he says. "But sometimes, the best approach is to say, 'Medication isn't working; let's try something else.'"
ONCE THE DEVELOPMENT of the algorithms was largely complete, Shon began hitting the road, making about one trip a month -- often at the expense of drug companies -- to spread the TMAP gospel to officials in other states. This close relationship between TMAP and the pharmaceutical industry raises disturbing questions about whether the drug companies were wielding undue influence or profiting at the expense of patients. But no one raised these questions until 2002, when Allen Jones, an investigator for the state of Pennsylvania's Office of Inspector General (OIG) began to look into a complaint that mental health officials had set up an unorthodox bank account to collect money from drug companies.
Jones, a lanky, 50-year-old chain-smoker, had spent several years with the OIG in the late '80s and early '90s, but left to pursue real estate investing to pay for his daughters' college tuition. He had only just rejoined the agency in the summer of 2002 when he began investigating this case. Over several months, he interviewed state officials, traveled to New York and New Jersey to question pharmaceutical company executives, and learned all he could about TMAP. He soon felt that something inappropriate, and possibly illegal, was going on. "It just did not pass the smell test," he says.
Jones learned that in early 2000, Dr. Steven Karp, who was then medical director of the state's Office of Mental Health, had become interested in implementing a Pennsylvania version of TMAP. Karp discussed his interest with executives of Janssen Pharmaceutica, Jones found, and the company paid for Shon to come to Pennsylvania in late 2000 to meet with Karp and Steven Fiorello, the state's chief pharmacist. Shon returned in March 2001 to train state medical personnel, according to records Jones obtained and provided to Mother Jones. To cover Shon's travel expenses, Janssen made an "educational grant" of $1,765.75. A Janssen funding request form notes that the grant was to support the "TMAP initiative to expand atypical usage and drive Steve Shon's expenses." A box marked "Risperdal" is checked on the form. Janssen's check was sent to Fiorello and placed in the account where other donations from pharmaceutical companies were deposited.
Two months later, Janssen provided $4,000 for Fiorello and a state psychiatrist to travel to New Orleans for meetings with Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, a UT-Southwestern psychiatrist and TMAP project team director. The funding request form for this payment listed the "deliverable" as the "successful implementation of PennMAP." A Janssen representative also attended and paid for $80-per-person dinners for the Pennsylvania and Texas officials. Fiorello and the psychiatrist made another trip to New Orleans later that year, also paid for by Janssen, according to Jones. Such perks, while of no great consequence to a company the size of Janssen, did forge a friendly relationship with Pennsylvania officials whose decisions carried enormous financial stakes for the company.
Fiorello told Jones he was the state's "point man" for selecting drugs for the state formulary -- those used in state hospitals -- and that industry representatives visit him often "to ensure access of their drugs to the state system," Jones wrote in a file memo as he pursued his investigation. In April 2002, Fiorello and Dr. Frederick Maue, clinical director for the state's Department of Corrections, spoke at a Janssen-sponsored symposium for prison doctors and nurses on treating mentally ill offenders. They were paid $2,000 by Comprehensive NeuroScience, a marketing firm working for Janssen that helped shape their presentation. Another marketing company hired by Janssen appointed Karp to its advisory board, flying him to meetings in Seattle and Tampa. Pfizer put Fiorello on an advisory council and twice paid his expenses to come to New York.
Jones became convinced that, as he puts it, "the pharmaceutical companies were buying influence with key decision makers in state government, trying to turn their drugs into blockbusters." But as he brought these findings to his boss, Daniel Sattele, he was told to stop pushing so hard. After he was barred from investigating whether state officials had received inappropriate payments from drug companies, Jones sued in federal court, alleging that "major public corruption investigations were being delayed, obstructed, or otherwise hindered by officials in the OIG." Sattele subsequently conceded in a deposition taken in 2003 that he asked Jones if he were "a salmon," telling him, "go with the flow, don't swim against the current." Sattele also said that after Jones came to him with his concerns for the fourth or fifth time, he reminded Jones of the industry's power and influence. "I said, 'Allen, pharmaceutical companies are very aggressive in their marketing. They probably donate to both sides of the aisle,'" he recalled in the deposition.
When Jones continued to pursue the case he was removed as lead investigator, then pulled off altogether, he says. Nonetheless, over the coming months, he quietly copied documents and, on his own time, gathered more information.
In February 2004, Jones laid out his charges for the New York Times and the British Medical Journal. In April he was suspended. In May he again sued in federal court, charging that his superiors were harassing him to "cover up, discourage, and limit any investigations or oversight into the corrupt practices of large drug companies and corrupt public officials who have acted with them." He was then fired. He is now working as a bricklayer; both his actions are pending.
A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General declined to comment on Jones' allegations or his termination. A representative of the Department of Corrections told Mother Jones that Maue donated the honorarium he was given by Comprehensive NeuroScience to the state's general fund. And Stacey Ward, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare, said that the state "did not receive contributions of any kind from any pharmaceutical company to study or support the implementation of PennMAP." [Ed note: After the print edition of this story went to press, the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission fined Steven Fiorello, the state's chief pharmacist, $27,000 for using his position to earn extra income from sources that included Pfizer.]
Meanwhile, another Pennsylvania official was becoming increasingly alarmed with how drugs being pushed by the pharmaceutical industry were actually affecting patients. Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist working for the state's Department of Public Welfare, was charged with reviewing psychiatric care provided by state-funded agencies to identify cases of waste, fraud, and abuse. In the summer of 2001, he began documenting examples of what he calls "insane polypharmacy" and widespread use of drugs for reasons not approved by the FDA. Most shocking to him were the cases of children placed in state-funded residential treatment facilities, sometimes for years, and heavily drugged on the new antipsychotics and anticonvulsants, including some of the same medications given, off-label, to Aliah Gleason.
"These kids were on multiple medications without the clinical diagnoses to support the medications," Kruszewski says. One drug, Neurontin, approved for controlling seizures, "was being massively prescribed for anxiety, social phobia, PTSD, social anxiety, mood instability, sleep, oppositional defiant behavior, attention deficit disorder. Yet there's almost no evidence to support these uses in adults and no evidence for kids whatsoever."
Last year a Pfizer subsidiary pleaded guilty to criminal fraud and agreed to pay $430 million in fines for promoting off-label prescribing of Neurontin, which racked up $2.8 billion in U.S. sales in 2004. Officials estimate that off-label uses account for some 90 percent of its sales. New York attorney Andrew Finkelstein says he's been enlisted by the relatives of 425 people who committed suicide while on Neurontin, and thus far has filed 46 lawsuits against Pfizer.
Kruszewski sent memos to his bosses about dangerous off-label uses of these medications but says they were ignored. He also looked into the deaths of four children in residential programs and submitted a report on an Oklahoma facility, where Pennsylvania children were sometimes sent. He found that many of the kids "were severely overmedicated" with atypical antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants, and he theorized that the death of at least one child could be attributed to a culture that combined polypharmacy and neglect.
His report earned him no plaudits. The day after submitting it, he says, he was yelled at for "trying to dig up dirt." The next day he was fired and escorted to the street. He has since filed suit in federal court against the state officials who fired him, along with several drug companies that, he charges, have "distorted statistics, violated regulations and misrepresented the effects of the use of their psychotropic drugs simply to make money." (The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare declined to comment on Kruszewski's charges because of his pending lawsuit.) Months after he was fired, Kruszewski alternates between anger and sorrow as he thumbs through documents piled in the dining room of his Harrisburg home. "I get very emotional about these reports," he says. "The people who were paid to protect consumers did exactly the wrong thing."
UNLIKE SOME OTHER HEAVILY medicated children, Aliah Gleason survived. In June 2004, more than five months after she was taken from school, Calvin and Anaka Gleason saw their daughter for the first time -- in a courtroom. "I was so excited," Aliah recalls. "I hid under the table so I could surprise them. I started crying when I saw them. I thought I would never see them again."
It would take another four months of legal wrangling with the state before a district court judge ordered Aliah released into her parents' custody. Finally, the Gleasons were allowed to choose the people who would treat their daughter. They selected Austin psychologist John Breeding, a well-known critic of the overuse of psychiatric medications, and soon the whole family began meeting with him.
The first priority, Breeding said, "was to get her off the medication." Working with the family's doctor, he helped design a program for tapering her off her final drugs, Risperdal and Depakote, a process that was completed by the end of last year. He says the goal now is to help her recover from the emotional wounds she suffered as a result of her time under the state's care. She also needs to lose all the weight she gained while on the atypicals.
The good news, he says, is that "the family is reunited, she's doing well in school, and is even participating in extracurricular activities." Like her sisters, Aliah plays in the school band and also takes part in a drill team. "She's coming back, starting to get that gleam in her eye," Breeding says.
Aliah found herself at the intersection of a capricious child-protection system and a health care system that's all too ready to medicate. As doctors dispense ever-greater quantities of potent psychiatric drugs, and the industry spends ever-greater amounts of money promoting them, how can consumers be confident that decisions about their care are truly informed and in their interest? Whatever the stakes for the drug companies, the stakes for patients are infinitely higher.
Rob Waters has written extensively on the use of psychiatric medication by children. Last year he revealed in the San Francisco Chronicle that the FDA suppressed an internal report linking antidepressants to an increased risk of suicide among children, a story that led to congressional hearings and warnings being issued for the drugs.
Source: Mother Jones magazine
Anne Pleads with Canadian Tire
April 21, 2005 permalink
Persons wishing to help Anne can leave a message for the president of Canadian Tire toll-free at 1-800-387-8803. The email of the department of Canadian Tire responsible for this function is firstname.lastname@example.org and they have a Canadian Tire Foundation for Families website.
Dr Dolores Sicheri joined Anne with her own letter to Canadian Tire President and Board of Directors.
Here is the webpage of the York Region Children's Aid Society thanking Canadian Tire. In case it changes in response to controversy, we record its content on April 21, 2005 (without the embedded links):
On September 30, 2004, Canadian Tire Associate Dealers from across the Toronto Suburbs presented four vans to the Children's Aid Societies of York, Peel, Durham and Halton Regions through the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families.
The total contribution of the three-year lease for all four vehicles comes to nearly $90,000.
The Society is very fortunate to have such a valuable partnership with Canadian Tire Foundation for Families. The Foundation for Families objective is to help families when they need it most. Throughout recent years the Foundation for Families and York Region CAS have worked closely together to provide our children and families with the help and support they need and deserve.
The van continues to be an invaluable component of day-to-day service delivery. It has been used for a variety of purposes, including the transportation of children to recreational activities such as the CAS annual Camp Chipmunk as well as other essential services. The new van was also quite useful during the holiday season to deliver toys, food and gifts for the 28th Annual Christmas Program.
The donation celebrated the beginning of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month in October.
Chartier Wanted in Sweden
April 13, 2005 permalink
Marie-Emilie Chartier, who escaped from Canada with her three children in March, has been refused permission to stay in Sweden. Her current whereabouts are unknown.
CNEWS, Wed, April 13, 2005
Mom, kids seen in Sweden
Authorities miss chance to nab child abductees
By ANDREW SEYMOUR, Ottawa Sun
AN OTTAWA mom accused of abducting her four kids has disappeared again after approaching immigration officials in Sweden asking to remain in the European country. Ottawa police said Marie-Emilie Chartier approached Swedish officials on March 31 asking for permission to remain in the country with her four children, Marie Alexandre, 12, Michael, 8, Aniel, 6, and Mariel Charlotte, 5.
Chartier, 35, is wanted by Ottawa police after allegedly taking the children March 15 from their grandmother's house and heading to Montreal, where she boarded a flight to Amsterdam. She then continued on to Stockholm.
Despite the fact Ottawa police sent out an Interpol alert to 52 countries in the days after the alleged abduction, Ottawa police Det. Gina Rosa said it wasn't until after Swedish authorities started processing her request that anyone realized she was wanted in Canada.
By the time Swedish officials went to tell her her application was rejected and take her into custody, she had vanished again.
"The officials are in possession of her passports and her expired airline tickets," Rosa said, adding a Swedish inspector has now joined the case in hopes of tracking Chartier down.
Even though she is now without her passport, Rosa said Chartier can still travel by car, boat and train to more than a dozen other Western European nations as a result of the Schengen Cooperation, which allows people to travel without passports among member countries.
Rosa said Canadian authorities intend to ask that Chartier, who is wanted on a Canada-wide arrest warrant, be extradited back to Canada to face four counts of abduction and a breach of probation.
If and when the children are found, Canadian officials could face a lengthy legal battle to return them home.
An application needs to be made under the Hague Convention and that can only be done if she is found in a country that abides by the international legal agreement.
Police said it appears Chartier planned the trip well in advance, securing passports for herself and her children as well as contacting several travel agents to arrange for plane tickets to Stockholm.
Rosa said police are still unsure how Chartier is supporting herself or the children while in Sweden.
Source: Ottawa Sun
Marie Bountrogianni Speaks
April 13, 2005 permalink
Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni spoke to the University of Toronto School of Social Work on March 30, 2005.
She proudly announced a massive expansion of child care and early learning across the province. She also announced a policy of protecting children from the dangers of the internet, one reminiscent of efforts a generation ago to protect children from the dangers of crime comics and pinball machines.
April 13, 2005 permalink
In the continuing story of Anne, she was arrested by police and forcibly placed in a group home. The police won't admit that this kind of action is an arrest, they call it "protection". She was taken by force -- the police told her she had no choice but to accompany them, and they broke down a door to get to her.
In other incidents reported in Anne's affidavit (pdf), she was subject to constant threats by social workers, denied the opportunity to read court papers "served" on her, and her brothers were excluded from the court hearing in her case.
Suggestions for CFSA
April 13, 2005 permalink
The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents has sent suggestions for changes to the Child and Family Services Act to the Minister of Children and Youth Services. The letter was dated February 23, 2005, but only posted to the web today.
Homeschoolers and Children's Aid Societies in Ontario
In February 2005, OFTP had the opportunity to send its concerns to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services when the ministry asked for public input before reviewing the Child and Family Services Act, which regulates Chidren's Aid Societies. Two letters were sent: one to the Minister and one to the Executive Director. The full text is below.
Letter to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services
February 23, 2005
As a non-profit, volunteer-managed group of home educators serving as a liaison between the homeschooling community and government agencies, the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP) would like to respond to your invitation for the public to share their thoughts on the Child and Family Services Act.
In particular, we would like to voice our concerns about how cases involving homeschooling families are handled by the Children's Aid Society (CAS) caseworkers and system. These concerns have arisen out of a growing number of situations experienced by home educators across the province. We believe the issues to be partially systemic and therefore amenable to policy changes, and we hope to facilitate such changes by providing information, feedback and concrete recommendations.
We would like, first of all, to acknowledge the concerns and responsibilities of CAS workers. We recognize that there are children in need of protection in all segments of the population, including among homeschoolers, and we understand and support the fact that CAS must investigate every complaint that is made, if only to ascertain that all is well.
What concerns us, however, is that misunderstandings about what is legal, what homeschooling looks like, and whose responsibility it is to investigate educational matters, have led to situations where the homeschooling family's educational choice becomes a focus of contention and the rationale for intervention and sometimes drastic decisions. Also, there is evidence to suggest that the very fact that a family has chosen to homeschool arouses suspicion in the minds of many CAS workers, which can have detrimental consequences for parents and children alike.
We would like to help remedy the situation by suggesting ways to untangle the educational issues from legitimate concerns about abuse and neglect and ensure safeguards against unwarranted interventions. To this end, we have listed a number of concerns and our recommendations for addressing them.
- Interventions in the educational affairs of homeschooling families
We are concerned about the number of interventions by CAS in the educational affairs of homeschooling families. We believe that many CAS workers, supervisors and family court judges are uninformed or misinformed about the laws and policies relating to home-based education in Ontario and which Ministry has jurisdiction over investigations that concern it.
For instance, we are aware of a number of cases in which CAS workers have suggested that they can and will determine the satisfactory nature of a family's homeschooling program. In some cases they have made decisions to have children return to school. Beyond the fact that it exceeds the boundaries of CAS responsibilities and authority, we have serious concerns about such decisions being made by workers who may have limited or inaccurate knowledge about educational issues in general and homeschooling in particular.
Provisions are made in the Education Act for investigations into the educational practices of homeschooling families. These investigations do not involve the courts nor children's aid societies. Instead, Section 24.2 assigns all necessary powers to the Provincial School Attendance Counselor (PSAC) to appoint inquiry officers from among education professionals and, if necessary, order a previously homeschooled child to attend school. Policy/Program Memorandum No.131 (PPM131) provides additional direction as to how an investigation into a family's homeschooling should be conducted. This includes the questions of what constitutes "reasonable grounds" for an investigation and what understanding of home education should be brought to bear on the situation.
We would like to see CAS workers, supervisors and family court judges become more familiar with these laws and policies so that concerns about educational matters can be addressed in accordance with them. As well, we would like to see better communication between the Ministry of Child and Family Services and the Ministry of Education so that any relevant future changes will be shared knowledge.
- Institutional bias
We would also like to see CAS workers, supervisors and family court judges gain a better understanding of how homeschooling practices and perspectives may differ from institutional education. Through PPM131, the Ministry of Education has already taken steps to remove what has been called the "institutional bias" towards homeschooling--the notion that home education should resemble school education. We are concerned that any such bias remaining among CAS workers can negatively affect the way they interpret the activities and home environment of families practicing a less structured approach to education.
As explained to school board officials in PPM131, a homeschooling program does not need to replicate school at home in order to be considered satisfactory instruction: "The parent may not be following the Ontario curriculum, using standard classroom practices, teaching within the standard school day or school year." In other words, a less structured approach does not constitute educational neglect.
While educational neglect would be a matter for investigation by the PSAC rather than CAS in any case, we believe a greater understanding by CAS workers would avoid altogether the issue of whether or not what they are observing is, in fact, neglect. This, we feel, would help untangle educational issues from legitimate issues of physical and emotional neglect that do come under CAS jurisdiction.
- Prejudicial suspicions about neglect or abuse
As mentioned before, there is evidence to suggest that the very fact that a family has chosen to homeschool arouses suspicion in the minds of many CAS workers. We understand that CAS workers need to be attentive to signs of neglect or abuse in the homes they are called to investigate, but we are concerned that some workers take the educational choice to homeschool to be such a sign in itself.
While it certainly happens that abusive or neglectful parents can be found among those who have chosen to educate their children at home, there is no indication that they are statistically more prevalent among homeschoolers than among the general population. To approach a homeschooling family as if such were the case would therefore be prejudicial discrimination. We believe that such a bias influences the perceptions, communications and interventions of CAS workers in ways that have a direct negative impact on innocent parents and their children and, in families that do have problems, are detrimental to a fair evaluation of any other circumstances that may be present.
While it is true that any family's isolation can help them evade detection of neglect or abuse, it would be prejudicial to assume that isolated families must have something to hide. It is also not safe to assume that isolation implies inadequate social development nor that homeschooling implies isolation. In actual fact, most homeschooled children are involved with as many if not more activities than their schooled counterparts and spend more time with their parents out in the community having contact with many people in different walks of life. Homeschooling families who live in isolated rural areas are often all the more active in seeking out activities and community involvement as well as social situations with other homeschoolers.
We believe a better understanding of homeschooling practices and perspectives would help alleviate concerns not only about educational neglect but also about whether homeschooled children are as a rule being adequately cared for physically and emotionally. The overwhelming majority of parents choosing homeschooling do so after much soul searching and with the best interests of their children in mind. If anything, the choice to take responsibility for the education of one's own children could be taken as an indicator of a greater, rather than lesser, sense of responsibility and protection.
- True protection of children
So far we have voiced concerns only about misconceptions, misunderstandings and misinformation--all of which may negatively influence a worker's actions but do not put into doubt the worker's good faith and integrity. Even the prejudicial suspicion we spoke of is more likely an unconscious bias rather than a deliberate discrimination.
We need now to speak of actions that do call for us to challenge the good faith and integrity of some CAS workers. It is a delicate matter to address and we hope we can do so in a manner that makes clear our understanding that the practices we will be describing are not necessarily the norm among CAS workers nor endorsed by the Ministry. We also realize that there are as many versions of a story as there are parties involved. Nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence of wrongdoing by a number of CAS workers to warrant some concern.
In every case reported to us homeschoolers have told us that CAS workers have exaggerated, used false information, lied in their affidavits and to get information from family doctors, health workers and board employees. Many of these lies have been corrected in court but were responsible for bringing the family into court in the first place. Once CAS has contacted families there is nowhere to register a complaint regarding the actions of a CAS worker except through the CAS worker him- or herself. In cases where CAS workers have interviewed children without anyone else being present, the children have later stated that they never said what they are purported to have said. In this situation, it is a matter of a child's word, against the word of an adult in a position of professional authority, and the courts overwhelmingly support the latter even though the child may be telling the truth.
We would like to see changes in the individuals who engage in these practices and also in any policies or pressures that might lead them into believing that it is acceptable or necessary to do so (that the ends justify the means). We would like to see a proactive effort to instill, instead, a greater sense of respect for the families with which workers become involved, and to develop skills of communication and conflict resolution so that a family's encounter with CAS will always be truly helpful, engender the least amount of anxiety in parents and children alike and involve the least amount of disruption in their lives.
Ironically, those who suffer the most from misguided interventions and misrepresentations of their words, are the children whom it is the professional mandate of CAS workers to protect.
Parents, whose mandate to protect is not professional but instinctive and rooted in deep love, need to have a way to prevent the trauma brought upon their children. We would like to see a procedure put in place to ensure that parents have some kind of immediate recourse for objecting to the way their case is being handled and their children affected. An appeal of an action already taken is insufficient to avoid trauma to children, whose developing psyches and state of dependency make them particularly vulnerable to fear and permanent emotional damage. Parents need to have access, instead, to an independent and impartial mediator with the authority to suspend potentially traumatic action before it happens.
We gather that funding of CAS agencies is determined in part by the number of cases each office handles. If this is indeed the case, it would seem to invite a policy of opening and keeping open as many cases as possible to ensure the continuation of adequate funding. We are concerned that such a situation could contribute to unwarranted CAS involvement with families.
The reason this seems undesirable is that in spite of the mandate to protect children with the least amount of disruption to their lives, involvement by CAS workers invariably generates at the very least some anxieties within the family and at worst can traumatize the very children CAS is mandated to protect. For this reason we believe any involvement that is unnecessary should be avoided and we would therefore like to see a different funding formula put in place.
We have mentioned in the above paragraphs the ways in which we would like to see some changes. Translating these suggestions into concrete terms, we recommend the following:
- that information about homeschooling be included in the curriculum of courses leading to the diploma required to become a CAS worker.
- that every CAS office have a copy of the Education Act and its related homeschooling policy, PPM131.
- that every CAS office have a copy of additional materials created by OFTP in the form of an information package (we are in the process of updating the package we prepared for the OACAS convention held in Toronto in the year 2000).
- that every CAS worker be directed to refer to the above documents before handling a case involving a homeschooling family, whether or not the case also involves allegations of abuse or neglect.
- that judges hearing cases involving homeschoolers be given accurate legal information based on the Education Act and supplemented by PPM131.
- that CAS refer educational investigations to the authorities assigned by the Education Act to conduct them. If CAS workers receive a complaint regarding satisfactory instruction or upon entering a home have concerns themselves, we recommend they inform the school board. By the same token, we have already made recommendations, during the MOE consultation that led to PPM131, that school officials refer cases of suspected abuse or non-educational neglect to CAS rather than try to address it through homeschooling policy.
- that better communication be developed between the Ministry of Child and Family Services and the Ministry of Education so that any relevant future changes will be shared knowledge.
- that CAS workers be reminded of the importance of maintaining truthfulness, good faith and integrity.
- that any policies or pressures that might lead workers to distort the truth be replaced by an active promotion of respect for families whose cases, workers handle.
- that CAS workers receive training and ongoing professional development in the areas of communication and conflict resolution skills.
- that parents be given a means by which they can prevent CAS-induced trauma to their children. This could manifest as direct and immediate access to an independent and impartial mediator with the authority to halt potentially damaging CAS action before it happens.
- that a new funding formula be put in place to replace the existing one that links funding to numbers of cases that are open.
OFTP is willing to assist in fostering a better relationship between CAS and homeschooling families. We are willing to meet with the Ministry to discuss any of these issues and to help educate CAS employees as to the legalities of homeschooling, how homeschooling works, and what it might look like. We would be glad to attend conferences, run workshops and supply information to CAS workers.
Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this process. We hope our feedback, information and suggestions will help inform any changes being made, dispel system-wide misconceptions about home-based learning and strengthen the original purpose of the Children's Aid Societies--the protection and welfare of all children, including homeschoolers.
[OFTP contact information]
Mother Rescues Baby from CAS
April 12, 2005 permalink
Another mother has escaped from CAS with her baby. In this case, the
mother is a 38-year-old woman, Lisa Heughan, who took her six-week-old girl,
Graciana Heughan, from visitation. The OPP and Toronto Police
Service (pdf) have issued Amber Alerts. Once again, be on the lookout
for a mother caring for her child!
Addendum: The mother and unharmed baby were found by police early on April 13. There are grounds for suspicion when police take action against a person, but cannot say why. Here is all that is known of the reason for the intervention, from an article in the National Post:
Ms. Heughan, Det. Briggs said, suffers from "very serious mental issues," adding she has a history of problems with drugs and alcohol.
The Children's Aid Society removed the baby from the woman's custody shortly after the birth at St. Michael's Hospital.
"There was an incident that occurred at the hospital after the child was born involving the mother that caused some concern for Children's Aid," said Detective Constable Joe Verissimo last night.
Press reports include much salacious material from the mother's past as a B-movie actress.
Addendum: On April 20, 2005 a press release from the Children's Aid Society of Toronto warned news editors to suppress the names of the persons involved in this case. The Society fears that when the girl grows up she will be harmed by the discovery that her mother loved her.
Attention News Editors:
Privacy necessary for children who are subject of child protection proceedings
TORONTO, April 20 /CNW/ - A recent AMBER Alert in the city of Toronto has raised difficult privacy issues for all who deal with child protection proceedings. Publicity is needed during an Amber Alert in the hopes that the public may help find an abducted child. But where there are child protection proceedings the law prevents the publication of information that would identify a child, the child's parent, foster parent, or a member of the child's family.
Reporters, editors and Children's Aid Society officials have to operate with these conflicting goals.
Last week the alleged abduction of a child from a CAS office by her mother prompted a province wide Amber Alert. The Amber Alert was successful and the child was returned to foster parents who are caring for her. The Alert was based on the overriding concern for the safety of the child. Now, however, the child has been returned to safety and the relevant section of the Child and Family Services Act and the rationale on which it is based must take precedence.
Section 45(8) of the Child and Family Services Act states:
No person shall publish or make public information that has the effect of identifying a child who is a witness at or a participant in a hearing or the subject of a proceeding, or the child's parent or foster parent or a member of the child's family.
While this law makes it more challenging for both the media and CAS to keep the public informed about important issues, the privacy, and well being of the child must come first.
The paramount purpose of the Child and Family Services Act is to promote the best interests, protection and well being of children. Section 45 is intended to strike a balance between the need to protect a child and the right of the public to be informed. It protects the privacy of children and their family members from stigmatization and emotional trauma, which can be caused by publication of identifying information together with sensitive evidence of the case. "We must consider privacy rights for even very young children," says Persaud, "we live in an electronic age. When a child grows older it would be quite easy for them to find out information that could cause them great personal trauma."
Participants in child protection proceedings are free to go to the media to tell their story but identifying information cannot be published.
The first AMBER Alert program was established in Arlington, Texas in 1996 after the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Amber Hagerman. AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert programs cover most of North America.
The Children's Aid Society of Toronto works with children and their families when children have been or are at risk of being emotionally, physically, or sexually abused or neglected. The Society also develops and implements child abuse prevention programs. The Society is one of 53 children's aid societies in Ontario, and it is the largest such organization in North America. There are approximately 825 staff, 650 volunteers and 360 foster families at the Society. In 2003/2004, we served more than 13,300 families and more than 32,000 children. Additionally, more than 3,500 children were in the care of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto during 2002/2003. For every child we brought into our care, we helped nine more to stay with their families in their own home.
For further information: Melanie Persaud, Manager, Communications, Children's Aid Society of Toronto, (416) 924-4646 ext. 2086
Source: press release
US Congressman Reports on CPS
April 9, 2005 permalink
Congressman Joe Baca is a member of the US Congress representing a district in California including San Bernardino. He held town hall meetings on the subject of CPS, Child Protective Services. Here is a link to his report to the the Ways and Means Committee, which has held hearings on the same subject. Mr Baca sounds like anyone else who has listened to hundreds of stories from victims of child protection. Canada needs the same kind of attention from the political system. CAS opponents can easily provide the names of hundreds of witnesses.
Minister Gives Family Cold Shoulder
April 3, 2005 permalink
On March 21 we reported the case of Alex Glinka and Cynthia Cameron who were compelled to give up custody of their son Jesse so that he could get the treatment he needs. In a debate in the Provincial Parliament on March 31, Shelley Martel questioned Marie Bountrogianni about this case. Mrs Bountrogianni offered nothing more than generalities in response, refusing to promise the family help without relinquishing custody of their son.
Addendum: On April 25, 2005 Ontario Ombudsman André Marin announced a special investigation into policies that force parents to abandon parental rights when getting residential care for disabled children. This may be the beginning of a solution, or the politicians getting rid of a hot-potato.
OACAS Suggestions for Social Worker Act
April 1, 2005 permalink
Earlier we reported Dr Dolores Sicheri's suggestions for changes to the Social Work and Social Service Work Act. Now we have the OACAS suggestions (pdf). They want complaints to the College of Social Workers delayed until exhausting complaints within the Children's Aid Society. Since that process took John Dunn four years, this ensures that complaints will be stale by the time the College sees them. They also want the material in any complaint to the College to remain secret, not only during the complaint process, but after the final decision is rendered.
Anne Writes to the Judge
March 30, 2005 permalink
Review of CFSA Released
March 30, 2005 permalink
Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Children and Youth Services, has released her Report on the 2005 review of the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) (pdf format local copy).
Ontario Moves to Open Adoption Records
March 29, 2005 permalink
The Ontario Legislature today began consideration of a law to permit disclosure of adoption information to adoptees and their natural parents. Here is a press release on adoption disclosure and the text of bill 183.
March 29, 2005 permalink
Both Marie Bountrogianni and Sandra Pupatello have mailed responses to suggestions for reforming the CFSA.
Dear Abby Supports CPS
March 27, 2005 permalink
Today's Dear Abby column is supportive of child protective services. While Abby sends her message to millions, victims of child protectors cannot tell their stories in the media. No one who has seen the result of a complaint could in good conscience follow Abby's advice.
Suspicion of abuse shouldn't go unreported
Mar. 27, 2005 12:00 AM
DEAR ABBY: I'm not a licensed caregiver, but I baby-sit for a neighbor child, "Caleb." The boy is too young to tell me if he's being abused, but I'm concerned about his home environment. Caleb spends eight to 10 hours a day with me, and I have noticed that he's afraid of men and easily frightened.
Caleb's uncle, who lives with him, is a violent drug user. His mother breaks probation a lot, goes out after curfew and drinks.
Caleb often comes to my home unfed, even though the original agreement was that I would prepare lunch and snacks only. Now I'm doing much more than that.
Am I legally responsible to report my suspicions of abuse and/or neglect as a day-care would? And who exactly do I call? Please advise. - Caleb's Caregiver
DEAR CAREGIVER: You aren't legally required to report your suspicions of abuse and neglect of the child; however, you are morally required to do so. Child-protective services should be notified about what you've told me. They're listed in your phone directory.
Commentary on OACAS Proposals
March 24, 2005 permalink
The OACAS proposals to amend the Child and Family Services Act are the subject of more comments. Here is a critique by Dr Dolores A Sicheri, followed by comments from an internet discussion group. Note also the letter to Marie Bountrogianni from three members of the Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services, posted here in an untimely manner.
Evaluation of the OACAS Position Paper on the Reform of the CFSA
The OACAS wants the Ontario Government to give it a bigger blank check to deliver child welfare services. The proposed changes will further erode the rights of children and families. It will give these agencies "Gestapo" powers with no accountability. They will answer to no one, not even the Minister.
- It sidesteps the legal issue involving the repeal of Section 43 of the penal code issue by placing a civil ban on any corporal punishment of children including spanking. This use of corporal punishment will be grounds for apprehension or "taking into care."
- The family conferencing process will lack confidentiality. It will be subject to the same reporting process detailed elsewhere in the Act. The CAS will train the mediators to their standards. This will be a biased process
- Any family squabble will cause "emotional trauma to the child." This is too broad. It punished both parents. It will force shotgun divorces.
- Caregiver behaviours are too broadly defined and subject to interpretation. Parents are often labeled as mentally ill when they are simply defending their parental rights. If the parent is a target, any alcohol or porno are grounds for removal of the child. Porn especially is a subjective thing. A casual sexual relationship might be interpreted as porno and as causing emotional harm. The CAS will be judge and jury for morality issues.
- Residential placement for "special needs" children should not require the termination of parental rights or the finding of protection. It does not guarantee funding for "special needs" agreements.
- We are now going to apprehend young adults capable of marriage and going into military service as "children." Some 18 year olds will be adult and others will be children.
- The OACAS wants the need for legal warrant to seize the child be eliminated but be retained for child already in care. The CAS can seize any new child with armed force without a warrant. A warrant will only be used to return to CAS a child already in care. This will further erode the legal rights of families to a legal process. They will no longer have the same protection of due process as criminals. They will be less than criminals.
- They will require professionals working with children to report under penalty of fine or loss of license.
- The implementation of the differential response model for low risk cases is a positive step.
- Permanency planning means that at six months, the child is free for adoption. The age of the youngest child sets this time limit for the entire sib group. The CAS will be done with the parents in short order. There will be none of these expensive drawn out legal battles.
- A place of safety can be any group home. It will use its Fast Track System to keep files on everyone and to share them with others without consent. George Orwell's 1984 has finally arrived.
- The word "kinship" is broadened to include the child's community. This is too broad even for the aboriginal child. It will include the foster parent. These "kin" can be paid.
- They can collect information on you without your consent and transmit it all over the country. There is nowhere you can hide from them, "the Children's Gestapo."
- Anonymity is guaranteed all the snitches except the professionals
- If an error is made, the error remains forever in your file. It cannot be expunged.
- The child does not testify. They can use only their doctored notes.
- Agreed statements of facts can be used at a later time to re-apprehend children. Cases can now be based on what happened in the remote past.
- Long term private custody orders can be given to kinship which will now include foster parents.
- The criteria set forth for "status review application" will render it impossible to obtain.
- Restraining orders can be obtained even for children who have yet to be found in need of protection.
- One will be prosecuted by the Crown Attorney legally for failing to report. CAS will not incur the legal cost of prosecuting these professionals.
- The case can be brought in a different jurisdiction from where the child and parents normally reside. It will make it difficult for the poor parent to pursue the case in a remote jurisdiction.
- Protection supersedes the "best interest of the child"
- The CAS wants the supervision order to state that it has both care and custody of the child.
- If the child dies in CAS care, the protection order ends and the parents can pay the funeral expenses.
- Protection orders started elsewhere will be continued in Ontario. One cannot run away to another jurisdiction.
- The CFSA case can run simultaneously with a custody divorce case but it has to be disposed of first before a final order is made in divorce court.
- Ontario can go to another jurisdiction to pick up a child on whom it already has a protection order.
- The Ministry and the Board of Directors will no longer hear the client's complaints. The complaint process has been deemed irrelevant as no one can overrule the Executive Director. The CAS will be an entity onto itself.
- The Child Abuse registry has been eliminated because of the excessive legal costs it generates with expungement lawsuits. This Fast Track Information System is a more comprehensive system.
- If the organization becomes insolvent or collapses due criminal misconduct, the Board of Directors will be protected from prosecution much like the officers and employees of the Society. The Board of Directors will have no legal liability.
- The computer checklists will replace the team of professionals used to assess risk. Common sense in the evaluation process will no longer exist.
- The Minister will no longer have input into the framework of the legal 5-year review of the Act.
Dolores A. Sicheri MD FRCPC
Parents Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services
March 22, 2005
On an internet discussion group, the provision to open records to crown wards after reaching adulthood received some criticism. The OACAS proposal opens the records, subject to some exceptions. The fear is that every case will be treated as one of the exceptions, thereby changing secrecy from an informal administrative policy as it is now, to a policy mandated by law.
Family Escapes from Children's Aid
March 22, 2005 permalink
The mother wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for taking her own children has successfully escaped from Canada.
Fugitive mother, 4 children flew to Sweden
OTTAWA – Ottawa police now say the woman who was wanted for allegedly abducting her four children did board a plane for Sweden, with the children, last week. On Monday, police said they thought she might still be in Montreal.
Detectives now have information that shows Marie-Emilie Chartier flew out of Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport exactly one week ago, en route to Stockholm.Police say they'll be working with Swedish authorities to try to make sure the children are safe. Chartier is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant. Her three girls and a boy, between the ages of 6 and 12, had been seized by the Ottawa Children's Aid Society last year. Recently, they had been placed in the custody of their grandmother. Last Tuesday night, Chartier took her children, and told their grandmother she was going to spend the night at a friend's house.That's when she disappeared.
Source: CBC website
CAS Compels Parents to Abandon Son
March 21, 2005 permalink
The parental dilemma reported in the following article is common among parents of children with disabilities. CAS refuses to help the child until the parents abandon him to the care of CAS. The Larcade suit referred to in the article is one that seeks to increase funding for Children's Aid. Here is the article from the London (Ontario) Free Press:
Parents forced to 'abandon' son
CAS involvement was the family's only option to get help for their troubled son.
Today, London mother Cynthia (Cyndi) Cameron is doing the once unthinkable. She's telling other Londoners publicly that one of her sons is a temporary ward of the Children's Aid Society.
She was once loath to discuss it beyond her family and friends because of the public stigma often associated with the mere mention of involvement with the CAS.
"To be painted with that brush is painful and hurtful," says Cameron, "but the harsh reality is we were left no choice but to enter a temporary care agreement with the child protection agency. It was the only way we could get the special services we needed for our son."
Jesse, now 14, is a young man with complex problems, including autism and behaviour and attention problems associated with a cyst on his brain.
A natural mimic, Jesse could always make the whole family laugh. But he could also fly into rages, injuring himself and breaking objects in his wake as he flailed his arms and legs and head-butted walls and people. He gave himself a concussion and his mother whiplash from doing that on two occasions.
After Jesse had problems at school, Cameron and her husband, Alex Glinka, sought special services for Jesse.
Their son was deemed to be a priority case about three years ago by regional social services administrators.
After waiting in vain for services for two years, Cameron voiced her frustration to a London doctor about a year ago.
She cried all the way home from the doctor's office after he suggested the CAS as the way to get the services for Jesse.
Today, thanks to an agreement with the CAS, Jesse is in a group home in Barrie.
But Cameron is afraid she'll be forced to give up custody of her 14-year-old son permanently this summer to keep the placement.
Tina Grignard of St. Thomas sympathizes with Cameron.
She and her husband Paul were in exactly the same situation recently with respect to their 11-year-old son, Jordan, one month away from having to give up their parental rights permanently to keep him in a Guelph group home under a placement arranged by the CAS.
Officially, Jordan was under the "protection" of the CAS and the Grignards had "abandoned" their son.
In fact, they had voluntarily entered into an agreement with the CAS to get services for Jordan and were visiting him regularly in Guelph and bringing him home for weekends and special occasions.
"We never abandoned Jordan," says Tina Grignard, "but the only way we could get the services he needed was through the CAS."
The Grignards were granted services for Jordan as parents this month after a three-year battle.
She and Cameron have been told that there are about 50 special needs kids in Southwestern Ontario on waiting lists for services and placements.
Some of their parents, like Cameron, are thinking of joining a $500-million class action lawsuit launched in 2001 by Anne Larcade of Huntsville and her son Alexandre Larcade against the Ontario government, on behalf of families with special needs children.
Larcade's lawyers contend such children have been denied services which they're entitled to by provincial law because of inadequate government funding.
And they say that some parents have been advised that the only way they could obtain funding for their special needs child was to relinquish custody to the Children's Aid Society.
Source: canoe website
Addendum: On March 31 the provincial parliament debated this case.
Police Hunt for Mother
March 19, 2005 permalink
Here is another case where police are hunting for a mother who took her own kids from CAS custody. You can help. When you see a mother caring for her own kids, call the police! This article was copied from the Ottawa Sun by John Dunn.
Massive hunt on for mother, 4 kids
Warrant issued in alleged abduction
A CANADA-WIDE arrest warrant has been issued for an Ottawa mom who allegedly abducted her four children for whom she lost custody. Marie-Emilie Chartier, 35, and her daughters Anael, 6, Mariel Charlotte, 5, Marie Alexandre, 12, and son Michael, 8, have been missing since Tuesday and police believe they might be in the Ottawa area.
"Our concern is just getting the children back to a safe place," said Det. Gina Rosa.
Ottawa police have alerted officials at area bus and train stations as well as the airport. Border patrol officials, RCMP and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have also been contacted.
The court ordered that the children be removed from Chartier's care in November 2004 and placed them in the care of the Children's Aid Society (CAS). Chartier's mother was allowed visitation with the children, who were supposed to stay at her house the night they disappeared.
According to the grandmother, who had custody at the time of the abduction, Chartier left the house with the kids on Tuesday at around 3 p.m.
"She told me that she was going to sleep over at a friend's house with the kids and would be back the next day," the grandmother told the Sun.
Rosa said there is no indication Chartier contacted anyone that night. She said the children's parents are estranged and the father has no idea where she might be.
The grandmother became concerned when her daughter and the children didn't return as expected on Wednesday. Police were alerted on Thursday at about 2 p.m.
Rosa said the mom's actions appear to be premeditated, since she had recently obtained passports for herself and the children.
Chartier is originally from Haiti, but the last time she was there was as a child. Police have little concrete information as to where she may go.
Rosa said there have never been allegations that the mom has harmed her children.
The CAS, in a statement, said it has "worked diligently to keep these children safe and place them with a responsible relative. Often it is difficult for a birth parent to accept the situation of having the children taken out of their care."
DON'T APPROACH FAMILY
Rosa said anyone who spots the mother and children should not approach them, but they should immediately call police.
Marie-Emilie Chartier is described as a black female, 4-foot-11, 130 lbs., medium build with brown eyes and black hair. Anyone with information is asked to contact Rosa at 236-1222, ext. 5407.
According to the Missing Children's Network Canada, a parental abduction is rarely spontaneous and impulsive but rather a well-thought-out plan that might include the following:
- resigning from one's job
- selling of property
- liquidating of assets
- closing of bank accounts
- applying for a passport
Changes in behaviour may also signal the possibility of an abduction. Watch for:
- physical violence
Source: canoe website
Conservatives Endorse Divorce Reform
March 19, 2005 permalink
The following policy statement was adopted by the Conservative Party on Saturday, March 19, at their convention in Montreal:
A Conservative government will make the necessary changes to the Divorce Act to ensure that in the event of a martial breakdown, the Divorce Act will allow both parents and all grandparents to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children and grandchildren, unless it is clearly demonstrated not to be in the best interests of the children.
The policy was adopted with strong support and almost no opposition.
At the provincial level, all major Ontario parties support the current family destruction apparatus. But at the federal level, the Conservative Party seems to have the best policies on family law.
John Tory Elected to Represent Dufferin
March 17, 2005 permalink
With all polls reporting, Elections Ontario reports that John Tory has been elected as the MPP for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey. The votes for the candidates are:
|De Jong, Frank||Green||2767|
|Micelli, Paul||Family Coalition||479|
|Turmel, John C||Independent||85|
Illinois Judge Outlaws Threats To Children
March 15, 2005 permalink
For years child protectors have extorted parents by telling them their children will be taken unless they agree to service plans. Now a judge in Illinois has ruled that the process is illegal. This article from the Chicago Tribune on Judge Pallmeyer's ruling also deals with the devastating consequences of falsely extorting agreements from parents.
DCFS threats to take children ruled illegal
A federal judge ruled that Illinois families were deprived of their constitutional rights when state child welfare officials threatened to separate parents from their children during abuse investigations.
In a decision made public Monday, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer found "ample evidence" that families suffered emotional and psychological injuries because the separations lasted "for more than a brief or temporary period."
The judge didn't fault the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for erring on the side of caution in such cases, but she held that parents had a right to know the length of the expected separations and how to contest the restrictions.
In telephone interviews with the Tribune, families described being shocked, paranoid and frightened by the allegations that some thought would result in them losing their children. Parents felt that caseworkers assumed them to be guilty.
A father from Skokie spent almost a year away from his family, and the effects of the rift that developed between them remain years later.
"I don't think it can ever be repaired. We are all broken up; we are not bonded the way that we used to be," said the father, who requested that he only be identified by his first name, Patrick. "I cannot get over what they did to me. It devastated my whole entire life. I can never be the same again."
The ruling shows the dilemma facing the oft-criticized DCFS in its charge to protect children from harm but also keep families together when possible.
At issue are safety plans, part of the wholesale reforms instituted by DCFS after the public uproar over the horrific 1993 death of 3-year-old Joseph Wallace, who was killed by his mentally ill mother after he was returned to her by the state.
In her decision, Pallmeyer essentially held that DCFS had gone too far in protecting children and had eroded the constitutional rights of parents.
The safety plans are supposedly voluntary agreements by parents in most cases to leave their home indefinitely or stay under constant supervision after investigations into child abuse or neglect are launched, often based on tips to DCFS.
But most of the families who testified at a 22-day hearing in 2002 and 2003 said the investigators threatened to take away their children unless they agreed to the safety plans.
"When an investigator expressly or implicitly conveys that failure to accept a plan will result in the removal of the children for more than a brief or temporary period of time, it constitutes a threat sufficient to deem the family's agreement coerced, and to implicate due process rights," Pallmeyer wrote in the 59-page opinion.
"Significantly, [DCFS] has not identified a single family that, faced with such an express or implied threat of protective custody, chose to reject the plan," the judge said.
Pallmeyer gave DCFS 60 days to develop "constitutionally adequate procedures" for families to contest the safety plans.
Diane Redleaf, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said about 10 families were involved in the court case, but that Pallmeyer's decision would affect thousands of families who agree to safety plans each year.
"Instead of protecting children, the state is actually destroying families and hurting children," Redleaf said.
Diane Jackson, a DCFS spokeswoman, said Pallmeyer's review of safety plans was limited to 2002 and before and didn't consider changes since then.
"We have definitely made changes," said Jackson, declining to be more specific until DCFS can report to Pallmeyer.
Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris applauded Pallmeyer's decision.
`No real due process'
"It's abridging both the children's and the parents' rights to have that amorphous safety plan that could go on forever," he said. "There is no real due process. There is no [procedure] to complain unless you have some money to hire a lawyer."
This is the second significant ruling by Pallmeyer to go against DCFS stemming from the same lawsuit. In 2001, she found that DCFS investigators often made findings of child abuse on little evidence, unfairly blacklisting professionals accused of wrongdoing. The judge extended new protections to teachers, day-care providers, nannies, social workers and others who work directly with children. Those protections are intended to keep the falsely accused from losing their jobs.
As part of assessing whether a child is in danger, DCFS specialists determine whether one of 15 safety factors is present, including if a household member is violent or sexual abuse is suspected. For DCFS to determine a child to be unsafe requires the finding of only one safety factor, some of which require little or no evidence of risk of harm--a fact that drew the criticism of plaintiffs.
But Pallmeyer defended that practice, concluding that "it is not improper for DCFS to err on the side of caution given the significant state interest in protecting children from harm."
But the plans can't remain in place indefinitely, she held.
According to the decision, one day-care worker accused of improperly touching a child was forced out of his own home for nearly a year before a judge at an administrative hearing cleared him of the charges--based in part on information available early on.
Patrick, the father from Skokie, spent 11 months away from his three children and his wife, missing their birthdays and a wedding anniversary.
Even though the allegations concerned his workplace, a DCFS investigator threatened to put his children--a boy, then 10, and two girls, then 12 and 13--in a foster home unless he moved out of their home, Patrick said Monday.
He went home, grabbed a few belongings and later moved in with his sister in Chicago.
"I was put out on the street," said Patrick, crying. "I was just totally violated."
It wasn't until a month later that he was able to explain the circumstances to his children after the caseworker allowed a visit.
Soon, the father was able to see his children at church and later had supervised visits. The goodbyes were heart-wrenching, Patrick recalled.
"I would have to come here after my wife got off work, and then I would have to leave," the father said. "It was really emotional every time I left, every single night. And my kids didn't understand why I had to leave. They were very confused and very hurt. They still are."
At the time, his son was acting up at school. His daughters cried in class, their grades falling, he said.
After he was cleared of the allegations in December 2001, Patrick was unable to find a job in child care, despite about a decade of experience. The lengthy separation changed his relationship with his family, he said.
"I never got any type of apology, any type of thing to say your kids might be messed up, let us give you counseling," Patrick said of DCFS.
In another case, James Redlin, a teacher, was accused by a passenger of inappropriately touching his son, Joey, then 6, who suffers from a mild form of autism, during a Metra train ride to the Field Museum in the summer of 2000.
Joey's mother, Susan Redlin, said Monday that her husband was tickling their son, carrying the boy on his lap and holding him up to look out the window.
DCFS required that the father not act as an independent caretaker for his son until the case was resolved, effectively leaving the family "prisoners" in their own home, according to the court ruling.
Joey's mother, responsible for supervising her son under the safety plan, has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. "My husband and son could not be out of my sight," she said.
The husband was cleared of wrongdoing by September. Until then, father and son were forced to forgo trail hikes, carnival adventures, movie outings--and plans to teach Joey how to ride a bike.
"It made Jim awfully leery of being alone with Joey, even hugging him, even holding hands," Susan Redlin said. "That was the worst. If I enjoy hugging my [son], am I a pervert?"
Just Sunday, Susan Redlin said, she was out with her son and was about to swat him jokingly on the rear when she stopped herself.
"I did not do that," she said. "What if someone is watching?"
Source: Chicago Tribune
Marguerite Dias Sentenced in Machete Attack
March 15, 2005 permalink
Today Marguerite Dias was sentenced for the machete attack on Madelene Monast. The Toronto newspapers suppressed the name of the attacker, but the Ottawa Citizen published it. The article below comes from the National Post.
Machete attacking mom sentenced
TORONTO (CP) -- A woman was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday for hacking off her neighbour's hands in a savage machete attack.
The 40-year-old woman had pleaded guilty earlier to the attempted murder of Madelene Monast on June 11, 2003.
She wrongly believed Monast had reported her to the Children's Aid Society. In fact, the agency had been notified by school authorities. The CAS and police took four of her five children into custody. They have all since been returned to her mother's care.
On Tuesday, the woman was handed a 10-year prison sentence which, in effect, becomes a six-year sentence when time-served is factored in.
Court heard that the woman took a machete and ambushed Monast in her townhouse.
Monast instinctively tried to shield herself with her hands, but the woman severed her left hand "leaving it hanging by some tissue" and cutting the side of her face, the Crown said.
A frightened Monast hid behind a basement door as the woman tried to hack through it with the machete. When it appeared quiet, Monast emerged, but the woman swung again, severing her victim's right hand.
Emergency surgery re-attached Monast's hands, but the fingers on her right hand aren't functional and her wrist has been fused.
The attacker still faces an assault with a weapon charge, laid in 2002, for allegedly hurling beer bottles at Monast.
OACAS Wants More Power for Children's Aid
March 14, 2005 permalink
The OACAS has released its Proposed Child and Family Services Act Amendments (pdf file). As expected, they include many provisions expanding the powers of Children's Aid:
Some provisions expand the reasons for taking a child away from his parents:
There is one set of provisions that seem to be genuine reform. When an adopted child is issued a birth certificate, it will identify the connection between parent and child as adoption, rather than as at present, suggest that the adoptive parents are the birth parents. The legislation does not give the child the right to see his original birth certificate, even after the child reaches the age of majority.
Another reform lets a person see his own records. This includes the ability of adult children to look at their records, and the right of parents to examine the records of their children. The OACAS seems to be responding to a lot of criticism with these suggestions. It remains to be seen whether foot-dragging will nullify these reforms.
Mother Shoots at Social Workers
March 14, 2005 permalink
A mother harassed by CPS in Texas lost it on March 3, 2005 and fired gunshots at social workers. Before she pulled out her gun, the wrongdoing alleged against the mother was that there were pets in the home and the boy's room was cluttered. Even the separated father expressed confidence in the mother.
Worker says she begged to leave
Accused gunwoman's child stays with state
ALICE - Brenda Trevino, a Child Protective Services investigator from Alice, testified Friday how she took refuge in a ditch while a mother she was questioning on drug and physical abuse allegations fired her shotgun and screamed obscenities at her and another investigator.
"I asked her to please put the gun down. She shot two in the air, then turned in my direction and shot. I tripped and fell on the caliche road, then I went to the nearest ditch," Trevino said. "I could hear her say, 'Where the (expletive) are you?' I feared for my life."
Trevino, who was not injured, testified in 79th District Judge Richard Terrell's court that Vera Miller, 46, should not have access to her 9-year-old son. The boy has been in an emergency shelter since the incident after which CPS took temporary custody.
"The bullet hit my vehicle that was right next to me. She kept shooting," Trevino said.
"I could just hear lots of shooting; I didn't know which direction it was going."
In all, 13 shots were fired, officials have said.
Terrell granted the state temporary custody of the boy and ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Miller and parenting and anger management classes. A second hearing is set for April.
Miller was arrested March 3, the night of the shooting, on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, criminal mischief and abandonment/endangerment child criminal negligence. She's being held in the Jim Wells County Jail. Bonds were set at $120,000 - $50,000 on each aggravated assault charge and $20,000 for the criminal mischief charge.
The Friday hearing was a civil suit, separate from the criminal case against Miller. A Jim Wells County District Attorney's Office spokesman said Friday afternoon the office had not received the criminal case yet and refused to comment. The judge on Friday appointed Alice attorney Gray Scoggins to represent Miller on the custody issue.
Scoggins refused to comment or allow Miller to comment. During the hearing, he questioned CPS's abuse case against his client.
"Would it be safe to say that the allegations were not supported by the interview," he asked Trevino.
"We weren't able to conduct a full investigation," she replied.
The March 3 interview at Miller's house in rural Jim Wells County had gotten off to a bad start, Trevino told the court. As soon as they were let in the house, Trevino said she and another investigator were told by Miller that they had a 10-minute limit to interview her son in his bedroom.
"She walked in and said, 'It's _been 10 minutes, get out of here - now.' "
Trevino said once they were in the living room, Miller paced back and forth and cursed at the investigators but calmed down enough to sit on the couch and answer some questions.
"I asked her if she would consent to a drug test. That's when she got really angry," Trevino testified. "She jumped to her feet and said, 'Get the (expletive) out of here. Get the (expletive) out of here now.' "
Then, Miller pulled a shotgun from under a blanket and cocked it twice, Trevino said.
Trevino said she pleaded for a chance to leave, and got cursed, yelled at and shot at in return.
When questioned by the child's court-appointed attorney, John Lemon, Trevino said the house smelled like cats and dogs, the boy's room was cluttered and the house was "in disarray, but livable."
The boy's father, Lionel Rangel, 47, of Oklahoma, also testified at the hearing. He told the judge he wanted custody of his son. CPS officials said the process of placing a child in a home in another state could take up to six months.
"I am having a real hard time with this. I want (him) to know that he's not abandoned," Rangel said, wiping tears from his eyes. "I am here for him and I always will be."
Scoggins asked Rangel if Miller was a good mother.
"There was nothing she wouldn't do for that young man," Rangel said.
Debra Ann Palos, the boy's paternal aunt from Alice, told the judge she wanted to care for the boy, instead of a foster home, while CPS worked through the process of placing him with his father.
Contact Nancy Martinez at 886-3794 or email@example.com
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (subscription required)
Ontario to Reorganize Child Advocate
March 8, 2005 permalink
In a press release Ontario today proposes to alter the powers of the Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy, identified as the child advocate in the release. The current officeholder Judy Finlay, has criticized the treatment of teenagers in jail. The proposed legislation is unlikely to have any practical effect on the protection of families from social services.
Addendum: Here is a better-informed opinion by John Dunn in pdf.
McGuinty Government Moves To Make Ontario's Child Advocate Independent
Delivering On Key Commitment To Vulnerable Children And Youth
QUEEN'S PARK, March 8 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government will introduce legislation this spring that, if passed, would better protect the interests of vulnerable children and youth by establishing an independent child advocate in Ontario, Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni announced today.
"There can be no room for political interference when it comes to the rights of our youngest citizens," said Bountrogianni. "This legislation would entrench the rights and voices of children and youth to an extent never before seen in Ontario."
The planned legislation would make the child and youth advocate an officer of the legislature and as independent as the auditor general. Under the new law, the advocate would be selected by an all-party legislative committee and report directly to the legislature. Currently, the advocate reports to the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
"We are committed to giving our children and youth a stronger voice," Bountrogianni said. "In addition to affirming the role of the advocate, the McGuinty government is the first to establish a dedicated children's ministry to ensure our young people have a seat right at the cabinet table."
A third-party review of the advocate's office was initiated by Bountrogianni last year. The review provided research and recommendations on ways to enhance the advocate's independence to better protect the interests of children and youth.
"Elevating the position of the child and youth advocate to the same level of independence as the auditor general sends a powerful message that this government is serious about accountability and transparency," said Judy Finlay, Ontario's Chief Advocate for the past 14 years.
The child and youth advocate speaks on behalf of Ontario's most vulnerable young people, including children, youth and families involved with the justice system, foster, group or residential care, or with physical and developmental disabilities.
"An independent advocate will help ensure that the laws that protect children and youth from harsh treatment and abuse are enforced," said Mark Monette, former Crown ward and member of Youth Piece.
"This planned legislation delivers on a key commitment of this government and a promise we made to Ontario's children and youth," said Bountrogianni.
Disponible en français
A VOICE FOR ONTARIO CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Ontario's child advocate represents children and youth who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act, in the youth justice system, the children's mental health system, the child welfare system (children's aid societies), and provincial and demonstration schools for the deaf and blind.
Legislation requires that children in care be made aware of their rights and how to make complaints to the child advocate about unacceptable treatment. That information must come in a language that the child or youth understands. This includes information about the advocate's office and the phone number to call. Children and youth are entitled to privacy to contact their family, a lawyer or an advocate. These requirements have been in place since 1985.
Last year the advocate's office received approximately 3,200 calls and conducted seven reviews. The majority of the calls were about standards of practice for children in residential care, peer-on-peer violence, children living at home with special needs and aboriginal child welfare.
In the spring of 2004, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services commissioned a review of the office of the child advocate and its role. The recommendations included making the advocate an officer of the legislature to enhance their independence, and clarifying the role and mandate of the advocate.
Disponible en français
For further information: Andrew Weir, Minister's Office, (416) 212-7159; Anne Machowski-Smith, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, (416) 325-5156
From the Child and Family Services Act:
Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy
102. The Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy is continued under the name Office of Child and Family Service Advocacy in English and Bureau d'assistance à l'enfance et à la famille in French, to,
(a) co-ordinate and administer a system of advocacy, except for advocacy before a court, on behalf of children and families who receive or seek approved services or services purchased by approved agencies;
(b) advise the Minister on matters and issues concerning the interests of those children and families; and
(c) perform any similar functions given to it by this Act or the regulations or another Act or the regulations made under another Act. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.11, s. 102.
Jury Selection in Halifax Standoff
March 8, 2005 permalink
Jury selection has begun for the trial of Larry Finck and Carline VandenElsen.
Tuesday, March 8, 2005, The Halifax Herald Limited
Jury selection underway in Halifax standoff case
By BILL POWER / Staff Reporter
Jury selection began Monday in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court trial of a couple charged after a three-day standoff with police in Halifax last May.
Carline VandenElsen and Lawrence Finck entered not guilty pleas to eight charges each, including unlawful confinement and obstructing police.
Justice Robert Wright has set aside three days for jury selection and indicated the trial could last at least six weeks. The court will not sit on Fridays.
The Halifax courtroom was filled with prospective jurors. The selection process included questions about prior knowledge of the case.
"A juror must be able to make a decision just on information presented at trial," Justice Wright said.
A handful of jurors' spots were filled by the end of the day.
Throughout most of the proceedings, Ms. VandenElsen and Mr. Finck, who sat beside each other, chatted back and forth, shared whispers and looked over papers together.
Ms. VandenElsen was accompanied by her lawyer, Burnley (Rocky) Jones, while Mr. Finck was with lawyer Raymond Kuszelewski.
Prosecutors Rick Woodburn and Leonard MacKay are presenting the Crown's case.
Justice Wright indicated there will be a lot of evidence to consider and an above average number of witnesses.
Halifax Regional Police and RCMP officers involved in the armed standoff on Shirley Street will be called to the stand, as will officials from the province's Community Services Department and staff from the Children's Aid Society of Halifax.
Some Shirley Street residents and two local news reporters are also on the lengthy witness list.
The only unexpected development Monday was the addition to the evidence list of three weapons and some ammunition, but details were not provided. Police seized a 12-gauge shotgun after the standoff.
Ms. VandenElsen and Mr. Finck are charged with violating a court order by detaining and concealing a baby that was to be turned over to the Children's Aid Society of Halifax. They are also charged with unlawful confinement, obstructing police and several weapons offences.
The standoff began after police tried to enforce a court order to place a child in the temporary care of Children's Aid.
Mr. Finck's mother, who had heart problems and was in the Shirley Street house, died of natural causes during the standoff.
Source: Halifax Herald
By-election in Dufferin
March 7, 2005 permalink
Ernie Eves, the former leader of the Ontario Provincial Progressive Conservative party, won as MPP for Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey in the general election held in October 2003, but his party lost its majority in the provincial parliament, causing him to resign as party leader. His replacement as leader is John Tory. In early February Mr Eves resigned as MPP. The membership was not advised or consulted on the choice of the nominee. At a meeting on February 12 the PC riding association president announced that just one candidate had tendered nominating papers, selecting him by default. A love-in by a dozen PC dignitaries praised John Tory, including former provinicial premiers Ernie Eves and Bill Davis, and Mr Tory's rivals for the leadership, Jim Flaherty and Frank Klees. The conspicuous absence was former provinical premier Mike Harris. There was no evidence of support for Mr Tory originating within the riding itself.
The by-election will be held March 17, the third in less than three years. Tonight there was an all-candidates meeting in Orangeville. The closed format of the two previous elections was scrapped, and members of the audience questioned the candidates directly. The participants were Frank deJong (Green), John Tory (PC), Jim Macintosh substituting for Phillip Bender (Libertarian), Paul Micelli (Family Coalition), Bob Duncanson (Liberal), Bill Cook (independent) and Lynda McDougall (NDP). John Turmel (independent) was absent. Bob Rice did well in the role of moderator. Each candidate gave an opening statement, there was two hours of questioning, followed by a closing statement from each candidate.
The major party candidates described problems and attacked the opposition, but had few policies. John Tory's only specific policies were to complete improvements to highways 10 and 410, and to cut waiting times for medical procedures (an applause line).
John Tory said he lived in Toronto, and would run in Toronto in the next general election. Bob Duncanson claimed long-term residency, though he was unsure how to pronounce Erin.
Because of the open format there was some discussion of family issues. Mr Micelli defined the family as the basic political unit, but did not define policy changes that could strengthen the family. All of the candidates except Mr Micelli and Mr Cook supported same-sex marriage.
Open space facilitator Sylvia Cheuy (rhymes with chew) asked a long complex jargon-filled question ending with: What you would do to ensure social prosperity in the riding? Jim Macintosh, the first responder, brought on a round of laughter by asking "Could you repeat the question?".
Later Brenda Dee, President of Family Transition Place asked what the candidates would do to stop family violence before it happens, averting the need for shelters. All of the candidates, even Mr Micelli, were supportive of the women's shelter.
Mr Micelli and Mr Macintosh supported school vouchers, all the major parties opposed.
Voters wishing to halt the destruction of the family are limited to the minor candidates, Mr Micelli, Mr Bender and Mr Cook.
Suggestions for Social Workers
March 6, 2005 permalink
The Social Work and Social Services Act is under review concurrently with the Child and Family Services Act. Here is a set of suggestions for amending it.
311 Taylor Drive
Lakeshore, Ontario N8N 4K9
March 6, 2005
Attention: Mohamad Haniff, Senior Policy Analyst
Ministry of Community & Social Services
Community Services Branch
56 Wellesley Street West, 12thFloor
Re: Review of the Social Work and Social Service Act 1998
Dear Mr. Haniff:
I have experience with the social work profession both personally and professionally. I would like to make some recommendations.
I have grave concerns about the future of the social work profession. I have seen social workers misrepresent themselves and outright lie to clients, perjure themselves in Court, and perpetrate malicious abuse of the client with no legal accountability.
Unless these problems are rectified, social work is a doomed profession. The College must implement policies and procedures to discipline its members.
..A social worker should have the proper qualifications and degrees to be a social worker. It should a condition of working with the public that a social worker be registered with the College of Social Work. Persons without these qualifications should not identify themselves as social workers nor be given the status and powers of a social worker. Both public and private agencies need to stop hiring unqualified people to do social work.
..Swearing of false or misleading affidavits should be grounds for disciplinary action, which should include fine and/or loss of license. There should be a permanent record of such disciplinary action available to the public on request. These cases should be documented in detail in the Journal of the College of Social Work. Social workers who misrepresent situations or outright lie to clients should be subject to dismissal from the College.
..A discipline committee should be established to hear complaints from the public regarding the profession. A discipline committee is part of every other professional college.
..A code of Professional Ethics and Conduct should be established. Social workers should receive undergraduate training in Ethics.
..There needs to be a program of professional development linked to license renewal.
..Every professional in Ontario is legally accountable for his or her action except social workers. Social workers should no longer have immunity from criminal prosecution or civil suit.
..Social workers need to know the boundaries of their profession. They are not physicians, lawyers, or policeman. They need to deal with other professionals in a respectful and professional manner. They are not there to prejudice medical consultations or to interfere in the medical care of the client. Nor are they are there to make medical diagnoses. They need to confine their attention to social work.
..Police background checks be mandatory requirement of employment for social workers dealing with vulnerable populations.
..There should be an oral and written exam for licensure to insure the competency of new graduates.
Dolores A. Sicheri, MD. FRCPC
Anne Writes to Prime Minister
March 5, 2005 permalink
Here is a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin (pdf) from Anne, the girl in hiding from the Children's Aid Society.
Voice of Anne
March 5, 2005 permalink
The girl mentioned in the item below dated March 4 has left a short recording of her voice with Canada Court Watch. Since she compares her predicament to that of Anne Frank, we shall henceforth identify her by the pseudonym Anne. Here is Anne's voice (mp3).
Police Hunt for Girl Fleeing CAS
March 4, 2005 permalink
The girl mentioned in our Feb 26 reports from Canada Court Watch is now the subject of a province-wide man-hunt. In today's (pdf) report from Canada Court Watch the girl is still on the run. The father's home in Barrie was raided by police on a warrant, and the court refuses to disclose the contents of the warrant to the father. The girl's purported lawyer is identified in this article as Barbara Steinberg of Newmarket Ontario.
Aylmer Church of God appeal dismissed
March 1, 2005 permalink
A Superior Court judge dismissed the appeal of an Aylmer Ontario mother. In 2001 Children's Aid seized her seven children, and (pdf link) Judge Eleanor Schnall ruled that the agency acted legally. Today the appeal against the decision was rejected without even hearing it. The reasons for the dismissal have not been published, but the reporter suggests the judge thought the case moot because of a settlement reached after judge Schnall's ruling.
In addition to showing judicial contempt for parents, the ruling limits appellate protection to parents willing to relinquish control of their children for four years. But in such a case the issue is also moot, since lost childhood cannot be restored on appeal. The courts simply refuse to give parents any protection from abuse by social workers.
Tue, March 1, 2005
Spank appeal tossed
By SUN MEDIA
A CASE that drew international attention when seven children were dragged from their Aylmer home by Children's Aid workers over spanking allegations wilted yesterday before an appeals court. Rev. Henry Hildebrandt of the Church of God had gone to bat for the family, one of many incidents that had lent a circus atmosphere to the case.
The children were eventually returned to their parents.
Yesterday there was barely time for argument, leaving the parents' lawyers stunned when their appeal was dismissed before it got going.
'IN A DAZE'
"I'm just in a daze," said lawyer Valerie Wise, who represented the mother.
Her co-counsel, Mike Menear, arrived minutes after lunch to an emptying courtroom as Superior Court Justice Lynne Leitch had dismissed the appeal that questioned in part whether social workers had the right to interview children without parental consent.
Leitch didn't discuss her reasoning, saying she would prepare a written order to be released later this week .
Leitch questioned if there was even a basis for an appeal since the parents had settled their dispute with Children's Aid.
Yesterday's decision was a victory for children, said Family and Children's Services lawyer Alf Mamo.
Social workers lose children in broken bone case
February 27, 2005 permalink
The following case is typical of broken bone cases. Fixcas has met three sets of parents in these cases, all married. In contrast to other parents involved in child protection, who often have problems with drug or alcohol abuse, or petty crimes, the parents in broken bone cases are straight arrows. In one case, a hospital diagnosed a broken bone, then changed its diagnosis later, a revision that did nothing to redeem the family. In another, a baby had one broken bone, and the cause was never determined because Children's Aid sequestered both the baby and medical records, precluding use of medical evidence to determine the cause. In a third case, a family had three kids, two unharmed, the third, a newborn, with two to three dozen fractures. In this obvious case of osteogenesis imperfecta, all three children became crown wards.
The one atypical part of this article is that father Brig Dunsmore was himself a social worker. A second article a year and a half later shows the futility of trying to reform the system through litigation.
February 27, 2005
When suspicion split up their family, the Dunsmores fought back
The state broke up their family. Reunited a year later, they overturned the judge's ruling - a rare victory. Now, the Utah Supreme Court weighs how courts should be.
By Brooke Adams, The Salt Lake Tribune
He fussed the way little babies often do, perhaps because he was teething or had an ear infection. But when he began favoring his leg, his parents thought something might be seriously wrong.
After all, he'd had a flu shot a day earlier.
Brig Dunsmore bundled up his then 7-month-old son and took him to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
So began a protracted legal struggle that would tear the Dunsmore family apart for nearly a year. It has triggered a rare reversal of a juvenile court abuse ruling and a potentially precedent-setting case now before the Utah Supreme Court.
At Primary, doctors discovered the baby's leg was broken and, when Brig couldn't explain how it happened, suspected he caused the injury. Suspicion grew when a later test showed what appeared to be a skull fracture.
Just like that, Brig Dunsmore, then a child welfare caseworker, found himself in the position of many of his clients: squaring off against a system that didn't believe him.
Looking back, the Dunsmores always begin the story on Nov. 13, 2002, the day Lisa Dunsmore and her mother were in the kitchen fixing lunch.
Lisa's mother placed the baby - names are not being used to make the children less identifiable - in a walker layered with blankets to prop him upright. The boy's leg twisted behind him and the grandmother pulled his foot down and through the leg hole as she pushed on his knee.
The baby shrieked.
"That is the only time I've ever heard him scream in a shrill scream," said Lisa, 31, a former nursery school teacher who became a stay-home mom in 2000 when the couple adopted the first of two children. "I went over, looked at him, calmed him down. He consoled quickly."Read the Ruling
Their son has always been an easy baby, despite being born prematurely at 28 weeks. Lisa attributed his fussiness over the next few days to an earache and began giving him regular doses of Tylenol. She took him to the pediatrician on Nov. 15 to have his ears checked and get him a flu shot.
On Saturday, Lisa and her mother went shopping while Brig willingly babysat. His job at the Utah Division of Child and Family Services had kept him away from home that week until after the kids were in bed.
That afternoon, Brig says he noticed the baby favoring his left leg. When Lisa got home, she observed it, too. They called a pediatric clinic and were reassured the shot was probably bothering the baby. Wrapped tightly in his blankets, though, he slept through the night.
On Sunday, the baby was still favoring the leg. Brig took him to be checked at Primary, while Lisa stayed home with their toddler.
The first doctor who examined the baby didn't see anything wrong. There were, as the appellate court would later point out, no welts, bruises or swelling.
The baby was "cheerful, interactive, alert," the appellate court would add, though he fussed when a second doctor vigorously moved his leg.
An X-ray solved the mystery: the baby's left femur was fractured just above the knee. Staff told Brig the baby would be kept overnight and, standard procedure, DCFS notified. Over the next 24 hours, the couple racked their memories for any event that might explain the break. "One thing that came to mind was that shrill scream in the walker," Lisa said, who then described the incident to Brig.
After a day of tests, Primary pediatrician Bruce Herman, with the Center for Safe and Healthy Families, asked the couple to explain the injury. They couldn't, but offered theories - perhaps their daughter had fallen on him, maybe it was the walker incident.
The couple says Herman then demonstrated his own theory: Sometime Saturday the baby's leg had been bent behind him and then slammed into a wall or floor, causing the bone to break completely and displace slightly.
Brig was livid at the accusation. Lisa cried. Herman told them they could not take the baby home, adding as he left the room, "I think he has a skull fracture," Brig recalls.
The baby was in the hospital three days and then released to his grandparents.
"It is such a feeling of powerlessness," said Brig, 31. "It was difficult for us to have a family, and in the blink of an eye these people were taking that from us."
By the time the trial began in March 2003, the Dunsmores' children - their daughter was considered a sibling at-risk - had been living with their grandparents for four months. The couple was allowed supervised visits. They had sold their condominium and moved in with Lisa's grandparents in order to hire a private attorney to represent them - a luxury most parents who wind up in juvenile court don't have. At work, Brig, who had been with the agency since 1999, was placed on administrative leave.
The trial was held on 13 days between March 21 and June 12. Through Herman and several colleagues, state attorneys told Juvenile Court Judge Olof A. Johansson the boy's leg had been bent back and then slammed into a hard surface.
Herman said he was "51/49 percent" sure his theory was right. The family's walker story was possible, but unlikely, he said. And there was no way Tylenol or tightly wrapping the baby masked pain for three days.
The parents, through a biomechanical engineer and pediatric orthopedist, argued the walker incident did explain the break. Also, as a premature baby, the child likely had weak bone structure, making him prone to fractures, a witness said.
The orthopedist said he had seen children "go days, even more than a week," with undetected fractures and use of Tylenol and the tight "burrito wrap" - an effective splint - increased odds the injury might be missed.
Philip Stanley, a pediatric radiologist at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles, testified the so-called skull fractures were sutures - still-forming skull coming together.
At various times, particularly early on, Lisa was told by the investigating caseworker and a Guardian ad Litem that if she left Brig or admitted he caused the injury, she could get the children back.
And as the trial proceeded, the couple says DCFS warned them time was running out; it was prepared to place the children, then still with grandparents, for adoption.
Johansson issued his decision in August: While the parents appeared loving, he found "clear and convincing" evidence that the injury was not an accident and had happened that Saturday while Brig babysat.
The judge said "unequivocal" testimony from Herman was persuasive, and he rejected both the "walker theory" and that "minimal doses of minor pain killers" masked the injury.
Brig, who had returned to work in March as a DCFS trainer, was told to resign or be fired from his job. He resigned; he found a new job in December as a support coordinator with the Division of Services for People with Disabilities.
In September 2003, after meeting all DCFS' requirements, custody of the children was returned to Lisa; restrictions for Brig were lifted two months later.
The Dunsmores believed the "clear and convincing evidence" standard had not been met and wanted Brig cleared. They sought review by the Utah Court of Appeals, which hears an average of 47 child welfare cases a year.
Since July 2000, the court has completely reversed decisions by juvenile judges only 12 times - as it did for the Dunsmores last July.
The appellate court found evidence presented at trial did not "clearly and convincingly" establish the cause of the injury or when it happened.
The three-judge panel flayed the case point-by-point (see box). They said the drawn-out trial might have made it difficult for the judge to recall the evidence. The judges noted Herman's "51/49 percentage" was "anything but unequivocal."
Also, one of Herman's colleagues gave a differing opinion as to how the fracture occurred and another thought the walker theory was possible, as did defense witnesses. Most significant, the court said, was the lack of any bruises or swelling that "almost always" accompany the sort of injury mechanism touted by the state.
The Attorney General's and Guardian ad Litem's offices have appealed this ruling to the Utah Supreme Court. They argue the appellate court failed to give deference to the juvenile court's findings and only looked at evidence favorable to the family.
Allowed to stand, the appellate court ruling might set a "dangerous precedent" for reviewing multi-day, fact-intensive trials and cases that rely on courtroom demonstrations, the state attorneys say. And it might require the state to establish how an injury was caused, not just that it wasn't accidental.
The Supreme Court has agreed to look at just one aspect of the case: Did the appellate court apply the correct standard of review in assessing the evidence?
Primary Children's declined to comment.
DCFS Director Richard Anderson agrees that "taken to the extreme," the appellate decision could make it "harder to prove abuse."
"The attorneys are saying, 'People might see it that way, so let's get a ruling on it,' " he said.
Whatever the Supreme Court rules will not affect the Dunsmore family, because DCFS has closed their case.
The couple says they are speaking out now in hopes the state and hospital will consider changes that give parents a better chance to defend themselves early on.
They suggest parents receive a "Miranda rights" statement when an investigation begins, and audio and/or video recordings be made and shared of all meetings at the hospital.
"I know a lot of good people who work in the AG's office, the Guardian ad Litem and DCFS," Brig said. "But it doesn't change the fact that they know at both ends of the spectrum they miss the boat a lot."
The family is, they said, still calculating the emotional toll of the past two years.
"What I'm finding out is it is something that stays with you," Lisa said. "It changes your whole life. I still have nightmares about it.
"Something is taken away from you. You lose a small piece of your soul."
Brig said the couple has changed the way they parent.
"All of a sudden we became hovering parents," he said. "We don't dare let them do anything because we are afraid they'll get hurt."
Source Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 09/21/2006 12:50:04 AM MDT
Justices send child abuse case back to appeals panel
Utah Supreme Court
By Kristen Stewart, The Salt Lake Tribune
Brig and Lisa Dunsmore dreamed Tuesday's ruling by the Utah Supreme Court would clear them of child abuse allegations and end an almost four-year showdown with the state.
Instead, the Dunsmores learned they will have to wait longer for a resolution, months or possibly years. The top court on Tuesday sent the Dunsmore case back to the Utah Court of Appeals for reconsideration but stopped short of suggesting its earlier decision in favor of the family was in error.
That, along with the prospect of reforming Utah's child welfare system, is what keeps the Dunsmores going.
"It would have been nice to have it done, but we're feeling pretty positive," Brig Dunsmore said. "We want the system to change, and we think the appellate court will uphold its earlier ruling."
The couple temporarily lost custody of their two children in November 2002 after child welfare caseworkers accused Brig Dunsmore of breaking his infant son's leg by smashing it against a hard surface. After a trial, complicated by the fact that Brig Dunsmore worked as a caseworker for Utah's Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS), a juvenile court judge held him responsible for the injury.
A three-judge panel of the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the judge's decision, ruling the state failed to prove its case.
The appeals panel said it had the power to decide there was insufficient evidence, even if it was "more probable than not" that disputed facts had been proved.
But Utah Supreme Court justices said the panel should have used a tougher standard: It should have focused on whether the judge's decision was "clearly erroneous."
An appellate court can only overturn a judge's findings that "offend the 'clear weight' of the evidence," the justices said.
They asked the appeals court to reconsider the case, using the new standard. That request does not suggest that the panel's ultimate ruling - that there was insufficient evidence against Brig Dunsmore - also was flawed, the justices noted.
"To the contrary, the record as a whole may well leave the Court of Appeals with a firm conviction that the juvenile court was mistaken in concluding that the state had established each of the allegations . . . by clear and convincing evidence," they wrote.
The state presented "no evidence" of how the alleged abuse occurred, the justices said.
Absent any other explanation, the juvenile court presumed Brig Dunsmore to be responsible under a section of Utah law that has since been repealed.
Sara Pfrommer, the Dunsmores' attorney, took heart in Tuesday's ruling, noting, "That's a pretty clear statement that they think the juvenile court was wrong."
But lawyers for DCFS downplayed the court's commentary, declaring victory.
"We got what we wanted," said Utah Solicitor General Annina Mitchell. "The appellate court doesn't get to reverse trial judges' findings of fact just because the appellate court looks at the transcript of a trial and decides, 'We would have reached a different conclusion.' "
Source Salt Lake Tribune
Girl Hides from Children's Aid
February 26, 2005 permalink
Canada Court Watch has reported on the case of a thirteen-year-old girl who has chosen to go into hiding to save herself from abuse in foster care. They have published two letters by the girl in pdf format, the first dated Feb 2, 2005 and the second dated Feb 19, 2005. She may have had assistance in writing the letters.
Addendum: In later developments, we identify this girl as Anne.
Convicted Social Worker Avoids Prison
February 24, 2005 permalink
The Indianapolis Star reports today that Denise C Moore, the social worker convicted in the case leading to the death of one of her wards, four-year-old Anthony Bars, was sentenced to 18 months probation. This continues the tradition of failing to hold social workers accountable for their acts, even fatal ones.
Addendum: This conviction was overturned on appeal.
Monast Attacker Pleads Guilty
February 22, 2005 permalink
In this case of mistaken identity, a woman attacked a neighbor whom she suspected of causing the loss of her children. Had Children's Aid disclosed the identity of the informant at the time of apprehension, the attack would not have occurred. Earlier reports from the Toronto Sun and National Post spelled the name of the victim as Madeline Monast.
Feb. 22, 2005. 06:23 AM
Machete attacker awaits sentence
Pleads guilty to severing hands
Ex-neighbour faces more surgery
Madelene Monast was having a coffee after awakening from an afternoon nap when the assailant who had sneaked into her Scarborough home lunged at her from the hallway, waving a machete and screaming she wanted to cut off her head.
The first swing of the weapon from the enraged attacker, her next-door neighbour, cut the 46-year-old mother of five on the face.
It was the second blow, a courtroom was told yesterday, that nearly severed Monast's left hand, leaving it dangling by some tissue.
Her right hand was cut off moments later in the June 2003 attack, which defence lawyer Marshall Sack later described as a "sad case of mistaken rage."
The attacker, a mother of five whom the Star is not identifying, wrongly believed that Monast was to blame for the Children's Aid Society taking away four of her children, aged 11 to 13. She thought Monast was the informant who told the agency the children weren't attending school.
In fact, as the court heard from prosecutor Dimitra Tsagaris, it was school officials who called the agency.
"She was like an angry lioness, sensing her children were in danger and wanting to protect them," Sack said of his client, who has been in custody since her arrest soon after the assault.
"Unfortunately, this was a tragic case of her getting some information and completely misconstruing what she heard."
The woman pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and will be sentenced March 15.
Surgeons were able to reattach Monast's hands, but she has lost the use of her fingers on her dominant right hand, Tsagaris told the court. She has limited use of her left hand, the prosecutor said.
Monast, along with family and friends, sat in the gallery as the prosecutor read out the agreed statement of facts as to what happened that afternoon at the Chester Le Blvd. home, in the Victoria Park and Finch Aves. area of Scarborough. She has since moved.
Afterward, Monast declined to talk with reporters, leaving that to her sister, Dawn Irwin, who said in a later interview that her sister "had her fill" and "wanted to go home and relax."
Irwin said the attacker "did the right thing (in pleading guilty). My sister is at ease now. It was like a weight was lifted that we didn't have to go through the turmoil of a trial."
Monast still has nightmares of that day. She has undergone three surgeries and is facing still more, her sister said. Throughout it all, Monast remains optimistic.
"It hasn't changed her life for the worst," Irwin continued. "She's a fighter ... the kind of person who doesn't have a hateful bone in her body."
The court heard that the relationship between the two neighbours was volatile and that they often weren't speaking.
For instance, Tsagaris said, a year before the attack Monast was out watering her lawn one day when her estranged neighbour felt the water was getting onto her property.
There were heated words, which led to each woman trying to hose down the other, followed by the woman tossing beer bottles into Monast's yard, Tsagaris said.
One of the bottles broke, Monast was cut and the woman was charged with assault with a weapon.
That case was before the courts when Monast overheard the woman threatening her, vowing to get even with her for calling Children's Aid (mistakenly), saying "I don't care if I go to jail."
Four of the five children — the fifth child is 19 — were taken away by the agency on the day of the attack, continued the prosecutor, and four police officers had to be called in to help agency officials with the angry mother, Tsagaris said.
Later, the woman, with the help of a male friend, was able to sneak into Monast's house and surprise the startled woman, chasing her to the basement and hacking at the door when Monast closed it to ward off the blows, she said.
Police are still investigating the role of the man who helped the woman get into Monast's house.
With files from Peter Small and Dale Anne Freed
Suggestions for CFSA Revisions
February 19, 2005 permalink
Here are suggestions for improving the Child and Family Services Act from three members of the Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services.
311 Taylor Drive
Lakeshore, Ontario N8N 4K9
February 19, 2005
Hon. Marie Bountrogianni, MPP
Ministry of Child and Youth Services
Dear Madame Bountrogianni:
Our comments regarding the present CFSA legislation follow. We are enclosing also a legal memo drafted for us by Sarah Weisman, our lawyer.
We have many letters of complaint in our possession that relate to the present abuses of the legislation. These letters are addressed to a multitude of legal regulatory agencies. These agencies have all filed them in the "circular file." They have failed to take their legal responsibilities seriously.
We have had the privilege of speaking to a great many parents and service providers across the Province of Ontario. Their stories and experiences are all very similar. They have the "ring of truth."
We ask you to bring justice to these families. We want a "Royal Commission of Inquiry" so that these files may be opened and testimony may be taken from these families. These "stolen children" must all be returned to their rightful families.
Dolores A. Sicheri MD FRCPC
Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services
Proposal to the Ministry of Child and Youth Services for Reform of the Child and Family Service Act
This Act set the bar for apprehensions too low. It went from "substantial risk" to "risk." Neglect and emotional abuse were added but not defined. Neglect, risk and emotional abuse can mean almost anything. If one were subjected to the CAS microscope, every parent in Ontario including the Marie Bountrogianni could potentially be accused of neglect and emotional abuse.Recommendations
That the threshold for neglect, risk and emotional abuse be clearly defined
This Act set the bar for apprehensions too low. It went from "substantial risk" to "risk." Neglect and emotional abuse were added but not defined. Neglect, risk and emotional abuse can mean almost anything. If one were subjected to the CAS microscope, every parent in Ontario including the Marie Bountrogianni could potentially be accused of neglect and emotional abuse.
That we recognize that the family is the fundamental unit of society
The "best interests of the child" are intimately intertwined with those of the parent and they must be balanced under the law. This is a fundamental principle. The new legislation needs to recognize this.
That workers be held accountable for wrongdoing
Currently, there is no real "legal accountability" for wrongdoing by workers. Poorly trained and inexperienced workers often swear false/misleading affidavits. Their documentation is used to justify their actions. They take situations and twist them out of context in order to justify their intrusion into a family. There has to be "legal accountability" and specified penalties set out for the submission of falsified records to the court.
That interviews with children be videotaped
There are reports and videotaped testimony from children in which children are reporting that they are being lied to and coerced by CAS workers. Some children are reporting that they are threatened with removal from their school, away from family and out of their community if they do not do as CAS workers tell them to do. All interviews involving children should be videotaped like the police do in their investigations, not only to protect the children involved, but also to protect the CAS workers and their agency and minimize the risk of lawsuits that ultimately the taxpayers of Ontario end up paying for.
That CAS files and tapes should be readily available to parties in court proceedings
At the present time, many parents complain that they are unable to gain access to CAS records for the purpose of defending themselves and their children. Most CAS offices refuse to allow parents to obtain copies of their files and in most cases they are told to take the agency to court to get a court order to obtain the file. The files and tapes should be readily available to all parties participating in Court proceedings. Clients who in most cases are already overburdened by the court process should not have to go to Court to get disclosure on their file.
That hearsay and innuendo be disallowed in court matters
Under present legislation, CAS workers often resort to the use of hearsay and innuendo to justify their actions and to convince a court to decide in the favour of the CAS when matters go before the court.
Prima facia evidence needs to be presented, not hearsay or innuendo. The same standards that apply in Criminal Court need to apply in Family Court. The premise should be that one is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around as is currently enshrined in the Canadian Bill of Rights. The CAS using their own standards of finding a person guilty should not endlessly pursue cases dismissed in Criminal Court in Family Court.
Recommendation # 7
That standards and procedures be established to determine credibility and accuracy of children's testimony
Currently, many children who are in fact telling the truth to CAS workers are labeled as "not credible" or labeled as being "coached" by a parent. In other cases children who make allegations are taken for their word. As a result, many children continue to be abused because they are not being believed and in other cases innocent people are being persecuted based on the unsupported claims of children. Disabled and emotionally troubled children are often allowed to manipulate scenarios for their purposes, often to the harm of parents and other children. Standards and procedures must be established which will look at all the circumstances surrounding a child's circumstances to be able to more accurately determine the credibility and accuracy of a child's disclosure to workers.
Parents are forced to take and pay for lengthy and expensive evaluations that mean nothing to the resolution of the case. If the parents refuse, they are called non-compliant. If they undergo the evaluations, they are sent to professionals funded by the CAS whose reports are then considered biased. Even if the parents pass the evaluation, they are still denied resolution. They are then made to jump over even bigger obstacles with no expectation of ever recovering the child. Workers routinely speak to professionals prior to an evaluation. This biases the evaluation.
When my child went for a medical evaluation, the consultant reported that the worker had called earlier and discussed with him that "The mother was causing her child's problem." Child welfare workers obstructed the medical care that would have allowed my child to return home. I ask "In whose "best interests" that the worker is actually working in?"
That CAS workers not be allowed to contact parties at their workplace without prior the parties' written consent
Children's Aid workers often call parents at their workplace. This violates confidentiality and causes some parents to lose their jobs. A jobless and then homeless parent has to surrender. This practice should be severely disciplined. The government should not have to destroy the parent to acquire the child or to intervene in the family's matters.
That parents be put on equal footing in relation to legal funding of their case
Currently, many families give up the fight for their children just because they cannot afford the legal expenses to go up against a CAS agency. Families cannot fight a system that pays its legal fees out of the public purse and where unlimited amounts of money are available to CAS agencies.
Reform of the legal process is important to end this financial imbalance that favours CAS agencies. The legal timelines all favor the Society. Parents are served often at the eleventh hour with no chance to respond. Often only an obscure ad is placed in the paper as the only notice. Important timelines are buried in a stack of paperwork. Conflicts of interests among lawyers and agencies are not disclosed. The lawyer spends the legal aid money doing pretrial nonsense. He actually has no real intention of ever going to trial. Lawyers are being paid to represent the other side on another day. The other side usually has all the money and most of the work. The parent's case is sacrificed to maintain the lawyer's income. This creates an adversarial system with conflicts of interest. Parents then view their lawyers and their recommendations with suspicion. Parents are forced to represent themselves in Court against a system that pays top fees to lawyers from the public purse. Parents are doomed to failure because they are not equipped to represent themselves in the legal process. I ask, "Where is justice?"
That all professional services be done by agencies considered at arm's length to the CAS agencies
Currently, CAS agencies send parents to receive counseling and assessments from professionals who are being paid by the CAS agency. Many parents are forced to accept whom the CAS agency recommends because they cannot afford to pay for these services. Many parents and children claim that these professionals are biased in favour of the CAS agency that hired them.
It is clearly a conflict of interest for CAS to be sending parents to outside professionals that receive monies from the CAS. Funding must be available to parents, who would then be reimbursed by a government-based fixed fee just like OHIP. Parents could then choose whomever they wish to obtain services from.
That the Office of the Children's Lawyer be required to represent the wishes of the child only.
Currently, there are many complaints from parents and children regarding the Office of the Children's Lawyer. Many children and parents have complained about the lawyer not accurately presenting the child's wishes and preferences to the court. Some children have reported that their lawyer has actually lied to them and took the opposite position in court, contrary to what the child wished and instructed their lawyer to present. The lawyers from this office often just spout the CAS rhetoric and in some cases support the position of the CAS contrary to the "best interest of the child". There is even no pretense of impartiality
The Office of the Children's Lawyer needs to actually represent the wishes of the child.
Recommendation # 12
That the process be more transparent and accountable
Secrecy is purported to be in the "best interests of the child." It allows these workers to behave in a most recklessness manner. Social workers should be registered with their College as a condition of their employment. The College of Social Work must hold them accountable for misconduct with a sizeable fine and/or loss of license. These complaints need to be kept in a permanent file accessible to the public on demand. Unqualified people should not present themselves as social workers.
The veil of secrecy needs to be lifted. Reporters should be allowed to monitor the judicial process. Family/friends/advocates should be allowed into the courtroom to support the parent and child. The secrecy only allows the abuses to go on.
The name of the person making the complaint and the nature of the complaint needs to be disclosed to the parent. Right now, anyone can make an accusation and be assured anonymity. One should have the right to face one's accuser. This is basic to judicial process. Furthermore, it will deter reckless and malicious reporting.
That there be an initial judicial review at 48 hours
This will prevent family from becoming endlessly mired in the legal system. It will require that the apprehension meet an initial legal test.
That apprehensions in the delivery rooms of Ontario be stopped
I would like to see an accounting for the children removed in the delivery rooms of Ontario. Single young women are easy targets. These women are being denied access to due process. The public needs to know where are these children going? No one should be forced to sign away their rights under the influence of powerful medications and anesthetics. There should a time frame where the mother can change her mind without prejudice.
The CAS often returns only some of the children, often keeping the baby. Why? Is the baby more marketable? Is this a demonstration of the state's power over the parent? Does it have to do with the funding formula that regards this baby to have a higher reimbursement value because it is "adoptable?"
That access orders be enforced
The Minister says that 75% of crown wards have access orders that are not being used. Is the Minister aware of the numerous dirty tricks that are played to prevent access? The families will tell you. Access orders need to be honoured. Women who cannot care for their children often just want access. Dirty tricks prevent them from having access. Workers verbally and sometimes in writing promise them access and then renege. They circumvent the access order by placing the children at great distance from the biological parent. As a rule, placements should be within the child's community.
Court orders and decisions need to be honoured. There has to be a level playing field. I was subjected to legal dirty tricks. I walked out of the Courtroom with a different version of the settlement than CAS. I was told not to discuss the settlement particulars with the CAS. Three weeks later, I discovered that we had different versions of the same settlement. My version said that my child was to be returned to me at the settlement conference; their version said that he was to become a crown ward. I ended up with firing my lawyer thinking that either the Society lawyer had made a fool of her or that she was actually in collusion with him. As a consequence, I had no faith in the fairness and honourability of the legal process. It made the final settlement more difficult to reach.
That requests for kindred placements be given the priority they should have
Many young women sign the termination agreement with the verbal proviso that the child be placed with a relative. Once the papers are signed, these verbal agreements are reneged on.
That the Agencies respect the diversity of their clients
The services provided need to respect the religious, cultural and ethnic origins of the family. Continuity and stability for the child should be important drivers of the child protection process. Children in care should be left with a respect for their biological parents.
That the audit processes include both the child and parent
When I brought my complaint in 2003 Michelle Burd, program supervisor told me that any Ministry review of the file for compliance involves only the child being interviewed. This is a flawed process. Any review process should include testimony from both the parent and the child.
That the public be given information regarding regular outcome statistics for crown wards
I would like to see regular outcome statistics for crown wards. Are they finishing high school, college, vocational programs and university? Are they simply being warehoused? Are transitional planning and counseling services available? How many crown wards are accessing these services? Are these crown wards on departure ending up on the street as "street kids"? Parents generally provide for their children after 16. How does the government intend to provide for its "children" after 16? With parenthood, must there not be responsibility as well? Taxpayers are demanding accountability for the monies spent on the child welfare system.
That there be a final disposition of records for the crown ward
Once a child graduates from crown ward status, they should have the right to have their records sealed to prevent these adults from carrying this stigma with them. Crown wards have discussed with me how these records follow them and are used against them to apprehend their children. The cycle of trans-generational perpetuation of involvement with the social welfare system must be broken.
That there be a mechanism to expunge the records of the innocent
People whose cases are thrown out of court with no finding of protection should have the right to demand to have their records expunged.
That government needs remain out of the private adoption business
This advertising of children for sale like they were commodities has to stop. The CAS has to remain outside the private adoption business. There is a basic conflict in allowing the two to become one.
That the funding formula not reward the apprehension of children and the destruction of families.
It should reward organizations for keeping families together. Our children are not "provincial reimbursement units." Societies need to change their profile from police work to social work. Unless this happens, the entire system will degenerate into violence. Workers will continue to fear for their safety. The government needs to return to the community the services that support families.
That the adoptee be given his personal information
Adoption records should become the property of the child on transition to the adult world.
That open adoption and sibling contact occur
Open adoptions should be the norm rather than the exception. Parents with developmental disorders/mental health issues still love their children and deserve the opportunity to remain connected. Sibling groups should be preserved and their connections maintained. These connections will ease the transitional to independent living.
That kindred placement be given special status
Kinship placements should be given the high priority that they deserve. They should be facilitated and funded. Grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles should not be simply regarded as foster parents. They deserve the special status of "legal guardians" for their kin.
That the rule of law occur
The law as it is written must be adhered to and implemented evenly. Presently these workers do not function under "the rule of law." Often the law and the Court processes are deliberately flaunted.
The legislation must be clearly written and applied equally and completely across the province. Selective implementation or non-implementation of the legislation created huge issues. For example, the special needs agreements clause for "special needs" families was present but never implemented due to lack of funding.
Parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children. CAS must respect this right. CAS cannot force parents to act contrary to their cultural and religious beliefs. It cannot force parents to administer psychotropic medications, blood products and/or chemotherapy to their children.
That "special needs children" have equal protection under the law
Provisions must be made for "special needs children" to access services without the surrender of parental rights. Children's Mental Health Services need to be funded apart from CAS. CAS should not be the gatekeeper for all children's services.
Recommendation # 29
That there be a return of the CAS to its legal mandate of child protection
It must get away from seeing itself as the sole provider of children's services. It must respect the mandates and integrity of other community agencies dealing with children.
Child welfare workers should have training in normal and abnormal child development. Child welfare workers need to understand the long-term harm that can be done by the disruption of the child-parent bond. They need to be respectful of the client. They need to return to seeing themselves as providers of family services. They are not policeman, doctors, teachers or lawyers. They need to respect these boundaries.
Recommendation # 30
That there be an internal grievance process
Social workers with grievances need to have a complaint process at arms length from the organization. Their complaints and concerns need to be taken seriously. Every worker who leaves the organization should be debriefed. Frontline workers, who disagree with a decision being forced on them, need to have an avenue to bring their concerns forth. The short career lifespan of these child welfare workers is a good indicator of the problems existing within the system.
That there be changes in governance
The Board of Directors needs to have legal responsibility for and input into the operation of the Society. Membership in the Society from the community should be encouraged, with employees and family members excluded as a conflict of interest.
That meaningful change occur to the reporting process
The present legislation requires everyone to report everything with regard to children. No one thinks, but everyone reports. It turns the ordinary caregiver and citizen into the enforcer of this legislation. Parents are afraid to seek help for fear of being reported. This creates a police/fascist state where everyone is spying on everyone else. This will forever change and possibly destroy the psychology and social work professions. This decision to report needs to be returned to the control of the caregiver dealing with the child and his family. The caregiver needs to weigh the risks versus the benefits and he takes the onus of legal responsibility.
Our schools and educational programs need to be given the mission of strengthening the family. Creating respect both for the child and the parent needs to be a driver in the educational process. The family should not be viewed as the enemy, but as an integral part of a healthy society.
The schools use the threat of CAS to coerce families into signing educational plans for children with disabilities. The schools use the police and social services to maintain discipline. This is the wrong approach. The school, parents and social services all need to be on the same page to help the child. The schools need to do a better job in identifying the special needs of students and delivering services. The real goal should be to create independent, productive future members of society.
Recommendation # 33
That there be a process for an external review of files
The review of CAS files needs to be done externally through a judicial review process. I am convinced that neither the CAS nor the Ministry is capable of policing itself. As a person who went through the Section 68 review process, I believe the process to be deeply flawed. The Ombudsman and the Office of the Child Advocate should be given the power to intervene on behalf of the rights of parents and children.
$500,000 Donation to Children's Aid
February 18, 2005 permalink
The Children's Aid Society of Hamilton has received a $500,000 donation. This Society serves the home riding of Minister of Children and Youth Services Marie Bountrogianni. Ordinarily, gifts to Children's Aid Societies are of inconsequential size, and serve only to create the illusion of charity. For example, in the year ending March 31, 2004 Dufferin CAS received total revenues of $10,327,279, of which $3,562 was donations. The current gift may be an example of charity, or the Ministry and business currying each others favor.
Local agency recipient of largest-ever gift to CAS in province
By Abigail Cukier
The Children's Aid Society of Hamilton received an unprecedented gift of $500,000 in support of the organization's new centre for children at risk, which officially opened last week.
The donation, from POSCOR Mill Services Corp., a processor of ferrous metals, is the largest gift in the agency's 110-year history and the largest ever to any Children's Aid Society in Ontario.
Hamilton CAS is one of the 10 largest child protection agencies in the province and formerly occupied four locations. After six months of renovations, the new location on Arrowsmith Road in Stoney Creek, opened last October.
"We had a vision to bring all of our staff together and to offer programs we never had the opportunity to deliver before," said Dominic Verticchio, executive director of Hamilton CAS. "This is a comprehensive child care facility and it is much more cost effective."
By renovating an existing building rather than opening a new facility, the agency tripled its capacity and reduced operating costs by 50 per cent. The 156,000 square-foot facility cost $4.5 million, and another $1.5 million in renovations.
Hamilton Mayor Larry Di Ianni spoke at the opening ceremonies.
"A civil society is measured by how it nurtures and looks after its children," he said. "I have seen how much we need assistance for our most vulnerable in times of crisis. That's what CAS does."
Chris Phillips, special policy advisor to MP Tony Valeri, presented certificates from Mr. Valeri and Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, provincial minister of children and youth services, also spoke and presented a certificate and a letter from the Premier.
Named the POSCOR Centre for Children At Risk, the facility will offer medical and dental services and a child-friendly interview room so children do not have to go to the police station for interviews with the Hamilton Police Service Child Abuse Branch.
In addition to providing child protection, Hamilton CAS strives to reduce child abuse and neglect, repair the lives of children who have suffered from abuse and neglect and contribute to a better life for children at risk and their families. In fact, the agency admits fewer than five per cent of the children it sees into care.
A working kitchen provides an opportunity for parents to learn about nutrition and budgeting for meals. A parent support program provides modeling and instruction on topics including discipline, parental self-esteem and how to access community resources. The therapeutic access centre provides support and teaching about positive parenting and communication. Small support groups for children include anger management, skill development, grief and sex education.
The facility will also offer 59 daycare spaces to staff and residents.
Mr. Verticchio said poverty, teen pregnancies and domestic violence have contributed to a large increase in foster children here. In the last five years, the number of children rose from 395 to 675. While most are temporarily placed, Mr. Verticchio said the number of permanent wards has also increased in the last two years. Without enough foster parents in the area, many children have to be moved out of Hamilton.
Hamilton has about 245 foster families, but Mr. Vericchio said he would love to see that number double.
For information call 905-522-1121.
Source: Hamilton Mountain News
Windsor Star reports on Rally
February 17, 2005 permalink
CAS rally delivers message
About 60 people from around Ontario rallied at Queen's Park Wednesday, calling on the province to change children's aid legislation to curb child apprehensions and create more accountability.
"The complaints procedure of children's aid is mostly internal, so there's no external monitoring or accountability," John Dunn, who runs the Ottawa-based Foster Care Council of Canada, said by phone after the rally. "We want accountability in the system."
Dunn, who said he was physically and emotionally abused while in foster care for 16 years, believes children's aid legislation provides too much power. He also questions the funding formula which gives agencies money for every child they apprehend.
"CAS definitely helps some people," Dunn said. "I do believe that children's aid is necessary and that some good work is being done. But they've gone too far with apprehensions and need external monitoring."
Dr. Dolores Sicheri, a Windsor oncologist who helped organize the Queen's Park event and bring about 20 protesters from Windsor, said she was happy with the turnout, even though it was significantly less than the 200 to 300 organizers hoped would show.
'GOT OUR SAY'
"It went very well. We got our say at the government," she said. "We tried to get across that the legislation is flawed, that it has involved innocent people in the criminal justice system."
Sicheri said protesters want a more transparent system.
"The secrecy is what drives the process," she said. "We want a Royal commission of inquiry so that these cases will be opened up and families can give their testimony."
The Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which oversees children's aid societies, is conducting a mandatory five-year review of the legislation, tabled in 2000. Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni said CAS and child welfare have been under review for about a year and the government is examining the results.
"I've heard the concerns from all sides," she said. "We've consulted with the CAS and we are now developing our plan for reform."
Bountrogianni said changes will affect everything from placements and adoption rules to the CAS funding formula. "If you look at the statistics of the number of the children that come to CAS attention, very few are apprehended," she noted. "Having said that, it is an issue and we will be dealing with that as well."
Rally for Families at Queens Park
February 16, 2005 permalink
About fifty demonstrators assembled at Queens Park for a rally aimed at protecting families from the social services system. At a press briefing before the rally, Dr Dolores A Sicheri, Rev Dorian Baxter, Erika Klein and John Dunn gave statements to the press, and reporters interviewed some of the organizers. During the rally, a dozen speakers addressed the crowd. Remarks by Rev Dorian Baxter are available in mp3 format.
The rally was well planned and organized, and the speakers presented good material. The turnout was held down by weather -- there was a fresh layer of snow on the ground, and an hour into the demonstration, new flurries began to fall. While getting fifty people to stand for over an hour in the Canadian winter is an achievement, the numbers were too small to draw the attention of the press or professional politicians. It is unlikely the event will have any effect on impending legislation.
Father Killed Defending Family
February 16, 2005 permalink
Today police shot and killed a man who used force to defend his children from social workers. The following statement by Governor Christine Gregoire of the State of Washington expresses sympathy for the injured social worker. She expresses no sympathy for the three orphans.
Office of Governor Christine Gregoire
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 16, 2005
Contact: Anna Kim-Williams, Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Gov. Christine Gregoire statement on attack of Child Protective Services worker
Gov. Christine Gregoire released a statement upon learning of an attack on a Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) social worker. The social worker was attacked and beaten this morning while assisting law enforcement in the removal of three children from a neglectful situation in their home.
The children's father was shot and killed by a Ferry County sheriff detective as the father attacked the social worker with a machete and a two-by-four piece of wood. The worker was hospitalized and treated for wounds to her head, shoulders, arms and wrists.
Gov. Gregoire's statement:
"On behalf of all state workers, I pray for a speedy recovery of the social worker who was attacked this morning. I understand she is a dedicated public servant who has worked hard to protect our state's vulnerable children.
"This incident reminds us all of the dangers that many state workers face every day as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve Washington citizens."
Source: governor of Washington
Addendum: Here is more on the story, giving the dead father's name. The story comes from The Seattle Times. Other stories by the Associated Press identify the injured social worker, now released from the hospital, as Edith Vance.
Thursday, February 17, 2005, 12:00 A.M. Pacific
Father slain after machete attack on social worker
By Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times staff reporter
A machete-wielding father was fatally shot yesterday after he attacked a veteran Child Protective Services (CPS) worker in the worst-known case of on-the-job violence at the state child-welfare agency.
The CPS worker, accompanied by a co-worker and a Ferry County sheriff's deputy, was investigating a complaint that three children were living in a home near Curlew without running water or electricity when she was attacked by the children's father, State Patrol trooper Jim Hays said.
Bryan S. Russell, 35, pummeled one of the social workers with a machete and a 2-by-4 as she lay on the ground before the sheriff's deputy shot and killed him, Hays said.
The worker, whose name was not released, suffered cuts, a broken arm and wrist and a possible skull fracture. She was admitted to Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane for a CAT scan.
"It appears it (the shooting) saved this worker's life," Hays said.
The attack chilled social workers across the state. State policy prohibits the 2,000-person child-welfare staff from carrying pepper spray or guns but encourages workers to bring along a co-worker or call police when their work puts them in potential jeopardy.
The agency does require workers to bring an officer along if they're going to take a child into state custody, and it's common in rural Washington to have an officer on hand during a CPS investigation.
The incident likely will prompt the state to reconsider worker protection, said Dee Wilson, a retired CPS administrator who now heads a family-policy think tank at the University of Washington.
"The concern has always been that a worker will get shot or killed," he said. "The potential is there, and it's there a lot."
Gov. Christine Gregoire, who represented CPS workers as an assistant attorney general, commended the injured worker for her 13 years of CPS work. "This incident reminds us all of the dangers that many state workers face every day," Gregoire said in a statement.
Russell, who lived near Curlew in rugged Northeast Washington, had a lengthy criminal record of assault and drug charges, and CPS staff had visited him at least once before, Hays said.
The three children -- between ages 1 and 5 -- were home at the time of the shooting, as was their mother, he said. The children were taken into state custody. The mother wasn't injured.
The deputy, Carroll Sharp Jr., fired "multiple" shots, said Ferry County Sheriff Pete Warner. The State Patrol is investigating, in part, because a state worker was injured.
Current and former CPS staff say the attack is the most serious in memory, although investigators say death threats are routine and less-serious assaults happen sporadically.
A survey of several hundred Montana child-welfare workers, published in 1994 in the journal Child Welfare, found that one in 10 had been hit on the job in the preceding year, and a third of the workers had faced death threats. A quarter of the surveyed workers feared their own families could face job-related violence.
Wilson, the retired CPS administrator, said his own survey of staff in southwest Washington found many suffered insomnia, anxiety and stress-related stomach pain. "Well over half had been threatened -- their lives or their family," he said.
Concerns for personal safety, he said, have followed the rise in popularity of methamphetamine, which is linked to paranoia and violence.
"The concern is you're going to walk into a meth lab alone," Wilson said.
At most of CPS's state offices, staff members work behind locked doors, and some have security guards. But Seattle's King West office on lower Queen Anne recently lost its security guards in a budget cut, worrying some staff, said John Birnel, a union shop steward and social worker.
"It gives people in child-protection, where the situations are a lot more dicey, a pause for concern," he said.
Staff researcher David Turim contributed to this report.
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Planned Demonstration for Queens Park
February 16, 2005 permalink
A new organization, called Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services, has been organized by joining most of the active parents groups in Ontario. A demonstration is planned for Queens Park in Toronto on Wednesday February 16, 2005 from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm. The organization will request a commission to inquire into the failures of the current legislation. An objective is to eliminate expansion of the powers of Social Services at the expense of families.
In making appeals to politicians, the sole measure of credibility is the number of persons. Over a hundred people are necessary, and a substantially larger number will assure some meaningful response from the political process. For this event, children will help, but be sure they have adequate protection from the weather. All constituent groups will be recruiting as many persons as possible from their own areas. In case you are not approached in person, consider yourself invited by this message.
Here is a trifold in pdf format defining the purpose of the rally and giving directions. Print it on a color printer and give it to your friends.
Dolores Sicheri and Amal El-Hage appeared on this CJAM talk show in wma format.
The press release announcing the meeting follows:
Advisory Committee for Child and Youth Services,
A"UNION" of Ontario Parent Groups
Amal El-Hage, email@example.com 519-948-4744
Dolores Sicheri, firstname.lastname@example.org 519-257-7138
PRESS RELEASE February 15, 2005
CONTACT: Dolores Sicheri or Amal El-Hage
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
This "Union" demands a "Royal Commission of Inquiry"
into the misfiring of the "Child and Family Service Act
of 1999". This misfiring has had a devastating effect
on Ontario families. This "Union" also demands public
hearings and input into the "5 -Year Review" of the
Mark Blackburn questions closed adoptions
February 6, 2005 permalink
We finally have a program by Mark Blackburn broadcast by CBC Ottawa January 27. It presents the view that permanent separation of children from their parents harms not the parents, but the children. Just after this broadcast, Marie Bountrogianni stopped stonewalling and announced a five-year review of the Child and Family Services Act. The Mark Blackburn CFSA program is a 1.6 Mb mp3 file with running time 6:52.
Virginia may begin restoration of the family
February 6, 2005 permalink
The following article by Stephen Baskerville, who writes extensively on divorce, suggests that divorce, child-protection and same-sex marriage are all manifestations of the same family decline. Turning the tables on any one of them could be the beginning of the restoration of the family. The article A Virginia Family Bill of Rights is from the Washington Times.
The Washington Times, www.washingtontimes.com
Forum: A Virginia Family Bill of Rights
Published February 6, 2005
Bold legislation is being introduced that will put the Commonwealth of Virginia on the cutting edge of the worldwide campaign to reverse the family's seemingly inexorable decline.
Many states have now passed laws or constitutional amendments preserving marriage as one man and one woman, and more are set to follow. But Virginia is poised to go further.
Riding the momentum from the November election and the huge public opposition to same-sex "marriage," Delegate Kathy Byron and other legislators have introduced a "Family Bill of Rights." This ambitious bill will check not only the homosexual challenge to marriage, but also the huge erosion of parental rights. Stronger still, state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli has offered a bill to begin countering the "no-fault" divorce epidemic.
Together, these measures would give Virginia the strongest family-protection provisions in the nation. Moreover, they would do so by protecting rather than limiting citizens' rights.
Why is this necessary? Because same-sex "marriage" is not only a threat to the marriage and the family. It may not even be the most serious. As Michael McManus of Marriage Savers points out, "Divorce is a far more grievous blow to marriage than today's challenge by gays."
Indeed, it is very likely same-sex "marriage" would not even be an issue were it not for the severe weakening of marriage that has already occurred due to divorce and out-of-wedlock births. "Commentators miss the point when they oppose homosexual marriage on the grounds that it would undermine traditional understandings of marriage," writes Bryce Christensen of Southern Utah University. "It is only because traditional understandings of marriage have already been severely undermined that homosexuals are now laying claim to it."
Virginia's initiative will for the first time address the underlying, long-term causes of marriage decline and family dissolution, of which same-sex "marriage" is only the latest symptom. While it cannot rectify cultural pressures, it does directly confront the legal mechanisms that allow government officials to forcibly destroy families, often against the wishes of family members.
Many have commented on how many voters in this election cast their ballots on the basis of "moral values." Yet it isn't clear same-sex "marriage" was all the voters had in mind.
A 1999 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 78 percent of Americans regard the high divorce rate as a serious problem, and a Time/CNN poll found 61 percent believe it should be harder for married couples with young children to divorce.
Equally important to preserving the marital bond is protecting the bond between parents and their children, increasingly threatened by government: Home-schoolers are harassed. Parents are pressured to put their children on dangerous psychotropic drugs under threat of child-abuse charges. Others face obviously trumped-up charges of child abuse and risk losing their children for exercising ordinary parental discipline, for poverty or during divorce proceedings.
With all these mechanisms available for government to sink its talons into children, hardly a family in America is safe. And parents are becoming an active political force.
The gap between parents and childless voters was one of the widest in the election and was especially marked for fathers. According to Gary Andres in The Washington Times, "Men with children favored the president on the question of agreement on cultural direction by nearly 60 percentage points (Bush 77, Kerry 18, while men without kids slightly favored John Kerry.)"
Same-sex "marriage" is not the only area of family policy where upheavals occur. Bill Cosby's celebrated remarks last summer on parenthood and the family has placed a once-taboo subject at the top of the African-American agenda.
And another election result has not received the attention it deserves: In ultra-liberal Massachusetts, a whopping 85 percent of voters defied the strident opposition of feminists and lawyers to approve resolutions giving fathers equality in custody decisions. This measure could drastically reduce Massachusetts' divorce rate and curtail the power of the divorce industry, including judges like Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margaret Marshall. In Britain and Australia, fathers are literally marching in the streets over child custody.
We stand today on the brink of an upheaval of civilizational proportions. Same-sex "marriage" does not begin to describe the possible dimensions of disaster.
On the other hand, the determination of parents could develop into a worldwide revolt against the almost totalitarian power government now assumes over families.
President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.
Mr. Baskerville is a professor of political science at Howard University.
CFSA Review Announced
January 28, 2005 permalink
A formal review of the Child and Family Services Act has been announced by Marie Bountrogianni. Here is the news release:
January 28, 2005
Ontario Government Asks For Public Input Into Child And Family Services Act
QUEEN'S PARK- The Ontario government is asking members of the public for their thoughts on the Child and Family Services Act, as part of the ministry's ongoing review of key aspects of the child welfare sector, Children and Youth Services Minister Marie Bountrogianni announced today.
Under the legislation, a review of the act must be done every five years.
"Our focus -- always -- is on protecting children and youth at risk and giving them the best chance for future success," said Bountrogianni. "This review of the legislation is an opportunity to address the urgent need to help more of Ontario's 9,000 Crown wards find permanent families."
This technical review of the act will focus on key provisions relating to permanency options for children in care, including adoption.
In addition, the newly established Child Welfare Secretariat has been consulting with the child welfare community during the past year to review key parts of the child protection system. This consultation includes a review of the Child and Family Services Act, court processes and funding, and the day-to-day work of children's aid societies.
Members of the public are invited to contribute to the review in writing by February 28, 2005, through the Ministry of Children and Youth Services website, www.children.gov.on.ca, to email@example.com or to:
Director, CFSA Review
4th Floor, Hepburn Block
80 Grosvenor Street
The review will be completed by March 31, 2005.
"Public input is a critical part of our review, and I hope interested citizens across the province, including children and youth, will take the time to share their ideas," said Bountrogianni.
Addendum. Persons affected by Children's Aid may have an impact by reporting their experiences, and suggestions for improvement, to the minister at one of the addresses above. As with many political processes, results will come from the number of submissions, not their length or quality, so do not be disuaded by the brevity of you material. Critics have produced a CFSA review poster (in pdf format) suggesting deceitfulness in delaying the announcement.
Why wouldn't they let me be with my dad?
January 27, 2005 permalink
Cassandra Jardine profiles a girl (Alice) in foster care. She thrived only because she had a father who cared for her. As soon as foster parents became attached to the child social serviced separates them with a new foster placement.
Why wouldn't they let me be with my dad?
What is life like for Britain's 59,000 foster children? Cassandra Jardine meets one girl who has lived with seven families in 11 years -- and feels damaged
Just before Christmas, I heard about a 15-year-old, whom I shall call Alice, who was desperate to talk. At the time, she was living with foster parents: "I want to tell you what it is like being in care," she said. "I'm strong, so I can speak out on behalf of all those who do not dare because they fear reprisals."
In the past 11 years, she explained, she had lived in seven different foster homes, often feeling like a cash cow and a skivvy. Worst of all had been the six months of last year that she had spent in a children's home in Kent, where she had been hungry and was subjected to violent methods of control. For a teenager who had been through so much, she sounded extraordinarily sane. "That's because I am one of the lucky ones: I have a father who loves me," she said, "though I'm not often allowed to see him."
All year, she had been looking forward to staying with him for her birthday in early December. Plans for the visit had been discussed at several meetings but, at the last minute, a new social worker had said the checks needed to be done yet again, and the visit had been called off. Alice had threatened to go on hunger strike, but her father persuaded her not to do so. Instead, he said he would write to me, as he had read articles I had written about the social services and adoption; he suggested I listen to her story.
Nick, a carpenter, wrote me a long, eloquent letter that detailed the agonies and frustrations he and his daughter had endured at the hands of a care system that seemed more concerned with covering its own back than meeting a child's individual needs. "But it would be wrong of me, much as I love her," he concluded, "to speak on Alice's behalf." I called her and we agreed to meet.
Her story is unique, but not untypical of the situations that fall to social services departments to sort out. Alice was just three weeks old when her mother walked out on her father, taking their two children. Later, she told them their father was dead. She became an alcoholic and the children were taken into respite care. Even though she went into rehab and has been sober ever since, they were not returned to her.
Social services wanted "a permanent secure solution" and a full care order was taken out. It was at that stage that Alice's mother revealed that Nick was still alive. "But it was too late to resist the momentum of the fostering machine," says Nick. His barrister did establish, at the three-day hearing, that if a placement were to break down, he would be considered as a possible carer. That has never happened.
I meet Alice at her father's home, where he lives with her half-brother, the child of his second marriage. The half-siblings have spent very little time together, yet they are happily mucking around with a pet ferret.
With her careful make-up - "she spends hours on it", her brother teases - and her tendency to shoot loving glances at the boots her father gave her for her birthday, Alice comes across as an entirely normal 15-year-old. But she says she isn't: "I am what foster care and the children's home made me.
If I can't be bothered with someone, I ignore them. And if I don't get sugar, I get depressed."
Digging into a strawberry yogurt, and sending her father out of the room, she describes her years in a system in which she never felt anyone really cared for her. Since foster carers are discouraged from becoming emotionally involved - and can have children removed from them if they show signs of being so - this is scarcely surprising.
The picture of fostering that Alice paints is a Dickensian one of being forced to work like a servant for several of her foster carers - sometimes, while being taunted by their natural children - and of being made to eat and watch television in a different room from the biological family. "If the family got a Chinese take-away, I was given chips," she says.
In her teens, she began to question some of her foster carers' motives, calling them "skimmers" and "nickers": "I know how much money they make," she says. The Fostering Network recommends allowances ranging from £108 a week for a baby outside London to £224 for a 16-year-old in London, not including any payment to the carers. Some of her foster carers, she claims, failed to pass on dress allowances and pocket money amounting to several thousand pounds.
Bizarrely, because her mother is half-Indian, light-skinned Alice was invariably placed with black families, the last ones being Jamaican fundamentalist Christians with whom she had nothing in common. For a while, though, she did have some stability. One couple, who asked her to call them "mum" and "dad", looked after her for six years. The woman dressed her in pink because it was her favourite colour, although Alice loathed it. But then they had a child of their own and suddenly she felt extraneous.
"They moved to a smaller house and said they couldn't have me any more." She was so distressed at "being dismissed like a domestic servant", as her father puts it, that she was difficult for the next foster family to manage.
Some of Alice's accusations of "unfairness" could probably be levelled by most teenagers at their natural families. She was not allowed designer label clothes; she was required to do constant housework and not given credit for it. The difference is that she felt powerless, unloved and that no one wanted to listen to her point of view. "I was sent to counsellors, but when they can't help, you feel betrayed," she explains.
Her father tried to see her, but his efforts were frustrated: social workers didn't return calls, he rarely dealt with the same member of staff for more than a few weeks and new ones didn't trust previous background checks. "The buck would be passed until it was lost," he says. "If you blamed them, they discredited the family. Because one parent had failed, the whole family was held in contempt."
"You don't deserve to live with a family," a social worker told Alice, before putting her in a children's home. "In the home, I was slapped, shoved and shouted at, and constantly hungry," says Alice. "Dinner was from five to six, even if you were out doing a recognised activity, so I often missed it. I lost loads of weight and eventually took to sleeping in the corridor to protest. Then I was picked up and flung against the wall and the ceiling. I've had blackouts ever since."
When she complained about the restraint methods, she was "treated like a freak", placed under constant supervision and bars were erected on her curtainless windows: "That made me want to escape even more," she says. On her fingers, she wears six rings, her most treasured possessions, as each one comes from a member of her family. They are her security. "They tried to take them off me at the children's home," she says, "but they are all I have."
With all this going on - and living with far more disturbed children than herself - she stopped going to school. The next step would have been a secure unit, but, fortunately, foster carers were found, though they lived far from anyone she knew.
Nick rang his daughter constantly on the mobile phone he gave her and was agonised by his daughter's distress: "Whenever I called her at the children's home, I could hear screams in the background. Social services seemed to be making no effort to get her back to school or plan for her future." He feared that she would end up one of the 60 per cent of children who leave care with no qualifications.
His attempts to meet were thwarted, but he was finally given permission to take Alice to see her mother on Christmas Day. On their way back to her foster carers, his car broke down and the rescue service said they could either take them to his home in Somerset or to the foster carers, but not both. At that point, he decided that, despite the care order, Alice was coming home with him.
At first, social services considered a forcible recovery, but Nick's lawyers fought. A social worker came to observe his calm and orderly home, his well-balanced younger son and found Alice happily painting her bedroom. Last week, a court decided that she could stay.
What angers Nick is that he had to break the law to reclaim his own daughter - and that, but for his determination to keep in touch, Alice would have lost contact with her family long ago.
"Social services had been doing everything they could to keep us apart," he says. "My daughter was being kept in captivity. Now, at last, I hope to give her the home she has always wanted." To his great sorrow, his elder son is so disturbed that he cannot look after him.
John Kemmis, chief executive of Voice for the Child in Care, is familiar with such complaints. "Our research shows it matters overwhelmingly to children to keep in contact with those who matter to them - not just parents, but grandparents, siblings, aunts." Numbers of children in care have grown to 59,000 from 44,000 in the past 10 years, as more children are fostered long-term. "But," he says, "many social services departments are in such disarray that they aren't child-centred."
Since she left care, Alice's life has improved dramatically. She not only has the family she longed for, she hopes to have a career, too. Her father is trying to get her into a local college.
Source: (London) Daily Telegraph
Caseworker Convicted for Lying
January 23, 2005 permalink
There was an important development today for child protection reform in Indiana.
In February 1999 Indiana caseworker Denise C Moore placed 15-month-old twins Anthony and Latoya with adoptive parents Latricia and L.B. Bars. Moore indicated the Barses were distant relatives of the twins, bumping them to the front of the adoption queue, and she reported that the Barses had passed a criminal background check. The Barses received a thousand dollars a month subsidy for the adoption.
In January 2002 Anthony died from abuse; Latoya was found to be battered and malnourished, and removed removed from the Bars' family. On reexamination, it turned out that the statements by Moore were false, the Bars family was unrelated to the twins and a criminal check would have shown Mr Bars convictions for theft and battering his daughter with an extension cord.
In December 2003 Latricia Bars was sentenced to 13 years in prison, and LB Bars to eight years.
Denise Moore was also charged with felony obstruction of justice for her false statements in the case. On January 22, 2005 Denise Moore was convicted by a jury.
In the pecking order of child protectors, the lowest rank is natural parents, abused by the caseworkers at every step. The next rung is the foster parents. The system needs them, and protects them more than natural parents, so spanking and accidents are often overlooked. But in scandals, child protectors sacrifice a foster parent to criminal justice. The next level up, caseworkers, have not before been charged with an offense, aside from the failing to take enough children kind. Denise Moore is a breakthrough in this regard. Still, her employer supports her by paying her legal bills and she is likely to escape without prison time.
Here is the article from the Indianapolis Star:
Ex-caseworker guilty on 1 count
Jury convicts her on lesser charge of obstruction
By Vic Ryckaert
firstname.lastname@example.org, January 23, 2005
Jurors found former Marion County child welfare caseworker Denise C. Moore guilty of obstruction of justice late Saturday, ending a weeklong trial that exposed gaping flaws in the system that cares for abused and neglected children.
The jury deliberated for 10 hours before returning its verdict, making Moore the first caseworker in Indiana to be convicted of a felony for on-the-job failures. The jury found Moore not guilty of two more serious charges of neglect.
"You cannot lie to courts, and you cannot put false information into documents and expect that to be just another day of business in the office of child welfare," Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Ellen Corcella said after the verdict. "You have got to be accurate and take care of these children."
Tears streamed from the eyes of two jurors as the judge announced the verdict shortly before 10 p.m. Moore bowed her head and wept.
The charge, which stemmed from Moore providing false information to an adoption judge, carries a maximum of three years in prison. As a first-time offender, Moore, 43, is likely to receive probation instead of prison when Superior Court Judge Robert Altice sentences her Feb. 23.
During the trial, child welfare officials described a system rife with poor supervision, inadequate training and overloaded caseworkers.
"These are children. They are owed far more by us than what they seem to have been getting," Corcella said. "The only people who can speak for them are their adult caretakers. We hope the people will take note and care for our children in the best way."
The system is a mess, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi agreed, but he added that is no excuse for Moore's conduct.
"For individuals who assume the responsibility for taking care of the most defenseless people in our society, they cannot shuffle that responsibility onto the system," Brizzi said. "If there's a problem in the system, then the problem starts with people like Denise Moore."
Prosecutors said Moore is responsible for a "a litany of failures," including failing to conduct criminal background or child welfare history checks on adoptive parents Latricia and L.B. Bars.
Moore placed twins Anthony and Latoya with the adoptive parents.
The checks would have found three substantiated cases of abuse and that L.B. Bars had been convicted in 1987 of felony battery for beating his biological daughter with an extension cord.
The Barses were convicted of neglect in 4-year-old Anthony Bars' death in 2002. They also were found responsible for dehydrating and beating Latoya, who is now called by her birth name, Knoiya. The Barses have received prison sentences.
Moore's other failures, prosecutors say, included knowingly offering false documents to a judge; failing to stop the adoption process; failing to inform the twins' foster mother, Florence Hurst, of her right to contest the adoption; and falsely identifying the Barses as being related to the twins. Relatives receive preferential treatment in adopting children who are in state care.
Defense attorney Jack Crawford called Moore a scapegoat for a system that offers almost no protection for children in its care.
"She is very pleased that the jury found her not guilty of hurting those children, and that was the most important part of the case," Crawford said.
"I think this verdict does send a message that the responsibility for the death of little Anthony Bars doesn't rest with Denise Moore. It rests with the agency, and many people share responsibility for this tragedy."
Moore declined to comment after the trial, but family members and friends had mixed reactions to the verdict.
"The Lord's will has been done," said family friend Elise Brown. "We know, they know and she knows what really went on. Hopefully, this trial will give people a chance to look at the system and revamp it. I'm just sad Denise had to be the one to take the fall."
Moore's aunt, Shirley Williams, said her niece loves children.
"I think justice was not served to my niece. Someone else is at fault for what happened to those children. She should not be their scapegoat," said Williams. "This is a political trial. One person in an organization is not responsible for a whole organization."
Crawford's $150-an-hour legal fees are being paid by the Family and Social Services Administration, which has a policy of picking up the tab when its workers are charged with a job-related crime.
Crawford derided the agency's managers, referring to them as "bobble heads" and "trained monkeys."
"If she is convicted, things will go on as usual in the Marion County Office of Family and Children," Crawford told jurors during closing arguments. "All the bobble heads will skate, and there will be other instances, and it will happen again, and they will say the same things. The person at the bottom of the hill has it all roll down on them, and that's not fair."
Crawford said the entire system is to blame for the pain endured by the twins.
"The trash can of garbage in that agency is bigger than this room," Crawford said. "They want to take that trash can and dump it on this lady."
Star reporter Tim Evans contributed to this report.
Addendum: This conviction was overturned on appeal.
CAS Induces Abortion
January 20, 2005 permalink
The Toronto Star reports in this case of miscarriage of justice that a woman had an abortion in preference to allowing Children's Aid to seize her child at birth. Previously, Dufferin VOCA has encountered this same reason for abortion, but only in cases that cannot be published. We have noticed in other cases as well the propensity to prevent the family from reexamining a child to contest the CAS doctor's findings.
Crown blasts judge in baby case
Jurist threw out murder charges against pair due to delay
Prosecutors trying to revive case at court of appeal
TRACEY TYLER, LEGAL AFFAIRS REPORTER
An Ontario Superior Court judge who threw out first-degree murder charges against a Toronto couple accused of killing their three-month-old daughter "utterly overlooked" society's interest in bringing them to trial, an appeal court has been told.
Justice Brian Trafford paid "nothing more than lip service" to well-established legal principles for determining whether a trial delay is unreasonable, Crown counsel Michal Fairburn told a three-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal.
He also misused the most powerful Charter weapon at his disposal -- the ability to stay criminal charges -- to punish the Crown for conduct he did not like, she said.
Watching from the back of the courtroom yesterday as the Crown tried to resurrect its case were Anthony Kporwodu and Angela Veno, whose daughter Athena died on March 6, 1998.
An autopsy conducted by controversial pediatric pathologist Dr. Charles Smith found she had 32 rib fractures, brain injuries, a lacerated liver and a broken toe.
In throwing out charges in June 2003, Trafford, a former high-ranking Ontario prosecutor, said the conduct of the Crown, the Ontario coroner's office and Toronto police deprived the couple of an opportunity to demonstrate their innocence for an "unconscionable" 70-month period, from the time of Athena's death to when the case was finally expected to go to trial.
Their loss in human terms was almost "palpable," he added. They not only lost their daughter. After a homicide investigation commenced, their toddler Julius was seized by the Children's Aid Society and ultimately sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Ghana.
Veno became pregnant again but ended up having an abortion after a CAS worker told her that child would likely also be seized.
The pair was left unable to resolve their grief, Trafford said.
The Crown appealed his ruling and a hearing, which is slated for three days, began yesterday.
The case is raising questions about how courts should assess whether a trial delay is unreasonable, a sensitive subject for Ontario's justice system since the notorious 1990 Askov case led to the wholesale staying of thousands of charges.
It's also focusing on the conduct of Smith, who played a critical role in the case and whose work in other criminal cases has been questioned.
In this case, Trafford said Smith's nearly two-year delay in completing an autopsy report was not only "shocking" in its own right but led to the unauthorized cremation of Athena's remains, contrary to her parents' wishes. They found out when the crematorium called and asked them to come and pick up an urn containing her ashes, Trafford noted.
He also had harsh words for Crown attorney Rita Zaied, saying she put up an "unprincipled" resistance to requests from the couple's lawyers for reports from other autopsies Smith had performed.
Just before Smith was about to take the witness stand at the couple's preliminary hearing in 2001, murder charges against two other women accused of killing their children were withdrawn in the face of concerns about his work, the court was told yesterday.
One was Louise Reynolds, of Kingston, Ont., who was charged with killing her seven-year-old daughter, Sharon, in 1997. The charge was withdrawn after a leading expert on bone marks contradicted Smith's findings and supported Reynolds' claim that her daughter was killed by a pit bull.
Although Trafford found Smith was in a position to offer a preliminary opinion on Athena's cause of death by May 1998, his final report was not delivered until the spring of 2000 when he was under threat of being called to court to explain the delay, the court was told yesterday.
The timing was not "ideal" and while the Crown did everything it could to get Smith to deliver his report it bears some blame for the delay, Fairburn conceded. But while the overall delay was "unfortunate," it was not unreasonable, she told justices Michael Moldaver, Eileen Gillese and Russell Juriansz.
Trafford said the couple had been waiting for Smith's report in order to determine whether they should arrange for a second autopsy. That, in turn, is why they wanted their daughter's body preserved.
The hearing continues.
CAS Trains Psychopath
January 20, 2005 permalink
The vital fact in this story is withheld to the very end: The psychopath in question is a man raised in the care of the Children's Aid Society. As in the infamous case of Charles Manson, depriving a boy of his parents is one way to create a psychopath.
Jan. 20, 2005. 06:41 AM
'Pure psychopath' jailed indefinitely
Jeffrey Campbell drove into 65-year-old cyclist
More dangerous psychopath than Olsen, Bernardo
BOB MITCHELL, STAFF REPORTER
Jeffrey Michael Campbell, who deliberately ran down and killed a Brampton senior with a stolen car, is going behind bars, perhaps forever.
The 26-year-old Windsor man, who scored higher on a test for psychopathy than Canadian serial killers Clifford Olsen and Paul Bernardo, was declared a dangerous offender yesterday for that brutal homicide -- and a history of violence that started when he was a toddler.
Justice Casey Hill said Campbell used Frank Groves as "target practice" when he ran down the 65-year-old cyclist from behind with a stolen car in the early hours of July 1, 2000. Groves died instantly in what Peel police described at the time as a "thrill kill" hit-and-run.
In declaring Campbell a dangerous offender, which could keep him in prison for the rest of his life, Hill said Campbell is a "highly dangerous individual at virtually certain risk to cause harm through violence."
The judge ruled that Campbell represents a "real and present danger to life and limb" and that "future violent acts can quite confidently be expected in the future."
Hill's long-awaited ruling came in a Brampton courtroom more than two years after Campbell pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Groves' death. Though Campbell was charged initially with second-degree murder, Crown prosecutor Stephen Sherriff accepted the surprise manslaughter plea on Nov. 12, 2002. Sheriff and co-prosecutor Lyndsay Jeanes then began an exhaustive bid to have him declared a dangerous offender.
The Criminal Code allows for an indeterminate sentence for dangerous offenders who have committed serious personal-injury offences and are judged likely to do so again in the future.
The application took more than 1 1/2 years to complete, a period that was hardest on Groves' widow, Arlene Groves.
"He's dangerous," Groves, 64, said yesterday, moments after the shackled and handcuffed Campbell was led away from court. "It's over for now, but it will never really be over.... But this is the outcome I hoped for. I put my faith in the Crown.
"I feel sorry for him.... But he has to pay for his crimes."
Hill gave Campbell credit of five years for pre-trial custody, which means the National Parole Board will review his case in two years, and every two years after that. But Groves said she is confident her husband's killer will never get released.
In theory, Campbell could remain behind bars until his death, which the Crown believes is necessary for the protection of society. Only a handful of Canada's more than 370 dangerous offenders have ever been released.
Campbell has had a history of using vehicles as weapons to harm his passengers or strangers. He also has a history of arson, and has faced numerous allegations of assault and death threats against women, and jail guards and their families.
Even during the dangerous offender hearing, he twice struck prisoners, including Min Chen, the accused kidnapper and killer of schoolgirl Cecilia Zhang.
He has been in custody since his arrest on April 24, 2001, in Niagara Falls.
Groves died instantly from massive head injuries when he hit the car's windshield after his bike was struck from behind at about 5 a.m. on Canada Day 2000. His bike was dragged for three-quarters of a kilometre.
"The Groves homicide is a grave instance of manslaughter," Hill told the court. "Campbell fled the scene without any attempt to provide assistance to the obviously seriously injured victim.... He showed no remorse for his crime."
The judge noted that Campbell committed the "senseless crime" within 48 days of being released from prison.
Groves and his wife had been married for 42 years. He was cycling to a local coffee shop when Campbell struck him with a car that had been stolen only a few minutes earlier so he and two teenage friends could go joyriding. The car was abandoned a kilometre away.
The agreed facts presented at Campbell's manslaughter conviction revealed that one of his passengers said Campbell "smirked" when the car struck Groves. The court also heard Campbell laughed when he saw news clips of the incident.
Campbell was described as an "incurable, untreatable, psychopath" by the Crown in the long dangerous offender hearing, which began June 19, 2003 and ended last September. Hill took more than three months to consider his decision.
Defence lawyers Daniel Brodsky and Tony Bryant asked Hill to impose a life sentence, which would have made Campbell eligible for parole in seven years and allow him to get treatment.
The court heard that Dr. Stephen Hucker, a forensic psychiatrist, concluded there was a 100 per cent probability Campbell would "violently reoffend" within seven years of being released. He also said Campbell approached "the theoretical pure psychopath" classification and that he was unaware of any available treatment.
During the hearing, Jeanes told the court that Campbell scored higher (38) on his psychopathy test than serial killers Olsen (37) and Bernardo (36) and that there was no treatment that would make Campbell safe for release.
Campbell set his first fire at age three and used a lighter to set the clothing of two playmates ablaze when he was five. He has had more than 40 convictions, 22 of them before turning 18.
An ex-girlfriend alleged in court that Campbell fed a cat to a pit bull, which he denied.
He is now one of Canada's youngest dangerous offenders.
The court previously heard that Campbell's father died in a police chase before he was one. His mother placed him with children's aid at six because she couldn't deal with his destructive behaviour.
Before delivering his verdict, Hill said, "There can be little doubt that Jeffrey Campbell wasn't dealt much of a hand in his early life."
Source: Toronto Star
Hackers attack CAS
January 19, 2005 permalink
A band of hackers has announced plans to attack CAS, though details cannot be ascertained from their statements. The website Family Rights already contains some of their material. Here is a part of a press release from the group:
PRESS RELEASE FROM H.A.C.A.S - Hackers Against Children's Aid Society
This letter is to regular citizens as well as Government employees
As of January 21st 110 hackers will begin an attack on all power stations and satellite systems we will do our best to bring the internet stock markets and government sites we will fry every piece of hardware we can!
The Foster Care system is out of control we are using Mr. Jessie Mcvicars case as proof this system is corrupt...for profit and not doing its job in its organization to the secrets... we will not stop our attack until a public announcement is made stating this barbaric brutality is over... we will disrupt every thing we can and will not be discriminate
Sun Tzu - Japan
Appeals are Futile
January 15, 2005 permalink
The Child and Family Services Act provides for appeal, but all appeals are within the Children's Aid Societies, and the responsible ministry, making them futile. For any skeptics who think they may have some value, the following letter shows the experience of a client with the patience to spend four years navigating the appeals process to the top.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Dear Dr. Ioannis K. Tsanis, Dipl. Eng., M.A.Sc., Ph.D. P.Eng.
Hello there Dr Tsanis, my name is John Dunn. I am the Executive Director of the Foster Care Council of Canada. I read the profile of your wife Dr. Marie Bountrogianni on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services web site and in doing so, I learned that you are her husband. I am emailing you, because of the fact that I have previously attempted to contact your wife via the Ministry of Children and Youth Services web site, yet it appears from the responses I have received that the messages were intercepted and answered by her staff instead by her and I don't know if she knows that this is happening.
I feel that she should be empowered to use her own voice, knowledge, and extensive experience to answer the questions I have posed to her in a manner which demonstrates her knowlege of the issues as opposed to others answering the questions in a manner which makes her look as if she does not know what we are asking of her.
If you could please forward these questions directly to her at home tonight so that I can be sure she has received and read them, it would be greatly appreciated. I will start by listing the questions I have asked in the past, then I will submit a couple of new questions. I know she is a very busy woman, and appreciate the time you and her will take in ensuring these questions are answered by her.
Open Letter To Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, Minister of Children and Youth Services,
1. I have asked you previously through submissions to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services web site when you would be initiating the mandatory five year review of the Child and Family Services Act and if you would be consulting with the public in order to obtain their input on this very important Act which affects thousands of Ontario's children and families.
2. I have also asked if you will be posting on the Ministry of Children and Youth Services web site the fact that a review of the Child and Family Services Act is or will be taking place and how the public can get involved.
3. I have also asked if you when you first came into office as the Minister of Children's Services if you will be supporting and working toward open adoptions in Ontario through Children's Aid Societies.
4. I filed a complaint to the Catholic Children's Aid Society four years ago because they would not give me copies of my own life records from when I was a crown ward. I took the complaint through all of the levels from my worker, to his supervisor, through to the Executive Director Mary McConville, then to the Board of Directors and when I was still not satisfied with the responses given (no copies allowed) I went to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services on 80 Grosvenor to discuss it with the Deputy Minister, and was referred to your Issues Co-ordinator. To this day, four years later, I have still not heard from the Issues Co-ordinator on this subject. How much longer must I wait to hear from your Issues Co-ordinator on my case?
I can be contacted by email at; [suppressed to reduce spam]
or by regular mail at;
The Foster Care Council of Canada
1218 Meadowlands Drive East
Thank you for your prompt reply.
The Foster Care Council of Canada
Dead Baby Scam
January 15, 2005 permalink
A new technique for taking babies from their mothers has recently come to our attention, the dead baby scam.
Life of CAS graduate
January 6, 2005 permalink
The article below by Carline Grech appears in the yorkregion newspaper the Era-Banner. It shows the life of a recent graduate of Children's Aid. The author holds no grudge against Children's Aid, though may be a bit naive about how kids get into foster care. It is not an uplifting story. Foster care often does not produce successful outcomes. A former crown-ward in Orangeville at age 24 was attending night school, to learn how to read.
Transient talks of drug use, anger
Homelessness is like 'walking through darkness'
Jan 6, 2005, Caroline Grech, Staff Writer
The following is an in-depth interview with a Newmarket native who is homeless, in an effort to paint a picture and put a face on who is using local shelters, how they got there and where they are going.
Twenty-two-year-old Chris Robb fidgets with a necklace a former boss gave him, clearly unable to focus for very long on anything.
Etched on it is a message reading, "Leave no man behind."
He rubs the necklace between his fingers gently, seeking comfort in it.
There is a coldness and emptiness in his blue eyes that betrays an otherwise typical man in his 20s.
With blond hair and his face seemingly devoid of emotion, dressed in jeans and a winter jacket, people sitting in a coffee shop wouldn't be able to tell Mr. Robb has no permanent home to go to at night.
Life has not been kind to Mr. Robb.
He is homeless and has been in and out of shelters and group homes since his mother first sent him to one in Cookstown at 13.
"Being homeless, you walk through darkness and then you're starving for life. It's walking in darkness and always being hungry," Mr. Robb said during an interview at a coffee shop.
He didn't know his father and when his mother couldn't handle him anymore, he had nowhere to go.
After thinking for a moment, the Newmarket native singled out numerous visits to his mother's home by the Children's Aid Society as one reason for being sent to a group home.
Fighting with his sister was one of the reasons he ended up at a group home, he said.
While Mr. Robb admitted to being verbally abusive, taking drugs and not being the easiest person with whom to get along, his first experience at a group home wasn't all negative. He was even let out a day early for good behaviour, he said.
Although his first experience wasn't all bad, it was not a permanent turning point in Mr. Robb's life.
After his time at the group home, he went back to live at his mother's house but that was short-lived because he was still doing drugs and his mother didn't want him there.
Getting kicked out a second time landed him in another group home in Aurora.
He stayed there just under a year, before he got kicked out.
"I was swearing at staff and breaking stuff. I was an angry child," adding his childhood was extremely unpleasant, a fact with which he has only come to grips as recently as two months ago.
Becoming a Crown ward with the society gave him the ability to move out on his own and rent a room.
The society provided him with $663 a month so long as he went to school full time. At the same time, he worked part time at White Rose as a general labourer.
A slip back into smoking pot and drinking again, he found himself in bigger trouble when he was searching for a better high and turned to cocaine.
"It's always curiosity: you just want to try it. You're always looking for a better high. I put myself there again," Mr. Robb said.
Getting involved in drugs again started to lead to reckless behaviour where he took his landlord's vehicle to buy a lighter but crashed the car, causing thousands of dollars damage.
Despite empathy on the part of his landlord, the organization didn't want him to stay on.
That incident landed him at his best friend's house for about a year where he stayed until, once again, he found himself without a place to live.
The final straw for his best friend's mother was when he got caught doing drugs in the kitchen in front of his buddy's 13-year-old sister.
"I was smoking hot knives in the kitchen. I was just doing drugs everywhere and didn't care who saw me," Mr. Robb said.
He pauses telling his story as someone comes to clear away his coffee mug.
"Thank you," he said quietly, again starting to tell his story.
For the past two years, Mr. Robb has been in and out of shelters.
He has taken odd jobs here and there, but has never been able to hang on to them; his last one being a construction job he left in October.
Clare Leyenaar, Mr. Robb's former employer, who gave him the necklace he still carries, said working with him could be difficult.
"It was a challenge to work with him. He's a really nice guy, he's just got a lot of demons from his past," Mr. Leyenaar said.
Right now he isn't working and is living on $26 a week, which he admits he spends mostly on cigarettes.
"It's simple I just have to decide what I want to do and then go out and get a job," Mr. Robb said.
"I have had opportunities and I've messed them up. I just have to start caring about life again."
Despite his predicament, Mr. Robb is not one to expect sympathy from others.
"How can somebody who can make a choice complain?" he admitted matter-of-factly.
Although he is not happy living in shelters, he explained he doesn't know where he would end up without them.
Despite being in a bad place at the moment, Mr. Robb does foresee a day when he won't be in and out of shelters.
"I see myself in the future as someone who will look back and get over my stuff," he said.
The rough times haven't made Mr. Robb want to embrace life.
"I am resentful to life, period. I don't like life, I have a hard time being around people," Mr. Robb explained.
To help him get back his appreciation for life, Mr. Robb has turned to the church, sometimes going four Sundays in a row.
The church has helped him in some ways, allowing him to forgive his mother despite his difficulties growing up.
For now, there doesn't seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel for Mr. Robb, who said if things don't turn around for him when his time is up at the Gorham Street shelter, he will likely end up at another one.
As for his outlook on his situation, there is a bitterness and sadness there.
"I had something great (life) that was taken away from me," he said.
Since his interview with The Era-Banner and despite a call to him Monday, Mr. Robb has since disappeared and, according to staff, no longer lives at the Gorham Street shelter.
Staff will not comment on if he was asked to leave or if he left on his own accord.
While refusing to comment on Mr. Robb specifically, a resident will be asked to leave a shelter only in extreme situations, according to executive direct of Transitional and Supportive Housing of York Region, Monica Auerbach.
Behaviour would have to be seen as causing a risk to others through violence or threats or having a blatant disregard for rules when previous warnings have already been given.
"We give people a lot of benefits of doubt," Ms Auerbach says.
As for residents suddenly leaving the shelter, Ms Auerbach explains it is fairly common, noting shelters are only temporary emergency residence.
Legal process may be eliminated
January 2, 2005 permalink
The Child and Family Services Act is due for a review by March 31, 2005. There are ominous proposals for amendment within the social services system. To purportedly speed adoption, and actually to cut litigation costs, the legal process for parents may be eliminated, moving a child into irreversible foster care at the moment a CAS worker decides to remove him. All families will be in the same legal position as single mothers today, unable to protect themselves from CAS caseworkers.