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School Abuse

August 31, 2011 permalink

Vern Beck reports on an abuse not previously on fixcas. CAS places children in a new school soon after apprehension, then claims in court that moving the child back to his old school would be too disruptive.



Vernon Beck In order to get control of a child and to make things more difficult for parents, child welfare protection workers will take a child who is in their temporary care and them enroll them into another school as soon as possible, sometimes before they even have a court Order for wardship. Child protection workers like to relocate children because once the child is registered into another school, then it becomes more difficult to move the child back to his/her old school as the workers will claim in court that the child has adjusted to his/her new school and is doing good now. Moving a child to a new school where the school staff do not know the parents makes it easier for child protection workers to lie to school officials about the parents and to lead school officials to believe that the parents are bad parents.

Once a child has been moved to a new school, then this makes it more difficult for parents to get their children returned to their old school, especially during the middle of the school year. CAS workers will make it look like the child likes the new school and wants to stay in Foster care and to go to this new school at least until the end of the school year. Placing a child in a new school is also often combined with moving the child further away, often in a different community, in order to isolate the child from his/her biological family and siblings. Prior to moving a child into a new school it is not uncommon for child protection workers to lie to parents and to tell parents that they are going to keep the child in the same community but then at the last minute and without warning, relocate the child to another community and into a different school. CAS workers can be very sneaky.

Source: Facebook

student chained to school

Under-Funded, Under-Protected

August 31, 2011 permalink

According to today's article, CAS was under-funded in the past, needs better funding in the future and its directors need protection from liability. In addition, CAS wants to extend its authority over children from age 16 to age 18.

Seven major-party candidates in October's provincial election attended an event put on by Durham CAS and its executive director Wanda Secord. It's called an open house, but CAS took the precaution of not announcing the event to the public, thereby avoiding the real voice of the people being heard with a rally outside. One foster girl, Wendy Hayes, spoke of improvements in her life as the result of CAS taking her from her mother. When it suits their purposes, CAS shamelessly defies the Child and Family Services Act by publishing the name of a foster child.

The reporter presents only the CAS side. She did not get the views of the politicians or clients, aside from the one selected by CAS. There was no mention of how CAS overspending got them $3.3 million in debt, or what grievances place the directors in legal jeopardy.



CAS appeals to local candidates

Mike Shields and Maret Sadem-Thompson
Several local provincial candidates recently attended an open house for Durham CAS. Seen here is Oshawa NDP candidate Mike Shields and Oshawa-Whitby NDP candidate Maret Sadem-Thompson.

For Durham Children’s Aid Society (CAS) the well being of children comes first.

This was the message the society wanted to put forth during a recent open house for local provincial candidates in an attempt to lobby for more support.

With the provincial election just a couple months away on Oct. 6, Durham CAS board members, employees and the like wanted to highlight what the society was about and just how political support could help the society reach its fullest potential.

Local candidates NDP Mike Shields, incumbent Conservative Jerry Ouellette, Oshawa-Whitby NDP candidate Maret Sadem-Thompson, Durham NDP candidate James Terry, Durham Liberal Candidate Betty Somerville, Liberal Candidate for Pickering Scarborough East Tracy MacCharles and a representative from Oshawa-Whitby incumbent Christine Elliott’s office were all on hand to listen to what several presenters had to say as well as take a tour of the facility, located just off of Airport Boulevard in Oshawa.

Those involved with Durham CAS are hoping the organization will be on the minds of politicians when they begin to campaign, says Executive Director Wanda Secord.

“The well-being of our children is a community responsibility. Child welfare should not be seen as a marginalized service,” she says. “We all work together to provide a healthy community.”

Secord outlined several areas where the society could be improved both on the local level and provincially.

In Durham, the society is still carting a $3.3 million historical deficit, which they have tried to combat by cutting staff and by putting an increased focus on prevention and family-based care for children requiring in-care services.

“We will be able to maintain our current level of service, but we still face challenges in managing the effect of carrying this historical deficit, which has resulted from the underfunding of past services,” a handout given to candidates and those in attendance reads, adding funding will be necessary to succeed. “Historical deficits of all Children’s Aid Societies must be funded.”

The second item that was mentioned was to develop a new funding framework that is “fair, is applied equitably across the province, and is responsive to the size and needs of the local population.”

Lastly, the Durham CAS is concerned with the amount of liability board members assume as a result of the current funding formula.

“Board liability needs to be addressed. Continued disregard for the issue may lead to instability for CASs across the province,” the handout continues. “Without statutory protection from liability, directors of CASs can be exposed to unnecessary personal liability in the event of a lawsuit.”

It was recommended that the Child and Family Services Act be amended to include protection for members of the board and directors.

On the provincial level, the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies would like to see permanent families for children with the help of subsidies and access to services, raising the age of protection for children from 16 to 18 so CASs have the ability to intervene when older children are abused or neglected, improving the child welfare of aboriginal children, and providing more youth support.

“We look to our community leaders to champion the needs of the most vulnerable,” Secord says, adding she hopes the candidate will see just how important CASs are to society.

One way the society hoped to get the point across was through the story of Wendy Hayes. She spoke during the open house to the candidates about how Durham CAS changed her life.

Hayes was taken away from her home when she was a young teen as her mother was addicted to drugs at the time and Durham CAS was called in, eventually taking her and her much younger sister away.

While Hayes says the trauma of being uprooted from her family was something she won’t forget, the success she’s had because of what CAS provided allowed her to live with her sister in a great family setting, mend the relationship with her mother, who is now clean, and succeed at college as well.

“I am just one story…but I always try to look at the bigger picture,” she says.

“I have learned what a real family is. I’ve really learned where I want to go with my life.”

Source: Oshawa Express

St Thomas CAS Office Closed

August 30, 2011 permalink

Pat Niagara reports that the CAS office in St Thomas Ontario closed when today's rally group showed up.



Pat Niagara

On Aug 30th 2011 Advocates from all over Ontario again took Aim at the C.A.S. this time in St. Thomas, ON wanting oversight within the Children's Aid Society.

Advocates from Canada Court Watch, Voices of Innocent Families in Ontario, Unregistered CAS/FACS workers unlawfully working in Ontario, Haldimand Norfolk Citizen's Committee for Public Accountability and Grass Hopper Media all teamed up outside City Hall on Talbot St a crossed from one of the St. Thomas Children's Aid Society Sub Office to bring awareness to the people of St. Thomas about the "MUSH SECTOR" and "The Unlawful

Practice of Social Work by C.A.S. We also collected a large amount of signatures on 3 separate petitions.

We seem to have upset the C.A.S. office with our presence to the point the C.A.S. closed it's doors for the day sending people that had appointments away. C.A.S. also made a number of calls to local police complaining about our presence. All in All it was a good Rally with a great turnout.


Source: Facebook

Here is a press report:




Talbot Street Rally, St Thomas Ontario

They're asking for more accountability. Tuesday in St. Thomas a large demonstration was held outside of City Hall part of a traveling protest requesting independent investigations for organizations that include the Children's Aid Society. Lillian Christine Sorko representing Voices of Innocent Families of Ontario says she doesn't minimize CAS's responsibility to protect children from harmful situations.

audio Lillian Christine Sorko (mp3)

Executive Director of Family & Children Services in St. Thomas Rod Potgieper says he feel they are very accountable with a number of mechanisms in place to keep their employees in check.

audio Thomas Rod Potgieper (mp3)

Sorko says it's not just about the CAS, they're calling on more accountability from all public agencies which include: school boards, hospitals, long-term care facilities and retirement homes. The group will be traveling to Stratford next week and Brantford the following week.

Source: St Thomas Today

Addendum: Here are five pictures: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] and a video on YouTube or local copy (flv).

Many children's aid societies including St Thomas, as shown on the video, respond to rallies not by making policy changes respecting families, but by calling on the police. While there has never been a breach of the peace or property crime at one of these rallies, there has been one arrest.

A separate video shows an interview of a young man recently aged out of CAS care. It is valuable both for the opinions he gives about CAS, and to watch the kind of person who ultimately graduates from foster care. He did not have his own microphone, reducing the apparent volume of his voice, good for listeners offended by off-color speech. YouTube and local copy (flv).

Source: Facebook


March Against CAS

August 27, 2011 permalink

Six Nations will walk in opposition to children's aid on Monday.



Six Nations wants CAS off the reserve

Another in a series of walks protesting the presence of the Children's Aid Society on Six Nations will take place on Monday.

Betty Thomas, one of the walk's organizers, said the last protest drew 60-70 people and she expects this one will attract even more.

"Each one gets bigger. I now have 960 names on a petition asking for the CAS to leave the reserve."

Thomas and her group object to both the CAS -pushing for a Six Nations agency -and the current workers, who she accuses of unfair treatment toward families.

"They won't give kids to extended family members no matter what you do."

But Andy Koster, executive director of the Brant CAS, repeated his message that the CAS is ready and willing to leave the area as soon as Six Nations has an appropriate system in place to protect children.

Last month, the elected council announced it's working on a proposal to create a Six Nations Child Welfare system.

The band has taken several runs at this issue previously but hasn't followed through.

"We've been very transparent with the community about our client numbers and efforts to keep Six Nations children in the Six Nations community," said Koster.

"The reality is, I think we're doing a really good job."

Koster said there are about 65 Six Nations children in care and half of those reside on the reserve. A lack of appropriate foster homes hampers others from living there.

"There's always been a bit of animosity to people who do child welfare work but the reality is, sometimes kids have to be taken from their homes for safety concerns."

The majority of the workers on the reserve are natives who are well-educated or pursuing higher degrees, he noted.

Source: Brantford Expositor

Bayne Family Reunited

August 27, 2011 permalink

After three years forced separation the Bayne family is once again whole. Baby Josiah was returned on August 2 and the other three children came home on August 25. There was no formal announcement, the facts are in an invitation published by Ron Unruh. There will be likely no further news on this case since the Baynes understandably will prefer privacy for their family.



We want to extend an invitation to all those who have been praying and supporting us for the return of our children, Kent, Baden, Bethany and Josiah to a celebration party scheduled for Saturday Aug 27 starting at 1:00. Josiah was returned on Aug 2 and our older children are to return on Aug 25. Bible Fellowship Church has opened its doors to us as a host for this special time. We do ask that everyone who can will please bring a food or beverage item. Thanks to all of you for your support and your prayers and we hope that you will join us for this joyous time.

Source: Ron Unruh blog

Addendum: The family is all smiles in these pictures from the reunification party: [1] [2] [3].

Bayne family

Latest Baby Prices

August 27, 2011 permalink

Here is a list of babies to be adopted at birth. Sorted by price fees, they are:

caucasian $44,500
caucasian $40,500
biracial $37,000
caucasian $36,000
caucasian $36,000
biracial $35,000
biracial $34,000
African-American $24,000
African-American $24,000



As a mother of two beautiful children through the miracle of adoption, I am thrilled to be working as an adoption consultant for Christian Adoption Consultants. It is such an honor to help families on their adoption journeys find the baby meant for them!

Updated Situations

Hello all! :) The following is a list of a few new situations available for CAC clients through the licensed adoption agencies we work with. Agency fees are listed and are different depending on which agency the situation is with. Medical and legal expenses are the best estimates the agencies currently have. Email me anytime for more info about these situations or about the services Christian Adoption Consultants provides.

  • Biracial (CC/HISP) baby due September 15th in CA. $30.5k + $4.5k legals
  • Caucasian baby due September 23rd in FL. $30.5k + $10k legals
  • Biracial (CC/AA) girl due October 12th in UT. $25k + $8-10k medical
  • African American boy due October 22nd in UT. $17k + $6-8k medical (Mom smokes cigarettes)
  • Biracial boy due late October in AZ. $30k + $7k legals
  • Caucasian baby due late October in MD. $28k + $8k legals
  • Caucasian baby due in November in FL. $29k + $7k living expenses + $8.5k legals
  • African American baby due November 18th in UT. $17k + $6-8k medical (Mom smokes cigarettes)
  • Caucasian baby due in February in VA. $29k + $7k legals (Mom would like an open adoption with a few visits per year)

Source: Adoption - A Path of the Heart

Hypocrisy in Alberta

August 26, 2011 permalink

Alberta has released a report on the death of fourteen-month-old Elizabeth Velasquez last year. The report determined non-accidental asphyxia as the cause, and there will soon be criminal charges. News channels are filled with the name and pictures of the dead girl. Anyone with normal human empathy feels sorry about the preventable death of this girl. Child and Youth Services Minister Yvonne Fritz held a tearful news conference which you can watch on YouTube or a local copy (flv). Alberta Child and Family Services will be speeding up child removal in future cases.

Meanwhile, the death of Delonna Victoria Sullivan is being buried. No consumers of Alberta news are permitted to know her name or see her picture. Only the efforts of her mother and grandmother have made her tragedy known on the internet. She was dead just six days after being seized in good health from her mother. The speed of this death, and reports from visitation while the girl was still alive, point to homicide by negligence.

Alberta is using the Valasquez case, and ignoring the Sullivan case, to start a foster care panic. Since the death rate in foster care is ten times that in the care of mother and father, this will only increase the number of deaths. But Albertans will not learn of them, except in the form of initials or a numeric footnote to a bureaucratic report. In the list of known Alberta foster deaths over the past eight years, many have been reduced to initials, recent ones have only a fixcas alias. Without names and pictures, there can be no empathy for these children, and no public outcry to stop the slaughter.

  • A H, Stony Plain, seventeen years old, March 12 2003, suicide/hanging
  • A J (girl) P, Edmonton, fifteen years old, ca November 18 2003, drugs
  • D (boy) T, Drayton Valley, sixteen years old, January 13 2004, acute multiple drug toxicity
  • Kyle Young, Edmonton, sixteen years old, January 22 2004, fall in elevator shaft
  • M L (boy) A M, Standoff, six years old, November 13 2004, car crash
  • K C, Tsuu T’ina First Nation, sixteen years old, June 13 2005, suicide/hanging
  • Lloyd Stamp, Edmonton, November 18 1987 - September 29 2005, suicide/hit by truck
  • Caleb Jerome Merchant, Edmonton Alberta, thirteen months old, November 26 2005, battered
  • T U, Red Deer, sixteen years old, December 3 2005, hypothermia
  • D K L (girl) B, Gleichen, May 14 1990 - January 2 2006, suicide/hanging
  • Anthony Marino Gladue, Edmonton Alberta, seventeen years old, April 26 2006, hit by train
  • Samantha Lauren Martin, June 4 1993 - December 3 2006
  • C (girl) F, Alberta, child, March 11 2006, hanging
  • K P, child, January 1 2007, closed head injury
  • Alberta Kafka, three years old, January 27 2007, battered
  • A (girl) M, child, February 26 2007
  • M (girl) S, child, August 10 2007, infection
  • D W (boy) L, Calgary, eighteen months old, October 24 2007, strangled by blinds cord
  • K G, Peace River (area), child, November 18 2007, flipped ATV
  • A O, Edmonton (area), child, February 17 2008, gastroenteritis
  • J L, Stony Plain, March 10 2008 - April 16 2008, abandoned
  • J (girl) C aka Edmonton Toddler, Edmonton Alberta, three years old, January 13 2009, battered
  • Girl Hobbema, Hobbema, thirteen months old, March 28 2009, pneumonia
  • Edmonton Brawler, Edmonton, seventeen years old, April 24 2009, brawl
  • J B, child, September 27 2009, carbon monoxide
  • J B (second child), September 27 2009, carbon monoxide
  • Edmonton Niece, Edmonton, four years old, January 13 2010, cranial trauma
  • Calgary toddler (boy), Calgary, one year old, February 28 2010
  • Morinville girl, Morinville, twenty one months old, March 3 2010, shaken baby
  • Paul Wabamun (alias), Paul First Nation, fourteen years old, April 30 2010
  • Medicine Girl, Medicine Hat Alberta, eighteen months old, July 21 2010, head injuries
  • SunGirl, Sunchild First Nation Alberta, fifteen years old, March 4 2011, rape/murder
  • Delonna Victoria Sullivan, Warburg Alberta, November 23 2010 - April 11 2011

There is a press report on the speed-up in child removals below, including a heart-warming photo of the late Elizabeth Velasquez. Let's end with a question for Yvonne Fritz. Minister, where are your tears when your own actions lead to the death of a child?



Suspected child abuse cases fast-tracked

Elizabeth Velasquez
Elizabeth Velasquez was fatally abused, say police.

Children who are suspected to be victims of child abuse and needing urgent follow-up no longer have to wait very long to get it, says a medical official.

Dr. Francois Belanger, a veteran paediatric emergency doctor, said a study done between June and September 2010 identified an issue with waits for urgent referrals to the child abuse clinic, which is located across from the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Shortly after, efforts were made to shorten the wait, seeing it go from anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks to being made on same-day basis, he said Friday.

A report into the high-profile death of toddler Elizabeth Velasquez released by Child and Family Services this week looked into how child-welfare workers handled the case of the child and why concerns from police and her grandparents weren’t heeded.

The report found the 14-month-old waited more than a week to be referred to a specialist in the child abuse clinic — weeks before her May 2010 death which has since been deemed a homicide.

Belanger stressed the project to reduce wait times was not related to that case.

It does mean urgent cases where children who health-care workers suspect to be abused will be seen the same day.

Belanger who has worked with children in emergency since 1991, said it is not uncommon to see young children with fractures — and it’s ultimately not from abuse.

“It’s more than just the injury,” he said.

“The first step is to medically treat the child,” he said.

A referral to the child abuse clinic allows for “a further work up to make a diagnosis of child abuse,” he said.

There experts look at the bigger picture, beyond the injury, and at the child’s history and family history and other factors.

There they can do investigations which include skeletal surveys, including bone scans or, for instance, a CT scan if they suspect a head injury.

On average about 350 children carrying suspicions of child abuse are referred to the health-care system each year.

“Most are through the family physician through emergency, but could be school teacher or a neighbour,” Belanger said.

If child abuse is determined, police are called in to start investigations and child-welfare workers to look at child-care circumstances.

“Many lead to investigations,” he said.

“We can move extremely fast.”

He said reducing the wait times often optimizes the outcome, especially given immediate concerns which can include the child getting re-injured or risks for other children in the home.

“With any patient, there is peace of mind when they are seen in a timely manner from a care perspective,” he said

Source: Calgary Sun

Culture of Theft

August 26, 2011 permalink

When prospective foster parents applied in Houston, CPS staffer Andrea Daniels stole their identity so her accomplice could get money with their names. At least she didn't steal their children.



Former CPS worker sentenced in ID theft case

Andrea Daniels and Phillip Moore

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A former employee with Children's Protective Services has been sentenced to prison for her part in an identity theft scheme.

Andrea Daniels, 45, was convicted of the charges of fraudulent use and possession of identifiable information. Prosecutors say from November 2009 through April 2010, Daniels stole private information from the applications of dozens of foster and adoptive family applications, then sold the information from at least 70 applicants to an accomplice.

That male accomplice, Phillip Moore, then used the information to get fake drivers' licenses and open credit card accounts.

Daniels was sentenced Friday afternoon to 30 years in prison.

Source: KTRK-TV/DT Houston

Thunder Bay Rally

August 24, 2011 permalink

Thunder Bay CAS logo

There was a rally today in Thunder Bay not previously mentioned on fixcas:

Karen Plumridge Thunder Bay Rally For Transparency and Accountability went well :) Better than expected for the first rally I ever organized :) Thanks to Yvonne my fellow hoster, and all the awesome people that I met today. I was particularly impressed by three young girls who have come from Winnipeg, wanting to bring attention to Delico in Winnipeg for ripping their family apart through many underhanded actions. You did us proud girls :)

There was media coverage there (I called the radio stations, as did another person I spoke to- she called MPP's and MP's and the media too) YET I see nothing of it on the online newsmedia sites. I even gave a quote, and I saw those young girls being interviewed, and also sent two radio guys to interview Yvonne at the coffee shop. So where IS it, hmmmm

Source: Facebook

Addendum: A short media report.



Rally infront of Mauro's office

Office of MPP Bill Mauro, Photo by Mary Rose Jensen
click for bigger image

Thunder Bay Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro's office was the site of a protest Wednesday. A group of citizens are disenfranchised with the Children's Aid Society in Thunder Bay. They want the Province to give the Ombudsman oversight of CAS.

Source: CKTG The Giant News

Forever Abuse

August 24, 2011 permalink

After Russian twins found their forever home with Alaskan Jessica Beagley, she tormented one of them with hot sauce and cold showers. Watch her in action in video from the Dr Phil show (mp4). She has just been convicted of child abuse.



The 'Dr. Phil' Show Contributed to Child Abuse

The Dr. Phil show urged a mom into extreme punishment to get on the show.

Jessica Beagley had been dealing with an adopted son who had emotional and psychological problems. In her attempts to get help for him and her family, she wrote to the Dr. Phil show.

Dr Phil

The producers were in contact with her and required video of her interacting with her son. But just yelling wasn't enough for them, they needed to see her punish him. At their urging, she had her daughter tape a segment where she was putting hot sauce into her child's mouth. But that wasn't all. Then she put her son into a cold shower, his screams enough to drive any mother to tears. All this for acting up in school and then lying about it. Because of that video, she was on the episode "Mommy Confessions" late last year. After the show aired, Alaskan authorities was understandably flooded with calls.

Beagley was sentenced yesterday for misdemeanor child abuse. She faces jail time, probation, and a $10,000 fine. While it's true that Beagley's abusive behavior might not have come out if not for the Dr. Phil show, they are also partly to blame for the horrendous actions of the mom. If not for their urging to see some "angry" punishment, the child might not have suffered as much as he did. The reality is, they urged the mom to do it and therefore contributed to it.

People reach out to Dr. Phil for many reasons. Some can't afford help, others don't know how to get help. The show has gone from respected to just another show looking for shock value.

This comes at a bad time for the show, who has been recently criticized for booking Casey Anthony's parents, George and Cindy Anthony, on the show. This begs the question, what won't the Dr. Phil show do for ratings? Will losing credibility hurt the show's viewership? Not only is it possible but it's likely.


Emergency Wait

August 24, 2011 permalink

Cherie Miller writes of the powerlessness of foster parents to really deal with the problems of their wards. When a foster girl had an accident Cherie had to pause while getting permission from a social worker to take the girl to the hospital emergency room. At the hospital, there were further delays as doctors requested permission from guardians before administering treatment. If a child has an asthma attack, will he die while caretakers are busy getting clearance to save him?



Cherie Miller On What a Terrible Parent a State Makes

I went into foster parenting with a touch of optimism, a dash of parenting skills and a whole heap of naiveté, none of which prepared me for the role of foster parent. One of my first lessons was the tenuous role I actually was allowed to play in two little girl’s lives.

I welcomed Jayden* and Alicia* into my suburban Wheaton, Ill., home on a sunny morning in August. The bedroom was prepared with bunk beds and a chest of drawers ready to fill with little girl clothes and toys.

We had a great set-up for adding children to our family of three sons. We had a large, comfortable home and lived less than two blocks from the elementary school where my sons attended. Our first few days together flew by as we visited the school and registered the girls for first grade and kindergarten. Jayden had just turned six and Alicia was five. That’s the first time I realized that the “real” parent was really the state of Illinois. All paperwork for the girls was routed through the court-appointed guardian in Cook County (Chicago). Because I was a foster parent, I soon discovered I was unable to sign, approve, or make decisions for the girls beyond what they would wear, eat for breakfast, or when they’d head to bed. Even a simple field trip form to have the girls walk with their class from school to a nearby park had to be faxed to some child welfare office in downtown Chicago and resent back to the school – a lengthy procedure.

But the worst night dealing with the state as these girls’ “replacement” parent was when my kids, filled with excitement and excess energy, went running through the house one Saturday night. I’d warned them thousands of times not to do this, but Jayden tripped and her forehead connected with the corner of the wall opening a nasty gash on her forehead. As I comforted a screaming six-year-old with one arm, I hugged her frightened sister with the other and dialed the local case manager for permission to head to the emergency room for stitches. She approved and we left for the hospital. After our arrival, we waited for hours as the hospital official faxed permission to Springfield, the state capitol, to have a state guardian give permission to treat Jayden.

When my husband and I agreed to fold Jayden and Alicia into our home, their case manager, definitely wearing rose colored glasses, called them two “normal” girls. I guess her version of “normal” and mine were worlds apart because I quickly discovered that: a) Jayden had cerebral palsy, and b) both girls exhibited signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. Also, they’d been in the foster care system since age 2 and 1, respectively. Their parents were serving in separate prisons for some type of drug crime.

These girls had experiences similar to a lot of foster children:

They’d been moved to several foster homes and temporary placement settings since the night their parents were taken to jail.

They were part of a sibling set of six children, yet they rarely saw their brothers and sister.

One or both of my girls had been sexually abused in a previous foster home by another, older foster child.

I don’t have any solutions to the problems experienced by our young people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves living with the state of California, Georgia, New York, or some other as their new “parent.” I do know that may state child welfare systems are suffering from budget cuts, are understaffed and have to deal with a lot of new problems such as the meth epidemic and the AIDs crisis.

But, speaking as a mother, I find it categorically unfair to these foster children to “raise” them within a system beset by such problems, then “emancipate” them when they turn 18 with little more than a black garbage bag for their clothing and a high school diploma clutched in their sweaty palms.

If they are that lucky.

* Not real names.

Source: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Youth Worker Arrested

August 24, 2011 permalink

Hamilton child and youth worker Kristopher Anderson has been arrested for sexual offenses against children. There is too little information in the brief article for comment.



Child and youth worker charged with sexual touching

A Hamilton man who worked as a child and youth worker since 2008 has been charged with invitation to sexual touching.

The victim is a resident at one of the children agency’s group homes where Kristopher Anderson, 36, was employed when the incidents took place. Kristopher invited the victim, who was under the age of 16, to engage in sexual activity on several occasions. The incidents occurred between July 17, 2011 and July 28, 2011.

Hamilton police received the information from the Children’s Aid Society.

Anderson was arrested on Aug. 15. He was released on a promise to appear in court on September 26, 2011.

Police are asking any other victims or anyone with information to contact Detective Brandi Lowry at 905-546-3855 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Source: Hamilton Spectator

A rally outside the courthouse at the time of Mr Anderson's hearing has been scheduled for September 26, 9 am to noon.

Addendum: In a piece of second-hand news from Pat Niagara, Mr Anderson did not show up at the courthouse, but sent his lawyer.

Election Video

August 24, 2011 permalink

Neil Haskett has posted a video suggesting, and asking, what your votes in October's provincial election will mean for Ontario's children. Watch on Facebook or our local copy (mp4).

Stingy and Stingier

August 23, 2011 permalink

The Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto is awarding scholarships to over 100 of its wards. $200,000 spread over 100 students for four years will give them $1.37 per day, substantially lower than last year's $6.85 per day from Durham CAS.



Scholarships for Youth Bring Hope

TORONTO, Aug. 22, 2011 /CNW/ - On Wednesday, August 24, 2011, more than 100 current and former youth in the care of the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto (CCAS) will receive scholarships valued at close to $200,000 from Hope for Children.

"With the rising cost of post-secondary education and the difficulties youth currently face in finding summer employment, these scholarships provide much-needed financial support. Being able to pursue a post-secondary education is critical in helping youth break away from poverty and unemployment," says Fernando Saldanha, Manager, Fund Development and Operations.

Under provincial legislation, youth must leave their foster or group home at the age of 18, and are forced to deal with the financial burden of independent living such as rent, utility costs, laundry, and groceries, in addition to tuition and text books. Children's Aid Societies are advocating for the province to allow youth to stay in care until the age of 21 to ease the transition for youth.

Former CCAS youth in care, Neola, is studying towards her business degree in Montreal. For her, being able to access scholarships after leaving care has provided enormous financial relief. "Being 18 and on my own, it's a lot more difficult to find the money to go to school. This scholarship gives me an alternative to student loans and will leave me in a better place financially when I graduate," she says. Neola, who moved to independence at age 17, has already started her own talent company and knows that her education will help her develop her business. "I have friends who work too and they want to spend money, but they have parents, they don't pay rent, they don't worry about bills. When you don't have parents to help, you always feel like the money goes so quickly."

Since 1986, Hope for Children has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships and special achievement grants supporting students in their educational pursuits.

Hope for Children supports independent living and youth mentoring programs for adolescents, post-secondary scholarships, emergency grants to assist during times of financial crisis, and enhancement grants to nurture development opportunities.

Hope for Children's Annual Scholarship Event will be held on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. at the Great Hall, Hart House, University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto.

For further information:
or to arrange an interview with a youth in advance or on the day of the event, please contact:

Anne Rappé
Manager, Communications
Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto
Tel. 416-395-1506
Krista Lamb
Communications Specialist
Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto
Tel. 416-395-1639

Source: CNW


Mother Tasered

August 23, 2011 permalink

When Pennsylvania mother Vanessa Lee Andino refused to cooperate with baby-snatchers, she was subdued with a taser.



Police: Mother tased after she punches officer

A mother upset about child abuse allegations lashed out at Allentown police this weekend by striking an officer, according to court records.

An Allentown police officer had to use his Taser to subdue Vanessa Lee Andino, 25, of Allentown, on Sunday morning, according to court records. Lehigh County Children and Youth were investigating the child abuse allegations.

According to court records:

Lehigh County Crisis Intervention were called to Andino's home at 334 N. Limestone St., at 11:20 a.m. after two women saw Andino strike her 2-year-old child in the face several times. The witnesses told Andino to stop hitting the child and she began arguing with them while holding a knife.

Police assisted at the scene. Crisis counselors said Lehigh County Children and Youth would have to get involved because of the child abuse allegations. Andino became angry and began yelling, "no one is taking my children," and began cursing at the people at her home.

Officers told her to stop yelling and cursing, but she continued. She began resisting when police attempted to keep her from going into her home where counselors were conducting their investigation.

She eventually became combative and punched an officer in the head and shoulder. Another officer deployed his Taser and she was taken into custody.

Andino is charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment. She was arraigned by District Judge Rod Beck and sent to Lehigh County Prison under $20,000 bail.

Source: Allentown Morning Call

Unannounced Rally

August 22, 2011 permalink

Before their rally for better working conditions, Peterborough CAS workers took the precaution of not making a public announcement. That avoided a disruption similar to what happened on June first in London.

Fixcas supports the CAS workers on this issue. Reducing the number of cases handled by CAS would improve the safety of Ontario's children.



Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith, president of Local 334 holds a bundle of balloons bearing the OPSEU logo outside the Kawartha Haliburton Children’s Aid Society Monday morning. About 10 union members held a rally to show support for the bargaining unit as contract talks continue.

CAS workers rally outside agency

OPSEU workers employed with the Kawartha Haliburton Children's Aid Society held a rally outside the organization's Chemong Rd. office Monday morning.

Jennifer Smith, president of Local 334, said the rally aims to raise awareness about ongoing bargaining issues between the union and management.

About 10 workers handed out bright blue balloons to passersby, and tied the balloons to vehicles in their workplace parking lot.

Unionized workers have voted in favour of a strike. Smith said bargaining unit members were meeting with a conciliator Tuesday to try and alleviate a stalemate at the bargaining table.

"Hopefully we'll make some movement," she said. "Nobody wants to go on strike.

Smith said the issues don't hinge on money.

The union wants to address the issue of heavy workloads and hours of work, arguing that the issue is affecting employee wellness and the level of service the agency offers its clients.

Smith said workers are discussing the issue with concerned clients as contract talks continue.

Local 334 represents about 150 employees.

Source: Peterborough Examiner

High-Priced Analyst Needed

August 21, 2011 permalink

The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies needs a senior policy analyst at a salary of $74,342 to $92,986. This is a lobbying organization, and the analyst will be developing strategies to present to funding sources, primarily the Ontario legislature. The person hired will have to find a way to put a good face on current CAS practices including:

  • Allowing hundreds of children to die in CAS care. link link
  • Preventing the provincial ombudsman from looking into CAS problems. link link
  • Keeping the names of convicted pedophiles out of the press. link Handing foster parent awards to persons later found to be sex-criminals. link Sex between foster moms and their boy wards. link Waiting 29 years to prosecute sex abuse of children. link
  • Placing children in squalid foster homes worse than those of loving parents. link link
  • Nightmarish foster care. link Breaking the collarbone of a child too young to fall. link Burning a father's gift blanket in front of a foster girl, and forcing her to take cold showers to save on heating costs. link Treating foster siblings to drugs clonidine and Concerta for one and a prolapsed rectum for the other. link Allowing a handicapped child to regress while in foster care. link
  • Drunk driving by a social worker transporting foster children. link
  • Supplying cigarettes to teenaged foster children and encouraging them to smoke. link link
  • Submitting falsified evidence to a court. link Using logical fallacies to develop evaluation tools. link Using experts with fake credentials. link Provoking a mother with police on standby, to create evidence justifying crown wardship. link
  • Taking children from parents for frivolous reasons. link Seizing children based on evidence from psychics. link Letting a mother keep one child in exchange for letting another go. link
  • Reprimanding a mother for following a doctor's nutritional advice for her child. link
  • Arresting peaceful protestors. link Otherwise ignoring 50 rallies across Ontario. link link Suing parents for public criticism. link
  • Getting a foster teen to write case notes on behalf of a social worker. link
  • Preventing a twelve-year-old boy from walking on city streets in daylight. link
  • Overspending the budget to force the legislature to provide more money. link Stealing from Santa Claus. link Awarding scholarships of absurdly low value. link Providing off-the-books compensation for CAS lawyers through adoption fees. link
  • Disrupting the careers of teachers with false allegations. link
  • Surfing the internet to examine websites critical of CAS. No link here, but many webmasters have found CAS in their logs or found web postings copied in CAS court filings.

If you feel you have the required skills, apply in the manner in the enclosed ad below.



Senior Policy Analyst

Ontario Association of Children's Aid Socieities - Toronto, Canada Area

Job Description

Full-time Contract or Secondment Opportunity
1-year with possibility of extension

Job Overview

The Senior Policy Analyst provides professional policy and project management services to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) and its member agencies in the area of policy research, analysis and development.

The role requires collaborating with the membership to develop policy and position papers and research proposals related to child welfare practice, researching and analyzing emerging public policy trends, monitoring public policy activities and changes, and working closely with the provincial government in representing the interests and positions of the child welfare sector. The Senior Policy Analyst provides staff support to a variety of OACAS committees, CAS network groups and special projects.

Desired Skills & Experience

Key Responsibilities and Accountabilities

Reporting to the Director of Policy, this position:

  1. Contributes to the development of papers and submissions on a broad range of issues relevant to child welfare. Submissions are both proactive, reflecting established policy positions, and reactive, to address unanticipated issues.
  2. In developing policy positions and responses, researches issues across a broad range of resources, including but not limited to experts within the child welfare field, respected experts and stakeholders, academic research and other sources. When the Ontario Legislature is in session, daily monitoring of the activity of the Ontario Legislative Assembly, including the introduction and progress of Bills through the Legislature, as well as compiling Hansard on matters relevant to the child welfare sector for dissemination to the field. The Senior Policy Analyst is also responsible for staying apprised of the activities of groups such as other provincial children’s organizations, Federal government, other provinces, news clippings, and other key advocacy groups. Alerts OACAS Directors of issues of interest and, identifies policy issues which may impact the child welfare sector.
  3. Participates in and supports OACAS Board committees, Provincial Interagency Groups and Networks in the areas of policy development and advocacy
  4. Takes initiative and lead responsibility for providing policy development support to selected OACAS Board and interagency committees, consulting with and providing ongoing informational updates to the Director of Policy and the Executive Director. This may include developing research proposals to support work on priority issues (e.g. adoption, youth, educational outcomes, Aboriginal services)
  5. Identifies areas of further advocacy and direction for the work of the OACAS in collaboration with the Directors and Executive Director
  6. Represents the OACAS at various meetings as appropriate
  7. Attends leadership team meetings and contributes to the development of organizational objectives and policies governing the operation of the OACAS


  • Undergraduate or graduate degree with additional specialized training or experience in policy development
  • Demonstrated skills, knowledge and experience in child welfare or social services
  • Excellent project management skills
  • Broad general knowledge of all OACAS programs and services
  • Excellent oral, written, planning, and organizational skills
  • Excellent facilitation and consensus building skills
  • Excellent research skills, with the capacity to utilize resources such as library databases
  • Political acuity, understanding of legislative processes, roles of elected officials and public servants
  • Proficiency in full suite of office software products to develop presentation quality presentations and reports, and conduct data analysis
  • Bilingual French/English would be an asset

Salary Range: $74,342 to $92,986

To Apply:

Interested applicants should send their resume to Anna Mikhael, Human Resources Coordinator by end of day September 9, 2011.


Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies 75 Front Street, East Toronto, Ontario M5E 1V9

Company Description

The Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) is a membership organization representing Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario. The Association has served its members, the community, the public and the government in a variety of ways since 1912. These services have included the promotion of child welfare issues, government relations, advocacy, policy development, communications, research and special projects, member support, quality assurance in child welfare practice, and training for all protection workers throughout the province.

Additional Information

August 17, 2011
Mid-Senior level
Public Policy, Nonprofit Organization Management, Government Relations
Job ID:

Source: LinkedIn

Public Relations help 5c


August 21, 2011 permalink

Scandinavians have discovered a new way to keep their families together — kidnapping their own children back from foster care. When families are outlawed, only outlaws will be families.



Private eye rescues kids in night-time missions

Returns children taken by social services to parents

Christer and Domenic Johansson
Christer and Domenic Johansson

It's not quite real-life "Spy Kids" even though the adventure certainly is there.

It seems a Polish private investigator, dubbed "Rambo" by fans, has found a solution to the problems created when social services workers in the Nordic countries take custody of children against the wishes of family members: Simply "kidnap" the kids and give them back to the parents.

It's happened at least twice in Norway and is a stunning development for families there and in countries like Sweden, where social services workers, as WND has reported, have virtually absolute control over children once they are taken into government custody.

In June, private detective Krzysztof Rutkowski was credited with "freeing" a 9-year-old girl from her "Norwegian prison" – the home of foster parents assigned by the government – and returning her to her parents, who fled Norway to live in Poland.

Then, just days ago, the same detective was reported to have taken a 13-year-old boy from social services custody and returned him to his mother. The family reunion, again, was reported to be in Poland, according to IceNews.

The work has drawn the qualified praise of Ruby Harrold-Claeson, president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, which was founded in Copenhagen in 1996. The group aims to "increase the rights and freedoms of private individuals and their families and strengthen respect for basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Nordic countries."

Harrold-Claeson has been involved in some of the most notorious child-custody cases, including the case of Domenic Johansson in Sweden. Her involvement so alarmed local judicial officials that they ordered the Johansson family to be represented by an attorney of the court's choosing instead of Harrold-Claeson.

That case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights, where the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Alliance Defense Fund, an international civil and religious rights organization, are arguing Domenic needs to be returned to his parents.

As WND reported, the father, Christer Johansson, was jailed for two months for taking Domenic home from court-ordered foster care for a visit last Thanksgiving.

The case developed in mid-2009 when social services and police forcibly took custody of Domenic, then 7, because they worried he was homeschooled. The local courts later denied the parents the legal representation they sought from Harrold-Claeson, demanding instead they be represented by a government-approved attorney. The courts ultimately ruled the state must keep custody of Domenic.

According to published reports, the private detective struck first in June. The Aftenposten reported that Vestfold police were investigating a case in which a minor was "illegally taken from their parents or others who care for them, in this case, child welfare."

The report said social services took custody of the child over the objections of the parents, reportedly over an issue of depression. The reports said the 9-year-old climbed out a window at a foster care home and down a rope in the night and was met by the private detective, who then ferried her to her parents – who already had made the move to Poland.

The names of the family members were not released. The family told Radio Szczecin that authorities had come to the girl's school and questioned her then told the parents they were taking custody.

The second case was reported just days ago, again in Norwegian media. Then, Rutkowski reportedly reunited a 13-year-old boy with his mother in a similar operation.

According to IceNews, the detective "met the boy at a gym before whisking him away to Poland in a convory of unmarked cars."

The boy's attorney said, according to the report, "The boy has always said he wants to go home to his mother. He had been clear from day one. I have asked him to get a spokesperson, but he has not been given one and one should have been present when the emergency decision [over custody] was considered by the regional appeals board."

Harrold-Claeson called the strategy that reunited the 9-year-old with her parents "an excellent piece of work."

"Polish radio, TV and newspapers have publicized the child's rescue and expressed severe criticism against Norway. ... Children who are taken hostages by the Nordic welfare states must be rescued, because there is no justice in the system," she said.

"According to the law, the parents are entitled to court hearings in order to obtain the release of their children, but once the system gets its claws into a child, they never let go. I have helped many of my clients in their desperate but futile battle to regain custody of their children," said Harrold-Claeson.

"Some end up in psychiatric institutions and some have died of heart attacks because the system has destroyed their lives. To date, I have saved 53 children from imminent destruction by the social services. Most of the families in question have taken their children and fled from Sweden," she said.

Harrold-Claeson charged that the social services system is designed in Nordic countries, especially in Sweden, to provide a healthy income to foster care families..

"These foster homes are often of poor quality, and their prime aim is to earn money off the foster children," she said," noting "families whose children are taken into public care are often lone parents, unemployed and/or on welfare."

She told the HSLDA that she hopes word of the rescues reaches parents so they are aware of "the atrocities that are being committed against children and their families in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and to a lesser extent, Finland."

The cases "must be brought to the knowledge of the world at large," she said.

Michael P. Donnelly, director of international relations at the HSLDA, called Harrold-Claeson."a courageous attorney who has taken on the Swedish social service system and protected children from being kidnapped from the state."

Harrold-Claeson told WND the case of the 9-year-old came about because her parents had quarreled and social services "intervened to prevent the child from feeling upset."

"Strangely enough, the agents of the CPS don't realize that their interventions in families by removing the children and placing them in foster homes among total strangers are more traumatizing that the eventual problems of the parents," she said.

But she said Swedish authorities believe "children are the property of the state to be bought and sold as commodities. Taking children into care and placing them in foster homes is an … industry in which children's and the parents and relatives and their health – both physical and mental – is destroyed beyond repair."

She told WND that the state "has decided to usurp the powers of the parents and replace parental authority over children by delivering them into the hands of the civil servants, who per definition should be servants, not masters."

She called on Americans to condemn such practices and watch their own backs, since she's seen similar practices developing in the U.S.

Annie and Domenic Johansson
Annie and Domenic Johansson

Donnelly previously expressed alarm at the treatment in Sweden of the Johansson family.

"The inhumanity of Swedish authorities in retaining Domenic Johansson in foster care with virtually no visitation from his parents remains a grave concern for our organization," he said. "The failure by provincial and national authorities to investigate and rectify a scandalous abuse of power on the part of Gotland municipal authorities and social workers makes Sweden look more like a former Soviet totalitarian state than a Western free and democratic one."

The government took custody of Domenic when police officers stormed a jetliner which the family had boarded en route to a move to India, the home country of Domenic's mother, Annie Johansson, in 2009.

The case also is being followed by a blog called FriendsofDomenic.

Gustaf Hofstedt, president of the local social services board in Gotland, earlier told WND by telephone from Sweden that there is more to the dispute than homeschooling, but he refused to explain.

"I understand the public debate has been that is a case that is only concerning the fact of homeschooling," he told WND. "But that is not the case."

Asked to explain, he said, "I can't answer that question because of secrecy."

There also is a petition on behalf of Domenic.

Source: World Net Daily

Addendum: Parental rights for Dominic Johannson have been terminated.



Swedish Appeals Court Ends Parental Rights

First the Swedish government took their son away. Now an appeals court has terminated their parental rights -- all because they homeschooled their son.

Dominic Johannson has been in state custody since 2009.

In June, he and his family experienced a glimmer of hope when a district court ruled the Johannsons could retain their parental rights. Now an appeals court has reversed that decision.

CBN News Repoter Dale Hurd has been following this story from the beginning. He recently spoke with the family's former attorney about it.

"The laws concerning the taking of children in their care are like a rubber band," Ruby Harrold-Claesson, with the Nordic Committee on Human Rights, told CBN News. "You can stretch it in any direction and the social workers never do wrong. They always have the backing of the administrative courts."

"One social worker said to me, the administrative courts, they're our courts. You know the courts are supposed to be for the people," she said.

Claesson said this is a problem in all the Nordic countries. She's filing reports on human rights violations against all "child protection systems" there.

Source: Christian Broadcasting Network

Bradford Rally

August 21, 2011 permalink

Pat Niagara Bradford Rally for Accountability & Transparency

Members of "Canada Court Watch" and "Unregistered CAS/FACS workers unlawfully working in Ontario" attended the 2011 Carrot Fest Event in Bradford Ontario. The Rally was to bring awareness to the problem's within the 53 C.A.S. agencies in Ontario.

We also be collected a large amount of signatures on 3 separate petitions:

Petition 1) To keep CAS out of our schools

Petition 2) To make CAS workers registered with the College of Social Workers

Petition 3) To grant the Ombudsman powers to investigate CAS, Police, Hospitals, Etc.

Pictures: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6].

Source: Facebook

Watch the rally on YouTube or a local copy (flv). York-Simcoe MPP Julia Munro speaks on the video. The young lad on the megaphone is Pierce Gellner.

Addendum: Good news for Melissa Buckingham-Russell, the mother who called the Bradford rally:

Bobbie Niagara Just to let everyone know that Melissa Buckingham-Russell's internet is down and she just wants to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers towards getting her daughter back. These prayers and thoughts were heard because Madi came home tonight. Hugs to Melissa, Ray and family.

Source: Facebook

Pacific Crossed

August 20, 2011 permalink

Today August 20 Laura Dekker passed through the Torres strait between Australia and New Guinea. This took her from the Coral sea to the Arafura Sea, completing her crossing of the Pacific Ocean in 131 days. Her immediate destination is Darwin on the north coast of Australia. Soon she will be reaching Bali, where she will have to decide between a northern route through the Arabian sea (pirates), the Suez Canal (revolution) and the Mediterranean (Libyan war), or the longer southern route around the Cape of Good Hope (stormy).

The start of Laura's journey was delayed a year by Dutch child protectors. She has already gone further than her predecessor Magellan, who died in the Philippines before completing his crossing of the Pacific. Information about Laura's progress comes from her blog, including pictures of Laura taken on her visits to Tonga and Fiji.

Addendum: Laura arrived at Darwin on August 25 and departed on September 26.

Laura Dekker

Laura Dekker

Laura Dekker set sail from Gibraltar on August 21, 2010 in a Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch, eight tons, operated by one girl. The ketch is equipped with a Diesel engine for control while in the doldrums. Navigation equipment includes radar and an Iridium GPS tracking system powered by a wind turbine. Communications is by short-wave radio, for talking to neighboring boats, skype and daily blog postings available around the world.

Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan started his round the world trip on August 10, 1519 at Seville. He had five ships, a caravel and four carracks, 485 tons in all, staffed by a crew of 235 men. The most sophisticated navigational instrument of his day was the astrolabe, allowing for measurement of the altitude of the sun or a star. Records were kept in an onboard logbook. Lacking telecommunication, his countrymen knew no details of his voyage until it was complete.

Stolen Baby Found

August 20, 2011 permalink

Guatemalan mother Loyda Rodríguez Morales searched for years to find her stolen baby. The girl was adopted by Missouri couple Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn Monahan. A Guatemala court has ordered the girl returned to Rodríguez. In this unprecedented case the US may follow treaties requiring the child's return, or American courts may just ignore the Guatemalan judge.



Guatemala Mother Searched 5 Years For Adopted Girl

Guatemala Adoption

GUATEMALA CITY -- Loyda Rodriguez Morales felt someone tug at her daughter as she tried to enter her simple home with three young children in tow. She turned to see a woman whisk the 2-year-old away in a waiting taxi.

After nearly five years of searching, posting fliers, being turned away at orphanages and even staging a hunger strike, Rodriguez now holds what's believed to be an unprecedented Guatemalan court order declaring the child stolen and ordering the U.S. couple who eventually adopted her to give her back.

If U.S. authorities intervene to return the child, now 6, as the Guatemalan court has asked, it would be a first for any international adoption case, experts say.

A construction-paper sign taped Friday to the door of the girl's U.S. address, a two-story suburban Kansas City home, read: "Please respect our families (sic) privacy during this difficult and confusing time. We ask that you not trespass on our property for the sake of our children. Thank you."

The U.S. State Department referred all questions about the court ruling to the Justice Department, which would not comment on the case.

Rodriguez, 26, cried when she saw the July 29 court order made public this past week. She's already planning how to fix up her daughter's bedroom.

"I want it with a lot of decorations. I'm going to buy dolls and clothes so she's not lacking anything," she told The Associated Press. "If she wants to sleep alone, she'll have her room. If not, she can be with her brothers."

U.S. officials might simply try to ignore the order, said David Smolin, a law professor at the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, and an expert in international adoption.

Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the Virginia-based National Council For Adoption, said he has never heard of the U.S. carrying out a foreign court order to return adopted children to their home country.

But the leading advocate in the Guatemala case said the U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within five years.

The girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records.

"We're within the margin of time," said Norma Cruz, director of the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for Rodriguez. "We don't have to contact the (adoption) family. The judge's order says authorities have to find the child, wherever she is."

The foundation doesn't allege the U.S. couple knew the girl they adopted had been kidnapped, only that the girl was snatched by a child trafficking ring and put up for adoption with a new name. The couple was identified in the court ruling as Timothy James Monahan and Jennifer Lyn Vanhorn Monahan of Liberty, Missouri.

Guatemala's quick adoptions once made this Central American nation of 13 million people a top source of children for the U.S., leading or ranking second only to China with about 4,000 adoptions a year. But the Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of fraud, including falsified paperwork, fake birth certificates and charges of baby theft – though they still allowed many already in process.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, a U.N.-created agency prosecuting organized crime cases in Guatemala, has reviewed more than 3,000 adoptions completed or in process and found nearly 100 grave irregularities.

The U.S. still does not allow adoptions from Guatemala, though the State Department is currently assisting with 397 children whose adoptions were in process at the time of the ban.

The court ruling signed by Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez canceled the girl's passport and ordered her returned in two months, asking the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for help in locating the child. The court says it will file an order with the international police agency, Interpol, if she is not returned.

Smolin said this is the first case he knows of a foreign judge ordering an American family to return an adopted child to her native country. He adopted two children from India who he later discovered were stolen, a situation he resolved by allowing the birth parents regular visits.

"This is the scenario that has made everybody afraid for years, the knock on the door from the reporter or whoever," Smolin said.

Anyeli Liseth Hernandez Rodriguez was born Oct. 1, 2004, the second child of Rodriguez, a housewife, and her bricklayer husband, Dayner Orlando Hernandez, who came as teenagers to Guatemala City looking for work. The girl disappeared Nov. 3, 2006, as Rodriguez was distracted while opening the door to their house in a working class suburb, San Miguel Petapa.

They reported their daughter missing to various local and federal law enforcement, including authorities in charge of human rights violations and missing children, according to documents of the U.N.-backed corruption commission.

Rodriguez said she searched for more than a year on her own and was repeatedly refused court permission to search foster homes where kids awaited adoption.

She found Cruz and the Survivors Foundation through a court employee in January 2008, and the two women staged a short hunger strike when they were still denied access of government adoption records, Rodriguez said. Once they were given access, it still took nearly a year to find the child's photo at the National Adoptions Council, where Rodriguez sifted through records with her brother for four straight days in March 2009.

"I felt like my heart was going to leap out. I knew it was her," she said.

Rodriguez submitted to a DNA test that established her as the mother, the corruption commission says.

But the girl was already in the United States, according to court records.

Anyeli's identity had been changed in early 2007 by Felicita Antonia Lopez Garcia, a woman claiming to be her mother, who changed the child's name to Karen Abigail and offered her for adoption, according to the court order. Lopez left the girl with an adoption agency, the Spring Association, several months later after she failed a DNA test, according to the corruption commission. The adoption agency had the girl declared abandoned and put her up for adoption in 2008.

The office of Guatemala's solicitor general approved the adoption in July of that year, despite the fact that it had already received a missing person's report on the girl with photographs as early as February 2008, according to the corruption commission.

In December of that year, the girl left the country with the Monahans, named in her Guatemalan passport as Karen Abigail Monahan Vanhorn and listed as being born Jan. 14, 2005.

Prosecutors for the corruption commission used Rodriguez's case to bring charges against lawyers and brokers with the Spring Association for alleged human trafficking for illegal adoptions and for using false documents. They include the lawyer who notarized the Monahans' adoption, according to the court order.

Cruz said she has two other cases involving illegal international adoptions in the works.

The address given for the Monahans in the court order is a spacious house on a large, wooded lot with a carriage driveway and an orange soccer ball on the porch.

Earlier in the week, a woman came to the door and told an AP reporter she couldn't talk because she was on the phone. No one answered repeated calls for comment until the sign appeared Friday.

Rodriguez said she just wants her daughter back.

"They made a mistake taking my baby," Rodriguez said. "Perhaps they didn't know she was stolen."

Source: Huffington Post

Addendum: Here is the answer. The girl will remain in the US.



Guatemala: US refuses to return adopted girl

GUATEMALA CITY -- GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - The U.S. government has told Guatemala it won't return a girl adopted in 2008 after allegedly being snatched from her Guatemalan mother, because the two countries had not signed the Hague Abduction Convention at the time of the kidnapping, a Guatemalan official said Monday.

Foreign Relations Ministry spokeswoman Celeste Alvarado quoted a diplomatic cable from the U.S. State Department as saying the two countries formally ratified the convention on Jan. 1, 2008, after toddler Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez was reported abducted by her biological mother in November 2006.

Alvarado said the U.S. note cites Hague Convention articles indicating it isn't required to return the child if there was no treaty in force at the time.

The girl was adopted by a Missouri couple, and a Guatemalan judge ordered government agencies to petition for her return.

The adoptive parents are Timothy and Jennifer Monahan of Liberty, Missouri. A public relations firm they hired said last year that they "will continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child."

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala referred all questions about the court ruling to the State Department.

A leading Guatemalan activist in the case disagreed with the State Department's position, arguing that the U.S. government is obligated under international treaties to return victims of human trafficking or irregular adoptions that have occurred within the past five years.

The girl left the country on Dec. 9, 2008, according to court records, and that date and not her abduction date should be taken into account, said Claudia Hernandez, assistant director of the Survivors Foundation, a human rights group that filed the court case for the child's biological mother, Loyda Rodriguez.

"Unfortunately, the case was filed with the girl's original abduction date in 2006 when the U.S. and Guatemala did not have an agreement," Hernandez said. "We've been seeking a firm in the United States that would take this to court, and sadly we're losing hope."

"Time is running out; the five-year window is nearly up," Hernandez said.

Hernandez's group hasn't alleged the U.S. couple who adopted the girl knew anything about her being kidnapped.

Anyeli Hernandez Rodriguez was born Oct. 1, 2004, the second child of Rodriguez, a housewife, and her bricklayer husband, Dayner Orlando Hernandez.

The girl disappeared Nov. 3, 2006, as Rodriguez was distracted while opening the door to their house in a working class suburb, San Miguel Petapa. She turned to see a woman whisk the girl, then 2 years old, away in a taxi.

Rodriguez spent over a year at an adoption agency before being adopted by the U.S. family.

Guatemala's quick adoptions once made this Central American nation of 14 million people a top source of children for the U.S., leading or ranking second only to China with about 4,000 adoptions a year.

But the Guatemalan government suspended adoptions in late 2007 after widespread cases of fraud, including falsified paperwork, fake birth certificates and charges of baby theft - though they still allowed many adoptions already in process to go ahead.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, a U.N.-created agency prosecuting organized crime cases in Guatemala, has reviewed more than 3,000 adoptions completed or in process and found nearly 100 grave irregularities.

Guatemalan authorities have prosecuted three people on charges relating to the alleged abduction.

Source: Kansas City Star

Addendum: A long-form investigation in December 2014.



The Limits of Jurisdiction

For the past six years, Karen has lived in Missouri with her adoptive parents. But a Guatemalan couple are convinced the child is their kidnapped daughter, Anyelí.

Loyda, at Sobrevivientes in Guatemala City, 2010

It’s unclear how the two-year-old broke her femur, Dr. Napoleon Castillo Molinedo told me. The Guatemalan pediatrician regularly saw the child, identified as “Karen Abigail Lopéz García” in his office records, for check-up appointments and vaccinations. Firing up a weary PC, the doctor retrieved Karen’s old records, printing out a list: ten visits in the first seven months of 2007 alone.

The adults who brought the toddler into Castillo’s office, members of the Bran family, were in the business of children. More specifically, they provided what most Americans call “foster care” for Guatemalan kids during their adoptions to mostly American families. According to Castillo, the Brans “didn’t overflow with love for the kids.”

“I charged them less per child, since they brought so much volume through my office,” the doctor said. He said the Brans claimed Karen “fell down” and broke her limb “jumping on a bed.” But he didn’t believe them.

Sitting in a dingy yellow office in one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City, Castillo explained, back in 2010, that it wasn’t his business to investigate or even report his suspicions. His involvement with Karen had clear limits. It began when she came through the clinic’s doors. It ended when she left.

The same unspoken boundaries applied to many other adults involved in Karen’s protracted, complicated adoption. Someone had found the child. Someone had offered her for adoption. Someone fed her, and someone changed her diapers. One person processed adoption paperwork in Guatemala; another did the same in the US. Some links in the chain knew each other, and some didn’t. The simple compartmentalization helped obscure a shared responsibility, as well as legal jurisdiction.

And there lies one of the myriad issues facing the exhausted prosecutors of Guatemala’s human-trafficking unit in what is now a high-profile criminal investigation. For the past six years, the child known as Karen has lived in Missouri with her adoptive parents, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan. But Loyda Rodríguez and Dayner Hernández, a young Guatemalan couple, are convinced the child is their daughter, Anyelí, who was kidnapped in November 2006. Although a Guatemalan judge ruled that Karen should be returned to Guatemala in 2011, the Monahans have kept her.

Today, both families hope to do what’s best for Karen. But understanding what that means is just as complicated as understanding what actually happened to the child.

In Guatemala nearly a dozen people, including government officials, have been charged with serious criminal offenses related to Karen’s adoption, including dereliction of duty, human trafficking, and falsifying documents. Two women, a nursery director and a lawyer, have been found guilty and are serving jail time for their involvement with the child.

The case pits American against Guatemalan interests, a family against a family. It can be seen as a study in the failure of cooperation and international diplomacy, or as an examination of influence, wealth, and power. The situation forces questions about the definitions of what is right, what is moral, and what, exactly, is criminal.

This story was reported over the past six years. I used over five thousand documents obtained and leaked from various sources in Guatemala, interviewed dozens of parties, and gained insight from criminal investigators and experts associated with the case in both countries.

In 2006, Timothy and Jennifer Monahan, an American couple from Liberty, Missouri, began the process of adopting a boy from Guatemala. They already had one biological daughter. To adopt, they used the Florida adoption agency Celebrate Children International (CCI). Like many CCI clients, the Monahans shared a deep Christian faith with the agency’s director, Sue Hedberg. The adoption proceeded with ease, despite CCI’s checkered history of complaints alleging unethical business practices.

When the Monahans visited Guatemala, they found the poverty there overwhelming, according to a chronology of events written by Jennifer Monahan and later obtained by criminal investigators in Guatemala. “…[O]ur family is burdened with the vision of ‘street toddlers’ and reports of children not having enough to eat or drink, and even being incarcerated with their mothers in jail,” Monahan wrote, upon returning to Missouri. “We pray for the opportunity to adopt another child.”

Like countless other potential adoptive parents, they skimmed through photos of children posted online. When they saw a picture of a girl listed as Karen Abigail Lopéz García, aged twenty-three months, they decided to inquire.

Karen Abigail López García
Karen Abigail López García, photo from CNA (Consejo Nacional de Adopciones) adoption files

“We want to work with an ethical facilitator, although we know in Guatemala there are always things out of people’s control,” Monahan said, as recounted in an email she later sent to Guatemalan adoption lawyer Susana Luarca. “We also offered to help the birth mother if she needs help, since Karen appears to be extraordinarily well-cared for.”

At the same time, in 2006, the reputation of Guatemala’s international adoption industry was declining fast. Stories of baby-snatching and kidnappings for adoption peppered the pages of local newspapers.

Nevertheless, business was still booming. In 1996, the State Department reported that 542 Guatemalan children were adopted into the US. Ten years later, that number increased 663 percent to 4,135. Adopting parents paid agency fees ranging anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 per child. The money passed through various hands: those of child finders (buscadoras) and pullers (jaladoras), lawyers, specialized cabbies, pediatricians, civil registrars, judges, government officials, nannies, nurses, and more.

Yet increasing attention paid to Guatemalan adoptions meant that adoptive parents faced heightened scrutiny. “Guys,” CCI director Hedberg wrote in an email to dozens of her clients in October 2006, “there are again major problems with the police stopping families, foster moms and lawyers and harassing them and even taking the children away. This is not a safe time to travel to visit your children.”

A few months after the Monahans signed up with CCI to adopt Karen, the hitches and hiccups began. The required DNA test, meant to prove the parenthood of the relinquishing mother, kept getting delayed for various reasons. In January, the midwife’s license couldn’t be found.

At the time, the Monahans were still in the process of adopting their son. Jennifer Monahan wrote that in March, when they traveled to Guatemala to pick him up, she hesitated to meet Karen. The child was reportedly living with a foster mother, paid by CCI’s in-country facilitator, Marvin Bran.

Monahan told CCI she didn’t want to meet the child unless the adoption was certain to progress. She didn’t want to give her any false ideas. One of Hedberg’s volunteer staff members, acting as a case manager, warned the family not to meet Karen, since her requisite DNA test hadn’t been carried out yet. “She felt that this wasn’t going well, and that something might be going on,” Monahan noted. In her chronology of events, she wrote that she decided to pray about the decision.

But Hedberg insisted that nothing was wrong. The next day, against Jennifer Monahan’s wishes, a caretaker named Kimberly Bran brought Karen to the apartment the Monahans had rented, telling her to “kiss new mommy and daddy…” “Karen wept hysterically for the foster mother, then settled into our hearts,” Monahan wrote. By the time the visit ended, the Monahans had fallen in love with the child.

In May, however, CCI wrote to the family with bad news. Karen’s mother, who was listed on the child’s birth certificate as “Felicita López García,” was now suddenly “missing,” Monahan wrote in her chronology. No one could find her.

It was a problem. Without Felicita’s consent, and a voluntary sample of her DNA from which to establish a maternal connection to Karen, the child’s adoption to the Monahans would freeze—perhaps forever.

Guatemala is a small, brutally poor country. Almost half of all children there—and the majority of children in rural, indigenous communities—grow up stunted by chronic malnourishment. The nation was the site of the longest civil war in Latin American history: over three decades of brutality, during which the government massacred hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Trauma still hangs over the country, like a shroud.

Against this background, some Guatemalan families voluntarily relinquished their children to international adoption. Sometimes babies were given up to help siblings survive. For a woman with a starving family, selling a child might be an obvious, if heartbreaking, option.

Karla Ordoñez, a Guatemalan adoption facilitator who sometimes worked with CCI, told me pregnant women often called her, seeking help. “Most of the time they needed a house or food,” she said. Selling a baby was a way to meet basic needs: jaladoras, middlemen who identified children who could be “pulled” into adoption, reportedly offered pregnant women as much as $640 USD per unborn baby.

But sometimes, Ordoñez said, the women changed their minds. That kind of situation, she explained, was difficult to navigate. “Part of the money would have already gone to the woman, so you couldn’t get it back,” she said. Many American adoption companies, she claimed, weren’t interested in understanding the complicated details of individual situations. As with any business, after a deposit, goods were expected.

It was widely acknowledged that baby-selling in adoption was occurring, and had been since the early 1990s. The American government also knew. In June 1995, the US Embassy in Guatemala sent a highly disturbing cable back to the State Department in Washington, outlining what it called “a cruel international trade.” Some birth mothers, it noted, had been threatened with death after trying to get children back. “The issue is the following,” the cable stated. “Are we not morally obligated (if not legally) to prevent what is otherwise clearly reprehensible as well as criminal under any penal code—kidnapping, the illegal separation of biological children from their parents?”

Dayner Orlando Hernández, a bricklayer, and his wife, Loyda Rodríguez, had three children and were solidly middle class by Guatemalan standards. Unlike some of their desperate countrymen, they’d never been forced to consider selling a child. But on November 3, 2006, their daughter, two-year-old Anyelí Liseth, was abducted. The child, Rodríguez said, was snatched from their home in San Miguel Petapa, south of Guatemala City.

Loyda with her three kids

The next morning, after a fruitless search, Hernández filed a formal complaint with the local police, and gave them a photo of his daughter. In the report, he stated that two unknown women had seized Anyelí, fleeing in a white taxi. The baby had been wearing a simple light-blue canvas dress and toddler-sized white shoes. The day after, he filed another complaint with the local branch of the Ministerio Público, and the following week, he lodged a third report with the Procurador de los Derechos Humanos, a congressional office on human rights.

But the authorities didn’t help.

Winter passed. So did Anyelí’s third birthday. The young family filed complaints with various Guatemalan authorities, and still nothing happened. Spring came and went. Hernández engaged in his own kind of guerrilla investigations, working the neighborhood streets and questioning people as to whether they’d seen his baby daughter.

By early summer 2007, the couple still had no information about Anyelí’s kidnapping. Was the child dead? Why would anyone take their daughter?

By June 2007, Karen’s mother had resurfaced. In her chronology, Jennifer Monahan claimed that CCI gave no explanation regarding the woman’s earlier disappearance. When the family asked what had transpired, CCI staff told Monahan to be patient—and to stop asking questions.

The DNA test was administered in July. Documents show that Karen’s cheek was swabbed, and that the sample was then compared with one from her mother Felicita’s cheek. The DNA comparison test, first put into place in 1995, was supposed to be a fool-proof fraud detector that verified whether a woman relinquishing a child was indeed biologically related to that child. A strict protocol instituted by the US Embassy mandated how the samples were drawn, handled, and shipped to pre-approved American laboratories that performed the actual testing. That way, it was thought, no one could tamper with the samples.

By mid-July, the US testing facility LabCorp hadn’t confirmed receipt of Karen and her mother’s DNA samples. The Monahans, again, pressed CCI for information.

“Dear Sue,” Jennifer Monahan wrote to Hedberg, “…Labcorp hasn’t notified anyone of receiving the sample—should we be concerned that it didn’t happen?” She tried calling LabCorp directly, to no avail.

“We just want you to know that after spending time with Karen, we know she is our daughter and we will do anything to bring her home,” Monahan wrote in a separate email, also included in the chronology. “We want to do the right thing through this process and not put undue pressure on anybody, but we are so concerned about how slowly things are going with no apparent explanation.”

Then new information arrived. On August 1, 2007, the Monahans learned that the DNA test had failed to establish a maternal match. Felicita Antonia López was an imposter.

According to the Monahan chronology, Hedberg said she’d ask LabCorp “…to bury this [DNA] result, like they used to do for her, but LabCorp said…they couldn’t do that any more.” Monahan noted, “She said she could get LabCorp to delay reporting for a week.” It’s unclear whether or not the reporting was delayed. Neither LabCorp nor Hedberg responded to requests for comment.

Hedberg, Monahan wrote, said there was now “zero chance” of the family succeeding in adopting Karen. The adoption was effectively frozen, since the child’s origins had been called into question. Via email, Hedberg urged the Monahans to drop the matter and move on. Their down payment on Karen’s adoption could be transferred to another child’s adoption.

In a cable from a decade before, when DNA tests became mandatory in Guatemalan adoptions to the US, Embassy officials noted that children with problem cases simply “disappeared into the same foggy background from which they came. It has been anguishing to all parties involved…”

Would Karen also disappear? If the Monahans followed Hedberg’s advice and chose another child to adopt, what would happen to her? Who would buy food and diapers for her if no one paid the Brans? Would Karen end up on the streets of Guatemala, transformed into one of the urchin children that had haunted their dreams?

Monahan reported begging Hedberg for help; she wanted to find Karen’s real birth mother in order to figure out what had happened. But Hedberg balked.

The agency head subsequently turned on her Guatemalan partner, adoption facilitator Marvin Bran. Then twenty-six and a law school dropout, Bran had originally been described to the Monahans as “a Christian, a good man who specializes in toddler girls,” someone Hedberg often worked with. She’d recommended him “without reservation.” But now, the agency director began weaving another story. Bran and his mother, she allegedly told Jennifer Monahan, ran “an illegal orphanage” out of their home. It was staffed with household help, working double duty as foster moms. Bran was “emotionally unstable.” It seemed as if the two business partners had a troubled relationship.

“Sometimes they didn’t have the money to pay the mothers and maintain the children,” said one of the Brans’ caretakers, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity. “Which is why they passed children around like ping-pong balls.”

Bran “might just dump her [Karen] somewhere where nobody could find her,” Monahan recorded Hedberg as saying, in her chronology. “Of course, this was terrifying.”

With the revelation of the failed DNA test, a chasm of unknowns emerged. The same day they learned about the imposter birth mother, the Monahans decided to hire Guatemalan private investigator Wilbert Reyna. They wired him $400. He started digging for information.

Five days later, the Monahans recorded in the chronology, Reyna reported back to them that the Brans were “cheaters,” and that “this is their usual MO.” Further, Karen’s birth records were “based on lies and false statements.” He thought that the child’s true mother was an “alcoholic and a prostitute,” information he said he got from talking to supposed neighbors of Karen’s real mother and sister.

Reyna offered up a theory: perhaps the imposter who failed the DNA test was Karen’s aunt, posing as Karen’s mother to protect her real mother’s reputation.

“This is an elaborate scam,” Reyna said, as recorded in Jennifer Monahan’s chronology. “…[A]n agency fwd[s] the [adoptive] parent’s money to the Brans, they take a case as far as to the DNA test, the DNA test blows…[and] by then they have already collected the first payment [for the child].”

Reyna also had a warning for the Monahans. If the family continued trying to adopt Karen, “…the odds are high [that] somewhere on the way something illegal would come out.”

Then the investigator abruptly quit. Reyna said he’d received threats from the Brans, and was concerned about his safety. He hadn’t found Karen’s biological mother. Nor had he found Felicita, but with good reason: the woman listed on Karen’s birth certificate wasn’t real.

The Monahans had reached another crossroads, and another choice needed to be made quickly.

Would the right thing be to move on and “drop” the matter of Karen, as Hedberg insisted? Or should the Monahans continue building a relationship with a child they believed to be unwanted, unloved, and possibly soon to be uncared for?

The path they chose would determine the shape of Karen’s life in the weeks, years, and decades to come.

Without the involvement of a known birth parent, a “relinquishment”—the most popular way of adopting from Guatemala—was now impossible. The Monahans reached out to Guatemalan lawyer Susana Luarca Saracho, who was well known in American adoption circles. Luarca had a reputation for a deep knowledge of the intricacies of Guatemalan law, and the ability to guide complicated adoption processes for children in situations like Karen’s—those without relinquishing parents, or those whose parents appeared to be missing.

In 2007, Jennifer Monahan sent Luarca the detailed chronology, listing dates, phone numbers, summaries of events, names, and the addresses of everyone she believed was related to the child’s case, including notes from the private investigator. A confidential source later shared the chronology with me, and criminal prosecutors in Guatemala verified its authenticity.

In the document, Monahan outlined a conversation she’d had with Rodolfo “Rudy” Rivera, an American adoption lawyer, in early August 2007. Rivera allegedly told her that the US Embassy hadn’t received a copy of Karen’s negative DNA test. “Rudy…confirms that we can proceed in looking for the birth mother, and [that the] US Embassy will not stand in our way should the abandonment ever be complete,” Monahan wrote.

When I spoke to him in 2010, Rivera wouldn’t comment on the US Embassy, or its alleged willingness to bend rules. He admitted he was familiar with Marvin Bran and Sue Hedberg, saying Bran was “bad news.” He recalled, “His [Marvin’s] mother was what they call a jaladora, a finder, a foster care lady.”

He didn’t have any proof of malfeasance on their part, but he didn’t trust them, either. “My gut made me feel uncomfortable,” he told me. Rivera said he “helped” the Monahans with Karen’s case, declining to say how.

Rivera went on to claim that Hedberg often called him for advice. “A lot of her cases needed to be cleaned up in the end,” he said. “She worked adoptions for two simple reasons. It’s money, and number two, a lot of us feel you’re getting as many kids as possible out [of]…a rotten situation.”

In September 2008, Karen was delivered to Asociación Primavera, a private nursery owned by Susana Luarca.

Hogar Luz de María
Babies in the private Guatemalan nursery Hogar Luz de María

Although the nursery was in Guatemala City, Luarca and her staff brought Karen to a court in the town of Escuintla, over an hour away, to begin abandonment proceedings.

Under Guatemalan law, a child without known parents or relatives had to go through a series of steps before being declared legally abandoned and thus available for adoption. The child would be brought before a judge, who would set a date for a hearing meant to uncover facts about the child’s situation. The hearings were advertised, with a photo of the child, in local newspapers. Any existing family was supposed to come forward at the hearing and declare their relationship to or interest in the child. If no one came forward, the child could be legally declared abandoned, and legal custody could be subsequently reassigned by the judge. Custody often went to whoever brought the child forward in the first place: often a nursery director, facilitator, or adoption lawyer.

Having a child declared legally abandoned generally took much longer than a relinquishment adoption, and would sometimes stretch to nine years.

But not for Luarca.

“That woman fought with every judge in Guatemala,” said Mario Fernando Peralta Castañeda, the Escuintla judge who maintained he heard at least forty of Luarca’s abandonment adoption cases. “The First Court, the Third Court, Chimaltenalgo, Zacapa…all of them. She was very arrogant, very abusive.”

But Peralta, too, had a reputation. Guatemalan prosecutors followed him for years, even giving him the nickname “Danny DeVito,” based on his resemblance to the American actor. They suspected him of taking bribes, of being yet another corrupt player within a larger system known for acquiescence to power and money.

Judges routinely passed on taking Luarca’s cases, Peralta told me in his chambers. He claimed he’d ended up with dozens after she opened another childcare facility in Palin, a city within his jurisdiction. The abandonments seemed like an adoption workaround, he said, pure and simple.

Peralta said he’d never taken a bribe or money from Luarca. “She doesn’t use money for this. She uses the law, pressure. She makes people uncomfortable,” he said. “Look, if I was corrupt, I’d be well off…. I would have Versace suits, a Lamborghini.”

On Karen’s behalf, Peralta contacted the Guatemalan newspapers Siglo Veintiuno and Al Día, asking them to run an ad announcing the date of her upcoming hearing, scheduled for November 6th. Both of the ads solicited “Felicita” by name, asking her to come forward—even though she had already been exposed as a fraud.

Advertisement for Karen Abigail López García
Left, bottom: The advertisement placed in a newspaper before Karen’s abandonment ruling
Advertisement for Karen Abigail López García
Detail, advertisement

Loyda Rodríguez and Dayner Hernández never saw the ad with the small, dark picture. No one came forward to announce an interest in Karen.

“In 2007, they presented the child to me, we now know, with false documents,” Peralta told me. “But I didn’t know that [at the time].” On December 5th, Peralta ruled that Karen was legally abandoned.

Luarca’s staff assumed custody and reignited adoption proceedings for Karen to become the Monahans’ daughter. It had been roughly a year since the Monahans had first seen the child’s picture on the Internet.

For most of the next year, Guatemalan investigators believe, Karen lived under the care of Luarca’s nursery. According to flight records obtained by criminal investigators, the American couple regularly flew to Guatemala to visit, sometimes as often as once a month.

Shortly after Karen was declared legally abandoned, Loyda Rodríguez’s search for Anyelí led her to the doors of Fundación Sobrevivientes (Survivor’s Foundation), a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in Guatemala.

“The authorities here weren’t doing anything to find her,” Rodríguez said. They kept asking her if she’d sold Anyelí. It had been a year and a half with no clues or leads.

At the time, Sobrevivientes was in the midst of an adoption-related campaign, “No Más Cunas Vacías” (No More Empty Cribs), to pressure the Guatemalan government to investigate kidnappings for adoption.

At Fundación Sobrevivientes, Rodríguez met Mildred Alvarado, whose two daughters had been missing for eighteen months in a dramatic parallel case detailed in my book Finding Fernanda. At the time, no one knew that some of the same people—Sue Hedberg, Marvin Bran, Bran’s mother—had also been involved with the young Alvarado sisters.

Rodríguez attended the court hearing, bearing witness as a judge formally returned Alvarado’s daughters to her. She fought back tears, she remembered, wondering when the same thing might happen to her.

She learned that three of the various women working with Sobrevivientes had been able to successfully recover missing children. She asked the nonprofit to take her case and soon was being formally represented, pro-bono, by a Sobrevivientes lawyer.

In May 2008, Rodríguez participated in a hunger strike whose goal was to call attention to the women’s missing children and kidnappings for adoption. Camping out with a small group of searching mothers atop blankets in a public park near Guatemala’s National Palace, Rodríguez lasted eight full days.

Sympathetic coverage of the protest saturated the newspapers. Afterward, the Guatemalan government announced that the mothers, including Rodríguez, would be allowed to read and review various adoption files held in government offices.

With help from her husband and brother, Rodríguez reviewed thousands of files. In the three years since Anyelí had been kidnapped, American citizens had adopted around thirteen thousand Guatemalan children. By now, Anyelí was almost five years old. Rodríguez wondered how her daughter’s appearance had changed since she’d last seen her.

Some files were thick with documents; others lacked the requisite headshots of the children they involved. Some dockets for boys mistakenly contained photos of girls, and vice versa. After a few long days, Rodríguez identified three children resembling Anyelí. She submitted samples of her own DNA to be tested against each of the children’s, kept on file. None matched.

By March 23, 2009, the case had received so much attention that the Public Ministry announced a reward, posted publicly online, of 100,000 quetzales ($13,000 USD) for any person who came forward with information about Anyelí’s kidnapping or her whereabouts.

Three days later, during another review session, Rodríguez’s brother opened an adoption file for a child identified by the name Karen Abigail López García. “Look, this is her!” he exclaimed. When Rodríguez looked at the photographs stapled inside the file, she immediately recognized her daughter’s face.

Karen Abigail López García
Karen Abigail López García, photos from PGN (Procuraduria General de la Nación) adoption dossier

Loyda Rodríguez’s DNA was compared to the DNA sample kept on file for Karen, drawn in July 2007. Two independent labs, one in Spain and one in the US, sent their findings back to Guatemala. Both agreed: Rodríguez and “Karen” tested 99.98% positive for a maternal match.

Claudia Palencias, then working as a lawyer with Sobrevivientes, began making frenzied phone calls to track down documents related to Karen’s adoption. The process had produced a convoluted paper trail through different government offices.

“We asked for the file, and we found the negative DNA result,” Palencias recalled. It was a powerful lead, albeit a surprising one. Palencias didn’t understand how Karen’s adoption had continued moving forward without the consent of a relinquishing parent.

When an imposter birth mother was exposed via a negative DNA test, the adoption case was supposed to freeze, so that a criminal investigation could take place. But Guatemala’s Ministry of Justice lacked resources and was burdened by a heavy backlog of criminal cases. Investigations commonly took years, even decades, to complete. By the time a child’s origins had been ascertained, he or she could be a teenager, or even an adult, living in one of Guatemala’s few state-run orphanages or being cared for by a nonprofit.

But Sobrevivientes claimed that Karen’s adoption file had no documentation suggesting that such a criminal investigation had begun. Instead, the child had simply been declared abandoned. Further, the abandonment proceedings seemed clearly flawed: not only had the Escuintla judge sought out the imaginary “Felicita,” the police had, too, in their requisite missing persons search.

Invigorated by the break in the case, prosecutors from the Ministry of Justice’s human-trafficking unit took up the investigation into Anyelí’s disappearance in earnest. Each document related to “Karen Abigail López García” was examined. Because manufactured birth certificates were common, agents trekked into the countryside to visit the town where the child was allegedly born to verify her data. There, they found the birth year on Karen’s certificate had been blacked out. They also found a second version of the certificate, with a different date written in by hand. The agents tracked down the midwife listed on the document, who allegedly attended Karen’s birth. The woman said she’d never met a child called Karen, nor did she know Felicita.

Karen Abigail López García
Birth certificate used in adoption of Karen Abigail López García, later determined to be false

Inside Karen’s adoption file, an official government social report about the child, written in October 2007, plainly stated that the address for Felicita Antonia López had been manufactured. Staffers from the attorney general’s office tried to visit Felicita. They couldn’t find her, and instead spoke to the woman listed on paper as Felicita’s mother. That woman said she had no daughter named Felicita. The investigators went on to question people around the small village. “If…Felicita Antonia lived here, everyone would have known,” one neighbor said.

Investigators drew sketches showing the possible routes of the kidnappers, and photographers re-created crime scenes outside Loyda Rodríguez’s house.

Rodríguez, the Sobrevivientes lawyers, and the agents working on the case were caught up in an intense flurry of activity, driven by the possibility that Anyelí was still hidden somewhere in Guatemala. Preparations were underway to obtain permission to search inside Asociación Primavera and other Guatemalan nurseries commonly used in adoption.

But the momentum was short-lived. Two weeks after the human-trafficking unit presented a formal inquiry to determine whether or not Karen had left the country, they received an answer. They were four months too late. On December 9, 2008, the child had left Guatemala on a Continental Airlines flight, alongside the Monahans. And now, she had a new US visa, and a new name: Karen Abigail Monahan.

Karen Abigail López García
Passport issued to Karen Abigail López García

Guatemalan authorities began making arrests. Judge Peralta, who had declared the child legally abandoned, was charged with human trafficking, conspiracy, and failure to report a crime. An official from the office of the attorney general, César Augusto Galicia Prera, who failed to halt the adoption’s progression or notify Peralta of any missing child reports, was charged with dereliction of duty and human trafficking. Investigators raided the offices and home of attorney Susana Luarca, charging her, too, with human trafficking.

Investigators also discovered that a person named Felicita did in fact exist: she was a 30-year-old Nicaraguan baker who’d immigrated to Guatemala years before. Her identity had been stolen, then used by a stranger to create a fake mother in order to facilitate Karen’s adoption.

Marvin Bran turned himself in to the Public Ministry in May 2009, attempting to obtain immunity from the prosecution for trafficking. He provided a copy of a $7,000 check he’d deposited from CCI, explaining that he worked for them. In his deposition, Bran admitted to having paid 30,000 quetzales ($3,800) to two women, “Ligia and Sara,” for Karen. Initially, investigators said, he claimed the women were lesbians who’d snatched the child and escaped via motorcycle.

Marvin Bran
Marvin Bran

But the Public Ministry didn’t believe Bran. Chunks of his colorful story were hard to understand, and lacked evidence. Investigators said they didn’t trust Bran because he’d previously lied under oath. Bran’s former defense attorney, Fernando Linares, thought Bran “wasn’t a big enough fish” in the investigation to warrant protection, or an offer to become a protected witness of sorts. Linares speculated that the US government was culpable in the case, since they’d issued Karen’s orphan immigrant visa. “Perhaps they didn’t read what was in the computer,” he told me wryly, referring to the long-established and easily discoverable negative DNA result.

On her personal blog, Luarca published a long defense, clarifying her own role in Karen’s adoption and accusing Guatemalan authorities of planting evidence to frame her. She also accused them of general incompetence. Dated October 11, 2009, the account included a discussion of Karen’s “adoptive parents,” though Luarca never explicitly named the Monahans.

“Unfortunately, when her [Karen’s] parents were approached by the Guatemalan Consulate, they said that they would talk to their lawyer and stopped accepting calls,” Luarca wrote. “They hired a lawyer who does not want to collaborate, for reasons that I cannot understand, since it is in the best interest of the family who hired her, to clear things up, in order to be assured that nobody is going to show at their doorstep, demanding that the girl be returned to Guatemala.”

At the time, the idea of Guatemala demanding the girl’s return may have seemed far-fetched. No child had ever been in a situation like Karen’s before—or at least no situation like hers had ever been reported.

“All these problems could be solved,” Luarca continued. She suggested that the Monahans get a re-test of the child’s DNA to compare it Loyda Rodríguez’s. “If only the family of Karen would…. It is a pity that they are ill-advised and hurting so many people by refusing to do so. They have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Wouldn’t it be nice to be sure that your daughter is not involved in this?”

Meanwhile, Alexánder Colop, head of the human-trafficking unit at the Guatemala Ministry of Justice, tracked payments Sue Hedberg sent to her adoption facilitators in Guatemala. “The money came from the US. From there, they’d give it to a ‘cambista’ (changer) who would turn it into cash, and from there, the Brans would distribute it,” he alleged.

He didn’t know if Hedberg was under criminal investigation in the United States, and said he wondered if she was being investigated for violating US laws. She had been investigated, but was never indicted.

To Colop, in cross-border investigations like Karen’s trafficking case, the US Embassy could be helpful, but not always. “They are there [primarily] to protect US citizens,” he told me, “not help us investigate.”

His investigation was as dangerous as it was difficult, which is why Colop has bodyguards. “It’s a pretty delicate issue, to investigate lawyers who were involved in adoptions for years,” Colop said. “You could be going after a lawyer and not know who he might know. It’s an issue where each case has people behind it, friends.”

Guatemala’s prosecutors were helped by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known by the Spanish acronym CICIG, an investigative and prosecutorial authority set up by the United Nations. Some CICIG staff also have bodyguards, and the offices sit, bunker-like, behind tall fortified walls. Bomb-sniffing dogs and X-ray machines inspect each visitor, including members of the press.

Illegal adoptions have been a priority since CICIG opened in 2006. The Commission hopes to hold every actor involved in child trafficking accountable, from bribe-taking government officials, private attorneys, and adoption “facilitators” down to those directly involved in the dirty work, like kidnapping and purchasing children.

The case involving Karen was unique for CICIG, in part because of the existence of clear evidence implicating powerful people like Luarca, who had previously been considered more or less untouchable. Such a case had never been tried before. Karen had already been living a new life as an American citizen for more than a year.

Through 2010, CICIG and the Public Ministry built their prosecution. Through early 2011, the US government remained publicly silent about the case. The Monahans did, too, although they had known about the criminal investigation into Karen’s adoption since April 2009, when Guatemalan officials reached out to them through diplomatic channels. According to a faxed response, the Monahans told the officials to communicate with their lawyer.

Both countries were and remain parties to the Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Via the MLAT treaty, Guatemala’s Public Ministry asked the US State Department for assistance in taking a new DNA swab from Karen, to verify whether she was the same Karen who had, in July 2007, positively matched as Loyda Rodríguez’s daughter.

But the US Justice Department told Guatemala it wouldn’t help. There wasn’t enough evidence tying adoptive parents to kidnapped children, it said, and because of that, it couldn’t undertake DNA testing. A heavily redacted document obtained by public records request shows at least two MLAT requests for assistance have been formally made from Guatemala, related to two other missing children believed to be living in the American Midwest.

Loyda Rodríguez and her husband persevered. After receiving anonymous death threats, they were forced to move to an undisclosed location hours away from their previous home. At times, Rodríguez said, it took a full day’s bus ride to get to meetings in the capital about the case. They continued to rely on pro-bono legal counsel from Sobrevivientes.

In the summer of 2011, the case was finally thrust into the international spotlight. A Guatemalan judge issued an unprecedented order in July, ruling for the cancellation of the Guatemalan passport and birth certificate issued to “Karen Abigail López García,” now Karen Abigail Monahan. The judge gave the Monahans an ultimatum: they had two months to return Karen to Guatemala. If they didn’t cooperate, she ruled, Interpol would be called upon to enforce the order.

A deluge of press attention followed. The Monahans hired a Washington PR firm, which released a statement saying, “The Monahan family will continue to advocate for the safety and best interests of their legally adopted child. They remain committed to protecting their daughter from additional trauma as they pursue the truth of her past through appropriate legal channels.”

They also retained Jared Genser, an aggressive former lobbyist and Washington lawyer specializing in international human rights.

In October 2011, the Monahans appeared on the CBS’s Early Show. Jennifer Monahan spoke softly and held her husband’s hand; she said the couple believed their adoption of Karen was legal. Footage taken in the Monahan’s handsome living room showed leather couches and a fully outfitted children’s playroom, complete with a brown-skinned Barbie.

The Monahans made it clear that they didn’t believe the results of the DNA test that showed a match between Karen and Loyda Rodríguez. They implied that the little girl in their home wasn’t the same child whose DNA had been tested in 2007. In Guatemala, Jennifer Monahan said, “DNA is sort of viewed as a title, and we strongly feel that Karen isn’t property.”

A shot of Genser was spliced in remotely. He declared that the Guatemalan court ruling had no jurisdiction in the US.

Yet the original issuance of Karen’s orphan immigrant visa, necessary to enter the US, and her American citizenship both depended on the authenticity of certain identifying documents—the same documents that had been voided by the Guatemalan judge. Essentially, US citizenship had been granted to a girl whose identity was in dispute.

When asked what they would do “if it is proven that Karen is Mrs. Rodríguez’s daughter,” Timothy Monahan answered, “It’s really very difficult to say.” He added that they’d been “trying to work with authorities all through this process.” But Guatemalan authorities said they’d never been contacted by the Monahans.

The same day the Monahans made their TV appearance, thousands of miles south, two women intimately involved in Karen’s adoption were sentenced in court for human trafficking, document fraud, and criminal enterprise related to the buying and selling of the child. Luarca’s nursery director and the lawyer who facilitated Karen’s adoption were both found guilty of all charges, and were sentenced, respectively, to sixteen and twenty-one years in prison.

Eight years have passed since the kidnapping of Anyelí Liseth Hernández Rodríguez. Karen has now lived in the United States since December 2008. It’s been three years since Guatemalan prosecutors concluded the child’s identity was manufactured. As the criminal proceedings move forward at a staggeringly slow pace, a host of difficult questions remain.

What are the best interests of the little girl at the heart of the case? How will the nullification of her Guatemalan birth certificate and passport affect her status as an American citizen? If Marvin Bran is guilty of human trafficking, will there be ramifications here for the Americans who worked with him?

As of yet, no one knows.

Since their TV appearance, the Monahans have remained publicly silent about the case.

Their lawyer also refuses to speak on the record. Jared Genser sent letters and emails to journalists and editors reporting on the case, including to myself, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and others, threatening legal action. Little has been written in the American media about the case and ongoing criminal investigation.

Although under Guatemalan law Karen Abigail Monahan was trafficked, her sale doesn’t constitute trafficking under US law, since the child wasn’t purchased for reasons of forced labor or sexual servitude.

And since US adoption agencies are licensed by the states in which they operate, federal authorities have almost no power to monitor their activities, and even less ability to punish those involved in trafficking.

In Guatemala, the entire adoption industry has ground to a halt. Americans can no longer adopt Guatemalan children. Since 2009, Guatemala has been trying to update its laws and regulations, to prevent child-buying and to implement more safeguards, checks, and balances in the process. No one knows when the country might open again to hopeful foreign couples.

Since the decision, Rodríguez and her husband have considered filing suit in Missouri. They haven’t yet been able to retain the pro-bono counsel.

Of the twelve Guatemalans facing criminal charges in relation to the adoption, only two are behind bars today, Enriqueta Francisca Noriega Cano and Alma Beatriz Valle Flores de Mejía. (Others are in prison, but awaiting trial.) The accused include three former government officials from Guatemala’s Procuraduría General de la Nación: César Augusto Galicia Prera, Marco Tulio España Sánchez, and Mairena Trujillo Reyes.

Raúl Ticún Urias, the lawyer who served as Jennifer and Timothy Monahan’s power of attorney in Guatemala, awaits trial from prison. Others are in custody. Peralta’s arrest, along with that of Judge Rossana Maribel Mena Guzman for trafficking in persons related to adoption, made it into the US State Department’s 2012 Human Rights Report on Guatemala. Peralta is accused of participating in a reported twenty other adoption cases with irregularities.

Marvin Bran disappeared, and is now considered a fugitive of justice, though he maintains a Facebook presence. Susana Luarca is being held in a women’s prison in Antigua while her trial continues. She has appealed the charges, and the next hearing is scheduled for January 2015.

Sandra Noemí Maldonado Chajón de Velásquez, who posed as the Nicaraguan baker Felicita (a real woman, but not the birth mother), and two more lawyers, César Augusto Trujillo López and Saúl Vinicio García, are also waiting.

Almost all of those involved in the human trafficking network underpinning this adoption case have appealed their charges.

CICIG lawyer Flor de María Gálvez, a co-prosecutor on the case, said that the Commission has never been in contact with the Monahans. When asked if either the Monahans or Sue Hedberg would be charged or linked to the case, she said she couldn’t comment since it was “still under investigation.”

Gálvez said that the prosecution is still waiting for a response from the US government to Guatemala’s requests for help in the criminal investigation. “This case is important for Guatemala because it involves a criminal network,” she said. “A network made up of public officials, judges responsible for matters concerning children, attorneys, notary publics, and other individuals. It’s also important because of the damage caused to the girl, and to her biological family.”

organized crime structure
A diagram created by the Ministerio Público mapping the people involved in Karen’s adoption

A source inside the Ministerio Público said the criminal sentences are expected to happen in early 2015, after the hearings. “They [the adoption networks] have no political power now,” the source said. “They’ll probably be convicted.”

I asked Chris Bentley, an official from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, what could happen in a hypothetical kidnapping for adoption case, where a child’s identity was manufactured in order to obtain US citizenship.

“There’s no case precedent for situations like this that I’m aware of,” he told me. But a process called denaturalization could occur. It’s rare, and depends on the individual situation.

“Willful misrepresentation is the threshold that would have to be met to begin a denaturalization process,” Bentley said. “[It] is when you are asking for something you don’t qualify for. You are willfully making up facts to try to convince the government that you are eligible for something when you know you’re not…to circumvent the system.”

When I spoke with Loyda Rodríguez in Guatemala City in 2009, she was buoyant. “I think that they are going to ultimately return her,” Rodríguez said of the Monahans.

Since then, her dreams have faded. Now, Rodríguez said, she wants just one thing: to be able to communicate with her daughter. She wants to explain to Anyelí that she was never given up, and that she was always loved.

Correction: “The Limits of Jurisdiction” (Dec. 1, 2014) as initially published misstated three dates. The Monahans traveled to Guatemala to pick up the little boy they were in the process of trying to adopt in March, not January. In her chronology, Jennifer Monahan outlined a conversation she’d had with Rodolfo “Rudy” Rivera, an American adoption lawyer, in early August 2007, not 2008. And Jennifer Monahan sent Guatemalan lawyer Susana Luarca Saracho her detailed chronology in 2007, not 2008.

All reporting in Guatemala for this investigation was done alongside journalist Juan Carlos Llorca. Photographs were taken by Erin Siegal McIntyre and Juan Carlos Llorca.

Erin Siegal McIntyre is a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and an investigative correspondent/producer working on special projects and documentaries for Univision. She’s the author of the book Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child, and a Cross-Border Search for Truth (Beacon Press 2012), which was honored by the Overseas Press Club of America with a Robert Spiers Benjamin Award citation for best reporting in any medium on Latin America. She’s based in Tijuana and Miami, and loves to chat on Twitter—say hi @ErinSiegal.

Source: Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics

Woodstock Rally

August 19, 2011 permalink

Yesterday's rally in Woodstock was covered in the press.



Voices of Innocent Families in Ontario
Members of the Voices of Innocent Families in Ontario gathered to protest outside of the Children Aid Society of Oxford on Light Street Thursday, Aug. 18. The group was asking for more accountability from the organization.
TARA BOWIE / Sentinel-Review /QMI AGENCY

Protest takes aim at MUSH-sector accountability

WOODSTOCK— Protesters outside the Children's Aid Society of Oxford (CAS) demanded accountability Thursday.

Lillian Christine Sorko, a member of Voices of Innocent Families in Ontario, said groups have been protesting across Ontario over the past few weeks. In each community, the message has been the same – to have independent investigations to be the protocol for problems in what is referred to as the MUSH sector.

The MUSH sector involves public agencies like CAS and includes school boards, hospitals, long-term care facilities and retirement homes. Sorko said she wants the agencies monitored by the Ontario Ombudsman instead of the current review processes in place.

"These people are coming into our homes and telling us what to do and how to parent, but there is no way to make them accountable for anything," she said outside the Light Street building of Oxford's CAS. "It's not just about CAS; it's about all public agencies. There has to be accountability and there isn't."

Sorko said she's had unpleasant and traumatic run-ins with CAS in the past. Two of her grandchildren were seized, one in hospital just after being born.

"My daughter might have had a drug problem, but I do not. There was nothing wrong with me when I was raising my children. But I guess I wasn't good enough, so they put my daughter and grandbaby through a traumatic event like this," she said.

She now takes care of the child, who is just over a year old. Her daughter has been clean for almost that entire time.

Another protester travelled from Chatham to be involved in the rally. She did not reveal her name because her grandson is still in CAS custody. She said the boy was just six months old when he was placed in six different foster homes in seven weeks. While the infant was in custody, she alleged he sustained multiple injuries, including a dislocated elbow that required a cast. She said police were not able to determine how or who injured the child, although they knew when it took place.

"When he was taken to the doctor, the doctor said he couldn't have sustained an injury like that on his own. Someone must have done it to him because at that age they aren't even crawling they can barely move on their own," she said, "but yet there is no accountability. Foster care abuse is real."

Rob Neill, director of service for the Oxford CAS, said concerns are raised about foster families from time to time and abuse investigations are handled the same way as any other abuse investigation.

"We have a very high standard in terms of quality of care," he said during a telephone interview.

He added a licence is required for those fostering children, and the stipulations required to obtain a licence is handed down by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services.

He said the CAS does have policies and procedures that are in place and reviewed as per guidelines handed down by the Youth Ministry.

Neill wasn't aware of any specific investigations at the time of the interview.

As far as having the ombudsman involved in investigations, Neill said, "We welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to enhance services in any way."

Source: Woodstock Sentinel-Review

The same article appeared in the London Free Press.

Saving Para-Legals

August 18, 2011 permalink

Harry Kopyto is continuing his struggle for para-legals, now through the courts.



Harry Kopyto is Going to the Superior Court

Harry follows Blight’s advice

Harry Kopyto wants an answer. He wants to know where he can challenge the independence of the Hearing Panel that is deciding if he has the good character to continue working as a paralegal. Is that a lot to ask? Not really, no. In fact, the Panel agrees that he deserves an answer. It agrees he should get someone to hear his objection. But not us, they tell him. Why? Because they just can’t handle his challenge to its authority. Oh yes, they agree that they are “implicated” in his argument that they function as part of a constitutionally flawed regulatory scheme. But they also say that they are not “institutionally competent” to hear his motion. How come? They’re smart people. After all, they know the ropes. Blight even advises major corporations and the Ontario government. Anyway, they recommend he take his issue to the courts. And Harry, who is an agreeable fellow by nature, is following their advice.

Basically, Harry has asked Blight to disqualify the Panel. He argues that the Panel is not legitimate. It is not independent. It was appointed by lawyers. Lawyers have a conflict with the Law Society’s mandate to serve the public interest. Paralegals used to do much of the same work lawyers do. And cheaper. So lawyers took control of paralegals. They carved out the most lucrative work paralegals were previously allowed to do exclusively for themselves. They barred paralegals from doing everything else. The Law Society is run by lawyers. It’s just another monopoly engaged in a hostile takeover. In price-fixing. In abuse of a dominant position in the marketplace. In eliminating its own more affordable competition. At whose expense was this done? At the expense of the public’s access to affordable justice.

Harry argues that the Blight Panel is unconstitutional. Access to justice is an unwritten constitutional right. The Panel is part of a legislative design that violates it.

The Law Society violates the public interest which the paralegal regulatory law is supposed to serve. Harry argued that By-law 4 of the Law Society Act sanctions a conflict of interest. The Panel, appointed by lawyers, is part of that unconstitutional scheme. It judges paralegals’ rights to practice on the basis of the lawyers who appoint it and who it ultimately serves. The Panel agreed its legislation was being questioned by Harry. The Panel ruled that it was directly implicated in Harry’s argument because it was part of the administration of a law that Harry alleges was constitutionally flawed. It admitted that fact in its decision refusing to hear his challenge released July 5, 2011. But it did not want to take the reality of its own admission to its logical, inescapable conclusion. Blight did not have the inclination to bite the hand that fed her. So she looked for a way to weasel out.

Not quite what Blight had in mind

She found a way. Blight ruled that Harry’s argument was too much for her to handle. She said that the Panel was not “institutionally competent” to deal with such a broad constitutional challenge. Of course, she could not completely ignore his argument which she admitted in her decision, implicated the Panel. No judge can ignore a charge of conflict of interest and lack of independence. It is ABC that a judge must rule on such a sweeping attack on his or her authority. So what she stated in her decision was that Harry’s challenge is “appropriately raised before a Court of original jurisdiction”. Aha! Pass the buck! And that’s why Harry is going to the Superior Court.

Harry’s application to the Superior Court may not be exactly what Blight had in mind. The reference to a “Court of original jurisdiction” which Blight said should hear Harry’s challenge means a Court that will deal with the constitutionality of By-law 4 as a totally new original case separate from the context of his good character hearing. Blight decided to continue to hear the merits of his good character hearing and even set seven new dates to consider the evidence of witnesses. So, while Harry cruises the courthouses looking for a judge, the show against him goes on. Get it? Isn’t that almost like telling somebody that first they’ll hang him and then he can have a trial on the charges in another forum? What was Blight thinking? Could she really believe she could weasel out so easily from dealing with his argument? And why does she lack the moral and ethical courage to deal with Harry’s argument that lawyers are breaching the public interest? Harry almost believed in her moral courage and desire to be fair to him. Was he wrong?

Kopyto is going to the Superior Court, but not to start a new case as Blight suggested. Even if he wanted to, he would probably lack standing to do so because he was never personally denied access to affordable justice which is the constitutional issue at stake. He is going to the Superior Court to get an order directing Blight to deal with his challenge to By-law 4 and the illegitimate appointment of the Panel by lawyers. It’s your job. Do it, Margot Blight! Show Harry his confidence in your fairness was not misplaced.

Your presence can make a difference

The Superior Court has three choices. First, it could grant an order to force the Blight Panel to deal with Harry’s motion on the basis that he has no adequate alternative remedy. Second, it could agree to allow Harry to have the issues resolved in the Court as suggested by the Blight Panel which would be unlikely for the reasons indicated above. Or, it could deny Harry’s application completely, leaving him no right to question the independence of the Panel and the validity of By-law 4. Such a denial, of course, would amount to a miscarriage of justice.

A date for Harry’s application is being scheduled most likely for September 2011. The Law Society and Harry Kopyto are both gearing up for the fierce Court fight that will decide the future course of his constitutional challenge to the paralegal takeover. Harry’s fundamental rights have been denied. Also, the legitimate moral and legal challenge to the institutional framework that works against the public’s right to affordable justice is being denied as well. Will Harry be granted the right to make his argument before the Blight Panel by the Court? Will the Court turn its back on him and back Blight’s decision to deny his right to be heard? The Court’s decision may ultimately depend on Harry’s support in the community and how many members of the public attend the Court hearing anticipated to be heard in early September, 2011 to ensure that justice is done. Be there. The stakes are high.

Source: Harry Kopyto blog

Ending Freedom of the Press

August 18, 2011 permalink

An Arizona story shows how child protection is ending all civil liberties, this time freedom of the press. When Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reported on bug sweeps, the office of Sheriff Joe Arpaio threatened to place her child in foster care.



All the Sheriff's Men

MCSO Commanders Dave Hendershott and Paul Chagolla Threatened Reporter for Doing Her Job, Says Report; Joe Arpaio's Response Unclear

Paul Chagolla
Deputy Chief Paul Chagolla is alleged to have threatened a reporter with arrest, and put her baby in CPS custody, all because she did her job.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio won't say whether one of his deputy chiefs, Paul Chagolla, deserves to be investigated for allegedly threatening an Arizona Republic reporter two years ago.

Arpaio would only tell us yesterday that "it's not over" -- a reference to the still-unfolding scandal of mismanagement and allegedly criminal behavior by members of his command staff. He's right about that.

Arpaio got rid of two of his closest aides, Dave Hendershott and Larry Black, because of the findings in the six-month internal investigation conducted by the Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's office.

Chagolla, a protege of Hendershott's, remains one of Arpaio's top men.

Yet Babeu's investigative report details the comically insane suspicions that Chagolla and Hendershott claimed to have about Republic reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez -- and how they allegedly threatened numerous times to arrest her and put her child in CPS custody.

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
Dave Hendershott
Dave Hendershott

Last year, both the Republic and New Times reported how Wingett's name had appeared in Sheriff's Office documents related to the bug sweep. The full story, as we've learned, is much juicier. Chagolla, Wingett Sanchez, and Republic editor Randy Lovely declined comment for this article.

In her interview with Babeu's investigators, Lisa Allen, Arpaio's spokeswoman, described Chagolla as "clearly under the influence and thumb of David Hendershott," the latter being "about the scariest man I've ever met."

In early 2009, Hendershott told Wingett, reporter JJ Hensley and a Republic editor -- on the record -- that his office was investigating the sweep for electronic-listening devices mentioned in one of Wingett Sanchez's recent articles.

Wingett Sanchez called Maricopa County officials for comment. And then Hensley reportedly called Chagolla and let him know that the paper was on an article about the investigation. Hensley, Chagolla claims, told him that Wingett Sanchez had called county officials about the investigation and apologized because her article apparently played a role in launching it.

Astonishingly, Chagolla claimed to investigators that when Hendershott first told the reporters about the investigation, it was most likely a "fact finding meeting" for Hendershott. In others words, Chagolla believed Hendershott hadn't been telling reporters an interesting bit of news -- he'd been involving them in an investigation without their knowledge. And when Wingett Sanchez called the county -- well, this crack lawman figured that might be some kind of illegal tip-off.

He thought it fell "into the realm of aiding, alerting [county officials] so that they can discard potential evidence," he told investigators.

Chagolla told Hendershott and internal affairs chief Terry Young about his conversation with Hensley. We're sort of creeped out by the way Chagolla describes Hensley as some kind of snitch, later telling Babeu's investigators that Hensley sometimes helped him "understand, you know, what was happening in his newsroom."

Lisa Allen
Lisa Allen

A year later, after Arpaio had put Hendershott on adminstrative leave, Wingett complained to Lisa Allen that he and Chagolla repeatedly had threatened to arrest her over the incident.

"Next week, Yvonne, you're going to be arrested ... and your child is going to end up with Child Protective Services," they said, Wingett Sanchez told Allen, adding that she could barely speak about it without getting "emotional."

The threats to Wingett Sanchez came in person and, at least once, by telephone, Allen reported.

"She was always threatened that her child would end up in the hands of CPS, which was very upsetting to her," the report states.

Allen suggests that she received gobbledegook from Hendershott and Chagolla when she asked them to explain why they believed Wingett Sanchez had done anything wrong.

Hendershott "really believed that Yvonne had committed some sort of a crime. Seemed to me she was just doing her job as a reporter, but he thought it was a crime," Allen told investigators.

Allen tells New Times that she talked to Loretta Barkell, the agency's chief financial officer, about Wingett Sanchez's allegation. They decided it would be best if Allen reported what she'd heard to IA chief Terry Young.

"If it was true, someone had to be held accountable," Allen told us last night.

But no one's been held accountable, as far as we can tell.

After talking to Young, Allen also told Sheriff Arpaio about the threats to Wingett Sanchez.

Young contacted Wingett Sanchez and Hensley, who told him they wouldn't participate in the investigation.

Young's investigation apparently ended there. But it shouldn't have, because Chagolla can still be investigated without the reporters' assistance. Munnell Memo report investigators asked Chagolla briefly about the incident, and he claimed he never threatened Wingett with arrest or that he'd have her child put in CPS custody.

Our guess: Hensley's not a snitch, Wingett Sanchez isn't a liar, and Chagolla's off his rocker.

Serious doubts can be raised about Chagolla's mindset and statements to investigators here. Chagolla, a former spokesman for Arpaio's office, is well-known for his sometimes bizarre and unprofessional behavior.

Chagolla has a widespread reputation for getting nasty, a fact that Lisa Allen acknowledged after Chagolla was transferred from his post as media liaison and reassigned. "I think there are a lot of people in the media [who] are glad to see him go," Allen told us in 2008.

The kicker is that Arpaio's investigation into the supposed misuse of funds by county officials for two bug sweeps was corrupt from the start.

Babeu's investigators found that Hendershott had ordered underlings to doctor a search warrant as part of the bug-sweep probe. He wanted the County Supervisors' offices searched for evidence that the Supes had found and deactivated bugs planted by the Sheriff's Office. But Hendershott knew the MCSO had planted no bugs. Investigators wrote that they found Hendershott's illogical statements on the matter "astounding."

Knowing that the investigation was bogus, Hendershott announced to the media that county Supervisor Andy Kunasek had "stolen" county funds to the tune of $15,000 -- the cost of the bug sweeps. A grand jury rejected the investigation into Kunasek as a probable political hatchet job.

Kunasek later revealed part of a transcript from his interview with former Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon -- which seems to prove that Hendershott and Aubuchon had tried to use the bug-sweep probe to extort Kunasek into approving their choice for a replacement county attorney.

Now Arpaio's got another choice to make: What to do with Chagolla?

Source: Phoenix New Times

Secret Deaths

August 18, 2011 permalink

In Kentucky child protectors are resisiting a law requiring disclosure for children who die in their care.



Newspapers accuse state of illegally withholding child-death records

watchdog report

FRANKFORT — A lawyer for Kentucky's two largest newspapers told a Franklin Circuit Court judge Wednesday that the state was "thumbing its nose at the law" by withholding records relating to the deaths of abused and neglected children.

"They are acting illegally and they are doing it in a brazen fashion," said Jon Fleisch aker, a lawyer representing the Lexington Herald-Leader and The Courier-Journal of Louisville.

Fleischaker's comments came during a hearing about whether the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which oversees child protection, must turn over records regarding children who died of abuse and neglect while under the state's care. This is the second time in two years the newspapers have sued the cabinet to get such records.

Cabinet officials said Wednesday there were about 44 cases during the past two years that involved children who died or were nearly killed as a result of abuse and neglect while under the cabinet's supervision.

Meanwhile, a convicted murderer and four anonymous women tried to intervene in the case, saying release of the records would harm a legal appeal or violate privacy rights.

Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson also wrote a letter to Judge Phillip Shepherd expressing concerns about the release of child death documents. Larson said it could prejudice a jury if documents were released about the death of Katelynn Stinnett, a 2-year-old Fayette County girl. Brian Crabtree, who lived with Katelynn's father at the time of her death on Nov. 26, 2008, has been charged with rape and murder.

Shepherd on Wednesday allowed Patrick Watkins to intervene in the case.

Watkins and his wife were sentenced to life in prison in October 2008 for the murder of their daughter Michaela Watkins, 10. The Clark County girl's body was found severely bruised and burned on March 11, 2007, at the Watkinses' apartment. She had more than 77 injuries at the time of her death.

B. Scott West, a lawyer for Watkins, argued that Watkins could be granted a new trial and that releasing the cabinet's documents regarding Michaela could prejudice a jury. The state Supreme Court has overturned part of the case against Watkins but the Supreme Court's decision is not final yet.

Scott White, a Lexington lawyer, also filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of four anonymous women who say their privacy rights would be violated if the information requested by the media was made public. White said the four women had been investigated for abuse and neglect of their children.

Fleischaker questioned why the women could file to intervene in the case without telling the court who they were. There is no provision in the law that would allow the women to do so, he said.

White argued that their privacy rights would be violated if he revealed their identities before Shepherd ruled on whether they had a right to intervene. Shepherd said he would rule soon on whether the women could file to intervene as "Jane Does."

Fleischaker also argued Wednesday that the cabinet was purposely dragging its feet on releasing records regarding child deaths, despite a previous order by Shepherd that declared similar documents were public. The cabinet has engaged in a series of moves to thwart the media's attempts to get those records, lawyers for the media have argued.

Brent Irvin, a lawyer for the cabinet, said the cabinet was not trying to circumvent the law. The cabinet still maintains that federal law prohibits it from releasing some of the records.

If the cabinet releases information that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says is private, the state fears it could lose federal child protection funding, Irvin said.

Shepherd asked whether any state had ever lost federal funding because of the release of information about child deaths. Irvin said he was not sure.

Both newspapers sued the cabinet in 2010 to get access to records regarding the death of Kayden Branham, a 20-month-old Wayne County toddler who died after drinking drain cleaner used to make methamphetamine. He and his teen mother had been under cabinet supervision before his death.

After Shepherd made public the documents regarding Kayden's death, both newspapers filed requests to get records about other children who have died of abuse and neglect while under the cabinet's care.

The cabinet denied both requests and then filed an emergency state regulation that limited the amount of information it could release about child deaths. The media sued the cabinet again in state court in January, but the cabinet had the case transferred to federal court. A federal court judge later ruled that the case involved state law, not federal law, and returned it to Shepherd's court.

Fleischaker argued that the issues before the court Wednesday were the same as those in the case involving Kayden Branham. The cabinet did not appeal Shepherd's previous ruling, Fleischaker noted.

"They don't care what the law is," Fleischaker said of the cabinet.

Irvin countered that there are still unanswered questions about what should be released to the public.

Shepherd released some of the information involving Kayden's death after he reviewed the file, but he did not tell the cabinet what information he chose not to release, Irvin said.

Shepherd said Wednesday that he released all of the information about Kayden Branham and his mother. The only records he did not release were about another minor related to Kayden Bran ham's mother.


Chatham Rally

August 17, 2011 permalink

Keep CAS out of schools

An enthusiastic participant in today's Chatham rally reports:

Darlene Duplessis The Chatham-Kent rally was WONDERFUL!!! At one point we had 30 ppl holding signs! Sounded like a sat. wedding with all the horns honking in support....Though we were asked to stay off court we marched on the road back to Grand Ave. (I thought court houses were public property!!!!)

Source: Facebook

Some photographs: [1] [2] [3] [4].

The Chatham Daily News posted the article below, they had to close comments within four hours.



CAS frustration results in rally

Organizers of an all-day rally Wednesday in Chatham wanted to bring awareness to the "abusive'' powers of Childrens' Aid Societies.

"We want government oversight of these non-government agencies that are publicly funded,'' said Dave Flook of Chatham, founder of Not All Dads are Deadbeats.

More than two dozen of Flook's supporters, each armed with signs, gathered in front of the Grand Avenue West courthouse at 10 a.m.

"We want the government and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services to begin taking full responsibility for CAS actions,'' he told reporters.

Flook said he receives a dozen calls or emails a week from people across the province who are having run-ins with the CAS.

Flook said he is receiving threatening letters from the CAS and wouldn't be surprised if they take him to court over a minor recent incident.

"You don't have to let CAS workers into your home without a court order,'' he said.

Flook said the CAS has the ability to take children from a home and put them up for adoption.

"All we are asking for is accountability and transparency,'' he said.

Flook said he also wants an end to what he says are CAS workers illegally practicing social work by using titles such as child protection worker and not having accreditation such as registered social worker to prevent accountability by the College of Social Workers.

Flook said Ontario is the only province in Canada not allowing its Ombudsman to investigate CAS, hospitals and retirement homes.

Mike Stephens, chief executive officer for Chatham-Kent Children's Services, said accountability reviews and mechanisms are already in place to help ensure children are well cared for and receive the best service under the Child and Family Services Act.

He said CASs have the exclusive mandate to protect children from abuse and neglect in Ontario.

"The legislation, regulations, directives and standards prescribe specific and detailed requirements regarding what CAS must do, how they must do it and the timelines in which critical and mandatory protection and prevention services must be provided,'' Stephens said.

He said Ontario has the second lowest rate of children in care in Canada and service trends for Ontario CASs illustrate the efforts that CASs are making a difference.

"Fewer children are coming into care and of those who do come into care, more are living in family-based care and more are living with kin,'' he said.

He said the family court system ensures individual client rights are respected and ultimately that children are protected. CASs act on decisions made by the justice system.

Stephens said CAS protection workers receive in-depth specialized training related to child protection work.

He said in addition to being trained, child protection workers follow strict provincial legislation, policies, procedures and standards that guide every step of their work.

"Their work is supervised by senior staff and often supported by many other experts in their communities,'' he said.

Stephens said the Social Work and Social Services Workers Act does not require child protection workers to be social workers and doesn't require them to be registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

Commenting on this article is now closed.

Source: Chatham Daily News

Shallow Adoption

August 16, 2011 permalink

Shirley Smith was raised by adoptive parents. But when she found the family that give birth to her, the adopters cut off all contact.



I chose the mum that gave me up over the parents who raised me

Shirley Smith was ecstatic when she received a letter saying that her biological family was trying to track her down.

But when she broke the news to her adoptive parents, they gave her an ultimatum to choose one family or the other.

In turmoil, she turned her back on loving parents who had devoted their lives to bringing her up in favour of a family shed never met.

Her adoptive parents, who raised her on her own for more than 30 years, are now in their 80s and she hasn't spoken to them since.

Its a decision few people will understand but Shirley says any guilt over abandoning her elderly parents is cancelled out by the amazing times shes had with her birth family.

There's every chance my parents will go to their graves believing I betrayed them, says Shirley, 42.

After dedicating their lives to me, it was my turn to look after them. But the desire to meet my real family was too strong, so I picked them and broke my parents hearts.

Shirley was nine when she found out she was adopted. She was sitting in the hallway of the family home when she overheard a conversation between her parents and brother.

My brother asked them if I was adopted like him, she recalls. When they said yes, my whole world fell apart.

That afternoon, I confronted them while they were making tea. They admitted it but when I probed Mum further, she became defensive about it.

She said she loved me like her own and would be hurt if I brought the subject up again. Dad said he'd explain when I was older, but that day never came.

Burdened with questions, Shirley spent most of her teens feeling confused and rejected, which put a strain on the relationship with her parents and she moved out at 18. I loved my parents very much, says Shirley.

They'd supported me through thick and thin, like when I was bullied at school, and made sure I never wanted for anything.

But they were strict and our personalities clashed, which made me constantly question whether my real mum was more like me.

I didnt even know if she was dead or alive, but I was too scared to ask my parents for more information. They saw it as the ultimate betrayal.

Shirley as a toddler with her adoptive family

Despite the friction, Shirley was close to her mum and dad while building a life for herself in Poole, Dorset. She met her first boyfriend in 1989 and got pregnant with their son, George, 14, eight years later.

I was over the moon, recalls Shirley. But when I told my partner he said he wasn't ready to be a dad and left me.

I was devastated I didn't want George feeling abandoned like I had growing up. But my parents were an amazing support.

Mum came with me to every scan I had while I was pregnant and held my hand tight throughout the birth.

And when I held George for the first time I felt such an intense rush of love, it made it even harder to understand how my birth mum could have given me away.

Having a child deepened her need for answers about her biological background.

I hoped my parents would understand now I was a mother myself, she says.

But when I mentioned it to them they were offended immediately.

So I kept quiet, not wanting to upset them further.

They were so fantastic with George, I was very wary not to burn the bridges I had.

But in March 2005 on Georges eighth birthday the decision was taken out of her hands. Shirley opened her post to find a letter from the adoption agency. A sibling was trying to track her down.

My pulse raced, she recalls. I wanted to call the number instantly, but the mix of emotions was overwhelming and I feared the letter could have been intended for someone else.

But if it was true, it meant I had a brother or sister. It was all mind-blowing news.

The next day Shirley called the number on the letter and then arranged a meeting with a representative from the adoption agency. There, she was told she had a sister named Caroline Grant, 34, who had spent two years searching for her.

Without further hesitation, Shirley gave permission to initiate contact. One week later, a letter from Caroline arrived in the post. In the letter, Caroline explained how their mother, Barbara, 58, was 16 when she got pregnant with Shirley and because of her age, was forced to give her up for adoption.

However, Barbara's relationship with Shirley's father, Jerry, 60, endured and Caroline was born seven years later and brother Keith, 32, three years after that.

Id gone from feeling alone in the world to having a mother, father, sister and brother all at once. It was the most surreal moment of my entire life.

Shirley wrote back to Caroline and was soon corresponding with her biological family behind her adoptive parents backs.

She says: My mother posted my birth certificate and a photograph of her holding me as a baby, and one of my father cuddling me as well.

She said shed kept the pictures by her bedside and looked at them every single day. Shed never ever forgotten about me. That meant a huge amount to me.

But, after three months, Shirley ached to meet her family. They agreed to meet in Skipton, North Yorks, a neutral ground between Shirley's home and the Grants base in St Helens.

But as the reunion came closer, she was racked with guilt and plucked up the courage to tell her adoptive parents.

George and I went to visit them and I took the letter from the agency with me, Shirley explains.

They hit the roof. Mum asked, Aren't we good enough for you any more?

And it was then they gave me an ultimatum.

They said if I met up with my real family they would never speak to me again because it would hurt them too much.

The guilt was suffocating. They'd loved me for 35 years. But I couldnt do it. Finding my biological family was like completing a jigsaw puzzle. I couldn't rest until Id managed to fit the missing piece.

So despite knowing it would break her parents hearts, Shirley was reunited with her birth family in September 2005. When mother and daughter embraced for the first time, they immediately felt a bond.

The feeling was similar to when I held George for the first time, recalls Shirley.

Its a bond you cant describe and we just hugged and cried. Then my father came over, with my sister and brother. It was the best day of my life.

At a local pub, the family caught up, chatting about their lives and taking photos. It felt like Id know them all my life, says Shirley.

George even looked like my father, and I had my mothers eyes. I also learned we all had webbed toes and that my father liked to eat his meals in order, saving his favourite food for last, like me.

But Shirley also discovered something more significant. For years, she had struggled to walk and had several operations on her legs and feet to strengthen the bones, but her condition was not diagnosed.

She learned Barbara suffered from a rare condition called hereditary spastic paralysis.

The condition affects the muscles from the waist down. They get very tight and slow you down when you're walking and can make you fall over. The symptoms were identical to mine.

Six months later, Shirley received the same diagnosis. Sadly, it meant she would also end up in a wheelchair.

I was just relieved to finally know what it was.

Shirley and her family now speak on the phone every week. Were hoping to meet up next month, says Shirley. Caroline lives in Australia now and recently got married, but shes planning to come back here to celebrate. I can't wait.

However, Shirley has paid the price for her happiness. Devastated by her actions, she and her adoptive parents have not spoken for almost six years.

They're still in Georges life. My adoptive brother comes to collect him once a month, but they refuse to see me.

I hope one day we can be friends again, but for the first time in my life, I feel like I truly belong.

Shirley's adoptive mum adds: It is true that we do not speak to Shirley any more.

She always knew that she was adopted and we never kept anything back from her.

We just felt pushed out when she wanted to find them. It was very upsetting for us.

Source: Mirror (UK)

Skeptical Doctor

August 16, 2011 permalink

Dr Ilana Sherer, a mandated reporter, finds that reporting dubious child abuse can cause more harm than good. Physicians refrain from reporting in marginal cases both for reasons of conscience and because reporting loses customers.



Child abuse fears must be reported by doctors, but some cases pose dilemmas


She had planned to start college that week. Instead, the young woman was sitting in my office, sobbing. She was not on my schedule, but she’d started to wait for me in the afternoons, saying I was the only one who could help her. Yet I felt powerless.

I sat on my red stool in my white coat and held her hands, wishing back to the time before I’d asked her how her face had been bruised, before I’d filed a report with the Child Protective Services agency. I wished for rescue for both of us.

We had met about one year before. She was a quiet, sheltered 16-year-old from West Africa who had recently settled with her family in San Francisco. I was a first-year resident in pediatrics.

The young woman came to my teen clinic frequently, sometimes for allergies, sometimes for rashes that I couldn’t see. I wondered if, like a lot of my female teen patients, she might be coming primarily to chat.

On what was to be our final visit before she left for college, I refilled her allergy medications and we said our good-byes. As she turned her head on the way out the door, I noticed minor swelling around her eye.

When I asked about it, she said, without hesi­ta­tion, “Oh, my father hit me.”

Like all pediatricians, I am mandated by law to report any concern of child abuse. The laws differ by state, but in most places they require professionals in contact with children to report all suspicions of physical, sexual and emotional abuse or neglect in those younger than 18, whether or not there’s substantiating evidence. The laws were clear that I should report the young woman’s father. My conscience wasn’t so certain.

This case was different

Each year in the United States, an estimated 2,400 children die as a result of mistreatment, and more than 500,000 are seriously injured or disabled. Certainly, mandatory reporting protects children, and, until this case, I’d never questioned my role in the system. In my short career, I’ve filed dozens of suspected child abuse reports, mostly for young children with suspicious breaks or burns. In medical school I attended seminars about how to recognize abuse patterns and the requirements for reporting.

This case was different. This time my patient was only months away from her 18th birthday, at which point mandatory reporting laws would no longer apply. Never before had I explained the reporting process without a parent present. (Her mother, through an interpreter, had given me permission to see the teen on her own.) Never before had a patient urged me not to report her father, insisting that although he had intentionally bruised her, it was an acceptable punishment in her culture. Never before had I thought seriously that reporting a case of abuse might not be in my patient’s best interest.

I wasn’t sure what to do. On one hand, I had more than just suspicion of parental violence against a child under age 18. On the other, reporting the abuse would clearly undermine this patient’s trust in me and possibly disrupt her life.

I asked my supervisor for help. “This is why mandatory reporting exists,” she told me. “The law helps you make the right decision despite your emotional connection to the child and the family. Your job is to recognize and report child abuse. It is Child Protective Services’ job to weigh the nuances of what you described and to determine if they need to intervene.”

I told my patient I’d be making a child abuse report. She didn’t respond.

For six days after I filed the report, I heard nothing from Child Protective Services or from my patient. I was relieved. I assumed the case had either been dropped or handled without too much difficulty. On the seventh day, my patient showed up in my office in a panic. The authorities had visited her home, and she was afraid her father would be deported. She couldn’t go to college now, she said. Her family was going to need her financial and emotional support.

But her biggest fear was that her father would never forgive her. He’d been in the right, she insisted. “To accuse my father of wrongdoing is the worst thing I could do,” she told me. “I don’t understand what he did wrong. Don’t all fathers punish with their hands?”

Day after day, she begged me to rescind the report. “Please, call the caseworker and tell her that I lied, that nothing happened. Please.”

I did call the caseworker, hoping I could find out what was happening and urge the investigator to weigh the potential benefits of intervention with the risk of dissolving a family and destroying this young woman’s opportunity for a college education. I left a phone message. I never received a response.

Perhaps, as someone suggested later, the case had been passed to another caseworker. Only later did it occur to me that I could have tried to track down a supervisor.

After four weeks of visits from my distraught patient and silence from Child Protective Services, the young woman stopped coming to my office. I received a handwritten note from the agency telling me that the case had been closed without any action.

I didn’t know what had happened — and still don’t. But my assumption was that my patient had denied the abuse.

My initial reaction was gratitude. I was thankful that the young woman had learned enough about the system to lie to protect herself and her family. Although this was clearly child abuse, reporting it harmed her chances of going to college and leaving the abuse behind. But the more I thought about it, the angrier I became. How is it that we’ve developed a system that encourages patients to lie?

Alienating patients

A survey in the early 2000s by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that in 27 percent of cases in which pediatricians thought injuries were “likely or very likely” to have been caused by abuse, they chose not to file reports. In 76 percent of cases in which doctors considered injuries to have been “possibly” caused by abuse, clinicians chose not to file reports.

One of the most common reasons for non-reporting was lack of confidence in Child Protective Services. Many doctors say that past experiences with negative outcomes, as well as lack of communication about cases they’ve referred, make them less likely to report.

Both pediatricians and Child Protective Services have the same overarching goal: to protect children. But poor communication — on both sides — can undermine our joint mission.

Most reports of suspected abuse or neglect begin with a phone call in which an intake specialist assesses the child’s immediate safety and determines the response that is needed. Then the case is passed to an investigator to determine if the claim is valid and whether legal action, case management or a combination of the two are warranted.

In a minority of cases, the child is removed from an unsafe home. More commonly, a caseworker assists the family or refers the family to counseling or other support services. This entire process takes place in a matter of days to weeks, with responsibility for the case rapidly passing from one Child Protective Services specialist to another.

Meanwhile, we pediatricians worry about a child’s well-being once he or she enters this bureaucratic maze. Furthermore, we know that by making a child abuse report we often alienate a family. Indeed, many of the clinicians in that AAP survey said they had lost families as patients as a result of the reporting.

Changes to the system are slowly coming to fruition. There are now hundreds of child advocacy centers where medical professionals, law enforcement agents and Child Protective Services representatives work together under the same roof. These centers are a step in the right direction, but they require extensive coordinating and funding to be effective.

There are other, less expensive solutions. One is to expand physician training on how to work with Child Protective Services. A model training program already exists in Pennsylvania, in which child protection officers work with physicians on strategies for recognizing child abuse. Another solution might be expanding the training that medical students and residents who care for children receive in evaluating and reporting suspected abuse.

A nuanced response

My patient did eventually go to college. Her father remained in the United States. For a while, I was back to being her doctor. She e-mailed questions and continued to visit on occasion, but she always avoided discussing what had happened the summer before.

At one point I asked her what she’d learned from her experience with Child Protective Services. Was the lesson that sometimes she needed to lie to authorities to protect herself and her family? That she shouldn’t be open and honest with her doctors? She ignored me, then deftly changed the subject. And I wondered if somewhere along the way she’d learned that she didn’t deserve to be hit.

I’m not sure whether knowing what I know now would have changed my initial decision. But I do know that it means I want to be involved in every child abuse case I encounter by making personal relationships with CPS workers.

Although I still support the spirit of mandatory reporting laws, I recognize the need for the system to be able to respond in a nuanced way. I also recognize the need for more age flexibility in mandatory reporting laws, as the needs of older teens experiencing family violence differ from those of infants and young children.

After a few months, e-mails to my patient began to bounce back, and the family phone was disconnected. Then, this spring, I received a message from her. She’d be home from college in the summer, she wrote. Could she shadow me at work as she explored a possible career in health care?

Her e-mail gave me hope. Perhaps some day when she is wearing her white coat and sitting on her red stool across from a crying teenager, she won’t feel as helpless as I did.

Sherer recently completed a pediatric residency in the Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved program at the University of California at San Francisco. This essay was written as part of the university’s Partnership for Physician Advocacy Skills curriculum and produced by Health Affairs NarrativeMatters, from which this was adapted.

Source: Washington Post

Chatham Rally

August 16, 2011 permalink

Dave Flook has called a rally for Wednesday in Chatham.



CAS rally Wednesday

A rally for accountability pertaining to the Childrens' Aid Society is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. at 425 Grand Ave. W.

The rally is being sponsored by Not all Dads are Deadbeats, a non-profit equal parenting organization.

Dave Flook of Chatham, founder of the group, claims CAS has no government oversight but is publicly funded.

For more details, go to

Source: Chatham Daily News

Brittle Bones

August 16, 2011 permalink

British parents Paul Crummey and Amy Garland lost their children for 18 months because one child had fractures from brittle bone disease. Since mother Amy now has a new partner, it appears that social services achieved a shotgun divorce. It is not just bone disease that leads to this kind of case. Parents of children with many unusual medical conditions are separated from the children at the moment parental care is most needed because inept social workers cannot distinguish medical problems from abuse.



Social workers accused parents of bone disease baby of child abuse

Two children who were taken into care after social workers mistook a baby's brittle bone disease for evidence of abuse have been reunited with their parents.

Harrison, Paul Crummey, Bethany and Amy Garland
Harrison (right) with parents Paul Crummy (left), sister Bethany and mother Amy Garland

The team of social workers accused a mother of abusing her baby son, when in fact he was suffering from a rare bone disease.

Parents Paul Crummey and Amy Garland were horrified when doctors told them their baby son, Harrison, had eight fractures in his arms and legs just weeks after he was born.

But they were devastated when social workers accused them of shaking their son by the legs and took him and their daughter Bethany, now five, into care.

The terrified couple were arrested, and banned from seeing their two children without supervision.

It took 18 months for social workers and doctors to realise baby Harrison was suffering from a rare form of brittle bone disease meaning the slightest touch could snap his bones in two.

Now, the family, from Bristol, have been reunited, after prosecutors decided to drop the case when they realised Harrison was suffering from Osteogenesis imperfecta.

Their nightmare began when Harrison was just six-weeks-old.

Miss Gardland, 26, said: "For the first weeks he was bringing up blood with his milk and he was irritable.

"I knew something wasn't right so I took him to the hospital. They did tests on him but everything came back absolutely normal."

But when she got home she noticed his legs were swollen.

X-rays later showed Harrison had several fractures in his arm, feet and legs.

Miss Garland said: "We obviously had no idea that this condition was in our family so when they asked us how they happened we were left with the answer that we didn't know.

"They said they needed to investigate it and we were happy for them to do that."

Tests showed Harrison's vitamin D levels were abnormally low so he was given injections.

As soon as the fractures were discovered, South Gloucestershire Social Services were called in to speak to the couple.

Police arrested Miss Garland while she was in hospital with Harrison and Mr Crummey, who was recovering from an operation at home, was also arrested.

They were questioned separately under caution by police. Neither of them had been in any sort of trouble before.

"The police and social services asked us a lot of questions. They asked me if there was any family history of violence," said Miss Garland.

"We found out the police were speaking to all our neighbours asking them what we were like. They went through our house. I was in absolute shock. I was shaking. I felt like a criminal," she said.

While Harrison was in hospital, Miss Garland was not allowed to be alone with her son.

"I wasn't eating and I couldn't sleep because I was worried they would take him from me," she said.

"Paul and I weren't allowed to be alone together. I never for one second questioned Paul. Neither of us needed to ask each other. We just knew."

At the time, Bethany was just 20-months-old and was placed in the care of Miss Garland's father.

The case was brought before Bristol County Court, where a judge ordered the family to live in a family placement centre.

"The judge didn't want to separate me from Harrison because I was still breast feeding," the mother said.

"We were watched 24 hours a day and there were cameras in every room. It was like a prison because even when we were allowed to go out we had to have staff with us."

After three months, staff could find nothing wrong and recommended the family should stay together.

But social workers applied for an interim care order and the children were placed into foster care with their grandfather.

They were only allowed to see the children for six hours each day under supervision for over a year.

"It was horrible. When I went home at night and the kids weren't there, I just broke down," said Miss Garland. "There was so much going on in our lives. We were a mess. We took things out on each other."

In January 2009, Miss Garland found a medical expert who believed Harrison had Osteogenesis imperfecta after looking into the family's medical history.

Six months later, the two other doctors involved in the case agreed he could have the condition after reading the expert's report.

South Gloucestershire Social Services then dropped their case.

Miss Garland, who has another daughter, Juliet, 18 months, with current fiance Kai Howell, 29, said: "When I heard the news, I couldn't even speak. I was sat in my mum's garden in tears.

"Straight away, we took them to the park. It felt so right to finally be together as a family."

A month later, Harrison was diagnosed with Osteogenesis imperfecta. Doctors also tested Bethany, who was found to have a lesser type of the condition.

Harrison is still having vitamin D injections to help strengthen his bones and sees a physiotherapist to help build the muscle surrounding his bones.

Mr Crummey, 41, said: "All we wanted to do was help our sick child but we were treated like criminals. We had to sit and watch Harrison in pain.

"We've missed out on so much of our children's lives. They've been through so much. It tore Amy and I apart because we didn't know how to handle it."

"We've never received an apology from social services. It makes me feel very angry."

A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council said: "While we cannot comment on individual cases, we do have a legal duty to protect children and young people living in South Gloucestershire and we always put the welfare of the child at the heart of how we deliver our services."

Source: Telegraph (UK)


August 13, 2011 permalink

Searching for news stories to post here shows that Ontario has more rallies opposing child protectors than the rest of the world combined. Still, they do happen elsewhere. Enclosed are events in California, Michigan and Tennessee.



Parents Protest Government Abuse Outside Of Shasta County Courthouse

Shasta County CPS rally

REDDING,Calif. -- Dozens of people protested in front of the Shasta County courthouse today, unhappy with how the family court is run.

The local chapter of California Protective Parents were out in full as part of a nationwide event the group Govabuse, a non-profit that fights corruption in family courts, child protective services, and the foster care system.

Lani Kitkowski is the local chapter leader and says she's most concerned about the lack of qualified court mediators. She says it was an unqualified mediator that awarded her abusive ex-husband custody of their seven-year old child.

“Our eyes are on the court, we are watching out over the criminal court, the family court, cps any of the court here that we believe are corrupt,” says Kitkowski.

The group wants family court records to be made public, the right to elect judges, and to minimize the role of child protective services in shasta county.

There have been several audits done by the state on family courts in Marin and Sacramento counties. Kitkowski would like the same thing to happen in Shasta County.

For more information on Govabuse click here:

Govabuse Website

Source: KRCR-TV

Group protests across from Genesee Courthouse looking for reform in family court, child protection laws

Flint Michigan CPS rally
(left to right) Sheila Copeland, of Flint, Mary Palmer, of Grand Blanc, and Teresa Squires, of Flint Township, hold up signs on Saginaw Street in downtown Flint on Friday across from the courthouse while protesting what they say is corruption in the system of family court and child protection services. Palmer held photos of her great granddaughter that she says is being taken away from her after she was left in her custody following the child's mother's murder in 2007. Palmer claims that the court told her it was because of her age of 70 years old that she couldn't stay with her any more and because of the grandmother not having a job that she would likely be put into the system.

FLINT, Michigan — About a dozen people are gathered on Saginaw Street across from the courthouse holding up signs and protesting what they say is corruption in the system of family court and child protection services.

The Flint protest is part of a nationwide protest with Govabuse, an activist group that focuses on reform in the family court system, said Adam Gerics, representative for Genesee County.

The group of people holding signs saying "Reform" and "Foster Care Corrupt" have been in downtown Flint since 8 a.m. and will be out there until 4 or 5 p.m., said Gerics, 37, of Flint.

"The best interest of the child is never really considered," Gerics said, adding that a main issue is that there is no incentive to keep people out of the system, only to push people through it. "The main purpose of today is to let people know that Govabuse exists."

For more information on the protest visit Govabuse's website at or Facebook group.

Source: / Flint Journal

Nationwide protest of the foster care system makes its way to Johnson City

Johnson City Tennessee CPS rally

The local chapter of began protesting outside of the juvenile court building in Johnson City at 9 a.m. today.

Source: Bristol Herald Courier and WJHL-TV

Trick Deportation

August 13, 2011 permalink

Christopher Booker updates a recent story on a boy being forcibly returned from Ireland to England. The family was misled about the time of a court hearing, ensuring that it took place without them. The boy, ordered deported by default, was sent back to foster care in England the same day. Sadly, this kind of court misdirection is commonplace in child protection cases.



'Child protection': As one poor boy is deported, another comes home

Further developments in two ongoing cases of boys taken away from loving mothers.

As one poor boy is deported, another returns

An update to my report last week on the 14-year old boy who, after six months living happily in Ireland with his mother, was due to be taken back to England at the behest of English social workers.

On Tuesday the care order under which he was being held by Irish social workers expired. The mother was informed that the hearing for renewal of the order had been adjourned. Just before 10 o’clock, she was told it had been reinstated. She and her solicitor rushed to court, only to be told that the hearing was over. By an order that neither she nor her lawyer were allowed to see, and without a chance to challenge it, her son was to fly away that day. When he landed, escorted by his Irish social worker, they were met by a police car. On the journey to a new foster home, I gather, the distraught boy was sick, all over the social worker.

Elsewhere, there was a happier development in another case I have mentioned previously, concerning a mother who has been repeatedly arrested for supposedly trying to contact the son from whom she has been parted for seven years. He had been placed in the custody of his father, who he says maltreated him. On one occasion, the mother was imprisoned for two weeks after meeting her son by chance in the street and telling him “I love you”.

Last week was his 16th birthday. After secretly preparing for a long time, he rang her. Later that day they were reunited – after months when, he says, he had been shut away in a cellar and a garden shed. When a policewoman arrived at the house, following a report that he was “a missing person”, it did not take long to assure her that the boy was not missing but is at last living happily back at home with his mother, as he has wanted for years.

Source: Telegraph (UK)


August 13, 2011 permalink

A blogger identified only as Elaine reports that her twelve-year-old son was picked up by police for walking home in downtown Toronto during daylight hours. Aside: Your editor walked unescorted on city streets from age five.





Last Night my twelve year old was picked up for streetwalking.

No, I really mean it. Last night two police cars with two big burly officers brought my beautiful blond haired boy home at 6:20 in the evening, and told me that they had picked him up in broad daylight... for walking down the street.

Images of Aodhan climbing up a lamp-post to get a closer look at the traffic signals flashed through my mind. Pictures of him standing at a dark alley explaining the negative aspects of smoke inhalation to a group of heroin shooting prostitutes and their pimps filtered in. Visions of him throwing a tantrum in the middle of the street because his overfilled knapsack finally gave up and spewed sketchbooks and pencils under assorted vehicles.

I shot Aodhan a look. You know, one of those looks only that only your mother can give you; the one that fills you with guilt for causing her pain in childbirth.

“I just wanted to walk home” he said dejectedly. “He’s not in any kind of trouble” the first officer said cheerfully. But then more sternly added “but he was walking on the downtown streets”. “We live downtown” I said, becoming confused. “Where is his school?” asked the second officer. “He’s in a camp this week, at the Jewish Community Centre - it’s at Spadina and Bloor”, I said wondering why two policemen would think a kid was in school in the middle of July. “Well ma’am, we picked him up at Yonge and Adelaide” he says, looking all strong and concerned. “Yes, I said, he was walking home, is that a problem?”. “He was walking.... alone...... downtown..........!!!” the officer gritted his teeth at my stupidity and spat out. “He’s 12”, he added as if this would make it all clear. “Do you not see the issue” he spurted? “So are you trying to tell me that because my child was getting exercise, being environmental and increasing his geographical skills, rather than sitting in the basement playing a video game, or hanging out in a mall, or sitting in a fast food restaurant filling his gutty wuts with hydrogenated trans sugar chemical slop, you were worried about him? Do you realize that at 12 he is old enough to babysit?” I asked.

I closed my eyes and thought of the 10, 11 and 12 year old International students I have had stay in my home. These kids had flown from places as far as Russia and South Korea... alone. Yes, their parents drove them to the airport, and put them on an airplane to go to a foreign country to live there with people they had never met.


My head swam as I thought of the hollow look in the eyes of a twelve year old boy living on the streets in Honduras. The sad look of the 12 year old girl selling candy in the marketplace in Bolivia, and the far away look in the thoughts of the 12 year old gypsy selling flowers at the restaurant in Greece. She dreamed of being on the streets in Canada. The Africa Trust tells a story about a group of abducted girls in Uganda. They were ordered to kill one of their peers for trying to escape, and beat her with sticks until she died. They were twelve years old. in Afghanistan the soldiers are continually confronting 12 year old suicide bombers. A twelve year old Yemen girl is happy to be divorced from her abusive husband... two years ago. They all would dream to be in as much danger as Aodhan.

No, my son is not in danger. I mean sure, some random occurrence could happen, but can we just keep them locked in their bedrooms? Safe in their bedrooms, like Cecilia Zhang or Madeleine McCann. So even this tack doesn’t work. Fear and adventure at some point has to be balanced. The chance of a child being abducted is 1 in 750,000. The chance of a child being solicited sexually by a stranger on the internet is 1 in 25. And, a child has a one in 6500 chance of being killed in a car accident. So picking him up after camp and driving him home so he can sit on the computer, well... you do the math. I guess I should really wait until he is older to let him walk on Yonge street alone. But then again, age didn’t do much for Jane Creba - and she was with her mother, so maybe I should just lock him in closet and hope for the best.

Last month I offered two women the chance to live in my downtown Toronto home for a week. The opportunity to have a free vacation in the city, in exchange for house-sitting and cooking dinner for my international students while I went to Brazil on a Federal Trade Mission with my husband.

One of the woman came to my house from a farm in the countryside. She had a lovely time and said that she and her children enjoyed meeting students from other parts of the world and had a great time exploring the city.

The other woman, who was supposed to be there for the other half of my visit, e-mailed me in Brazil. “I am SOOO very sorry, but T and I got to the house and did not feel safe there... I am not at your house and am not staying there... I don't want to offend anyone and I don't want to get into it anymore than saying we didn't feel safe in the house, in the neighbourhood, with my car in the back laneway. I could hear your one student who was home yelling in a different language thru his door.”


Wow! There I sat. 8000km away, and I now have to deal with someone who is afraid of being in their own country. Our house has been assessed by multiple International Language schools and Companies. They have toured my home and deemed it safe to place students, some as young as age 10.

We have never had any kind of break in to our house or vehicle parked at my house either in front or behind. We have never had any incident involving a student in my house. Fear, irrational fear. She knew I lived in downtown Toronto. She used to go to Ryerson and said she was familiar with the neighbourhood. She said it would be exciting to meet students from other countries. But somehow, when it all came together, it was just too much for her. Too much fear. Too afraid. This woman was so fearful of the city, that she felt justified to abandon me, to leave me in a lurch, to walk out of a contractual obligations. What kind of a world are we living in that allows people to believe that they have the right to hurt someone based on their own fears. The only thing I was really glad of through all of this, was that I was not her, and refuse to live my life controlled by fear and anxiety.

But I did some research, and I guess I kind of get it, I mean last week they just arrested someone in Toronto for keeping a loaded gun in their bedroom, but then again, he was out in the west end and not downtown. And, oh ya, he was 12. I guess that 12 year old realized what a dangerous city he was living in and felt he needed to protect himself. It’s so sad that Aodhan is under the delusion of living in a safe city where he feels he can just walk alone in broad daylight on major streets.

I looked up at the Police Officer standing in my living room. He looked down at me. Our eyes met and he stated bluntly. “I guess we have a different opinion of what is safe eh?” “Ya” I replied. “I guess we do”.

Source: blog by Elaine

cop arrests boy

Medically Fragile Boy in Peril

August 11, 2011 permalink

A ten-year-old handicapped boy was removed from from his mother in South Carolina. The article does not say so, but the boy, McCaden, is in mortal danger. Children with genetic defects are in vital need of care that only the mother can provide. For examples of what happens when such a child is removed, refer to the cases of Trevor Nolan or Samantha Martin. Child protectors became involved with McCaden when his mother Synclare Moss had medical problems of her own and the boy called 911 for help.



Mother says police took her son due to false charges

Synclare Moss and McCaden
Synclare Moss and her son, McCaden

GEORGETOWN SC — The past two weeks have been a nightmare for Georgetown resident Synclare Moss and her 10-year old son, McCaden.

Because of what Moss says are false charges, she was arrested by the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and her son was removed from her custody.

She has only been able to see him for one supervised hour and the two could be separated until at least Aug. 24, the day a hearing is set to take place in family court.

She said the incident began when her disabled son — as he has been taught to do — called 911 as she was suffering a seizure.

McCaden suffers from Prader-Willi Syndrome which, according to medical documents provided to the Georgetown Times, is a “life threatening, lifelong genetic” disease.

As a result, he has very limited speaking capabilities.

Moss suffers from seizures which is what was happening July 28 when the ordeal for the family began.

According to a Sheriff’s Office incident report, Central Dispatch received a call from the Moss home on Meadow Street that morning from someone who did not say anything.

Moss said this call was made when she was having a seizure. She suffered another seizure about four hours later and McCaden called 911 again.

When Deputy Chris Geno arrived at the home, the child — wearing only boxer shorts — answered the door. When the officer asked him to get his mother, he just stared at him, the report states.

Geno went inside and reports the living room was in disarray with broken glass scattered about.

Moss said the glass was from a broken picture frame.

Geno called out for the child’s mother who emerged from a rear bedroom. She appeared to have just woken up.

When she saw the glass on the floor, Ms. Moss started yelling at her son.

Geno states the child “had shards of glass on the bottom of his feet” from the glass on the floor, something his mother denies.

“He did not have any cuts on his feet,” she said.

Geno left McCaden with his mother but, when she suffered another seizure at about 4:30 p.m., he responded back to the home because of a call to 911 by McCaden.

The report describes Moss as being “incoherent” and “high from the use of drugs.

“I only take prescription drugs for my seizures,” she said.

She said she may have acted spaced out because of the seizure she had suffered not long before the officer arrived.

“I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I don’t even use caffeine. We can only take medications prescribed by a doctor,” she said.

Her seizure medicine — Dilantin — was the only drug she had taken, she said.

Moss said she wanted the officers to allow her to take a drug test but they refused to do so. She was not tested for drugs until five days after her arrest. Moss also said Geno never asked her if she had any medical conditions prior to her arrest.

Arrested, child removed

The arrest warrant, signed by “S. Burbage,” states Moss was taken into custody for placing her child at unreasonable risk of harm “by leaving” him without supervision or proper care.

Geno’s incident report does not mention Moss ever being away from the home or leaving him unsupervised.

Moss said she has never left McCaden unattended and did not do so that day.

Nevertheless, she was placed in ankle shackles and handcuffs in front of her son who was “freaking out” at what he was seeing, she said.

“He was jumping on me trying to help me,” she said.

The Department of Social Services was called in to take custody of the child, despite the fact Moss’ parents were available to take care of him.

DSS worker, Amanda Busch, in a report provided by Moss, states her parents — James and Jean Lynch — are unable to handle McCaden’s medical and physical needs because they are both more than 70-years-old.

Moss said her parents care for her son quite often and are very capable.

Moss said she was taken to the Detention Center and was placed in a small room with a window and was forced to strip. She said because of the way the room is set up, others — including men — were able to see her naked.

Moss was subsequently released from jail on bond but was not allowed to see her son.

In foster care

In the first few days of being in DSS care, McCaden was moved to five different foster homes, his mother said.

After spending an entire week without seeing her son — or even knowing where he was being kept — Moss and her parents went to the local DSS office Aug. 5.

They waited in the lobby for five hours until a case worker saw them.

Moss was able to find out her son was being kept at a group home in Myrtle Beach and on Aug. 6, she was able to see him for one hour while being supervised.

“I was not able to touch him so I could not give him a hug,” she said as she fought back tears. “He was like a zombie. He said he was scared and wanted to go home. This is my child. He is my only child. It has always been him, me and my parents.”

Moss said her only other communication with McCaden since July 28 was a 15 minute Skype call Thursday evening.

“It was only 15 minutes but 15 minutes is 15 minutes,” she said.

Hearing set

According to DSS, a “merits hearing” will be held in family court on August 24.

Moss is being represented by attorney Julia Bass who was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Source: Georgetown Times

Picton Rally

August 11, 2011 permalink

The tour bus has reached Picton. Favorable press coverage continues.



Rally calls for more CAS accountability

Wayne Reddick, Marilyn Koren, Jamie Sullivan, Velvet Martin, Brenda Everall, Christian Everall, Debra Sadler, Kelly LaBec and Sylva McLaughlin
Wayne Reddick, Marilyn Koren, Jamie Sullivan, Velvet Martin, Brenda Everall, Christian Everall, Debra Sadler, Kelly LaBec and Sylva McLaughlin show their support during the Picton rally.
Bill Samuel photos

A ‘Picton Rally for CAS Accountability’ welcomed advocates for children welfare reform Tuesday afternoon.

Linda Plourde
Linda Plourde explains the need for accountabilty of the Children's Aid Societies across Canada.

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde and her small band of advocates began touring Ontario in mid-July. After making two stops in Belleville, they met at the Prince Edward County Community Centre with a small group of County and area residents advocating for Children Aid Society accountability. Lead by local advocate Brenda Everall, they travelled to the Children’s Aid Society’s offices for a private meeting with director Bill Sweet.

Ontario is the only province in Canada that doesn’t allow the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate Children’s Aids Societies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and school boards. The group notes it is not trying to get rid of the CAS, just trying to improve the services.

“In the matter of our most precious resource, our children, excessive oversight is impossible.” said Everall.

“Children’s Aid was created to protect the children,” said Plourde. “You have a good thing that has gone bad. It has become toxic.”

‘Protecting Canadian Children’ was started about three years ago. Plourde was motivated by her experience with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society becoming involved with her daughter and grandson to start speaking out for change in the system. She is touring Ontario this summer to raise public awareness of the need for increased accountability and transparency within children’s services.

Velvet Martin
Velvet Martin discusses the loss of children's lives while in Children's Aid Society's care.

Velvet Martin is touring with Plourde. Her severely disabled 13-year-old daughter Samantha died unexpectedly after being in care for more than 10 years. She had returned to her parents’ care six months before her death.

“She had 10 years of seizures that went untreated and the foster mother was approached by medical professionals, schools and myself, and she said I didn’t see any myself,” she said. “My daughter received seven broken bones, three of them were in her femur, and I learned, following the fact, that my little girl died of a heart attack at age 13.”

Martin said she wanted to expose the misconceptions attached to losing a child to protective services.

“The majority of people believe in the stigma of somebody must have done something wrong,” she said. “It happens to middle-class people, it happens to professional people, and I think the public needs to become aware of that… They say there are protocols in place (to protect the children),” said Martin. “When there is no culpability and the protocols are breached it doesn’t serve as a prevention.”

Jamie Sullivan
Jamie Sullivan with a photo of her daughter who died in Children's Aid Society care after 6 days.

Martin was instrumental in the establishment of “Samantha’s Law” which separated The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program from that of child protection services.

The tour is to continue until Oct. 27, 2011 ending in Toronto.

CAS victims
Photos and stories on display of children from across the nation who have lost their lives while in CAS care.

Source: Prince Edward County News

Note: As of August 11, the bus has suffered a breakdown, suspending the tour until repairs can be made.

Jail for Judge

August 11, 2011 permalink

Mark Ciavarella, one of two Pennsylvania judges who sentenced juvenile offenders to jail in exchange for cash kickbacks, was sentenced to 28 years behind bars. An earlier story suggests that his victims served an estimated thousand child-years.



'Kids for cash' judge sentenced to 28 years for racketeering scheme

A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced Thursday for his part in what prosecutors called a 'kids for cash' scheme that sent juvenile offenders to privately run detention facilities in return for kickbacks.

Mark Ciavarella
In this Feb. 12, 2009, file photo Mark Ciavarella leaves the federal courthouse in Scranton, Pa.
David Kidwell/AP/File

A former juvenile court judge in Pennsylvania was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Thursday for his part in an alleged “kids for cash” scam considered one of the worst judicial scandals in US history.

Mark Ciavarella Jr., 61, a former judge in Luzerne County, was also ordered to pay $1.17 million in restitution.

Mr. Ciavarella was convicted in federal court in Scranton, Pa., in February on charges that he and a second judge, Michael Conahan, ran the local court system as a racketeering enterprise.

The federal indictment says the two judges accepted $2.8 million in kickbacks from the owner and builder of two privately-run juvenile detention facilities. In exchange, the judges agreed to close down the county’s own juvenile detention center, which would have competed with the new, privately-run facilities. In addition they guaranteed that juvenile offenders from their court would be directed to the privately-run facilities.

Mr. Conahan, pleaded guilty last year to a single count of racketeering and is awaiting sentencing.

In comments to the court, Ciavarella apologized to the community and to the children whose cases he had adjudicated. “I blame no one but myself for what happened,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

But the former judge rejected claims that he engaged in a "kids for cash" racketeering scheme.

He said prosecutors used the claim to sabotage his reputation prior to his trial. “Those three words made me the personification of evil,” he told the court, according to the Associated Press. “They made me toxic and caused a public uproar the likes of which this community has never seen.”

Ciavarella had a reputation as a no-nonsense jurist who would not hesitate to sentence young, first-time offenders to juvenile detention. He also gained a reputation as a judge prone to cut constitutional corners.

An investigation revealed that half of the children who appeared in his courtroom were not represented by a lawyer and were never advised of their right to counsel. Of those unrepresented children, up to 60 percent were ordered by Ciavarella to serve time at a detention facility.

What was not known, prior to the federal investigation, was that Ciavarella and Conahan were receiving secret payments from the private detention centers. The centers stood to profit from the higher number of juveniles they were housing.

Amid mounting questions about Ciavarella’s actions as a juvenile judge, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2009 directed that all adjudications involving children appearing before Ciavarella from 2003 to 2008 be vacated and their records expunged. The directive is estimated to involve 4,000 cases.

One of those cases involved 16-year-old A.A., who was arrested for gesturing with her middle finger at a police officer who had been called during a custody dispute involving her parents and her sister.

She was sent to Ciavarella’s court, and was told she wouldn’t need a lawyer since it was a minor issue.

After examining the paperwork, Ciavarella informed A.A. that she had no respect for authority. She later told the investigating commission that Ciavarella never gave her an opportunity to speak at the hearing. She was led out of the courtroom in shackles and held in juvenile detention for six months.

After her release, A.A. returned to school and, again, qualified for the honor roll. She is currently in college and plans to pursue a law degree. She told the investigating commission that she wants to defend the legal rights of children.

Ciavarella was convicted of 12 of 39 counts in his indictment. The jury found him guilty of engaging in a pattern of racketeering and participating in a racketeering conspiracy through his receipt and transfer of $997,600 from individuals associated with the juvenile detention centers.

He was also convicted of failing to record the secret payments on judicial financial disclosure forms from 2004 to 2007, and for filing false tax returns for those same years. In addition, the jury found him guilty of engaging in a money-laundering conspiracy to conceal the payments.

Prosecutors requested a life sentence.

In his sentencing memorandum, Ciavarella’s lawyer, Albert Flora, urged US District Judge Edwin Kosik to issue a sentence on the lower end of the guidelines range.

“If Mark Ciavarella never did one day of incarceration, he would still be punished,” Mr. Flora wrote. He said the former judge had been subject to “embarrassment, ridicule, and shame out of proportion to the offense.”

“The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestations, he will forever be unjustly branded as the ‘Kids for Cash’ judge,” Flora wrote.

Ciavarella has insisted that the money he received was not a bribe. He said it was a finder’s fee legally paid to him for introducing the owner of the detention center business to a builder who was later awarded the contract to build the juvenile centers. Ciavarella says there was never a quid pro quo of providing juvenile offenders in exchange for money.

Judge Kosik rejected this reasoning while calculating Ciavarella’s sentence.

“Defendant argues that the government planted a seed of the kids for cash idea without proof that the defendant sent kids away for cash,” Kosik said in a pre-sentence ruling. “While there was no evidence of the number of kids put away, there was evidence of the defendant’s financial interest [in the construction and operation of the juvenile detention centers],” the judge wrote.

At trial, a co-owner of the juvenile detention business, Robert Powell, testified that Ciavarella kept a record of the number of children he sent to the facility, as well as the amount of money the owners were making. According to court documents, Ciavarella allegedly told Mr. Powell: “…so it’s not about me sending kids anymore. I know how much money you’re making, and it’s time to step up.”

Source: Christian Science Monitor

How much is your child worth?
T-shirt distributed by Sandy Fonzo, mother of the late Edward Kenzakoski III sentenced by Ciavarella.

Wendy Babcock R.I.P.

August 11, 2011 permalink

Wendy Babcock, a CAS survivor and law student best known as an unapologetic former prostitute/sex worker, is dead. She appeared on fixcas before: [1] [2]. Comments on Facebook point out that the permanent loss of her son contributed to her suicidal state of mind.



Prostitute turned Osgoode law student found dead

Wendy Babcock

Wendy Babcock wore a perpetual smile. It was a defence mechanism.

“Without it, I think I’d be crying the whole time,” she said, smiling, in 2009. “I never wanted to show anyone pain, so I tried to show them normality.”

Babcock was, of course, anything but normal: A homeless teenage prostitute who became a prominent activist and then a student at York University’s prestigious Osgoode Hall Law School. Her astonishing success story inspired thousands; she spoke, unapologetically, of aspiring to become prime minister.

She was found dead in her home on Tuesday. She was 32.

A police spokesperson said there were no signs of foul play. Babcock had attempted suicide on several prior occasions, and she struggled with mental health issues even as her difficult life appeared to be improving.

Uncommonly articulate and charismatic, Babcock was an outspoken advocate for the rights of prostitutes. She founded a group which compiles information about abusive clients, advised the police special victims unit, and helped her former peers as a harm reduction worker with the organization Street Health. Former Mayor David Miller presented her with Toronto’s inaugural Public Health Champion award in 2008.

Babcock had a son she was forced to surrender when she was homeless in 2003. She spent years attempting to regain custody, or at least resume contact, and said in 2009 that she planned to devote her career to reforming the child welfare system to “make things better and more human.”

“I’ve been on the other side of the law,” she said, “and I’m still going to be working against the law as a lawyer. The whole reason why I want to be a lawyer is I because I think some of the laws are screwed up.”

Babcock said she was raised in an abusive home. She left as a preteen, began selling sex at 15, and dropped out of school at 16. She quit sex work in 2003, she said, when a colleague was murdered by a client.

After she graduated from George Brown College, a supervisor at Street Health urged her to apply to law school. She was one of only 10 students in her Osgoode class of 290 to get in without the university credits usually required.

“I’d thought about law school, I just never thought I could do it,” she said. “It would be like considering being a movie star.”

She was plagued by self-doubt, she confessed, unsure she could compete with her well-schooled classmates even though she had scored well on her LSAT. Yet she cast herself as fearless, sometimes interrupting professors to register her opinion.

When noted criminal law professor Alan Young said “prostitute” during a first-semester lecture, Babcock, sitting in the front row and taking notes on an unlined piece of paper, her hair streaked pink, nonchalantly interjected to correct him.

“Sex worker,” she said.

Young knew Babcock before she enrolled in his class: She testified in his court challenge to Canada’s prostitution laws. She told her story to high school and university students, community groups, filmmakers, and whomever else asked — or didn’t.

“She was always ready and eager to talk to people, believing anyone could change their mind. She once left the bar following cops down the street, wanting to talk to them about sex worker rights,” a group of her close friends said in an email.

“She wanted to talk to everyone, wanted to learn from everyone’s experience, and made herself available to answer any and all questions related to her cause. She never turned her advocacy and support off.”

Star readers sent Babcock about $20,000 for tuition, she said, after reading of her story in a column by Catherine Porter and in a front-page feature in 2009. An eclectic group of friends, including both professionals she met at George Brown and burlesque dancers, had also held a raunchy fundraiser for her at a Church St. club.

“I feel loved. It’s hard for me because I’m not used to feeling accepted and feeling loved or well-liked,” she said. “So it’s kind of difficult for me; I’m not quite sure how to react to it. It’s definitely one I’d like to learn how to react to, and not one that I mind.”

She was soon to begin the third year of her four-year law school program. A friend said she had been working on a memoir that was scheduled to be released upon her graduation.

Valerie Scott, a leader with the advocacy group Sex Professionals of Canada, clashed with Babcock when Babcock was a SPOC member and had not spoken to her in several years. But she called Babcock “an inspiration to sex workers everywhere,” and she said she was “reeling” from her death.

“She could’ve done so much,” Scott said.

Source: Toronto Star

Cynthia Racine

August 11, 2011 permalink

The first court hearing for Cynthia Racine, the CAS worker arrested for drunk driving with two children in her car, took place on August 10 at the courthouse in Renfrew. The matter was set over to September 7.

According to an informant who wished to remain anonymous, the children in the car were foster children, young enough to need booster seats, on their way to an access visit. A son about two years old remains in Cynthia's custody. She has worked out of the Arnprior office during her six years with CAS, but has been suspended from her duties while collecting full pay waiting out the court process at home.

Efforts to organize a rally outside the courthouse were disrupted by erroneous information about its location. Through no fault of the court staff, who have been more than helpful, it was announced as at 31 Riverside Drive or 297 Pembroke Street in Pembroke, or the courthouse on Raglan Street in Renfrew. Eventually ten people were carrying signs in Renfrew.

Addendum: Cynthia was sentenced on November 1.

Tour Bus in Cobourg

August 9, 2011 permalink

The traveling tour bus has reached the children's aid society of Northumberland in Cobourg.



tour bus in Cobourg Ontario
Two national organizations have joined in a cross-Ontario protest alleging Children's Aid Societies have no accountability and are misusing their authority.

Travelling protest targets local CAS

NORTHUMBERLAND -- A busload of protesters stopped at the Children's Aid Society of Northumberland's Cobourg location Monday en route to Ottawa via small-town Ontario, alleging corruption, lack of accountability and the sale of children by children's aid organizations across Canada.

It was an emotional protest with mothers holding pictures of dead children and participants using a bull horn to broadcast their complaints to the local Children's Aid Society (CAS) workers within the Burnham Street headquarters.

"Our main concern is that the CAS has no accountability," Chad Wells of Peterborough said after handing the bull horn to another protester.

"I have custody of my three children." he said, but he charges the process of working through the Kawartha-Haliburton CAS to achieve custody of them revealed inner workings of the organization that continue to concern him.

Even though a social worker who knew both him and his wife provided firsthand information, as did two shelter workers, the investigative team didn't back off and only worked against him more, Wells said in an interview. Eventually the truth won out but it was a long haul only ending about six months ago, he said.

It is not that communities don't have a real need for CAS organizations to protect children abused in their own homes, but there must be more accountability, Wells said.

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde of Stoney Creek started Protecting Canadian Children and expressed the same complaint. It was her organization that planned the bus route starting at Tory Opposition Leader Tim Hudak's office last week and which will stop at small towns in Ontario on the way to Ottawa.

The tour is to "bring public awareness" about children dying in custody, she said, adding that, in her view, the CAS is "above the law and is not being held accountable."

Plourde said that the CAS is all about increasing its funding by increasing its caseload.

She recounted firsthand experience of when her grandson was taken into care in a foster home, saying he had been abused there before reaching court five days later. Plourde said she wrote the judge and offered a plan of care and other information. As a result of this and other action, the boy is now back in his own family, she said. He has, however, recurring issues related to his foster care treatment, she said.

Stories like Plourde's, and those provided on the protest line by people from different parts of Canada, support her impetus to create her organization which, she said, has become "the children's army." It is to counteract the business-like operation of CAS organizations, she said.

Rose Bray of the Kitchener area was holding signs that read "They are Hunting our Children" and "Stolen kids want to go Home."

Bray said the CAS is taking children because they are living in poverty or need medical care, not because of abusive situations. Because family courts are held "secretly," she said, people in general don't know what is going on. She also charged that the CAS "sells" children through its adoption process.

Bray also said she is working to widen the Ontario Ombudsman's role so that it can investigate the operation of the CAS.

"He can investigate lottery tickets, but not our children," Bray said.

CAS Northumberland executive director Rosaleen Cutler counters that while the Ombudsman can't investigate directly, it can investigate the findings of the Child and Family Services Review Board which is a complaints mechanism for CAS clients.

"We are very much accountable," she said.

In addition to the review board, the CAS is responsible to its own board and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Cutler also said.

As it relates to the courts, if after a child is taken from a home and if the CAS doesn't convince the court of the need for re outside the home and receive a court order after the mandatory five days, the child must be returned, she said.

There is also a court-appointed legal representative for the child involved through the Office of the Official Guardian, Cutler said, as well as an internal client complaints procedure within the CAS, she added.

Cutler said she talked to Wells, who was outside on the line, and said what is needed is to establish a "dialogue" provincially. She said she also talked to staff who were very concerned about the protest going on outside their building.

Contrary to what protesters suggest, the number of children in care in Ontario is "steadily declining."

Northumberland has an average of 500 cases, with 100 children in care, Cutler said.

Source: Northunberland Today

Addendum: A thoughtful commentary.



Children's Aid Society Needs Fresh Approach

On August 9th, 2011 an article appeared in our local daily about a travelling protest of CAS offices in small town Ontario that visited Cobourg yesterday. Wish I'd known they'd be there, I would have found time to stand with them. Over many years as a social justice worker I've heard countless tales from berefit family members whose children have been snatched by the agency, earning them the moniker "the baby snatchers". The agency is a key player in the war against the poor where more and more of their daily lives are unfairly criminalized for the sin of not having adequate incomes and not living an idealized middle class lifestyle or finding a way out of poverty.

Add to that the chaos in our family law system where no judge and no lawyer has the time to really understand the cases they handle, instead just trying to get through the day's work in time for dinner. This leads to the families seldom having the opportunity to stand up in front of the judge and tell their story so decisions are made without real input from them. Of course, erring on the side of safety for the children, that often means the CAS workers are taken at their word without being challenged for accuracy, or even hearsay and second and third hand so-called evidence. Their statements wouldn't last a minute in criminal court because they often have no hard evidence and offer no proof of their claims. Sadly, the court just takes their word for it as if they are always correct in their agency and self-serving assessments and not just one side in a dispute.

Nobody wants to see kids hurt or neglected and it would be unfair to suggest the CAS doesn't care. They do. But they've been allowed to develop very questionable practices that go unchallenged and are terribly unfair and prejudicial against the families of the kids taken and kept away without a firm basis to do so.

The Children's Aid needs an overhaul, starting with an attitude adjustment so they learn that families belong together and their role is to help them stay together by providing support. Right now they act like police, only concerned with punishing those they perceive as less than perfect. There are some workers who are in the wrong profession and are better suited to be jail guards. Power like they have shouldn't be delegated to law and order types whose own need to be in control relegates the interests of the children to second place behind their own power trips.

I hope the protesters see justice for all the families in Ontario suffering under the heavy and often unjustified burden of CAS scrutiny. It's time the agencies' practices were examined in the light of day and fixed as quickly as possible. Hiding behind phoney confidentiality that only works one way is just not acceptable anymore, and neither is tearing families apart when the time lost between parents and children can never be regained.

Source: Northumberland View

Paternity Court

August 8, 2011 permalink

A Connecticut court runs parents through life-altering decisions at breakneck speed, averaging 3 minutes and 13 seconds per case. The holding areas for parents treat them with less dignity than cattle on the way to market. The state encourages love of children by bringing ten of the putative fathers to court in handcuffs or shackles.



56 Who’s-The-Daddy Cases Heard In 3 Hours

Attorney Wolf: Putative dads’ rights more protected now. Laurel Leff Photo

Under glaring lights, Marquise Parker was handed the results of a paternity test he had taken weeks before. An audience of about 40 people looked on expectantly. Davette Fowlin, the child’s mother, eyed Parker as he glanced at the verdict that would determine his future.

The results were positive. He is indeed the daddy.

Parker didn’t howl in despair. Fowlin didn’t whoop in victory. He shrugged; she shifted uncomfortably.

For this wasn’t the set of the Maury Show. This was the latest episode of “Paternity Thursday,” a real-life drama played out in rapid-fire segments in the fluorescent-lit Courtroom 3A at 235 Church St.

It’s a weekly mini-series in which Family Support Magistrate David Dee hears the so-called “paternity docket,” anywhere from 30 to 60 cases that try to establish who the father is and how much he should pay in child support.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this past Thursday, Dee plowed through 56 cases, of which Parker’s case was No. 19. As Dee moved briskly through the cases, the atmosphere was subdued. The courtroom decorum was broken only by the chatter of children squirming on uncomfortable benches and the babble of toddlers perched on their mothers’ hips as their fate was decided. Unlike in popular culture scenes filled with outbursts and hysteria, these mothers and putative fathers glided past one another in stony silence with barely a nod of recognition.

“Ladies On The Left”

Last Thursday at 10 a.m. the hallway outside Courtroom 3A was buzzing as men and women, and some boys and girls, gathered in separate clusters accompanied by parents, siblings, friends and more than a few children.

Inside the courtroom, most of the seats were taken as the session began with instructions for “guys” to stand to the right when their case was called; “ladies on the left.” If a guy or a lady didn’t show, which happened often, the lone participant was instructed to stand in the middle.

Magistrate Dee, who was just reappointed by Gov. Malloy after four years in the position, started with a clear statement of the putative fathers’ rights. He repeated some version of the statement dozens of times during the proceeding. The father, he explained, has the right to be represented by an attorney, who will be appointed for him if he’s indigent. He has the right to genetic testing at a cost of $30, which the state will pay for someone found to be indigent. And the father has the right to a trial to prove, or disprove, his fatherhood.

Dee also made clear the responsibilities that accompany a legal declaration of fatherhood: A support order can be entered based on ability to pay, and wages can be garnished to pay it; failure to pay support could lead to contempt proceedings and possible incarceration.

As he moved through the docket, Dee repeatedly let the fathers know their rights and, if they chose to waive their rights, to do so on the record.

“We do our very best to make sure everyone’s rights are considered,” Assistant Attorney General Amy Guido said during a break between representing the state’s and the mothers’ interests in all 56 cases heard Thursday.

Patricia Buck Wolf (pictured in top photo), a New Haven lawyer who was in court Thursday as guardian ad litem for one child and who often represents putative fathers, agreed. “They’re much more protective of rights, particularly in the past five years,” Wolf said after court adjourned Thursday.

The vast majority of cases heard Thursday were petitions for paternity at various stages in the process. At an initial hearing, the man can either make “an admission” that he is the father or ask for genetic testing to determine his relationship to the child. Or, at a subsequent hearing, he can receive the results of a paternity test he had already taken— as Marquise Parker had—and then, depending on the results, the court can issue a finding of non-paternity or order child support.

Among the paternity petitions and a few misplaced child support cases on Thursday, there were two petitions to open paternity. Petitions to open arise when a man has acknowledged paternity, either by signing a birth certificate in the hospital, at an earlier court hearing, or through a default judgment entered when he didn’t appear for a previous court proceeding. Months or even years later, the man may decide he’s not the biological father after all, often as a result of private genetic testing.

Genetic testing, both court-ordered and private, has become much more popular as the procedure has moved from a blood test to a mouth swab, and the cost has dropped. (Read a story about a walk-in DNA clinic in Dixwell.) Private testing is still much more expensive than the court-ordered variety, typically begininng at $400.

The putative father then must file a petition seeking to open the paternity judgment. These petitions are rare. The state Judicial Department said just 14 such petitions were filed in New Haven from 2007 to 2010; all the lawyers interviewed for this story said that number can’t possibly be right based on their experience. Harris Lifshitz, a recently retired magistrate who previously sat in New Haven, said his “ballpark guess” is that 10 such petitions are filed in New Haven a month. The department’s statistician, Greg Pac, couldn’t explain the possible discrepancy.

To open a paternity judgment, the man has to hire a lawyer himself (the court won’t pay at this stage), go to court and meet the tough legal standard of proving “fraud, duress or a material mistake.”

“The threshold is very high,” Assistant Attorney General Guido said. A paternity test proving that the man is not the biological father is often not enough. “It really is case by case” she said, and often depends on whether “the child already knows this person as the father.”

On this Thursday, one petition to open was dismissed when neither the mother nor putative father showed up. “Mr. Tate didn’t show up and he hasn’t in the past,” Assistant AG Guido explained. “It was dismissed out of hand.”

Wolf, the guardian ad litem for the child in that case, had planned to ask for more time to interview the mother, who had a new address. She was now out of the case.

Happy Endings

The other motions to open had a happy ending—at least for now.

One case was titled Sarah Pena v, Orlando Colon. Pena came to court with a man other than Colon, who never appeared. When her case was called, Pena quickly accepted the results of an independent May 10 paternity test that established someone other than Colon as the father. Assistant AG Guido did not oppose the motion to open the paternity judgment or the finding that Colon was not the father. Pena left the court holding hands with her male companion. Asked outside the courtroom for her reaction to the day’s proceeding, Pena said, with a smile, “it’s all good,” and declined to say anymore.

Another three cases were “exclusions,” where findings of non-paternity were entered. Eve Hunter cradled an infant wearing a pink hat as she stood before the magistrate. Maurice Gomes, whose name appeared on the court file, wasn’t there. But no matter. Hunter had named someone else as the father. Magistrate Dee entered an order of non-paternity for the non-appearing Gomes.

In three other cases heard Thursday, the fathers acknowledged paternity without the benefit of DNA testing. Those are the cases that worry lawyers involved in family support system the most.

“Everybody should really get DNA testing,” said Barbara Morelli, a Plantsville lawyer who has a state contract to represent putative fathers in these proceedings. On Thursday, she split the duty with Laureen Vitale. “All of the people who come in don’t really know now how difficult it is to reopen cases later. They’re young and don’t realize the long-term effect. They’re going to be responsible for support for a very long time. Today is the day to find out.”

But some don’t —which worried Magistrate Dee.

In a conversation in his chambers after the docket was heard, Dee said he can’t order genetic testing from the bench. Yet, like most magistrates, he thinks genetic testing should be done in every case, he said.

Earlier in the day, Dee had pushed Kewon Strickland on his waiver of a paternity test. The question before the court was the paternity of 1 1/2-year-old Kaliegha. Kaliegha wore extra-big pink sunglasses; she clutched a doll as her mother, Mariam Ortiz, held her while the case was heard.

When Strickland waived both his right to an attorney and his right to genetic testing, Magistrate Dee repeated his mantra: “It is difficult, if not impossible, to open that judgment if you change your mind.”

Knowing all that, you’d still like to go forward,” he said in what sounded like half-question, half-plea.

Yes, Strickland said, he did want to go forward, The admission of paternity was made as a result of his “own free will.”

Dee might have had good reason to worry. Asked about his admission outside the courtroom, Strickland, 25, said he and Ortiz have been together for eight years and have a 4-year-old son. “I don’t see any reason for testing right now,” he said. “I can save up for an attorney and reopen the case.”

In the meantime, Strickland had asked the judge for structured visitation and maybe even joint custody, which led Dee to send the case to another court division. In the hallway, Strickland said that his relationship with Ortiz is “on and off” and that he wants regular visitation. “She’ll give it to me and then take it back. I don’t want it to depend on mad today, happy tomorrow.”

Josue Alvarez also declined to get genetic testing to determine the paternity of three children, all supposedly with mother Nitzayri Almodovar. “Do you request genetic testing?” he was asked.

“I am the father” was his reply to a question about a 2 1/2-year-old boy. The couple supposedly have an older child and a two-month-old together as well. Dee entered a judgment of paternity and support for all three children.

“I know he’s my son,” Alvarez, a 28-year-old unemployed mechanic said after the magistrate entered the order. “He’s my son.”

Robert Cirino was just as emphatic in rejecting genetic testing for his 4-year-old child. At both the beginning and ending of the case, Dee scolded Cirino, who had turned 18 a month earlier, and the child’s 19-year-old mother, Norma Tixi, for wandering off during the proceedings.Their case had to be called three times.

Dee stressed the financial and legal responsibilities that come along with Cirino’s admission. “I’m a man. I want to take of my responsibility,” Cirino said outside the courtroom. “That’s all I got to say about that.”

He seemed more interested in the multiple surgeries, beginning Monday, he needs to repair a shattered elbow. Probing to assess the injury’s effect on Cirino’s ability to work, Dee asked whether he had been hurt in “an accident or work related or something outside of that.”

“Something outside of that,” Cirino replied.

Asked in the hallway about the injury, a friend who accompanied Cirino to court made a gesture: pulling the trigger on a gun.

Emergence Of “Paternity Thursday”

Magistrate Dee’s advice: Take a DNA test.

The paternity docket arose from a series of Congressional mandates beginning in the 1970s. Before that, custodial parents who wanted financial help caring for their children had to hire a lawyer and file a complaint in court to establish paternity and demand support.

For public policy and budgetary reasons, the U.S. Congress sought to shift the care of children born out of wedlock from the state to their fathers. It enacted Title IV-D of the Social Security Act to encourage states to get fathers to pony up by reimbursing the administrative costs of running support enforcement programs. Welfare recipients also had to assign their right to child support to the government in exchange for state benefits and assume the risk of losing those benefits if they didn’t cooperate with collection efforts.

Over the next 30 years, the Congress adopted other measures to induce states to create procedures for establishing paternity and enforcing child support. The federal government has largely succeeded: only 20 percent of children born out of wedlock are now supported by state assistance, compared to 80 percent two decades ago.

In Connecticut, a 1986 law created the family support magistrate division of the superior court to establish paternity for children born out of wedlock, and to issue and enforce financial and medical support orders. Families seeking either cash benefits or health care coverage through the Husky program must have their cases adjudicated in the magistrate division. The state Department of Social Services administers the program; the state Attorney General’s Office represents both the DSS and the custodial parent in court. Nine magistrates hear the cases, with another four or five retired magistrates pitching in as referees.

After reaching a high of almost 5,000 new petitions for paternity statewide in the mid-1990s, as the relatively new program got off the ground, the number of new petitions has leveled off to about 1,500 a year, according to Judicial Department records. New Haven still has enough new paternity petitions, about 400 a year for the last four years, to devote an entire day to the docket. Although courts around the state hear these cases, Hartford is the only other courthouse to devote an entire day to one type of case.

In New Haven that means there’s Interstate Monday for interstate and telephonic cases, as well as those requiring more time; Child Support Tuesday to determine the father’s financial contribution; Contempt Wednesday to deal with fathers who aren’t making their payments; and Modification Friday to hear arguments for changing established support arrangements.

It all starts with Paternity Thursday. Fathers can be held financially responsible only if they are found to be the legal father.

The Shackled Appear

Although Dee didn’t make much headway getting three young men he encountered Thursday to take a paternity test, he pointed to one area where the division has made a difference—with the prisoners who are transported from around the state for hearings here. Dee said that since September, when he began his New Haven rotation, the state-contracted lawyers have been meeting with the prisoners in lockup before the session to explain the right to counsel and the importance of genetic testing.

“I think over 90 percent of the prisoners who become aware of it early request genetic testing,” Dee said.

Dee’s impressions were born out during Thursday’s docket. The ten prisoners who appeared, all in handcuffs and some shackled, had counsel and requested testing if they hadn’t received it already.

Parker, who was handed the results during the hearing, was among them. In fact, lawyer Morelli, who represented Parker, persuaded the court to continue the case based on problems with the lab’s recording of the the date of the test.

“Mr. Parker wants a redo on the test,” she told the magistrate.

“It’s virtually impossible to get a false positive,” Dee reminded her and Parker. Still, Parker wanted a new test. He got a new test.

Most of the prisoners either accepted the results of their paternity tests, or asked for them for the first time.

Asti Butler requested counsel and genetic testing when his case was heard. Some family members apparently showed up just for the relatively fleeting view of Butler.

“See ya Saturday,” Butler said to his mother as he was escorted back to lock up.

“Love ya,” she replied.

There were some last-minute decisions to get genetic testing. James Jones’ case was presented as an admission, meaning he had agreed ahead of time to acknowledge the child. Asked whether he would like to admit, James Jones at first said yes. But when asked specifically whether he wanted to request genetic testing, Jones also said yes.

The mother, Vinyetta Phelmetta, looked startled and started to object. Dee interjected, “It’s his right, ma’am.”

The magistrate then added, “I guess that was a surprise.”

Lamont Gates also decided at the last minute to request genetic testing for the 10-month-old girl he held protectively in his arms outside the courtroom after his case was heard. Gates, 18, said he hadn’t signed her birth certificate at the hospital when the girl was born. “Because he didn’t have his ID with him,” the mother, Twinajha Perry, 19, said quickly.

Gates said he had come to court intending to acknowledge paternity, but decided to take the test when he heard it was free. “I just wanted to take the test to be sure,” he said. “I know she’s mine.”

No-Shows & No Jobs

If the putative father doesn’t show, the court can enter a default judgment, which makes him the legal father. That happened to Jamar Sims, who didn’t appear for the hearing on a 4 1/2-year-old boy. Magistrate Dee set custody at $120 a week, plus back support of over $6,000.

If the mother doesn’t appear, especially if it happens repeatedly, the magistrate can dismiss the paternity petition. Montez Walton showed up, but the mother, Lakeisha James, didn’t. Assistant AG Guido noted that Walton had never made a payment for the child as far as she knew, but that the mother hadn’t ever appeared either, so “you can go either way,” she told the magistrate. He dismissed the case.

Once paternity is established, the question then switches to the amount of child support and how the father can possibly pay it. None of the prisoners who appeared on Thursday were earning money or had any assets, so Dee focused on when they were to get out and how they could get a job.

As he had with the importance of genetic testing, Dee tried to impress upon the fathers the serious consequences of failing to try to get a job and pay support. “You have a duty to support and maintain your child,” he told Adrian Nelson, the only father to hold a child as he stood at the podium. The boy in his arms, however, wasn’t the subject of the paternity petition.

“If you’re working for pay and you don’t pay support, it can be considered willful noncompliance and you could go to jail,” Dee told Nelson.

Nicholas Maturo, who was in prison, accepted the results of a paternity test for a 7-month old. Asked if he had a job to go back to, Maturo said, “I haven’t got anything set up but I will find one.”

Fathers with records, such as Nelson and Maturo, have an added difficulty. But none of the men who appeared Thursday were likely to have an easy time of it. Only two of the men said they were employed; only one reported having full-time work. How the others would find a job and make support payments were issues for another legal proceeding—and another day.

Source: New Haven Independent


Delonna Victoria Sullivan R.I.P.

August 7, 2011 permalink

Delonna Victoria Sullivan

When a four-month-old baby died six days after social workers took her from her mother in Warburg Alberta the names of the family were concealed and it was not possible to memorialize them properly. Owing to the efforts of the mother and grandmother, we can say that the late girl is Delonna Victoria Sullivan, her mother is Jamie Delonn Sullivan and her grandmother is Marilyn Koren. The mother and grandmother are traveling with the Protecting Canadian Children bus tour. An article on a rally in Leduc Alberta on July 15 is below, there are also videos, one on the Leduc rally (flv) and one made in Beamsville on August 4 (flv). Following the newspaper article is an epitaph for Delonna in the form of a blog post by her mother.



Leduc rally
Around a dozen people rallied in Leduc on Friday, July 15 to protest the death of children in provincial custody, spurred on after the April death of a Warburg child in foster care.

Leduc rally

Leduc rally

Leduc rally

Leduc rally

Leduc rally

Grandmother questions foster care death by holding Leduc protest

A Warburg area woman isn't giving up on her granddaughter's memory and is leading a charge to look into Alberta's foster care deaths.

The women took to Leduc's main street to protest in front of the Alberta Family and Child Services office Friday, July 15, with around a dozen supporters and hundreds of signs, some of which read "stop killing our children" "work with families not against them" and "Secrets? What are you hiding and covering up?"

"On April 5, a social worker from this office went to my daughter's place to apprehend her roommate's (two) children," the grandmother explained, speaking in front of the Leduc office. "As an afterthought they apprehended my daughter's baby, and refused to let any family member take that baby and just stuck her in a foster home on the south side of Edmonton."

An affidavit signed by a social worker two days later, on April 7, claimed that the child needed to be removed as "the infant has been subjected to disharmony in the home and the child is left with inexperienced babysitters" and her mother "appears to suffer from an alcohol addiction."

On April 8, the grandmother visited the baby at the foster parent's house with her daughter. She said that they were distressed by what they saw.

"She had poop on the side of her bum from not being cleaned up properly previously. She had such a diaper rash it was disgusting," she said.

"I asked (the foster parent) how long she had diarrhea. When we saw her on Friday she had diarrhea for three days. And I asked if she had taken her to a doctor and (the foster parent) said 'no, if she's not better by Monday I'll make an appointment.' Monday she died. She let that baby lay there and suffer for five days without taking her for any sort of medical attention."

The grandmother referred to the child's foster care situation as "complete total neglect" and the situation that lead to her granddaughter's death as "a complete and total abuse of power and authority."

"The baby passed away a quarter after four that afternoon, my daughter wasn't notified till 10 that night. It's inexcusable," she said. "We have absolutely nothing. No answers. They suspect the baby died from dehydration."

Former foster parent Cathy Evarts attended the gathering and voiced her support for the protesters, who exchanged stories of the deficiencies they see in Alberta's foster care. She described Alberta's foster parent system as "very dysfunctional" and set up in order to have a child's biological parents fail.

"What I saw and witnessed was families not being supported for reunification, what I see is families getting set up to fail," Evarts said. "Family visits are not set up to be supportive, and all the while these are marks against them so they can go to court and say that these families don't deserve their children."

Children and Youth Services spokesperson John Tuckwell countered claims from the protesters that the Alberta government is less then forthcoming with information about deaths in foster care.

"We report all deaths and serious injuries in our annual report. We do refer those. We provide that information to the medical examiner and the medical examiner provides his findings to the Alberta fatality review board if a death is anything other then clearly natural causes, if there is anything suspicious, if there is a criminal investigation going on," Tuckwell said, adding that he doesn't yet know if the Warburg area baby's death in April was due to anything other than natural causes. "We're waiting for the results of the medical examiners report."

Was the grandmother correct in alleging that the child was neglected in foster care?

"We don't know. That's up to the medical examiner to determine that," Tuckwell said. "The cause of death will be released publicly."

The grandmother claimed that she had called the constituency office of Drayton Valley – Calmar MLA Diana McQueen, and had been told that the social worker involved with removing her granddaughter and placing her in foster care has had multiple complaints raised about her "overstepping her boundaries and protocol."

Reached in Warburg, the grandmother confirmed her earlier assertion at the protest, and added that she had been told the social worker's "power has gone to her head and she thinks she's God."

McQueen said that she hadn't spoken to the grandmother at all, but said the grandmother did call her constituency office manager and was referred to the ministry. Her constituency assistant confirmed that she had spoken to the grandmother, but disagreed with her recollection of the call.

She said that she doesn't know who the social worker is, and said that she can't make any comment on receiving other concerns about a social worker.

"All I said to her is that we get calls from the area, from people over many different issues regarding many different departments and whatever, not to name names or point fingers at any particular person or party," explained constituency assistant Barb Brown.

Source: Leduc Rep

Alberta's Stolen Angels

Missing You

My little girl is my whole world. Little Delonna Victoria Sullivan had a smile that could melt your heart, and she was always smiling. She was such a happy little angel until social services came to illegally rip her away from her mothers arms at 4 1/2 months. They came for my roomates children and took my baby as well on a whim. Gloria Mapplebeck and Deena Farley of the Leduc social services building, took my baby and killed her because they didn't like my attitude. Show me a loving parent that doesn't when you are taking their child. Attitude is not a crime. Killing my child was, and I will see that they get every punishment they deserve. Along with the foster parent Michelle, who sat there and let my baby Delonna suffer and die. I just hope the people I named are smart enough not to show their face around me or I am not responsible for my actions. Parents out there should know that if social services shows up to take your child with no paperwork, DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR CHILD IT IS ILLEGAL FOR THEM TO DO SO. Parents have rights. I know if only i had known my daughter would still be alive today. Total abuse of power, authority, and negligence is what killed my baby.

Mother to Delonna Victoria Sullivan
Jamie Delonn Sullivan

Source: Jamie Sullivan blog

Hounded to Death

August 7, 2011 permalink

An English boy who fled to Ireland with his mother to escape child protectors is pursued by social workers using the boy's derelict father and secret documents. The boy has been driven to a suicide attempt.



'Child protection' tears mother and son apart after 14 years

English social workers pursue yet another mother who had taken refuge in Ireland with her child.

distraught boy
A 14-year-old boy was made suicidal by the threat of being taken into care
Photo: ALAMY

Almost hourly last week I followed yet another child-snatching drama, as bizarre and disturbing as any I have reported. So irked were the social workers of an English council when, six months ago, a mother and her 14-year-old son evaded their clutches by fleeing to Ireland that they hit on a cunning ruse. They tracked down the woman’s former husband, who had not seen his son for seven years, and paid for him to go to Dublin to front a case for “child abduction”, on the grounds that his son had been taken abroad without his consent.

The judge, relying on a document supplied at the last minute by the English social workers, which the mother and son were not allowed to see or challenge, ruled – in defiance of the UN Convention on Children’s Rights and a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights – that the boy must be returned to England. He was so distraught that he attempted suicide, spending two days in hospital before waiting in council care to be deported.

The social workers first intervened in this family’s life two years ago, following a malicious allegation which proved wholly untrue. But so persistent were the social workers in questioning this bright, articulate boy – I spoke to him last week before he was taken into care – that he eventually refused to talk to them any more. Their response was to threaten that he would be taken into care for “failure to co-operate”. The mother’s response was to flee with her son to Ireland, where the English social workers tried to persuade their Irish colleagues to take him into care.

The pair soon established a friendly relationship with their Irish social worker, who could see no reason for sending them back to England. They had settled happily into their new life, and the well-behaved boy did well at school, making many new friends.

But the English social workers were not giving up. A few weeks ago, the couple were assigned a new social worker, trained in the UK, whose attitude was very different. They were summoned to Dublin to face a charge of “child abduction”, brought in the name of the ex-husband and father, who left home in 2004 amid allegations of sexually molesting his son (no charges were brought).

He and the Irish social worker sat in the Dublin courtroom, while a battery of lawyers put various bizarre allegations to the mother. She had already been described as an “alcoholic” even though for medical reasons she never drinks and several tests had shown no trace of alcohol in her blood. One lawyer now put it to her that she was “a paranoid schozophrenic”. She replied: “Are you a doctor? Do you know what is necessary to diagnose that condition?” When he said he had no idea, she told him: “Physical tests and a full psychiatric examination, neither of which I have had.”

On the last day, mother and son attended together, expecting that, under the UN Convention, the boy would be allowed to speak for himself. But the judge announced that, over lunch, she had read a new document supplied by the English social workers, which the pair were not allowed to see. She ruled that they must return to England, assuring them that they would be allowed to live together.

The Irish social worker, however, later told the boy that, as soon as they landed, it was planned that he should be made a ward of court and taken into care, while the mother suspected that she might be arrested for abduction. That night, in their hotel, she found her distracted son preparing to hang himself, and he was taken to hospital. The Irish social worker applied for a care order, and the boy was taken to an institution with an electrified fence, where his mobile phone was confiscated and he was kept under constant watch.

The Irish social worker then admitted to the boy that he had been misled by his English counterparts, who assured him the father was “only an occasional social drinker”. They had now revealed that he is an alcoholic with a record of violence. Yet it was entirely on this man’s word that a mother and son who have lived happily together for 14 years are now to be torn apart.

The lawyers they were given in Ireland refused to raise a recent landmark judgment in the ECHR that, in abduction cases, the interests and wishes of the child must take precedence over the wishes of an aggrieved parent. Mother and son believe that they have been horribly betrayed, by the lawyers, by the judge and by social workers who have treated them like criminals for no offence other than their refusal to accept unwarranted, officious interference in their life.

On Friday, 10 minutes before the mother was due for a job interview, to support herself while she remains in Ireland, she was rung by the Irish social worker and summoned back to court immediately. It was merely to hear that her son will be deported to England on Tuesday. This tragedy is far from over.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

wolf pack
Social workers stalking runaway family

Tour in Lindsay

August 6, 2011 permalink

The Protecting Canadian Children tour got to Lindsay today.



Rallying to protect children

Protecting Canadian Children tours Kawarthas raising awareness of problems within the Children’s Aid Society

Linda Plourde and supporters
Rallying to protect children. Linda Plourde (far left) was joined by several supporters when her Protecting Canadian Children Ontario tour stopped in Lindsay and Peterborough today (Aug. 6). The group brought their awareness message to the Lindsay Square Mall (until 3 p.m.) and the Lansdowne Place Mall (from 5 to 8 p.m.)
Catherine Whitnall/This Week Catherine Whitnall

(LINDSAY) A small, but dedicated group of individuals has brought their message of Protecting Canadian Children to the Kawarthas.

The group, which will be at the Lindsay Square Mall until 3 p.m. today (Aug. 6) is taking their Ontario tour to Peterborough later this afternoon, stopping at the Peterborough office of the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society at 4 p.m., before heading to the Landsdowne Place Mall from 5 to 8 p.m.

Linda Plourde, who launched Protecting Canadian Children roughly three years ago in response to her experience with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society when the agency became involved after her daughter gave birth. Her research into the agency and its practices, as well as first hand knowledge of the treatment of her daughter and grandson, alarmed her.

Although not wanting to get involved, the now Stoney Creek resident has thrown herself behind what has become a national movement to bring public awareness to the desperate need for accountability and transparency within the Children’s Aid Society.

Ms Plourde has been joined by a several individuals who support her quest for change, including Velvet Martin, whose special needs teen daughter died shortly after being released from care, Marilyn Koren - her grand-daughter Delonna died six days after being removed from her daughter Jamie’s home - and Vernon Beck, who is working with Canada Court Watch, which has documented a number of violations occurring in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Mr. Beck alleges that most CAS workers in Ontario are not registered and are working in violation to the law. He also states workers are entering schools and speaking to students without the knowledge and consent of parents.

Source: myKawartha

An expanded version appeared later:

Rallying to protect children

Protecting Canadian Children tours Kawarthas raising awareness of problems within the Children’s Aid Society

Linda Plourde and supporters
Rallying to protect children. Linda Plourde (far left) was joined by several supporters when her Protecting Canadian Children Ontario tour stopped in Lindsay and Peterborough today (Aug. 6). The group brought their awareness message to the Lindsay Square Mall (until 3 p.m.) and the Lansdowne Place Mall (from 5 to 8 p.m.)
Catherine Whitnall/This Week Catherine Whitnall

(LINDSAY) A small, but dedicated group of individuals brought their message straight to the Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society offices in Lindsay and Peterborough on Saturday (Aug. 6).

Linda Plourde launched Protecting Canadian Children roughly three years ago following her experience with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society after the agency became involved with her daughter and grandson.

Although initially not wanting to get involved, the Stoney Creek resident has created a national movement determined to raise public awareness of the need for increased accountability and transparency within children’s services.

“Once I realized the dozens of children who were dying in foster care. . . I became concerned,” said Ms Plourde. “We simply cannot accept 100 children per year dying in foster care.”

Ms Plourde said it’s ironic given the fact the CAS was “created to protect children”, but the agency is now “out of control”, operating without any accountability.

“They’re taking things too far under the guise of caring [for children]. The government is no longer working for the children,” she said. “Children have become merchandise.”

Close to completing an Ontario tour, Ms Plourde is joined by several individuals who support her quest.

Velvet Martin’s special needs daughter, Samantha, died shortly after being released from care.

Ms Martin, a former Ontario resident now living in Alberta, relinquished custody in order to access the services her daughter needed. But over a 10 year period, Samantha sustained numerous injuries - including several broken bones - lost considerable weight and her behaviour degraded. A few months after returning home, Samantha died of a heart attack, believed to have been connected to untreated seizures she had experienced during her many years of care. She was 13.

In December 2009, the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act was amended by Samantha’s Law, requiring the Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services. Ms Martin is working to take Samantha’s Law national.

“When protocols are breached, there’s no follow through. There’s no consequences and no accountability,” said Ms Martin. “We need to get back to family-centred care practices. We need to give grandparents and other family members to opportunity to step forward and provide care.”

Grandparents like Marilyn Koren, whose granddaughter Delonna died six days after being taken into the custody of the Alberta CAS. Ms Koren said her daughter, Jamie, was sharing a home with another woman who was being investigated.

Ms Koren said the infant was removed without report or warrant and placed in care, despite the fact she was willing to take the baby into her home. The two women had only one visit in the six days Delonna was in care. That day, the baby had red marks on her head and face, diarrhea and a severe diaper rash. A few days later, the infant was taken to hospital where she died; her mother notified that night.

“Going downstairs at the U of A (University of Alberta) Hospital and seeing that sign ‘morgue’ - no parent or grandparent should have to go through that. Not like this,” she said.

While both Ms Martin and Ms Koren’s stories occurred half a country away, they caution the problem is Canada-wide.

Vernon Beck, who is working with Canada Court Watch, cites he has documented a number of violations occurring in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Mr. Beck alleges that most CAS workers in Ontario are not registered and violating the law.

Kawartha-Haliburton CAS executive director Hugh Nicholson noted the statement is only half correct.

The child protection worker position is a legislated position through the Child and Family Services Act, containing specific protocols, said Mr. Nicholson. Those who have a Bachelor of Social Work or Psychology degree - the latter with a social work diploma - as well as related experience, must complete a provincial authorization process that takes about a year. Competency is based on training and extensive testing, plus an internal audit.

“We have very similar standards in order to be in compliance with legislation,” said Mr. Nicholson, noting there is no need for those in compliance to register with the College. “The College doesn’t address the realities of what is happening in the social welfare field.”

He noted the agency has a “systematic approach” to identifying risk with children which is very complex.

“There are a lot of checks and balances,” said Mr. Nicholson pointing to a strict set of standards - more than 200 - to which social workers must adhere.

In response to Mr. Beck’s statements that workers are entering schools and speaking to students without the knowledge and consent of parents, Trillium Lakelands District School Board director of education Larry Hope said all board staff have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse. Defined protocols are in place for contacting agencies along with how those agencies are permitted to operate within schools.

“We have very clear policies and procedures regarding how we work with the CAS,” said Mr. Hope, noting the board has been following proper policy.

Mr. Hope confirmed the board has been in contact with Mr. Beck and, based on direction from legal counsel, has requested he “cease and desist” what is being viewed as harrassing behaviour.

Despite this, Mr. Beck is committed to continuing the fight, both with Canada Court Watch and Protecting Canadian Children.

Source: myKawartha

Rights? What Rights?

August 6, 2011 permalink

The "rights" enacted by the Ontario legislature for children are vacuous, as shown in this posting by a mother.

Alana Stephen Willis The CAS refused to give my daughter her pamphlet regarding her rights. She's well past the age of 12 (the age of 12 and older, they have a right to be there for their own court proceedings) The CAS refused to let her go to them. ''Give a child a voice'' they say? Two major violations, and of course, the CAS walks away unpunished.

Source: Facebook

Hazardous Duty

August 6, 2011 permalink

Child protection workers in Louisiana will be getting $2 per hour hazardous-duty pay to supplement their income.

The duty of social workers would not be hazardous if they provided real help to their clients instead of family destruction.



$2-an-hour hazardous duty pay OK'd for state workers investigating child abuse and neglect

BATON ROUGE -- The state Civil Service Commission on Wednesday approved a hazardous duty pay supplement of up to $2 an hour for state employees who investigate cases of child abuse and neglect, which sometimes lead to the removal of children from their homes in confrontational circumstances.

Louisiana Civil Service logo

The commission approved the request by officials of the Department of Children and Family Services, who said turnover in the ranks of investigators has been 25 percent to 30 percent in recent years.

Department officials said 198 positions are set aside for investigative slots, but they could not say late Wednesday how many are filled.

Agency Human Resources Director Wanda Raber said starting salaries for the caseworkers range from $27,000 to $29,000. The $2-and-hour bump for full-time investigators will mean about $5,000 a year, Civil Service officials said . If an agency employee is detailed part time as an investigator, the $2-an-hour increase will be pro-rated to the time spent investigating cases.

Civil Service Director Shannon Templet and her staff recommended the "premium pay" to the commission for approval.

"It is our hope the $2 an hour will keep existing workers and encourage others to join the agency as investigators," Denise Fair, deputy secretary for operations of the agency, told the commission.

"The (department's) clients see the worker as an intrusion into their private lives and have the authority to take their child away if need be," Raber said. "They get in the middle of domestic violence. They go into neighborhoods where crime is high. We can't get the qualified employees we need."

In a letter to Templet, Children and Family Services Secretary Ruth Johnson said more than 70 percent of "front-line CPI (child protection investigation) workers reported they have been the victims of violence or threats of violence in the line of duty."

Some investigators, Johnson said, have been stalked, intimidated and have had their lives and their relatives' lives threatened. In some cases, she said, workers have been "shot at while removing an infant from harm" and others have been in danger while investigating homes that have been turned into meth labs.

The added pay, she said, is necessary "to retain experienced CPI workers."

On another issue, Templet said her staff is starting to look at a new performance-evaluation system for state workers to get raises when the ongoing pay and hiring freeze is lifted. The state has not given what had become a routine 4 percent "merit pay" increase to state workers in the past two years.

The last time merit pay was awarded, more than 98 percent of state workers qualified for the full 4 percent. Templet said one version of an evaluation plan being studied would reduce the present five-tier system to a three-tier system.

The state now rates an employee poor, needing improvement, having a solid standard performance, exceeding requirements or outstanding. Only those graded poor or needing improvement do not get a raise, Templet said.

In the three-tier plan, workers would be graded unsatisfactory, satisfactory or exceptional with only the unsatisfactory not getting the raise.

Templet said her office hopes to come up with a plan for presentation to the commission at its November meeting and vote on it in December. Two previous plans approved by the commission, which contained raises of 3 percent to 6 percent depending on job evaluations, have been vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Source: Times-Picayune

Social Worker Head-Butted

August 6, 2011 permalink

In Florida angry father Carlens Constant Jr head-butted a social worker separating him from his son.



Angry Dad Head Butted DCF Worker: Cops

Carlens Constant
Carlens Constant Jr.

A Miami dad is in jail after he allegedly delivered a head butt to a Department of Children and Families case worker who came to retrieve his son.

Carlens Constant Jr., 30, was charged with battery on a DCF agent and criminal mischief for the altercation Thursday, Miami-Dade Police said.

According to an arrest report, Constant was not allowed to have custody of his son so DCF case worker Victor Onweazuekwa came to retrieve the unidentified boy.

A Miam-Dade judge said Friday that Constant was on probation for child abuse.

Constant directed his son to run away down an alley and then headed butted Onweazuekwa in the face, police said. He also threw an object at a window, breaking it, the report stated.

The angry dad then fled the scene, but later returned and was arrested by police, the report stated.

Because the arrest violated Constant's probation, he was held without bond in Miami-Dade jail.

He was appointed a public defender, who could not be reached for comment.

Source: NBC Miami

Social Worker Attacked

August 6, 2011 permalink

A teenaged boy attacked social worker Faiza Elhassan during a break-in at an Alberta group home. According to other reports, he was a former resident of the home.



Group-home attacker gets year in jail

Faiza Elhassan
Faiza Elhassan was badly beaten at an Edmonton group home on March 16.

A 16-year-old Edmonton youth has been sentenced to a year in jail for beating a group-home worker during a March break-in.

The young man, who can't be named because of his age, beat Faiza Elhassan "within inches of her life," Crown Ryan Persad said at the sentencing hearing in Edmonton Thursday. The youth had pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in July.

The teenager broke into a group home on the city's north side on March 16 and demanded food and money. He was drunk, hungry and homeless. He'd run away from his foster home and was living on the streets.

Elhassan was punched and kicked relentlessly in the face and body, and said she still has has nightmares about the attack

But the youth is sorry, the judge was told. He had a troubled childhood, and was an addict at age nine.

He's frightened by his own behavior, and wants to ensure that he'll never be so hungry that he'll attack someone else to get food.

The beating was the teen's first offence.

He's spent five months in jail, and will spend another three months behind bars. That will be followed by four months of community supervision, and 16 months on probation.

Source: CBC

Barrie Rally

August 6, 2011 permalink

Barrie CAS sign

About 30 people participated in a rally yesterday in Barrie. Most of the activity was at Mulcaster and Collier, a small group made an excursion to the courthouse and about half the group reassembled at 3pm in front of the children's aid office on Bell Farm Road.

Eleven-year-old Austin Edsall, pictured previously in Simcoe said he was approached at home by CAS workers who insisted on questioning him out of the presence of his parents. They asked whether his parents held sex-parties, and whether they used drugs at their parties. The questions came, Austin explained, before his parents had taught him about sex. Later at school different CAS workers questioned him about the same matters. This time, after a few questions, he declined to answer further.

There is a video of the rally edited by Pat Niagara on YouTube and local copy (flv).

Some photos: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10].



Parents take aim at CAS

Barrie rally
Protesters called for more accountability regarding the Children's Aid Society at a rally in downtown Barrie, Friday.
Lance Holdforth Photo

Participants at rally call out for more accountability

The intersection at Mulcaster and Collier streets became a forum of tears, anger and speeches in the name of children and families under the blanket of child services, Friday.

Parents rallied as they demanded accountability for the actions of Children's Aid Society (CAS) workers.

Barrie resident Wendy Hart shared her "horror story."

"They violated us. When you're going through it (CAS) you don't realize how bad it is," Hart said. "My son has scars all over him because they wouldn't send him home. He was 16. He shouldn't have even been in a home."

Hart's son, now 18, had just come back into her life after years in CAS custody when agents showed up on her hospital room after giving birth to her daughter.

"Three days after I had a C-section, two CAS workers came to our hospital room and said we could not leave without talking to them," she said. "After three hours of talking to them and exposing my breast and feeding in front of them, they said they wanted to come home with us that night."

Hart said her file with the CAS was closed at the time, but the agency's procedures meant six months of constant monitoring.

"We wanted to take our daughter home and enjoy the moment and not worry about a CAS investigation," she said. "It ruined our time with her and I've never cried so hard."

Earlier this week, Gary Perdue, media representative for the Simcoe County CAS, said the organization is governed by provincial legislation and there are "a significant number" of accountability measures in place. "If a member of the public has a complaint, there is a review board set, so this is a neutral independent third party," he said.

Perdue said the CAS has a solid approach to dealing with complaints of children in distress.

"We respect people's opinions who may think differently, who may think further monitoring is required," he said. "We always respect people's rights to voice their opinions."

Pat Hudak made the drive to Barrie from Port Colborne to have his voice heard.

"We came from all over Ontario," he said. "The goal for today is to bring awareness to the unlawful practice of social work and how the social workers are skirting the law."

Hudak and Hart say the CAS can take a child based on little evidence of abuse or mistreatment, and can even interview children without parents knowing.

"No one knows what's going on unless you're in the middle of it.," he said.

Because CAS is governed by a third-party organization, hired by the society, Hudak says investigations into mistreating children, unqualified workers, child deaths and improper interview techniques are never reported to the public.

"We want accountability and transparency, which we don't have," he said. "We want them all registered with the College of Social Workers so when they do wrong they can be punished."

Groups such as the Children and Families Advocating for Accountability and Canada Court Watch have been trying to have laws changed so Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin can investigate CAS complaints, which Hudak said isn't in the legislature.

"They claim to have oversight, but they don't," he said. "They're a private organization."

Velvet Martin returned from Alberta to attend a series of rallies, including Barrie's, to share the story of her daughter, Samantha, and how she died in child services custody at 13.

"She had 10 years of seizures that went untreated and the foster mother was approached by medical professionals, schools and myself, and she said I didn't see any myself," she said. "My daughter received seven broken bones, three of them were in her femur, and I learned, following the fact, that my little girl died of a heart attack at age 13."

Martin said she wanted to expose the misconceptions attached to losing a child to protective services. "The majority of people believe in the stigma of somebody must have done something wrong," she said. "It happens to middle-class people, it happens to professional people, and I think the public needs to become aware of that."

Source: Barrie Examiner

Sudbury Rally

August 5, 2011 permalink

Today's Sudbury rally by about ten people has made the press. Here are two other pictures, a group photo and Neil Haskett with NDP candidate Paul Loewenberg.



Group rallies for Ombudsman to oversee CAS

Neil Haskett
Neil Haskett, a representative from Children and Families Advocating for Accountability, participated in a rally outside the Children's Aid Society on Lasalle Boulevard in Greater Sudbury Aug. 5.
Photo by Martha Dillman.

Currently in the province of Ontario, the Ombudsman doesn't have the power to investigate complaints into several organizations, including hospitals, long-term care facilities and Children's Aid Societies (CAS).

About 10 people held a rally Aug. 5 outside the CAS building on Lasalle Boulevard to raise awareness of the issue, in hopes of changing the situation.

Neil Haskett, one of the organizers of the rally, said Ontario is behind other provinces when it comes to accountability.

“Ontario is the only province in Canada that doesn't allow the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate Children's Aids Societies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and school boards,” he said. “One of our priorities is the Children's Aid Society.”

Haskett said his group has “concerns” on how some of the CAS workers operate.

“We're not trying get rid of the Children's Aid, we're just trying to improve the service that's being provided,” he said. “We want the Ombudsman to investigate the Children's Aid Society.”

Tabitha Haskett, Neil's wife was also at the rally. She said her family has had “personal involvement” with CAS in the past, but are no longer involved.

“We just recognized many of the hardships that we went through and ... it was unnecessary,” she said. “We feel like there's got to be something done.”

She said if the Ombudsman had been in place for her situation, the process could have been different.

“He would have been able to investigate it,” she said. “He would have been able to make recommendations that would help prevent other families going through what we went through.”

Tabitha said rallies are happening around the province to make this an election issue.

Sudbury NDP candidate Paul Loewenberg stopped by the rally to speak to the participants and hear their stories. He said the NDP has worked on this issue in the past, and said they would continue to do so in the future.

“It's certainly part of our job as somebody who wants to represent the public to hear people's stories and try to help out where we can,” he said. “In this case, Andrea Horwath, our leader, has put forward a bill to power the Ombudsman office to be able to carry out investigations like this.”

Source: Sudbury Northern Life

Beamsville Tour Stop

August 5, 2011 permalink

The Protecting Canadian Children tour stopped at the constituency office of Ontario's premier-in-waiting Tim Hudak in Beamsville. Here is a picture of the Beamsville signs and video YouTube and local copy (flv). The video includes the mother and grandmother of Delonna Victoria Sullivan, the Warburg Alberta girl who died six days after being taken into foster care in March. A press report on the Beamsville event is below.



Linda Plourde

Protest targets children's aid societies

A small group gathered in downtown Beamsville Thursday to demand Ombudsman Ontario have oversight over children's aid societies.

The ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about Ontario government services.

The gathering of about a dozen people took place outside a plaza housing the constituency office of Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.

It brought together groups critical of Family and Children's Services Niagara and provincial child protection services.

Among several concerns, they allege children have not received proper care while under the legal supervision of various aid societies.

Co-organizer Linda Plourde of the group Protecting Canadian Children said her group concentrates on protecting children in general, with a focus on the practices of children's aid.

"The system is broken and needs to be fixed," said Plourde, a Stoney Creek resident.

She and several group members stressed the agencies need to be more accountable.

In an e-mailed response, FACS executive director Chris Steven said protecting children is important and requires high standards of accountability for processes and services.

Steven said there are "many accountability mechanisms including annual service and licensing audits completed by the provincial Ministry of Children and Youth Services."

He said all children's aid societies have a formal complaints procedure that includes independent access to the Child and Family Services Review Board of Ontario.

The provincial ombudsman does not have oversight of children's aid societies, but does have oversight of the Child and Family Services Review Board.

Organizers said the protest was held by Hudak's office because they believe he stands the best chance of being Ontario's next premier after the October provincial election.

Source: St Catharines Standard

Barrie Rally

August 4, 2011 permalink

The press has taken note of Friday's planned rally in Barrie.



Rally taking aim at CAS accountability

‘How they go about doing things when they know they’re doing it wrong is what we want to change’

The sound of collected voices will be heard at a rally in downtown Barrie where organizers say they plan to give a provincial watchdog a piece of their mind, Friday.

Members of the Children and Families Advocating for Accountability (CFAA) will be at the intersection of Mulcaster and Collier streets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to educate people about how the province's so-called MUSH sector is monitored.

"We're holding rallies all across Ontario," said organizer Neil Haskett.

MUSH includes the Children's Aid Society (CAS), municipalities, school boards, hospitals, nursing, police and long-term care facilities, which Haskett said are not monitored by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.

"He is entrusted by the people of Ontario to provide independent investigations into public institutions," Haskett said.

"Ontario is one of the only provinces that doesn't allow its Ombudsman to investigate those public agencies."

Haskett, and the many who are expected to attend the rally, have set their focus on the province's 53 CAS branches and the procedures the organization follows when dealing with reports of child treatment.

"We're trying to raise awareness about the lack of accountability with the Children's Aid Society," Haskett said.

"How they go about doing things when they know they're doing it wrong is what we want to change."

The group claims there is misconduct within the CAS, resulting in families being torn apart. They have yet to reach the public's ears because the CAS has an internal monitoring group, Haskett said.

"There are some gross negligences where systematic issues are involved and they just don't get resolved quickly or at all," he said.

"If there's a complaint, people have to deal directly, and that hasn't resulted in a lot of favourable investigations."

Gary Perdue, media representative for the Simcoe County CAS, said the organization is governed by provincial legislation.

"Our sense is, we are funded under the Ministry of Community and Youth Services," Perdue said. "Children's Aid Societies are empowered under the Child and Family Services Act, and there are a significant number of accountability measures already in place."

Perdue said the Ombudsman doesn't oversee the CAS, but does oversee the third-party board responsible for monitoring any complaints against the organization.

"The Ombudsman has the oversight over the child and family services review board," he said. "If a member of the public has a complaint, there is a review board set, so this is a neutral independent third party."

Haskett said the goal for the peaceful rally is to inform people who otherwise wouldn't know about dealings with CAS by sharing stories from people who have.

"Emotionally, it's hard because we know there's nothing they (families) can do," he said. "We have received probably 30,000 to 40,000 e-mails from people across Ontario. A lot of them are scared to death and afraid to stand up and speak out."

Perdue said the review board does yearly investigations and is non-partial because board members are not directly related to the CAS.

"It has experts that are not part of child welfare. Their employment is in no way (directly) related to the CAS ," he said. "They have other jobs during the day and then, from time to time, they are brought together to receive and review compliants from the public."

Perdue said the rally is a reflection of peoples' opinions, but believes the CAS has a solid approach to dealing with complaints of children in distress.

"We respect people's opinions who may think differently, who may think further monitoring is required," he said.

"We always respect people's rights to voice their opinions."

Source: Barrie Examiner

Canadian Police State

August 3, 2011 permalink

A writer in Hamilton Ontario posted this story of the terror of CAS intervention even in a case where, after months of examination, the child was not taken. The mother named as Wendy in the story is Wendy Elizabeth Hart of Barrie. (fixcas notes corrected February 2013).



The Easily Forgotten Examples Of The Canadian Police State

As we continue to expose the corruption and the levels of governmental control in our society. It is sadly very easy to over look many issues, even some huge ones!

As the Canadian police state moves forward at an alarming pace, some of the most brutal examples come from governmental programs that have been around for what seems like for ever. The C.A.S (Children’s aid society) like most agencies seem to have very good intentions. Protecting the children of Canada. But in too many cases we find that the C.A.S is getting involved in the lives of families, with extremely poor rationale to be there at at all. Once involved everything in your life is cataloged, recorded, and stored. A practice that is breaking up Canadian families, which many will argue is a desired outcome (including myself).

With this being said we are going to share the story of a woman named Wendy and the ordeal that her and her family has been put through by the Children’s Aid Society.

Terry Wilson/Wendy Elizabeth Hart

It was early morning and I held my new baby daughter of 8 hours old in my arms while propped up on the uncomfortable Hospital bed. I breathed her in like fresh air and shed tear after joyful tear. I could not believe that My Husband and I had not only been so blessed to find one another but to also find ourselves the proud parents of such a sweet, heavenly angel; it was overwhelmingly wonderful.

A nurse came in that I didn’t recognize but it was 5 am and time for a Staff Shift Change, so it wasn’t unexpected. She greeted me with a kind smile and I watched it spread across her face as her eyes moved to Hope nestled into me. I smiled back and told her that I was doing fine when she asked. I was too wrapped up in my happiness to notice that she was preparing to tell me something horrible.

She came close; spoke softly and while it helped, my heart trembled as she uttered each word, “CAS has been called because you and your Husband both have Mental Illnesses and you are not on Medication. It’s standard procedure and they will meet you in your hospital room tomorrow….”. CAS. In my Hospital Room? Can they do this? “…I am sure you have nothing to worry about…”. I knew they had no knowledge of my psychiatrist approved self-designed therapy program or mental health history. Tears spilled over uncontrollably and my worst nightmare came true.

I sobbed a version of my history with CAS to her that I really can’t recall the accuracy of. She felt so sorry for me but she knew nothing of the story and it was then I realized that no matter how innocent I was in all that I have been through with CAS, the story, unless told right, made it sound like there was a piece missing. Why? Because it was that ludicrous. That unjust. That horrible that it just didn’t sound believable. But it was real. And my Son and I have lived it for 7 long years. And now, they wanted to drag my new precious daughter into their web of lies. My inner Mother Bear roared at the prospect of ANYONE even THINKING of getting in between me and another of my Cubs.

I held myself together by drinking in my little treasure and knowing that she could feel everything I was going through. I had to set a good example. That’s what good Parents do. I cuddled her and sang softly in her ear, making our world only the cozy little room we were in and it’s only inhabitants her and I. I prayed for the time to hasten to when visiting hours started again. At 10 am, my Husband finally arrived and after I told him what had happened, He folded into Hope and I and we wept over our coming tribulations together. We tried our best to enjoy our time as a family and gather our strength for our encounter with CAS.

CAS didn’t show the day they said they would and they day they DID show up it was hours after we were discharged by our OB, delaying our departure significantly. For at least 2 hours we sat with these strangers talking about our lives and our Parenting as I breast fed my infant daughter. It felt a little like rape, something I have experienced, having to struggle to feed Hope while not exposing myself. I was so hot, uncomfortable and nervous that I couldn’t keep myself covered at all and it greatly upset me. But for Hope we stood united and strong as they asked us question after question. I had just had a C-section 3 days prior, and I was so exhausted.

After deflecting their desire to come home with us THAT DAY to see our apartment and inspect our Crib, I very slowly made our way to our Van to take us shopping for some things before we settled in at home for a few weeks. We were discharged at 10 am but because of CAS we didn’t get home till almost 7 pm. We had left our home days prior after spending hours in labour with ruptured membranes so there was considerable disarray to the apartment, understandably. But we had CAS coming the NEXT DAY, so we went to work taking care of our little bundle of joy and cleaning up our apartment instead of relaxing and letting things go for a few days like we had planned.

It was horrible. It was right in the middle of the first heat wave of the season and we hadn’t got a fan yet so while our room was nice and cool for Hope, we were frying in the living room and kitchen as my Husband and I scrubbed our apartment clean and cried with each other over the injustice of our ordeal. CAS came and we once again spent over an hour answering questions while having our apartment inspected. It is a terrifying feeling having to put yourself on display to be judged even if you are innocent. They said the art I had created for the Nursery was amazing and that I should be selling it and raved that we were the most organized people they had ever met. I thought that meant they wouldn’t need to waste tax payers dollars to investigate an obviously well organized family ready to met any needs our daughter had but I forgot about “procedure”.

For five months we had visits from a CAS worker who was looking to close our case. We were informed of the official CAS reason they were called into our lives. “Someone” got wind of our conversation DISCUSSING Erythromycin* and whether we wanted it or not and reported it to CAS as a refusal. We didn’t refuse it, we discussed it with our Midwife and decided to go ahead with it because she warned us CAS could be called if we refused it. In the end CAS, funded by tax payers but run like a charity, was called into our lives for a reason that didn’t even exist. We will never know who called but thankfully all of our Midwives and Doctors vouched for us as Parents which helped our case tremendously.

We got very lucky with our Worker. She did not have any motive but doing her job as a child protection worker, protecting children. She knew that we were no risk to our daughter but due to protocol, she had to come for a certain number of months to follow procedure as directed by her Supervisor. CAS procedures seem to waste time and money and do not facilitate Child Protection enough to warrant such squandering. Our worker was a gem and thankfully in the end we got a letter stating the case is closed. But no letter can give back what what was taken from my Husband and I.

The uninterrupted joy of experiencing the birth of our first born child free of outside worries, scrutiny, invading strangers and painfully stressful tears. But we will move on, stronger from the journey that CAS forced us into, knowing we stood up against tyranny and held fast for our beloved Daughter, Hope.

Source: Canadian Awareness Network

CAS Sues Father

August 3, 2011 permalink

David Flook is about to be sued by Chatham children's aid for his postings to his website and Facebook.

The text of the notice below has been annotated with hyperlinks to the NADAD blog. The blog that is the subject of the complaint is NADADS and the Facebook page is Not All Dads Are Deadbeats. Here is a permanent copy of the notice (pdf) in its original form.



McTague law firm

August 3,2011

David Flook
276 Merritt Avenue
Apartment #310
Chatham, Ontario
N7M 3G1

Dear Sir:


Chatham-Kent Children's Services and Andrea Wathy v. David Flook Our File No. 51963

Please find enclosed a Notice with regard to the above-noted matter which is being served upon you pursuant to the Libel and Slander Act, RSO 1990, c L-12.

Yours very truly,





IN THE MATTER OF an intended action








Pursuant to s. 5(1) of the Libel and Slander Act, R.S.0.1990, c. L.12, Chatham-Kent Children's Services ("CKCS") and Andrea Wathy, hereby complain of internet broadcasts on ("NADAD") on:

Tuesday July 4, 2011;

Tuesday July 5, 2011;

Thursday July 7,2011;

Monday, July 11, 2011;

Thursday, July 14, 2011; and

Thursday, July 28, 2011.

and on ("Facebook") on:

Tuesday, July 4, 2011;

Friday, July 8, 2011; and

Tuesday, July 26, 2011.

which first came to the knowledge of CKCS and Andrea Wathy on July 5, 2011 and from time to time thereafter. These broadcasts contained statements that are defamatory and calculated to disparage the character and reputation of CKCS and Andrea Wathy. Without limiting the generality of the defamatory meaning ascribed to the broadcast, the matters complained of are as follows:

  1. The July 4, 2011 internet video posted on NADAD (and linked to on Facebook) entitled, "Part 1 - advice on how to protect yourself from CAS workers" in which the Defendant states, "Workers for CAS...defy laws and break laws in order to dig dirt on you and get what they want." The Defendant directly relates these comments to an upcoming meeting he is scheduled to have with Andrea Wathy in her capacity as an employee of CKCS.
  2. The July 4, 2001 internet video posted on NADAD (and linked to on Facebook) entitled, "Part 1 - advice on how to protect yourself from CAS workers" in which the Defendant states that, "(Andrea Wathy] is going to be breaking the law." This comment is in direct reference to the Plaintiff in her employment capacity.
  3. The July 4, 2011 posting on Facebook (and cross-posted on NADAD on July 5, 2011), which refers to CKCS as a "corrupt organization".
  4. The July 4, 2011 posting on Facebook (and cross-posted on NADAD on July 5, 2011), which states that CKCS "obviously encourages you [Andrea Wathy] to break the laws".
  5. The July 4,2011 posting on Facebook (and cross-posted on NADAD on July 5, 2011), which states that CKCS uses "often blunt (and illegal) tactics".
  6. The July 7, 2011 internet posting on NADAD, which states that CKCS "is a corrupt organization".
  7. The July 8, 2011 internet posting on Facebook where the Defendant states, "...Andrea/CAS has conducted themselves in an illegal manner and how the whole organization is wrought with corruption."
  8. The July 11, 2011 internet posting on NADAD, which states that "CAS workers in the province of Ontario are breaking the law and are fully aware of what they are doing to mislead the public."
  9. The July 14, 2011 internet posting on NADAD, which states that "...the CAS corporation often conducts itself in unlawful manners and is at it's core is a corrupt corporation."
  10. The July 26, 2011 audio recording linked to on Facebook as (and cross-posted on NADAD as of July 28, 2011), which:
    1. compares the CAS and its employees to terrorists and Hitler;
    2. refers to CAS employees as "pricks";
    3. states that CAS and its employees "kidnap" children; and
    4. states that the CAS is "bullshit".

August 3, 2011


455 Pelissier Street
Windsor, Ontario
N9A 6Z9
Tel: (519) 255-4300
Fax: (519) 255-4360



276 Merritt Avenue
Apartment #310
Chatham, Ontario
N7M 3G1

Source: Not all Dads are Deadbeats (David Flook)

Cash for Kids

August 2, 2011 permalink

Readers depressed by the two articles below promoting adoption can get some joy at the prospect of earning hard cash in exchange for your pesky kids.




we buy children

True Christians™ Helping Families in Need:

This is a tough economy. We understand that people are suffering because of what Bill Clinton did, and sadly, American families will continue to suffer for many years until President Bush can come out of retirement and fix the mess Clinton made of the country. In any case, hard times call for extreme measures and Landover Baptist Church (being the largest and most powerful body of worthwhile Christians to ever exist) is offering a lending hand to families in need. We understand from what we've seen on TV and heard from Christian radio talk shows that millions of families in America have difficulty supporting their children. This might come as a surprise to you, but we'd like to take one or two of them off of your hands, and we'll pay you for it! Our church has been doing this locally and statewide for over two years now, and we want to offer this wonderful opportunity to the rest of America.

There is little effort required on your part. You need only sign a few forms, say goodbye to your child, and you are handed a gospel tract and check . All you need to do is get your child to the booth at the front gate of our 1,840 acre church complex in Freehold Iowa. After a small wait, you will appear before a judge, sign the papers, and your child will become the sole property of Landover Baptist Church.

How Much Will We Pay For Your Child?

Landover Baptist Creation Scientists have used Scripture to calculate every amount of payment except for the price of white females. Scripture teaches us that females are worth less than men (Leviticus 27:1-7), but since these are the last days, and the present economic and international situation is unbalanced during this time, we found it appropriate to modify the pricing where necessary. Members of the Young Christian Soldiers Program released these figures after days of concentrated prayer and meditation. We're also taking a big leap by jumping on the "politically correct" bandwagon here and announcing that the word "Colored" does not just refer to Negroes. It also includes Mexicans and any race of people visibly tainted by the sin of Ham (Genesis 9:20-28). And just because Negroes have smaller brains and extra bones in their ankles doesn't mean we should be prejudice toward their children. We are all God's people, even if we are of lesser value to Him because of our sex or race. Please note that the pricing table below reflects current rates as of January 17, 2003.

  • Colored Males Under Age 12: $1,250.00
  • Colored Females Under Age 12: $1,152.00
  • White Males Under Age 9: $15,000.00
  • White Females Under Age 9: $18,000.00

How Do We Afford This Godly Effort?

It's as easy as pie! Since each child we purchase is part of an effort to develop the Landover Baptist "Young Christian Soldier" Outreach Ministry, the little boy or girl is actually a living, breathing, tax write-off for as long as he or she lives. The United States Government and taxpaying citizens take care of every single expense we incur as a result of our tax-deductible purchase of your child. It's a win-win situation for our ministry, and a terrific way of training up young champions for Christ using the tax-dollars of American citizens.

How Many Children Do We Need?

Frankly, we don't intend to stop purchasing children until Jesus comes back. The Young Christian Soldier Program in North Dakota is growing quickly. Each child we purchase starts working right away on building house cages and latrines for even more children that arrive by the trainload every single week! Over 1,400 desperate families in Iowa have already sold their children to us, and we need more!

What Are We Using the Children For?

All children (except for a few colored children selected to enter the Landover Baptist Sanitation Ministry) will be shipped off to North Dakota to our Young Christian Soldier missionary training camp. When they turn 13, they are old enough to live on their own in a hostile, foreign country. We ship them off to Africa with a KJV Bible and a box of pre-addressed tithing envelopes to pass out to the locals.

What are You Waiting For?

What an opportunity to get back on your feet and get the financial help you so desperately need! Creation Science teaches us that once a child is away from the home for more than 3 months, parents will just forget about them. We don't care if you are unsaved or saved, we just care about your children and the chance to help them become Champions for Christ. If you are considering selling your child to our church, contact our Christian Soldier Ministry immediately! Click here to send an e-mail and get directions to our church where you can drop off your child.


Parents who sell their children to the Landover Baptist Ministry may not contact their child or retain legal guardianship of their child after the forms are signed by our judges. If you have any doubts about selling your child, or any legal questions, a Landover Baptist Lawyer will be on hand during the transaction to assist you.

Source: Landover Baptist World Wide True Christian™ Ministries

Fixcas regrets to note that the foregoing article is only 90 percent spoof. Thanks to Chris Carter and Jack Justice for the referral.

CAS is Always Right

August 2, 2011 permalink

Children's aid is continuing to place favorable articles in the press. The first article enclosed below is by Ottawa CAS executive director Barbara MacKinnon. We found it impossible to criticize, since it contains no facts, only feel-good phrases. A brief response by Anne Patterson follows the article.

In the second, the Toronto Star, using information that could only be supplied by children's aid, supports foster adoption. The article mentions several times the heartbreak when a foster family has to turn a child over to a potential adoptive family, or worst of all, the real parents. There is no concern for the feelings of real parents. The only description of a real family is:

The brothers, Peter, 9 and Jacob, 13, were from a family of nine siblings born to Mexican Mennonite immigrants. Family violence, malnutrition and squalid living conditions prompted Children’s Aid to remove all the children.

CAS, and the Star, violate the law several times by providing real names of families in the foster and adoptive chain. As noted before, these laws are never followed when CAS wants to reveal names.



CAS works to find safest solution for everyone

Barbara MacKinnon
Barbara MacKinnon, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa, writes a letter to the editor about families' right to privacy in the press when dealing with difficult issues in their lives. She says CAS appreciates the public's continued confidence.
Photograph by: Julie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Citizen

In recent weeks, the public has heard through various media reports of cases where the Children's Aid Society was mentioned.

Although each case differs, all are similar in that they may have raised questions from the readers regarding when a child should come into care. Such decisions are not taken lightly.

The primary duty of a CAS is to assess the safety of children and to engage parents in finding solutions that will help them safely parent their children. In doing our work, we always need to consider the immediate family circumstances, the strengths of the parents, the barriers they are experiencing, their history as caregivers as well as the support systems that they have or that could reasonably be put in place to lessen an identified risk.

Removing a child from parental care is only considered when no other option is available at the time one is needed. When cases are presented to the public via the media, regrettably, most often the entire context of the situation is not available.

We believe that families have a right to privacy when dealing with the difficult issues in their lives and, for this, we will never comment on any case in the press. When we are obligated to become involved in the life of a family, we are accountable to that family and to the courts.

We appreciate the continued confidence of the public. It is crucial to the work that we do and we welcome opportunities to be transparent about how we do the work in a manner that is not identifying of individual families.

Barbara MacKinnon, Ottawa, Executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Reply by Anne Patterson:

In response to the letter from Barbara MacKinnon regarding the CAS. She stated that CAS is accountable to families and to the courts? In fact families do not believe this to be accurate which has prompted rallies across Ontario from parents, former wards of CAS, adopted adults and others concerned asking for accountability by enacting Ombudsman oversight of these agencies.

The Ontario Ombudsman is being gagged and roped from investigating despite different legislative bills asking for this measure. The NDP remain dedicated to having an outside, unbiased body to probe hundreds of complaints. CAS is not accountable to the courts as there is no mechanism to review them. It is not about privacy as stated but rather secrecy and it is long overdue for change. There are obvious problems that need to be addressed and keeping them in a secretive, unaccountable, internal realm of self-interest will do nothing to resolve them.

How one town is changing adoption

Jack VanNoord and Kris
Jack VanNoord, right, fought for the right to adopt foster child Kris, now 25 and engaged to be married.

ST. THOMAS, ONT.—When the social worker told Jack VanNoord that she was taking away his 5 1/2-month-old foster child to be adopted by another family, the father of five had just one question for Children’s Aid:

“Are you running an adoption agency or are you acting in the best interests of the child?”

It didn’t seem right to VanNoord and his wife Coby to be uprooting the baby boy, whose inquisitive blue eyes and gummy smile had stolen their hearts in three short months with the family.

But in the fall of 1986 in the rural community of St. Thomas, south of London, it was rare for foster families to adopt, especially if they already had five children. Childless couples or those with just one child were the priority. And you had to be on the adoption waiting list.

“That all seemed rather silly to me,” recalls VanNoord. “What about the child? This would be the second separation. How many times can a child go through that?”

He immediately set to work researching the then-emerging theory of attachment between babies and caregivers. He hired a lawyer, sought the opinion of a noted London child psychologist and began his fight for the right to adopt baby Kris.

Today the VanNoords’ “courageous stand” is credited for sparking Ontario’s first foster-to-adopt program, where the goal is to ensure every child who comes into care is moved only once. If the child can’t go back home, the foster parents automatically become the adoptive family.

In Ontario, where up to 10,000 Crown wards languish in foster care and up to 80 per cent are forced to make the critical transition into adulthood without a forever family, some say the St. Thomas and Elgin County model is worth adopting province-wide.

“Yes we’re small,” acknowledges Dawn Flegel, director of services since 2004 for Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas and Elgin County, which serves as the Children’s Aid Society for the community of about 70,000.

“But we believe kids in Oshawa or Mississauga deserve the same continuity of care as our kids in Elgin.”

Jim Hummel, head of adoption and foster family recruitment from 1980 to 2001, says the VanNoords “presented a very cogent argument that made you sit back and reflect on what you were doing.”

Soon after the case, Hummel made the controversial decision to close the agency’s adoption waiting list — which had grown so long that many parents were waiting up to a decade for a child, anyway. From then on, all prospective parents were told the only way to adopt would be to foster the child first.

Many parents complained to the agency board and the local MPP, and some chose to adopt children from other areas. But Hummel stood his ground.

“There was a lot of criticism from colleagues in the field. We were seen as renegades,” he acknowledges. “It took several years to educate parents. But once you explained it, most embraced the idea.

“Under the old system, the adults had no risk while the children took all the risks,” he says. “Most people understand that’s just wrong.”

At first, the agency placed children most likely to become Crown wards with foster-to-adopt families. But it became hard to predict which children would not return home. So in 2005, under Flegel’s leadership, the agency began to phase in a policy of using only foster-to-adopt homes for all children under age 2. By 2007, the practice expanded to every child under age 6, and as of last year, every child under age 12 is placed immediately in a foster-to-adopt home. The agency hopes the policy will eventually cover all children under age 18.

The results have been powerful. Since 2005, half of the children who are adopted through the agency have been served in just one home, versus 22 per cent in a similar-size CAS. The agency, which has about 50 foster-to-adopt families, has had no trouble recruiting parents to the cause. In fact, Elgin County has a surplus of parents who are providing care for children from neighbouring agencies.

One reason is that the agency, which investigates between 750 and 800 families a year and provides ongoing service to about 250 families, tries to keep most children from coming into care. Instead, the focus is on supporting children in their families or extended families and providing subsidies for so-called “kinship agreements” when needed.

But when children can’t remain in their homes, the foster-to-adopt system aims to cause the least disruption, Flegel says

Marianne and Dave Miller are typical foster-to-adopt parents in St. Thomas.

They had already adopted a baby boy privately in 2006 and wanted more children.

“At first, the thought (of foster-to-adopt) scared us,” says Marianne, 31. “But then we realized it would be the quickest way to get some kids, which is what we really wanted.”

By coincidence, they were offered two boys who were members of the youth group the couple was leading at their local church.

The brothers, Peter, 9 and Jacob, 13, were from a family of nine siblings born to Mexican Mennonite immigrants. Family violence, malnutrition and squalid living conditions prompted Children’s Aid to remove all the children.

The brothers had been in at least four different foster homes in the seven years before they ended up with the Millers.

“It was so unsteady moving all the time,” says Peter. “Every time I’d be thinking: ‘Hey, I like it here.’ And then: ‘Oh no. Moving again.’ ”

When the boys moved in with the Millers, Marianne assured them they would be in their lives forever, no matter what happened. Within six months, the boys became available for adoption. They say it was the happiest day of their lives.

Since then, the Millers have had seven more children in their home. They would have adopted all of them, Marianne says. But all went home to their birth parents. She admits it hasn’t been easy.

In one case involving an 18-month-old girl, Children’s Aid went to court seeking permanent custody that would have paved the way for the family to adopt. The boys were ecstatic at the possibility of having a baby sister. But the judge ordered the child back to her birth mother. The Millers had three hours to pack up the baby and take her home.

“The hardest part is putting them in their car seat,” Marianne says, her voice catching as she recounts the story. “You don’t want them to feel something bad is going to happen to them. You don’t want them to see you cry.”

When a second foster-to-adopt baby went home last December after the family had cared for him for about six months, they had a day to prepare.

“I held him for a long part of the day,” says Peter. “It was really sad.”

But the family would not have it any other way.

“Little kids don’t know how to cope with grief and loss,” Marianne says. “We are a strong family and we can cope better than little kids.”

Marianne has forged strong bonds with all of the birth families and regularly helps out with babysitting.

The program that helped the Miller family has attracted notice outside of St. Thomas. Provincial Children’s Minister Laurel Broten says she is “encouraged” by it.

“This model is one of many innovative approaches that Children’s Aid Societies across the province have developed in order to find more permanent homes for waiting kids,” she said in an email.

“I encourage Children’s Aid Societies to share ideas that are working in the field, so that we continue to develop a strong adoption system in Ontario.”

Elgin County is “a pioneer,” in the foster-to-adopt model, says Virginia Rowden of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, which represents the province’s 53 children’s aid bodies.

However, Rowden thinks the model would be difficult to transplant to a big city such as Toronto with so many newcomers who don’t have extended family here to rely on for kinship care. Toronto’s ethnic and religious diversity also makes it trickier to place children in appropriate homes. And there are fewer families with a parent at home to care for a needy child, because most GTA families need two incomes to make ends meet, she says.

“But you can’t deny that it is a jewel of a model that works really well in that community,” Rowden says. “There are many elements that can and are being replicated on a provincial basis now. Certainly the leading thinking . . . is going in the direction of the ‘one child, one placement’ model Elgin does so well.”

Even in Elgin County, however, there are hiccups where the system still “gets in the way,” Flegel says.

Jolean and Mike Anderson began the foster-to-adopt process a second time with a baby girl in June. Jolean took a second parental leave from her job as a claims adjuster for London Life. But Employment Insurance recently denied her nine-month parental leave claim because her foster baby isn’t legally available for adoption.

The couple just sold their home and is in the process of moving into a new one nearby to accommodate the new baby. They are frantic.

Losing Jolean’s current income is bad enough, but EI is also threatening to recoup the money she was paid during her first parental leave for Carter, now 1 1/2 years old.

“With our closing and moving costs, we certainly didn’t plan for this,” says the sleep-deprived mother, who gets up several times in the night to feed the 2-month-old baby.

“It makes no sense to keep working and put her in daycare at this age,” she says.

Many foster-to-adopt families have two parents in the workplace and when infants are placed in their homes, parental benefits have never been denied, Flegel says.

If EI’s decision stands, it would have huge implications for the agency’s foster-to-adopt model, she says.

The agency, which is helping the Andersons appeal, will do everything it can to help the family in the meantime, she adds.

Back on Jack VanNoord’s lush 100-acre hobby farm on the outskirts of St. Thomas, the 67-year-old retired Ford Motor Co. plant supervisor is reluctant to take credit for what he and his wife Coby started a generation ago with baby Kris.

In fact, VanNoord and Coby, who died of cancer last year, didn’t realize the role their family played until several years ago when the agency contacted them as part of research it was conducting on the foster-to-adopt program.

“They did all the work,” he says.

Kris, now 25, is in the trucking business, like his three older brothers.

Engaged to be married in September, he relishes his large extended family where as many as 50 people regularly turn up for Christmas parties and annual reunions.

Although Kris confesses he is somewhat surprised to hear how his adoption changed an agency, he is happy to be part of history.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he says. “A very good thing for kids.”

Source: Toronto Star

Barbara MacKinnon
Ottawa CAS Executive Director Barbara MacKinnon
Halloween witch costume

GPS Tracking

August 1, 2011 permalink

When he becomes provincial premier PC leader Tim Hudak wants to put GPS tracking devices on Ontario's registered sex offenders. Canadians are offended by men who murder little girls for pleasure and psychiatrists and foster parents who rape their wards. But there are other people on the registers as well, people who snapped photos of a baby in the bath or a mother breastfeeding. Michele Mandel reports on a man required to register because he kissed a girl who was under age. If Hudak's suggestion catches on, soon Ontario's registered child abusers will be wearing those trackers too. That list contains few child killers, but many people who lost their children for frivolous reasons.



The sex offender who isn't a monster

Tim Hudak
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has promised to put tracking devices on convicted sex offenders if he's elected premier in October.
ERNEST DOROSZUK/Toronto Sun files


He is not the monster you think he is.

By law, he is considered a sex offender and must report annually to have his name and address filed on Ontario’s registry. As it stands now, though, only police officers can find him there.

All that could change come October. But he doesn’t want his kids to know his past, or his friends or his employers. Not when he is on that registry, he insists, for just kissing a girl who was underage.

So is it fair that this father of two should now have his identity revealed and a GPS receiver slapped on his ankle for the rest of his life? Because that is what Conservative Leader Tom Hudak is proposing in one of his get-tough-on-crime campaign pledges: Opening the provincial sex offender registry to the public and making all 14,000 registered offenders wear a GPS tracking device.

It’s one of those plans that seems easy to champion. Who doesn’t want to protect children? And what a feel-good, easy, if expensive — $50 million is the conservative estimate — way to shield them from the bogeymen in their midst.

But would it really make our kids any safer? And what kind of net does that cast?

“I’m very aware of what situation this places myself and my family in,” says the convicted sex offender in an e-mail to the Toronto Sun and posted on a new website called “If we stay in Ontario I and my family will be subject to constant insults, threats, possible violence and loss of friends and employment.”

He says his name is “Michael”, that he’s 32, a married professional with two children. “Seven years ago I kissed an underage girl and was charged with sexual interference. I received a conditional sentence and placed on the registry. To this day that same woman and I remain friends.”

Is this the kind of person we want to out publicly? Or waste money tracking? I hardly think so.

But that’s one of the many problems with Hudak’s idea. It’s a sweeping proposal that targets everyone on that registry, from minor offenders like Michael to the worst serial rapists.

Michael argues the registry’s usefulness is pretty dubious to start with. In its 2007 annual report, the Ontario auditor general said that after 10 years “there is little evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of registries in reducing sexual crimes or helping investigators to solve them.”

That may be so but police still view them as a valuable tool. Especially in child abduction cases, where time is critical, a registry provides a ready-made list of potential suspects with up-to-date addresses. When Holly Jones was kidnapped in 2003, Toronto detectives could immediately interview the 200 pedophiles who were registered as living in her neighbourhood. And with 97% compliability in Ontario, investigators could be pretty certain they were reaching all the convicted sex predators in her area.

Ironically, though, her killer wasn’t on the registry — he was a first-time offender.

Still, police here argue that our registry is accurate and reliable precisely because it is not open to the public. Faced with public humiliation and neighbourhood vigilantism, many American sex offenders choose to go underground rather than register on a public database. Their law enforcement colleagues to the south have lost track of thousands as a result.

As for GPS tracking devices, shouldn’t that be an idea considered only for the worst of the worst on the registry? We hardly have the police resources to keep track of the whereabouts of 14,000 offenders — most of whom don’t pose any danger whatsoever.

But that’s logic talking, not emotion. The electorate doesn’t have much sympathy for sex offenders and most voters aren’t too concerned about the lack of reasoning behind Hudak’s proposals. Which has Michael worried.

“So, Mr. Hudak, where does that leave us?” he asks. “If you win the provincial election in 10 weeks my wife and I will be forced to quit our jobs, sell our home and uproot our children and ourselves from the only schools, friends and family we’ve ever known.”

And not one child will be any safer because of it.

Source: Toronto Sun

GPS tracking

Subpoena Defied

August 1, 2011 permalink

Faced with a request for information about child deaths in CPS custody, the Los Angeles County supervisors have defied a subpoena to maintain secrecy. This, and many other cases, shows that legal processes are futile as a means of reforming this monster.



L.A. County refuses to yield youth records

The Board of Supervisors defies a subpoena for records involving the deaths of children being supervised by the troubled Department of Children and Family Services.

Department of Children and Family Services worker
A Department of Children and Family Services worker checks on a home where four children live. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times)

Despite a warning from California's state auditor that they were committing a crime, Los Angeles County supervisors defied a subpoena for records involving the deaths of children who had been under the supervision of the troubled Department of Children and Family Services.

The inquiry was launched by the Legislature earlier this year after reports in The Times that more than 70 children had died since 2008 of abuse or neglect after coming to the attention of county social workers. Many of those deaths, county officials have confirmed, involved serious case management errors.

The audit is intended to be the most comprehensive probe in years seeking to identify whether systemic flaws contributed to fatalities in Los Angeles and other counties across the state. Lawmakers said it probably would result in legal reforms.

A lawyer at a special firm hired by the county to handle the matter said officials had provided dozens of boxes of records and allowed auditors to interview social workers but would not turn over documents that they believe are shielded by attorney-client privilege.

"In addition to the county's established right to protect its communications with its attorneys, the county seeks to preserve its ability to candidly evaluate its child protective services, and opportunities to improve those services, to further protect the children under the county's care," attorney Daniel P. Barer wrote in a response to questions from The Times.

The three other counties subject to the probe — Alameda, Fresno and Sacramento — have complied with similar subpoenas, but auditors said they were confronted by "only stalling tactics and unyielding refusal" in Los Angeles, according to records obtained by The Times.

As a result, state officials said they would be forced to issue an audit that addresses only the three other counties while they fight for access in Los Angeles.

"But make no mistake, we will not relent in accomplishing our mission of performing the audit that we were directed to perform by the Legislature," wrote Sharon Reilly, chief legal counsel for state auditor Elaine Howle, noting that her office now intends to investigate Los Angeles even more deeply and broadly. In order to do so, the state withdrew the subpoena for Los Angeles County documents in early July and is crafting a new one.

Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno), the lawmaker who first proposed the audit, said the state would take Los Angeles County to court to enforce its subpoena, and he expressed regret that the county had forced officials into a confrontation.

"This is not just about holding the county folks accountable. It's also the state," Perea said. "What role and responsibility do we play? Are we giving the counties the resources they need? We are looking at everyone. No one is getting off the hook."

The state and federal government fund 70% of the county's foster care system, and both entities are mandated to independently review and improve its operations. The county has suggested that the state give it control over significant decisions in the audit process. Reilly said that would "eviscerate the bureau's independence and potentially jeopardize billions of dollars in federal funding."

The county already reviews many child fatality cases in search of case management flaws, but the state audit seeks to add an independent voice and take a broader look at the shared state and county responsibility to license and oversee foster parents.

Los Angeles County officials have chafed especially at state officials' wishes to review reports written by the Children's Special Investigations Unit, a small team of lawyers who review child fatality cases and report directly to the Board of Supervisors.

"The county asserts that these reports are subject to the attorney work product/attorney client privilege," Reilly wrote. "My long-standing interpretation of the plain language of our governing statutes has been that my staff has the same … access possessed by any officer or employee of the auditee."

The state is also seeking internal affairs documents and other reports by Department of Children and Family Services officials. Those records are not written by lawyers, yet the county is also asserting attorney-client privilege for them because they were often reviewed by county lawyers.

County attorneys have privately told supervisors that a judge is not likely to agree that the documents can be withheld, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations. A majority of the board nevertheless urged lawyers to fight the disclosure because of fears that the material could be used in lawsuits accusing the county of failing to provide proper child welfare services.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said he had hoped the state and county could work out a compromise and had been disappointed by the interactions so far. "The attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct," he said, "but not every confidential document the state auditors wanted was necessarily privileged."

"Both sides took an all-or-nothing legal position. That was regrettable," he said, "because the documents would show how extensively the county investigates to ascertain the circumstances surrounding a child's death, and how to be more proactive in preventing such deaths in the future."

Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But aides to the supervisors said the elected leaders worried that auditors might publish all or some of the otherwise confidential documents in their resulting public report.

In communications with county officials, Reilly said that would not be a problem.

"In the course of our ongoing discussions, we have advised repeatedly that, just as it is a misdemeanor for county employees to refuse the bureau access to confidential information, it is a misdemeanor for any bureau employee to release it," Reilly said.

Reilly also accused the county of attempting to erode political support for the audit by contacting state lawmakers and mischaracterizing the auditor's efforts to obtain information. "Such conduct obviously undermines any good-faith meet-and-confer process," she said.

Los Angeles County has been repeatedly criticized in recent years for violating state law requiring it to release information regarding child fatality cases so that problems can be identified and remedied.

Under a law that went into effect in 2008, the department is required to release records to the press and other members of the public when a child dies after passing through the child welfare system. The county generally complied with the law initially, but after news reports about social worker error appeared in The Times, the release of records slowed.

In 2010, the county's Office of Independent Review found that child welfare officials asked law enforcement agencies if they had objections to the release of documents without giving them the chance to first review the records. The effect has been blanket objections to disclosure that resulted in "a virtual paralysis of the statute's intent," according to a report by the office's lead attorney, Michael Gennaco.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Orphan Train Rider

July 31, 2011 permalink

Alice Bernard of Louisiana speaks of her trip on an orphan train. There is no hint of atrocious conduct by her adoptive family.



Keeps ‘Orphan Train’ memory alive

Alice Bernard
Keeps ‘Orphan Train’ memory alive Alice Bernard of Erath, shown relaxing at her home, is a survivor of the ‘Orphan Train,’ which she boarded at age 3.
Patrick Flanagan / The Daily Iberian

Alice Bernard of Erath, shown relaxing at her home, is a survivor of the ‘Orphan Train,’ which she boarded at age 3.

Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 6:00 am | Updated: 9:44 pm, Sat Jul 30, 2011.


ERATH — Alice Bernard boarded a train in New York City at the age of 3, traveled all the way to New Iberia, and arrived in 1919, after being specially ordered by a Delcambre family, who had requested a girl with brown hair and brown eyes, said the 95-year-old “Orphan Train” survivor.

Bernard was one of the more than 250,000 children shipped from New York City to the Gulf Coast and Midwest between 1860 and 1929.

The Orphan Train was an effort to help reduce the number of orphaned children living in the city, whose parents, often Irish immigrants, were forced to abandon their kids due to the lack of work in New York, Bernard said.

Two organizations formed, one Protestant (The Children’s Aid Society) and the other Catholic (The New York Foundling Hospital), both with the idea to find abandoned children homes in other places throughout the country.

“I was special ordered by the priests in Delcambre, who sent a package with a dress and a label on it with the address of the people I would be living with,” Bernard said.

The family Bernard was selected to live with was Mr. and Mrs. Auguste Geoffroy, she said.

“I came down here as an indentured servant,” she said, but noted, by the age of 14, the Geoffroy’s decided to adopt her.

For the children who were not specially ordered, the process was a little different, Bernard said.

“They would put ‘em on a platform, look at their teeth, examine ‘em like they were slaves,” she said. “If you weren’t picked, they put you back on the train and brought you to the next place.”

With the death of the Geoffroys in 1939 and 1949, Alice inherited their land, where her husband, Reuben J. Bernard farmed sugar cane.

“This was such a huge part of American history,” one of Bernard’s seven children, Kaye Bernard, said.

“They just put up a brick wall at the museum in Opelousas with all the names of the children that came down here. They’re trying to keep the memory of the Orphan Train alive.”

If you know someone who lives in the Teche Area who would make an interesting weekend profile, please submit his or her name for consideration. Call 365-6773, ext. 3022 or ext. 3024, or send an e-mail to, subject line Weekend Profile.

Source: Daily Iberian

orphan train
click for more detail

Failed Adoption

July 31, 2011 permalink

Lilly Manning has 100 scars as evidence of the failure of her adoption. For years authorities in California ignored her calls for help.



Lilly Manning
Lilly Manning, now 19, cuddles her dog, Baby, outside a south Sacramento home that she shares with a roommate.

California, Texas agencies all failed to rescue Lilly Manning

Lilly Manning was 15 when she escaped from a cramped closet in south Sacramento, after being stabbed and beaten and shoved into the darkness.

This time, she said, she knew she would have to save herself.

Government documents confirm she was right.

Four different agencies visited the family at least 11 times on reports of suspected abuse or neglect in a five-year period but did not move to protect her or her siblings, according to confidential records obtained by The Bee.

"They came, they looked, they left," said Lilly, now 19, reflecting on the parade of visitors from law enforcement, Child Protective Services and the schools, some of whom she had secretly called.

"We just gave up."

Today, Lilly Manning lives with more than 100 scars etching her 5-foot-3 body, physical reminders of the hammer attacks, beatings, burns and strikes to the head with a 2-by-4 and a padlock swinging from a cord.

Earlier this month, her adoptive mother and great-aunt, Lillian Manning-Horvath, was sentenced to up to six years in a mental health facility, followed by consecutive life terms in state prison. The woman's husband, Joseph Horvath, was convicted by a jury in 2009 and also sentenced to multiple life terms.

Documents and interviews with family members also reveal how a domineering matriarch terrified people who witnessed and endured years of her verbal tirades and physical abuse.

Young Lilly, whom the woman named after herself, was singled out for the most extreme and ruthless treatment, as reported in The Bee earlier this month. Yet even family members were loath to say anything, according to government documents.

By the time Lilly escaped from the 20-by-26-inch closet in October 2007, her body was so ravaged by torture and abuse that a seasoned sheriff's detective described it with a single word:


Clues to that horror, and how they were missed by authorities, are sprinkled throughout the files of multiple agencies interacting with the troubled family.

The records reveal:

  • Sacramento County CPS fielded seven emergency referrals regarding the family between 2002 and 2006. The agency determined all the allegations to be "unfounded" or "inconclusive" – until Lilly's escape, when doctors detailed the head-to-toe physical scars and injuries.
  • A Sacramento police officer observed scars on Lilly as far back as 2003, when she was 11, but CPS did not follow up on the officer's referral. The county Sheriff's Department responded to two 911 calls alleging abuse but – met with denials and discrepancies – closed the cases.
  • A teacher at Hiram Johnson High School, noting scratches on Lilly's face and arms, referred her to the school nurse in November 2006. The nurse and another school worker scheduled a home visit and were told by Manning-Horvath that her daughter, then 14, was scratched by the dog. Describing the home as "immaculate," the school's visitors did not file a formal report.
  • A CPS worker didn't believe the allegation of a "locked closet" because all the home's closets had sliding double doors except one, which had no lock. Detectives would later find that Lilly's dungeon was secured with a pole under the doorknob or a brace across the door.

The one agency that responded effectively to the distress signals was Diogenes Youth Services, a 24-hour crisis center for homeless and runaway teens. After Lilly's escape on Oct. 31, 2007, she said, she hid in a backyard shed but called CPS from a nearby pay phone five days later.

Lilly said a CPS worker told her "there's nothing we can do" and gave her the Diogenes number. A volunteer at Diogenes picked her up near Fruitridge Road and Stockton Boulevard and took the girl to a safe house.

The secrets came tumbling out.

"We did exactly what we were supposed to do, which pleased me to the highest," said Diogenes executive director Mike Martin.

"We've handled a lot of difficult situations, but by far, this girl was in the worst shape we've ever seen."

Authorities swept in, and the rest of the children were taken into protective custody in the early morning hours of Nov. 6, 2007.

The children would never go home again.

Help that didn't come

Lilly says she does not remember much about those chaotic first days and has "lots of blank spots" about her childhood. She knows that she and her four siblings were removed from their biological mother in the early 1990s and placed with their great-aunt Lillian, who later adopted them. In 2002, their adoptive mom married Horvath, a felon 18 years her junior.

Lilly wants to know more. She recently sought and received nearly 700 pages of documents from the Sacramento Juvenile Dependency Court, which detail the many missteps among government agencies. She shared those records with The Bee.

CPS also is preparing to give her her file.

"A lot of people knew about it (the abuse) – cops, CPS, principals, teachers – but they didn't do anything," Lilly told The Bee. "They didn't."

Lilly's recollections, paired with narratives from various agencies, show how close officials came – yet couldn't uncover the truth.

In December 2006, for instance, the Sheriff's Department responded to a 911 call at the family's home on Dewey Boulevard, according to sheriff's records. Home alone and shut in the closet, Lilly broke out and called 911, using the name of her older sister, Natasha. She reported that her mother was locking her 14-year-old sister in a closet and beating the kids with a hammer.

Before deputies arrived, several family members returned to the south Sacramento home. Lillian Manning-Horvath "made her hide from the deputies behind a dresser," according to sheriff's records. The real Natasha Manning denied making the call.

"The officers cleared the call after seeing nothing wrong," the document says. Lilly told The Bee she remembers hiding under the bed that day.

Sacramento police earlier had followed up on a mysterious 911 hang-up on June 27, 2003, which led them to Manning-Horvath's previous home on Casa Linda Court.

While investigating the child abuse report, the police officer noted that Lilly, then 11, had "scars on her back from old injuries," a CPS report states. Both Lilly and her adoptive mother told the officer that the incident occurred several years ago while the girl was "still in the care of her (biological) mother" and living in Texas.

"(Lilly) has since been permanently removed from her bio-mother's care," the CPS report stated, recounting the officer's findings.

Because the girl was not in imminent danger and had no fresh injuries, the officer referred the matter to CPS, recommending that the agency "make routine follow-up to this residence," said police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong.

CPS did not open an investigation because "law enforcement has addressed the issue," according to a CPS document.

However, CPS' own records undermine the story about the injuries because they show that Lilly had not been in her biological mother's care for about 10 years. In fact, Lillian Horvath-Manning took the children for several years to live in Texas, where documents show the family had at least two more CPS cases.

Warnings missed

Voices noticeably absent from the reams of official paperwork: the neighbors. Despite the escalating violence, only one neighbor ever raised a flag about the household, the documents reveal.

In August 2002, a neighbor in North Highlands called CPS, saying that the family had moved out of their home on Juneau Way and left behind a "hideous bug infestation," the documents state. The caller told a CPS emergency worker that the "cockroaches were so bad that they clogged the gasket of the refrigerator." CPS declined to investigate.

The neighbor's warning was substantiated five years later at a different address, when sheriff's detectives rushed to the family's new address on Dewey Boulevard to rescue Lilly's siblings.

Inside – besides the implements of torture – they found the home crawling with cockroaches, according to a CPS court report. Neighbors along the short street in south Sacramento contributed nothing to the investigation, said Detective Brian Shortz of the sheriff's child abuse unit.

"Their home was a compound," said Shortz, describing the spiked iron gate that stretches out along the front of the small stucco home.

"It's not the kind of street that talks."

Schools, too, had their eye on the home, yet their inquiries faded away. Over the years, CPS social workers investigating abuse allegations interviewed all five of the Manning children at four different schools in two districts.

Concerns escalated in 2006. A teacher at Hiram Johnson High School noted Lilly's many visible scratches. Based on that, a school nurse and a Head Start worker scheduled an appointment to visit the home.

Greeted by Horvath-Manning and a "small girl child" (not Lilly), the school workers found the home to be "immaculate" with a "very nice" kitchen, according to a sheriff's report written by Shortz, who interviewed the women a year later.

"Horvath blamed (Lilly's) scratches on the pet Chihuahua," the report stated. "Horvath said that (Lilly) had a habit of holding the dog up and letting it scratch her arms and face."

The adoptive mother let the dogs in, and the school workers "saw that they were active and jumpy," according to the sheriff's report.

The school nurse told Shortz she made no formal report of the home visit but "had a detailed recollection." Gabe Ross, spokesman for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said in an email that the school "did whatever we could to assist in supporting Lilly" but didn't have details.

Numerous government reports also show that Lilly and her siblings frequently asserted they were fine and no one was being hurt.

In interviews with police, social workers and school personnel, Lilly, her two older sisters and two brothers described how they wanted to stay together and feared being split up in foster care – which ultimately happened. They said they loved their adoptive mother and didn't want to get her in trouble.

Even now, Lilly does not express bitterness and refers to Manning-Horvath as "the only mom I really knew."

Ann Edwards, director of Sacramento County's Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS, said she could not legally comment on Lilly's case for confidentiality reasons. However, she agreed to talk in general terms about issues raised by the case.

"It's not uncommon for siblings to want to remain together," said Edwards. "And it's not uncommon for children to be afraid of the unknown.

"It's quite remarkable that even children who are horribly abused typically still love their parents, or the people who are abusing them."

Lilly says today that their adoptive mom often manipulated the kids into keeping quiet or lying, promising she would stop the abuse.

Twyla Wilkins, 36, Lilly's second cousin who now lives in Florida, said one adult family member observed Manning-Horvath strike Lilly so hard that a tooth flew out.

"I asked (the witness) why she didn't call police," Wilkins said. "She told me that Lillian would make her life a living hell. … Everyone knew what (Manning-Horvath) was capable of."

Manning-Horvath's own attorney said he was appalled that his client was allowed to adopt the children in the first place. Ken Rosenfeld said his client had a "30-year history of acute mental illness."

Rosenfeld described his client as having a "laundry list" of mental illnesses, including auditory and visual hallucinations, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

"It's as if they placed these children in a tiger cage at the zoo," Rosenfeld said. "What did they expect would happen?"

Deputy District Attorney Thienvu Ho, however, said he is convinced that Manning-Horvath, now 72, was faking her mental impairments.

At Horvath's trial in 2009, Ho found one eyewitness willing to come forward: A 53-year-old Texas woman who had visited the family in August 2007 while dating Manning-Horvath's brother.

Brenda White testified that early one Saturday morning she was on the patio and heard banging noises in the mobile home behind the house and saw it shaking. When she ducked inside to ask Manning-Horvath about it, the woman replied: "Joe is out there whipping that bitch's ass," according to court documents.

White said she later saw Horvath emerge from behind the mobile home holding a two-by-four, the records state. White said the adoptive mother later took her inside the mobile home, where she saw a scared, frail girl, bloody, with patches of hair pulled out.

Yet even White admitted under oath she did not call police or CPS or the district attorney until after the arrests.

"We'll always wonder why she didn't come forward sooner, but at the end of the day, she did," said Ho, who prosecuted the case from the beginning. "These were scary people."

Lilly is leaving Sacramento this week to move to New York state to live with her 22-year-old sister, Natasha, who is in the Army. She plans to help care for Natasha's 2-year-old daughter, and possibly enroll in online classes.

She said she still wants an explanation for how she came to get her 100 scars.

Last week, as a parting gift to herself, Lilly had a Sacramento tattoo shop finish the poem "Invictus" on her back.

Prosecutor Ho had framed the poem by William Ernest Henley and had given it to Lilly. It begins:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

Source: Sacramento Bee

The article on the Sacramento Bee website has much more on this story. Since Lilly's skin is black it is difficult to show the full extent of her injuries with photography. Here is a diagram by a professional used as evidence in court.

Lilly Manning
Court documents and medical records of an abused fifteen-year-old Lilly Manning by the Sacramento Superior Court used as evidence in the trail of Joseph Robert Horvath.

Doll Abuse

July 30, 2011 permalink

British mother Victoria Cristofis bought a doll for her daughter. It was so realistic that others criticized her for letting her five-year-old abuse it. Then on a hot day police broke into her car to rescue the doll.



Police smash their way into car to rescue baby on a hot day... only to discover a DOLL

When police heard reports of a baby trapped in a car, they rushed to rescue it.

And on realising that the only way to get into the car would be to break a window, they quickly did their duty.

But moments later, they were embarrassed to realise that the baby they had gone to such lengths to save was in fact a doll.

Victoria Cristofis
Lifelike: Sam the doll is so realistic that police broke into Victoria Cristofis's car (pictured) in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, to get it out

The police caused £200 damage to the car in order to save Sam, a doll so lifelike it even has anatomically correct veins.

Mother-of-three Victoria Cristofis bought the 'Reborn' doll for her daughter Chanel's birthday in June.

But within a month the doll - which looks and even smells almost exactly like a real baby - has caused all manner of confusion in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

Ms Cristofis says people have accosted her when shopping and accused her of mistreating a real baby, and petted it as if it was real - even before the police became involved.

Victoria Cristofis
Damage: Mrs Cristofis says the police are not the first to confuse this 'Reborn' doll with a real baby. She bought it for her daughter Chanel's birthday in June


Reborns first started to appear in the early 1990s when toy enthusiasts wanted to create more realistic dolls.

Since then, demand has grown - with some creations fetching in excess of £1,000.

To achieve their lifelike appearance, the doll's skin is painted in multiple layers in a mottled effect and veins are added.

They are weighted similarly to that of real newborns - and the hair and eyelashes are often rooted with mohair.

Some reborns come with a magnetic dummy or even a heartbeat.

While the dolls are sometimes used like a regular toy, they can also serve a more serious purpose: to help a parent grieving the loss of a child or in incidents involving police work.

She said: 'Chanel is absolutely inseparable from this doll, she takes it everywhere and in just a month it's caused all sorts of problems. It's becoming a bit of a celebrity in Worksop.

'I was in the supermarket and Chanel was shaking Sam around, and a woman came up to me practically shouting and asking what sort of mother I was allowing my baby to be ragged about like that.

'I had to explain to her that it wasn't real. She didn't believe me at first then she inspected it and realised it was a doll. We ended up having a laugh about it.

'Sometimes Chanel carries the doll around in a little Moses basket and swings the basket around like kids do. We will be walking down the street and people will look on in horror.

'It is amazing, there's no detail left out. It's not just the way it looks, although it's so realistic it even has veins. When you pick it up it flops a bit just like a real baby, and they even make it smell like a real baby.'

Victoria lives with partner Anastasi and their three children - Paris, seven, five-year-old Chanel and Jayden, two.

The toy does not move of its own accord, like some dolls, although it does have a magnetic dummy.

She added: 'Chanel dropped the doll in the car and it ended up in the footwell. Someone, we don't know who, rang the police and they had to break the rear driver's side window to get it.

'Anastasi wasn't too happy with the state of his car afterwards and was worried the police wouldn't pay for the damage, although eventually they said they would.

'Now we are just laughing about it really, it's a good tale to tell our family and friends. I can't separate Chanel from Sam but I am a bit worried about what's going to happen next. She's only had her a month and already the police have been involved, I'm just wondering what's next.'

Source: Daily Mail

Social Worker's Revenge

July 30, 2011 permalink

An English mother who saved her baby by fleeing to Ireland lost it after her savings ran out and she had to return to England. Now on visitation the child is covered in bruises.



'Child protection' wreaks havoc on a loving family once again

How a mother who fled to Ireland to save her baby was caught on her return.

mother and child
Mother and child are often torn apart by our system of child protection
Photo: ALAMY

The best-known of dozens of English mothers who have fled abroad to avoid their babies being seized by social workers is Vicky Haigh, a former racehorse trainer. After her flight to Ireland three months ago, her baby is flourishing and Irish social workers seem entirely happy that she is an excellent mother. Less happy, however, is the outcome of another case I reported last year. This involved a 17-year-old girl, five months pregnant, who fled to Ireland with her parents, after receiving a letter from a social worker she had never met to say her baby would be seized the moment it was born.

After the birth, all seemed to go well, despite relentless efforts by the English social workers to persuade their Irish counterparts to return the baby to England. They blackened the family unmercifully, pointing out that the grandfather once, many years ago, served a brief prison sentence after a pub fight, while the young mother had, in her early teens, twice been given an Asbo. After a series of interviews with the family, the Irish social workers were satisfied that the baby was in good hands and that there were no grounds for further intervention.

But eventually the family’s savings ran out. Buoyed up by a glowing appraisal from the Irish social workers, they decided to return to England.

All went well until the young mother registered her baby with a GP, who reported to social workers that she was back in this country. The social workers were soon on the doorstep, threatening the girl that, unless she moved out immediately, leaving her child with its grandmother, they would take her baby.

The grandmother applied for guardianship of her beloved grandchild, but on the eve of the final hearing, the social workers arrived at 8.30 in the morning, supposedly to check that “the house was carpeted”. One barged into a room upstairs, where the grandfather, semi-naked, was talking to his 21-year-old son. He told the woman in no uncertain terms to leave, and banged the door behind her. The grandmother was on the landing, holding the baby.

That evening the social workers returned, with four policemen, to remove the baby. They claimed that when the door had been slammed, the child “might have been injured”. They applied for an order to put her into foster care. As so often in such cases, the solicitors recommended by the council to represent the family refused to object, saying nothing.

Three times recently, in the weekly “contacts” with the baby which the mother and grandmother are allowed in the social services office, they have been horrified to see their formerly healthy, cheerful child covered in bruises (legs, thighs, knees, shins, forehead and arms) of which they have pictures. The social workers refuse to explain how such injuries could have arisen.

What the social workers also don’t know is that the desperate young mother, after first losing her child, again became pregnant. Convinced that her new baby would also be seized, she applied for a pill to terminate the pregnancy. Two days later, on the very day her first child was taken into foster care, her second was stillborn. Since then, this formerly happy, loving mother has been plunged into an almost catatonic depression. The only reason she has ever been given as to why she should be robbed of her child was those youthful indiscretions several years back when she mixed with an unruly crowd of other children and was twice punished for it. There is no evidence she has ever harmed anyone, any more than there has been against her father since his own moment of madness years ago.

In Ireland, the social workers expressed every confidence that this baby would be well looked after. In a country where children are only seized where there is evidence that they have been done actual harm, they are astonished at the behaviour of their English colleagues. In no other country in Europe are children snatched from loving parents on such flimsy grounds.

Most shocking of all is the way these inhuman actions are then supported by a court system which often seems rigged against the parents (and the children), to the point where they are forbidden to speak at all except through lawyers who appear as complicit in the system as the social workers themselves. When is this horrible national scandal going to get the wider attention it deserves?

Source: Telegraph

We See Nothing Wrong

July 30, 2011 permalink

A letter from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services shows that they think the existing oversight of Ontario's children's aid societies is adequate. They are blind to the fact that CAS generates more complaints to the ombudsman than the police, complaints the government prevents him from acting on. If CAS is working well, why have hundreds of people showed up at the dozens of rallies that have taken place over the last two years?



Ministry of Children and Youth
Policy Development and Program
Design Division

Child Welfare Secretariat
101 Bloor Street West
3rd Floor
Toronto ON M5S 2Z7
Tel: 416 314-9462
Fax: 416 326-8098

Ministère des Services à
l'enfance et à
la jeunesse
3ié étage
Toronto ON M5S 2Z7
Tél: 416 314-9462
Téléc.: 416 326-8098

Ontario trillium logo

JUL 22 2011

Ms. Yvonne Craig

Thank you for your correspondence to the Honourable Laurel Broten, Minister of Children and Youth Services, regarding accountability for children's aid societies (CASs). As the Interim Director of the Child Welfare Secretariat, I have been asked to respond.

While I cannot comment on specific cases and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) cannot provide legal advice. I can offer you some information on child welfare in Ontario and accountability mechanism for CASs.

MCYS holds CASs to account through a number of mechanisms, including annual licensing and Crown ward reviews, quarterly reporting of financial and activity data and a standardized complaint process. There are specific rules and procedures that must be followed by CASs in determining if a child is in need of protection and in providing protection services. The societies use the Child Protection Standards in Ontario, which guide the child protection worker in making decisions about the child's needs and care - starting from the receipt of a report and eligibility determination, through the investigative phase of service, to planning for ongoing case management, and throughout the life of the case. You can find an online version of the standards online at If you have a complaint regarding the Children's Aid Society of the County of Bruce and/or Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society, you may wish to voice your concerns directly to them. For Windsor-Essex CAS, you may contact Terry Johnson, Senior Director of Services, at 519-256-4521. For Bruce CAS. you may contact Anne Bester. Director of Services, at 519-881-1822.

Amendments to the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) and its accompanying regulations, proclaimed in November 2006, created a consistent client complaint process across the province. All CASs are required to have a complaint process in place in accordance with the legislation and the regulations. The amendments established the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB) as the independent tribunal with authority to review certain complaints related to CASs. Unlike other provinces in Canada, CASs are independent corporations run by volunteer boards of directors. Therefore, they fall outside the authority of the Ombudsman. Please be assured that we continue to work closely with the Ombudsman.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Josephine Fuller signature

Josephine Fuller
Interim Director, Child Welfare Secretariat

Source: posted to Facebook by Yvonne Craig
photocopies: [1] [2]

blindfolded woman
Minister Broten overseeing CAS

There Goes the Neighborhood

July 30, 2011 permalink

A formerly peaceful neighborhood in Connecticut has been turned into a war zone by the presence of a group home. Police are called regularly and one graduate recently killed a local convenience store clerk.



Neighbors Concerned About Safety, Constant Police Presence At Group Home For Teenage Boys


— Local and state officials say they are working to address residents' concerns about safety and a frequent police presence in what had been a quiet neighborhood.

The focus of the concerns is a home for abused and neglected teenage boys run by a contractor for the state Department of Children and Families. Town board of directors member Jay Moran, who lives near the raised ranch at 89 Nutmeg Drive, said residents want some assurance of safety.

"We as the neighborhood are worried about our own children and families," Moran said. "Personally, I'm not upset that they put a home there, but we want the satisfaction that these kids are being controlled."

Residents' long-term doubts about that control were heightened recently with the arrest of Charles Wilson, 19, who is accused of shooting and killing a local convenience store clerk on May 22. Police Chief Marc Montminy verified Friday that Wilson had lived at the Nutmeg Drive home several years ago.

"Who is the next Charles Wilson who will be living in this home?" asked Nutmeg Drive resident Craig Cinquemani.

Beyond safety concerns, local police say a major problem is the many calls officers must respond to regarding residents of the home who are absent without permission. In 2010, police responded to 74 calls at 89 Nutmeg Drive. Through June 20 of this year, police have been called to the home 70 times. Of those 144 calls, 120 were for teenagers who were reported missing, Montminy said.

In the great majority of cases, the boy returrned or was brought back the same day. However, when police receive such calls — not only from the Nutmeg Drive home, but also from several other local group homes for children — an officer must gather information from the home staff, file a report in a national database and go back to the home to ensure that the child has returned, Montminy said.

"We're concerned that these homes are causing us hundreds and hundreds of calls every year that could easily be avoided and our time could be used elsewhere," he said.

Local police met with DCF representatives recently to discuss the reporting policy, and DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said Friday that a change is in the works. Instead of automatically calling police when a child does not report back in time, staff at the home will call the DCF hotline to assess whether a police call is warranted, Kleeblatt said.

Besides the missing children reports, police also have been called to 89 Nutmeg Drive and other local DCF-contracted group homes for reports of illegal drugs or larcenies from area residents, Montminy said.

"None of that makes the residents feel warm and fuzzy," he said.

The Nutmeg Drive home, which opened in 2006, is one of several small, residential facilities operated by Southington-based Community Residences Inc. as a DCF STAR (Short Term Assessment and Respite) facility. STAR facilities serve as temporary homes and treatment centers for teenage boys and girls who have been "abused and/or neglected and are in crisis and/or homeless," according to the Community Residences website,

"It should be assumed," according to the DCF, "that children and youth placed in these homes will have some level of emotional or behavioral disturbance that may include, but is not limited to … conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, and impulse control disorder. Children and youth referred to these homes may also have some level of psychosexual behavior problems, mood or anxiety disorders or may have mild to moderate developmental disabilities."

Kathy Sanborn, who lives next door to the Nutmeg Drive home, said problems ebb and flow with different boys and supervisors at the facility. In the past when her children had parties, teenagers from the group home tried to intimidate young guests and asked them if they had alcohol or marijuana, Sanborn said. Two months ago as she sat on her deck with her two nieces, ages 3 and 4, they heard a loud splat. A raw egg that had been thrown from the group home property slopped down from the garage roof onto the deck, Sanborn said.

Sanborn said she would be "much happier" if the group home were not next door, "but I'm torn, too, because I understand these kids need a place to be."

Residents have told Moran and state Rep. Jason Rojas, D-Manchester, that among their chief concerns is the staff's lack of ability to contain the boys, ages 13 to 18. Community Residences Executive Director Paul Rosin said staff at the home may only restrain a teenager if he poses a danger to himself or others.

For each case, the DCF determines whether the STAR program is a safe and appropriate placement, Rosin said, and he and his staff can counter the agency's appraisal if they feel a child should be sent elsewhere. Community Residences works toward being a good neighbor in Manchester and in other towns where they run STAR homes, Rosin said.

At the same time, he said, staff are focused on serving abused and neglected children.

"My take on it is the children are the victims," Rosin said.

Moran and Rojas said they are trying to arrange a meeting between Community Residences, the DCF and neighborhood residents to discuss the situation. Rojas said he wants to find a balance "between protecing the youth from potential harm, but also taking the neighbors into account with the constant police presence."

But Cinquemani said only removal of the home would alleviate his concerns. The home cannot be good for real estate values, he said, and he and his fellow neighbors have been forced to change their lifestyles, locking every door and being constantly vigilant. Also, Cinquemani said, the local police force is being used as "an escort service" for the Nutmeg Drive home and others in town.

"Who's paying for that?" he asked.

Source: Hartford Courant

Public Inquiry for CAS

July 29, 2011 permalink

Lillian Christine Sorko is soliciting affidavits from all persons adversely affected by children's aid anywhere in Canada. The objective this time is not a class-action lawsuit, but a public inquiry, something more likely to produce real reform. Send your affidavits to the email or fax in the announcement. For more impact, email a copy of your affidavit to [ rtmq at ].



Lillian Christine Sorko I am very happy to confirm that now " I have joined the Legal Team " of MJS Legal Services Ottawa and WE are looking for VICTIMS of CA$ particularly in Ontario .... who are willing to put an affidavit together indicating how you have been brutalized and your family has been destroyed by the Legal System ( our justice system is broken ) and litigated with no substantial shred of evidence. We feel and have found a man who is willing to help bring a Public Inquiry about for the 53 various Children's Aid Societies across Ontario ..... and anyone dealing with the Family & Children's Services Review Board MUST know that they have absolutely NO teeth and CA$ can not be compelled to follow recommendations made by the FCSRB however the necessary measure to hold the ~~~ CHILDREN'S ABDUCTION SOCIETY accountable is > CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS - CHALLENGE < and this can work with ANY Board Body .... this Constitutional Challenge can be brought forth to ANY BOARD PEOPLE !!!! AHHHHHH THIS IS SO EXCITING ......... NO SURRENDER & NO RETREAT ..... THIS IS OUR CHILDREN, grands & OUR COUNTRY ..... time to hit hard folks.

You may e-mail us with your affidavits or questions at: ph-613 884 9065 fax-613 421 8182 or .... WE look forward to hearing from anyone who has been ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY THE 53 VARIOUS CAS'S ACROSS ONTARIO AND THIS COULD ALSO AFFECT OTHER PROVINCES AS WELL .... we are concerned about the whole of CANADA

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Same-sex Adoption

July 29, 2011 permalink

An article favorable to same-sex families shows why children's aid is the only practical source of babies for gay couples to adopt. Most foreign countries block same-sex couples from adopting children and the article claims the Hague convention is another obstacle.



When gay men adopt

When my husband Andrew and I started dating over eight years ago, we often discussed having kids. Both of us grew up in family-oriented households and wanted to continue that tradition. But we agreed to wait until we turned 30, so we could be better prepared.

That decision also postponed the daunting task of finding out how two men could even become parents.

We’d heard about surrogacy, but didn’t know how it worked. The only gay men we’d seen adopt were on documentaries or fictional programs. So last summer we signed up for the Daddies and Papas 2B course at The 519 Church Street Community Centre, so we could learn as much as we can about the different options.

In its eighth year, the course has delivered 18 sessions for gay, bisexual and queer men. Out of over 350 graduates, an estimated 30 per cent are now parents.

We were inspired by the grads-turned-parents who shared their journeys with our class. After I came out in 1995, at 14, the possibility of getting married to a man, let alone starting a family, was unfathomable. I was blessed with loving parents, but I often wondered if I disappointed them; there was an unspoken belief that our family name would end with my generation.

Daddies and Papas 2B facilitator Chris Veldhoven echoes this sentiment. “In the early days of the course, some guys were in shock – a few older men, in their 50s, 60s, 70s, were amazed this topic was even being presented. Back in the day, they were taught that it was either come out or stay closeted and have kids.”

But thankfully, times – and laws – do change. He says younger men are now signing up and that they seem empowered in the process. “We’re seeing more visibility of gay dads and their families, and greater public discussion around the parenting realities of and possibilities for LGBTQ people.”

After learning about adoption, surrogacy and co-parenting (where parental responsibilities is shared between individuals or families), Andrew and I decided to pursue adoption. Not only does it seem the most straightforward to us, but we believe there are many local children who need safe, stable and loving homes.

Ontario became the first province to allow same-sex people to adopt as individuals in May 1995, and then as couples in 2000. There are three different ways to adopt, two of which are options for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Queer (LGBTQ) people: public and private adoption.

International adoption is not an option for out LGBTQ couples and individuals, because of discriminatory policies in other countries. In the past, the US had been a destination for Canadian LGBTQ people looking to adopt. But the enforcement of the Hague Convention in 2008 has made it nearly impossible, because emphasis is now placed on securing domestic adoption.

Opponents to LGBTQ adoption argue that children should be raised in traditional families consisting of a mother and father, and that same-sex parents will confuse children. Supporters like the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), the largest public adoption organization in Canada, says this is simply not true.

Catherine Snoddon, a spokesperson for CAS Toronto, says that same sex parents have the same potential to be good parents as anyone. Since 1995, the organization has matched 115 children with LGBTQ parents. “At the heart, our philosophy around adoption is what is best for the child and whether they possess the components to be a good parent. These are qualities that can be found in many people, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

John Hart and Rodney Osinga adopted through CAS Toronto. In July 2008, they were matched with Anthony, now three and a half. This May, they welcomed Anna, now 10 months old. Through their journey, they met and formed a close friendship with a lesbian couple who adopted Anthony’s older brother. “It’s wonderful to have our big family and it doesn’t have to be blood connected. It’s based on love,” says Hart, 38.

Hart and Osinga say they feel it’s important to foster a safe and inclusive community for their kids. “We have other same sex couple friends and their children know our children, so they won’t grow up knowing any different other than having a Daddy and a Papa. It’s not going to be out of the ordinary for them,” says Hart, who goes by “Daddy” and Osinga, 40, who answers to “Papa.” They are also part of a gay dad’s group, attend the 519’s Saturday LGBTQ family drop-in program, and last summer, organized a weekly picnic for other dads.

While children may face bullying for having LGBTQ parents, Snoddon says their parents are well equipped to handle the problem. “They’ve often experienced bullying themselves and are in a good position to talk to their child to advocate for themselves and to reach out for support if needed.”

Living in a neighbourhood with an inclusive school has been important for Terence Van Leeuwen, 42 and Pat D’urzo, 43, who adopted their two daughters through CAS Toronto in April 2010. Their eldest daughter, age five, is in kindergarten. “The school is spectacular,” says Van Leeuwen. “There are teachers who are gay and have their own children. On her first day of school, her class was asked to bring in a picture of their family and it’s posted on the wall. So there’s no difference between one family to the next.”

Maintaining relationships with birth parents, if circumstances allow, can also help families with adopted children. Van Leeuwen and D’urzo help their daughters stay in touch with their mother. “We honour that relationship and talk about her often and openly and lovingly,” says D’urzo. “This past Mother’s Day, we made her a card. We’re lucky that she has their best interests in mind.”

Private adoption by LGBTQ parents has also increased, according to Noelle Burke, a social worker at the Adoption Council of Ontario. “More prospective parents, given the generation they grew up in, are open to choosing a same-sex couple to parent their child,” she says.

Just like there is much work to be done around global LGBTQ issues, Veldhoven says much is yet to be done around international adoption. He’d also like more representation in children’s media. “Our families are yearning for children’s TV shows and movies where we are not only included, but are in fact the main characters.”

Like the adoptive dads we know, Andrew and I feel fortunate to live in a place with progressive LGBTQ rights. This is right where we want to be if, given the opportunity, we get to raise a family of our own. This is right where we want to be when – and if – we get to raise a family of our own.

We’re in early stages of this unconventional road to parenthood, and as prepared as we can be. We’ve been told it could take a few years to find a match. This could happen quicker, take longer, or never happen at all. If that looks to be the case, we’ll re-evaluate our options.

Attending The 519 course and the 27-hour Parent Resources Information and Development Education (PRIDE) training that all prospective adoptive parents must take, has been rewarding. It’s allowed us to reflect on why we want to be parents and opened our eyes to the rewards and challenges that lie ahead.

Osinga sums up the joys and trials of parenting eloquently: “Someone once told me that kids will bring out the best and worst in you. It’s true. Sometimes I ask, ‘How is this child making me so angry?’ But then they can melt your heart in a second. I’ve never felt that before. It’s amazing.” As if on cue, their cranky baby Anna stops crying, looks at me, and giggles.

Source: Partne Central (Toronto Star)

Shame of Single Motherhood

July 28, 2011 permalink

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran a radio program Forced adoption in South Australia (mp3). Hear what giving birth was like for single mothers in the good old days. Fixcas has heard too many stories from today's single mothers to believe that the horrors in the program are entirely a thing of the past.

Source: ABC

Simcoe Rally

July 28, 2011 permalink

There is no report yet on yesterday's rally in Simcoe, but there are pictures: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

Source Facebook: [a] [b]

Full annotation for picture 4:

  • holding sign Brian Caldwell (left) Chris Carter (right)
  • front row Austin Garnet Edsall (Legal Kidnappers), Shannon Horner-Edsall, Natasha Hill (Needs Oversight), unlabeled (judge Serwood)
  • rear two unlabeled, Chad Wells, Pat Niagara (Child Abduction Services), Jackie Chiasson, Bobbie Gellner, Rose Whyte-Bray, (Baby Broker) Vern Beck, Jamie Muchmaker

Also, through the efforts of Pat Niagara, a video featuring the stentorian voice of Chris Carter. YouTube and local copy (mp4). There is also a longer video on Vimeo with another local copy (mp4).

Addendum: The Simcoe Reformer's coverage is not online, but here is a scan.




Brian Caldwell and Austin Edsall
Nearly 15 protesters from across southern Ontario gathered outside the Norfolk County courthouse Wednesday to press their claim for improvements to the operating procedures of children's aid societies. Leading the protest at left was Brian Coldwell of Courtland, founder of the Haldimand-Norfolk Citizens Committee for Public Accountability. At right is Austin Edsall of Niagara Falls.

Source: scanned by Pat Niagara

CAS Policy Busted

July 27, 2011 permalink

After police bust a marijuana grow-op children's aid often puts the kids in foster care. But does that really benefit the children? According to Dr Gideon Koren it does not. Only the abstract is available online but here is a summary by a journalist.



Grow-op kids shouldn't be in foster homes: Study

Gideon Koren
Doctor Dr. Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, published a study that says separating children from parents who are charged with grow-ops is not good for the kids. Vast majority of kids do better by staying with their parents.
DAVE ABEL/Toronto Sun


Children living in grow-op homes are healthier living with their parents rather than being placed into foster homes, a study shows.

The study — published in The Journal of Pediatrics — found the majority of children removed from drug-producing homes after their parents were charged, were healthy, drug free and attended school.

Their health problems were fewer than those in the general Canadian population, the study reported.

The study examined 75 York Region children with an average age of 6 1/2-years-old.

About 80% of the homes were marijuana-growing operations or homes where large quantities of drugs were found, while the remaining homes were engaged in cocaine or amphetamine production or had multiple drugs — including marijuana, cocaine, MDMA or heroin — being produced or stored.

Two out of 75 children did better living in foster homes, while 73 of the children studied did better staying with their parents.

“We concluded kids do very well living with their parents. When kids were separated from their parents for a short of long term, we found the kids became depressed, confused and worried and they did not do well in school,” co-author Dr. Gideon Koren, senior scientist and director of the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk program, said.

Koren said legal reasons or other safety issues may require the child to be removed from the physical location drug production, but there is no medical justification to automatically separate kids from their parents.

“Each case needs to be evaluated individually, case by case, and children should not be separated automatically from the parents,” Koren said.

He said the two children who were not medically well was because their parents were producing crystal meth.

Of the 75 children, 45 were of Asian heritage, 28 were Caucasian and two were Hispanic.

In the early 2000s, York Regional Police and York Region Children’s AIDS Society unexpectedly dealt with a surge of drug-producing homes.

York Region Children’s AID Society asked Koren to perform the study to refine their approach of automatically placing children in foster homes after their parents were arrested for the grow-ops.

“This study has already changed our practice,” Patrick Lake, executive director of York Region’s CAS, said. “Since 2007, we developed a more customized and comprehensive process to determine the best response on a case-by-case basis, while looking for ways to safely maintain children with their parents or relatives,”

“The study is informative in the sense it tells us there will not be any lasting events on children found in these environments,” York Regional Police Deputy Chief Bruce Herridge said.

Source: Toronto Sun

Addendum: Below is a response showing that some people have the kind of bias that cannot be altered by facts. Truth is that parents who run a business do a good job of caring for their own children, even when that business is illegal.



Study paints incomplete picture

ISSUE: Study indicates children living in grow ops don’t demonstrate health problems.

A new study by a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children is casting doubts on the health risks faced by children living in illegal grow ops and questions the Children’s Aid Society’s need to automatically remove them.

The study of 75 children removed from drug-producing homes in York Region between 2006 and 2010 indicates the majority were healthy and drug-free.

In fact, Dr. Gideon Koren says the health problems found in these children were actually fewer than those in the general Canadian population.

While that’s good news for the children, the study does a disservice by even suggesting there’s no health risk.

The study, conducted at the request of the York Region CAS and York Regional Police, focused only on illicit-drug exposure.

What about the health impacts of living with the mould often associated with grow ops? What about the health impacts of explosions known to occur in makeshift methamphetamine labs? What about the risks that come with living in a house police say is more likely to be targeted by thieves or rival drug producers?

Without considering these risks, it’s no wonder grow op children appear healthy. They’re practically living in an oxygen-rich greenhouse.

If you want to study the health impacts of illicit drug exposure in children, study children who grow up in homes where drugs are smoked/used, not grown.

Dr. Koren’s assertion that there is no medical justification to automatically separate grow op children from their parents is misleading.

A release from Sick Kids — it’s that name and reputation that likely keeps this study from being dismissed by most — goes so far as to liken the health impacts of living in a grow house to living on a farm.

Fortunately, the York CAS isn’t about to change its ways because of the study.

Executive director Patrick Lake said he can’t envision a scenario where a child found in a commercial-grade drug lab would not be apprehended, acknowledging the difference between a lab and someone growing a couple of plants.

York deputy police chief Bruce Herridge agreed, noting the study won’t make the force change the way it does business because there are many health hazards in grow houses.

That’s the kind of common sense missing from the study.

BOTTOM LINE: Misleading study downplays health risks of illegal grow ops.

Source: (affiliated with Toronto Star)


Suppressing Neo-Nazis

July 26, 2011 permalink

The East German practice of suppressing dissidents by removing their children (examples: [1] [2]) continues in united Germany. Only the kind of dissent has changed. Now the targets are neo-Nazis. Since avoiding a repeat of the holocaust is such a worthy goal, one can easily be tempted to believe that separating parents and children is a good thing.



Children of neo-Nazis could be taken into care to stop them being brainwashed at summer camps

The children of German neo-Nazis could soon be removed from their families and taken into care - in a bid to beat a rise in the glorification of Hitler and the Third Reich.

German authorities are becoming increasingly concerned with the number of summer camps and special schools brainwashing youngsters into worshipping a movement that killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

A recent raid on one camp turned up jigsaw puzzles showing Germany's pre-World War 2 borders and colouring books where children were encouraged to crayon in the moustache of Hitler.

Adolf Hitler
Worry: There is increasing concern that German children are being brainwashed by neo-Nazis who send them on Hitler-worshipping summer camps, much like those experienced by the Hitler Youth

Cakes with lightning S.S. flashes on them and embroidery with swastikas were also found - both banned symbols under the postwar constitution.

It has led to calls for the government to look at ways to take the children of the worst neo-Nazi families into care.

Child welfare expert Günther Hoffmann said: 'If ideological influence reaches such proportions that it can threaten children's well-being, state or civic bodies are obliged to look into the situation.

'If we don't, we are going to incur massive problems in the future.'

banned swastika Anti-Semitic book
Banned: Swastikas and literature denigrating Jews have been found in raids on the summer camps attended by the children of neo-Nazis

The children, who are sent to the camps by their neo-Nazi parents, are taught that democracy is for 'weaklings'.

They are also told that only a 'people's community', as preached by the Nazis, can save the country under a new Fuehrer - one who has yet to be found.

The children who attend these summer camps get to do all the normal things youngsters do - swim, horse ride, canoe, trek and sleep outdoors.

But they also travel back in time to worship a movement that also brought about the greatest war in history.

Hitler Youth
Flashback: The summer camps are reminiscent of the Hitler Youth events held in the 1930s

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine obtained a copy of an email for a neo-Nazi retreat at Ahrensfelde outside Berlin where youngsters were offered horse riding and divided into groups according to their 'world view' - a favourite phrase of the Nazis.

There were lectures on offer about the rise of the Nazis and how they 'saved' Germany in the 1930's following defeat in WW1.

'Volk und Vaterland' - people and fatherland - camps have sprung up all over Germany in recent years to 'educate' the impressionable children of these extremists.

The rise of neo-Nazism is a worrying trend in Germany, which also involves 'circling the wagons' where supporters move in with in-laws and grandparents into areas where all support one another.

The most drastic example of this is Jamal in Mecklenburg, 100 miles from Berlin, where 99 percent of inhabitants are Nazis and proud of it.

'Their aim? A nationalist upbringing outside the mainstream,' said Der Spiegel in its report on the phenomenon.

In June police got wind of a reunion of neo-Nazi families from across Germany and turned them back at the gates of the Finnhuete holiday village.

Government officials say that 'several thousand' households in Germany are now raising their children to admire the Nazis.

Raids have turned up S.S. flags, books glorifying German 'warriors' in the war, records of banned Nazi songs and scrapbooks of major Third Reich figures who are the heroes of those trying desperately to build a Fourth Reich.

'They are becoming part of a sworn 'fighting community' hidden behind a middle-class façade,' said Der Spiegel.

And the banned German Youth Faithful to the Homeland group (HDJ) still has a core membership which meets in secret and rents cottages at holiday parks in Saxony where far-right supporters make up one fifth of the electorate.

Hitler's Mein Kampf, Hermann Goering Hermann Goering
Camps: Copies of Mein Kampf were found at the events, as were colouring books where children were asked to shade in Hermann Goering's war medals

A recent intelligence report on the scene in the state of Brandenburg near Berlin said: 'The children of far-right extremist parents grow up as part of collectives of 'comrades.'

'The parents of these children rely on dances, children's parties and the apparent feeling of security in neo-Nazi youth camps.'

The NPD, the main neo-Nazi party in Germany which has successfully resisted several government attempts to ban it, said in its newspaper that the 'nationalist's life task is to raise the next generation' of radical rightists.

There is also a spike in registering old Germanic names such as Markward, Hermann, Lothar and Siegfried for new-borns in neo-Nazi families

The domestic intelligence agency report in Brandenburg added: 'Right-wing extremist parents make a connection with National Socialism with what they name their children, thereby transforming what are in the end rather everyday names into racist calling cards.'

Source: Daily Mail

Don't Get Legal Help

July 25, 2011 permalink

CAS is dissuading parents from talking to a lawyer.

Lee Bolton

All parents in Chatham-Kent dealing with CAS

by Lee Bolton on Monday, July 25, 2011 at 7:47am

"We know that people have a right to lawyers when the police charge them with anything, or when they are being investigated for crimes. They are supposed to have the same right when the CAS comes knocking. But apparently parents are increasingly approaching David Sandor, Chatham's supervising duty counsel, saying that CAS workers, and sometimes supervisors, are telling them that if they "talk with Sandor or Duty Counsel" they will be considered to be "hiding something" or being "uncooperative". They have been made to sign agreements without legal counsel, because they have been told, or it has at least been suggested "you can talk to legal counsel, but if you do, we'll know you don't want to be cooperative, and we'll "do what we have to do". Mr. Sandor is now receiving letters and messages from people experiencing this, some of them anonymous because people are afraid of how the CAS worker will react. Anyone that has gone through this, or that is going through this should contact him, or at least stick an anonymous letter under his door." He's hoping to get at least 10 - 20 letters together in the next week or two to further help these families. Please forward this to your Chatham-Kent friends and family.

Source: Facebook

Wexler Speaks

July 25, 2011 permalink

On July 19 Richard Wexler appeared on the Craig Fahle Show on Detroit's WDET radio (local copy mp3). He discusses the way life for Michigan foster children has worsened owing to litigation by Children's Rights Inc.

Ferguson Becomes Libertarian

July 24, 2011 permalink

CAS opponent Rob Ferguson, who previously ran for the provincial parliament as the candidate of the Family Coalition Party, plans to run as the Libertarian candidate in the next election.



Rob Ferguson
Rob Ferguson

Ferguson opts for Libertarians in Oct. 6 provincial election

Angry at a snub by the Family Coalition Party, a Brantford man is now vowing to be the first candidate to run for the Libertarian Party in Brant.

Rob Ferguson, a self-employed businessman who ran for election in Ward 4 last year and ran for MPP in 2007 under the FCP banner, said he was chosen as the FCP's candidate for Oct. 6 provincial election during a meeting on Thursday night.

"I've supported the FCP for the last two years in trying to develop a riding association and last night we had ten members out and we formed an executive for Brant riding," Ferguson said Friday.

"No one opposed me as the candidate. I left thinking I was the candidate. But when I got home I got a message … saying they had reopened the meeting after I left and backed off from having me as the candidate."

Ferguson said he felt betrayed and he immediately talked to Jim McIntosh, the treasurer of the provincial Libertarians about running for that party.

McIntosh confirmed Friday that, while there are still documents to be signed, Ferguson will run for the Libertarians. Because there is no riding association, the provincial executive can choose a candidate.

"We've had no candidate in Brant before that I know of," said McIntosh.

"We only ran 23 candidates in the last election and this year we're going to have a lot more. Probably 60 or more."

The Libertarian party believes that government shouldn't be overly involved in legislating the lives of citizens.

Ferguson runs his own advertising business and has volunteered with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

Source: Brantford Expositor

Doctors Abuse Children

July 24, 2011 permalink

After a British couple, both doctors, adopted three children taken by force from their parents, the children were subject to a decade of abuse. People of high social status can be severe abusers of other people's children.



Doctors abused adopted children

Middle-class doctors were left free to abuse adopted children in a "reign of terror" because social workers were intimidated by their professional status, a review has found.

Nicholas Newcombe and Jill Newcombe-Buley
Dr Nicholas Newcombe and Jill Newcombe-Buley
Photo: Manchester Evening News

Three adopted children ''rescued'' from their drug addicted parents went on to suffer a decade of systematic abuse and neglect at the hands of two doctors which was ''predictable'' and ''preventable'', according to the serious case review.

Some professionals in the case were swayed by ''perceptions and assumptions'' about the couple's social class, professional status and high academic qualifications, the review concluded.

Research scientist Dr Jill Newcombe-Buley, 45, punched, slapped and smothered the children in a reign of terror which started soon after they were placed with her and her husband, Dr Nicholas Newcombe, 43, at their former home in Prestbury, Cheshire.

She also stamped on one child with a stiletto heel and hit one over the head with a dustbin lid.

Newcombe-Buley was jailed for four years in October after she admitted child cruelty while her husband, who pleaded guilty to neglect after he did not report his wife, was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

A report ordered by Cheshire East Local Safeguarding Children Board today concluded there had been ''many missed opportunities'' to detect the abuse and that the couple should never have been allowed to adopt the children - referred to as Child B, C and D.

Report author Chris Brabbs said: ''The children went from being 'rescued' from the exposure to significant harm within their birth family only to end up being placed in another abusive situation where they were subjected to repeated and systematic physical abuse, emotional harm and neglect.

''The specific nature of the abuse, and the manner in which it was carried out, by adults who chose to adopt vulnerable children, is hard to comprehend.

''The conclusion of this Serious Case Review was that at various stages over the 10 years, the abuse was both predictable and preventable.

''Had the appropriate actions been taken, the abuse may have been detected, and the children helped to disclose, much earlier.

''The Review has identified the many missed opportunities to pick up on the indicators of abuse, or to investigate disclosures made by Child B in particular, but also by Child C.''

He said the adoption process conducted by Stoke-on-Trent Social Services was ''flawed'' due to a number of factors such as the couple having never lived together, questions about their commitment due to work pressures and their complete lack of experience around children.

''The adoption panel allowed itself to be sucked into the attractiveness of the fact that these applicants were offering a rare and highly sought after commodity - a willingness to take a sibling group of three,'' he said.

Following the initial placement in November 1999 there was no re-evaluation of what was in the children's best interests until they were formally adopted in June 2001.

There was little agency involvement afterwards other than the schools the children attended.

Mr Brabbs said although there was evidence of teaching staff showing concern for the children, and trying to mitigate against the excess of their mother's parenting style, the ''inescapable conclusion is that the children were badly let down by all four schools who failed to record, or act on, their direct observations of a number of indicators of possible physical neglect and/or emotional abuse''.

The children had built up ''enormous resilience'' and staff struggled to make sense of the contradictory evidence of the children doing well at school

Mr Brabbs said there were 10 missed opportunities to carry out investigations of the many occasions when Child B in particular disclosed abuse from March 2009.

On many occasions Child B was returned home against his wishes and without being interviewed by a social worker, he said.

This possibly led to all three children believing it would be better to endure the abuse they knew rather than let it develop further.

Prime responsibility rested with Cheshire East Social Care and its emergency duty team but there were occasions when the police should have been more challenging of Social Care's plans and escalated their concerns for resolution at a more senior level, the report found.

It was not until September 2009 that the authorities finally listened to Child B when he was admitted to a paediatric ward after being assaulted by another youngster.

He said he did not want to return home but a social worker said he should go because there was no evidence to support his previous allegations.

He would have gone back to more abuse but for the intervention of a consultant paediatrician.

The report stated: ''Fortunately, for all the children, Child B never gave up and found the confidence one more time to tell the independent reviewing officer the specifics of the abuse he and his siblings had been suffering. In contrast to some of the earlier work, the response was immediate and responsive to the children's needs.''

The review also praised non-professionals who tried to secure help for the children at an earlier stage - especially their school friends - but unfortunately the professionals involved did not give sufficient weight to the information they provided.

It continued that many professionals struggled to maintain a child focus when faced with the ''disguised compliance'' of the couple whose social standing had also affected their judgment.

''Their approach was affected by perceptions and assumptions made regarding the parents' social class, professional status, and high academic qualifications, and the attitude of M and F (Mr and Mrs Newcombe)towards them.''

Nicholas Newcombe, who now lives in Macclesfield, was asked to meet the report author but declined as he cited work commitments and said he was ''still finding the whole situation extremely upsetting''.

He wrote that he felt the couple and the children were ''badly let down'' by Stoke-on-Trent Social Services.

He claimed they were negligent in placing three young children with two parents with almost no experience of looking after children, and that they did not provide sufficient practical and emotional support.

David Mellor, the safeguarding board's chairman, apologised to the children who he said were collectively failed by schools, social services and police.

He said: ''The nine-year period of this review - starting with a flawed adoption process - shows a series of failings by a number of agencies.

''It is clear that teachers had concerns but never recorded or escalated those concerns to raise the alarm. One of the children repeatedly tried to report the abuse, which all the siblings had suffered, to social workers and police. Time and time again they were let down.

''This has been a particularly difficult case for everyone, not least because of the disguised compliance of the adoptive parents which staff in many agencies were unwilling to challenge.

''We are taking action to ensure that failings which occurred will not be repeated in the future.

''I would emphasise, however, that this is a highly uncommon case that covers a significant period of time. We want all children - and particularly these three children - to be reassured that when anyone comes to us for help in the future, they will be listened to and appropriate action will be taken.

''I would stress that the children are now safe, being protected and helped to recover from their terrible ordeal.''

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Bayne Family Reuniting

July 24, 2011 permalink

The Bayne children will be returning home within the month. The news coincided with another family event. Happy birthday, Zabeth.





Josiah Bayne
Josiah - a June 2011 photo


While I was informed some weeks ago, under instructions from the Ministry it was to remain confidential until yesterday. Well, yesterday was Zabeth's Birthday, coincidence but what a great way to celebrate. They were able to inform their children that this anticipated event was now official. They have been for some time enjoying unsupervised visitation and overnights with the children. The course of action developed by the area office is a kind of incremental return. Baby Josiah will come home first so that Paul and Zabeth can adjust to caring full-time for their youngest child, now five months old. Kent (7), Baden (6) and Bethany (3) come home three weeks later. Here is a comment from Zabeth herself.

"Wow!!! Thanks so much everyone. Thank you for all your birthday wishes - I sure feel special:) We had a beautiful day and it started by waking up with our baby Josiah beside us! Also we were able to tell our children today that they are really coming home! On Aug 2 Josiah will be returned to us and on Aug 25 our older three will be returned! We will remember this day forever."

So that is the timetable for the return. August 2nd Josiah. Kent, Baden, and Bethany August 25th.

We are very happy for this family.

Source: Ron Unruh blog

Drive for CAS

July 23, 2011 permalink

Simcoe County CAS wants drivers to transport children. No pay, but mileage is reimbursed. Good opportunity for people who believe transporting stolen children is an act of charity. Sobriety not required.



The Simcoe County Children's Aid Society urgently needs drivers in the Midland area to transport children to appointments, visits and education and recreation programs. Training is provided and mileage is paid. For more information please call Marcy Desroches at 726-6587 ext. 363.

Source: Midland Free Press

King of the World

July 20, 2011 permalink

CBC's The Current did a segment on foster child deaths in Alberta. The first segment is an interview with the mother in the baby Warburg case. The two affected mothers were not just roommates, but sisters. Three months after the death the mother has no knowledge of how her baby died. Here is her view of social services:

Social services, they seem to like to pick on people that have no money, like this social services woman that came into my house that day, like, you know sitting there calling me unfit, calling my mother unfit, calling everybody unfit, like she is just, like, I don't know, the king of the world, and she's way better than everybody else.

The report ends by interviewing Assistant Deputy Minister at Alberta Children and Youth Services Mark Hattori. He uses four points from the foster death script. You can listen on the CBC Alberta Child Deaths page or our local copy (mp3).

haughty social worker

Boy Set on Fire

July 20, 2011 permalink

Most abuse in foster care comes not from foster parents and social workers, but from other children. Usually we have only statistical reports, but here is an actual case of a boy setting another foster boy on fire.



Boy accused of setting foster child on fire

Nicholas Portalatin


A 13-year-old boy was arrested Tuesday after he reportedly lit another boy on fire inside a Port Charlotte home.

Nicholas Portalatin of Port Charlotte was arrested on a charge of Aggravated Battery.

Around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, deputies responded to the home, located on Corktree Circle, after receiving a call about a battery that had just occurred there, according to an arrest report.

Dee Hardin, the permanent foster mother of the victim, told deputies that she was in the living room Tuesday afternoon, when she heard the victim yell that his shirt was on fire, the report said.

Hardin reportedly rushed to the boy, took off his shirt and then quickly put out the fire. He sustained two burns to his arm, and was later taken for treatment.

The victim told investigators that he and Portalatin, who had just been placed in the home, were sitting on the couch, when he pulled a lighter from his pocket and ignited the victim's shirt.

According to the report, the boy said he spotted Portalatin earlier in the day using the lighter and a can of Lysol to make a flame thrower in the house.

Portalatin said he was playing with the lighter but didn't intend to light the boy's shirt on fire.

Portalatin's case worker told deputies that Portalatin recently had been released from juvenile detention and didn't want to stay at the home.

Source: WZVN-TV

Poppy Seed Bagel Epidemic

July 18, 2011 permalink

Another Pennsylvania mother is suing child protectors because a poppy seed bagel caused the loss of her baby. Here is the earlier case of Elizabeth Mort



Mom sues Lawrence County over seizure of newborn

For the second time in a year, Lawrence County Children and Youth Services has been accused in a federal lawsuit of removing a child from a mother's custody after a positive test for opiates allegedly triggered by poppy seeds.

Eileen Ann Bower, a Lawrence County resident whose residence and age were not provided, gave birth to a son, Brandon, on July 13, 2009, according to a complaint filed late Friday. She was stunned, it said, when a blood test at Jameson Hospital came back positive for opiates.

Brandon was taken into foster care three days after his birth, it said, and only returned on Sept. 29. In the interim, Ms. Bower came to the conclusion that the test must have come back positive due to her ingestion, at her last meal before childbirth, of Salad Supreme dressing with poppy seeds.

Ms. Bower is suing the county agency, its caseworker and Jameson Health System for negligence, invasion of privacy and violation of due process, according to the complaint by attorney Stanley T. Booker.

Lawrence County Children and Youth Services Director Jane Gajda could not be immediately reached for comment.

In October, New Castle mother Elizabeth Mort sued the county and Jameson Health, alleging that a poppy seed bagel spurred a positive test for opiates in April 2010 that prompted the seizure of her baby, Isabella Rodriguez. She is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, and the litigation is ongoing.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Addendum: Two years later an appellate court condemns the child protectors in this case.



State Takes Baby for First 75 Days of the Baby’s Life, Because of Mother’s Use of Poppy Seed Dressing

A federal district court has found that this happened, and that this violated the Constitution. From Bower v. Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (W.D. Pa. Aug. 12, 2013) (some paragraph breaks added):

In July 2009, Bower was a twenty years old resident of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. On July 12, 2009 at approximately 7:00 p.m., Bower hosted a barbecue dinner at her new home. As part of the meal, Bower consumed linguini salad with McCormick Foods Supreme Pasta salad dressing which contained poppy seeds. Bower used two bottles of the salad dressing with one pound of pasta. Bower Deposition at 127. Shortly after dinner, Bower went into labor. During her pregnancy, Bower had received necessary and appropriate prenatal care and had passed every drug screen that had been administered, including a drug test taken approximately three weeks earlier, on June 22, 2009. At 9:20 p.m., Bower was admitted to Jameson for the birth of her second child.

At that time, Jameson had a written drug testing policy (the “Policy”) by which all obstetrical patients were administered a urine drug screen in order to identify newborns who may demonstrate symptoms of drug withdrawal and require special observation and treatment…. The hospital laboratory detection level for opiate metabolites is 300 nanograms/mL, which is far lower than the 2000 nanograms/mL level set by the federal government for federal workplace testing programs. Jameson’s Policy further required that if a mother tested positive, a drug test be performed on the newborn’s urine and meconium. The Policy required Jameson to notify its social service department whenever a maternity patient’s initial drug screen was positive. In July 2009, every initial positive drug screen result was reported by Jameson’s social services staff to LCCYS.

Even though the mother noted the possibility that the positive test result came from poppy seeds, and there was no confirmation that the test result actually reflected drug use (or any other evidence that the mother used drugs), the baby wasn’t returned to the mother until 75 days after the baby’s birth. The court held that the county’s actions violated the mother’s constitutional rights:

[T]he LCCYS policy can result in the separation of mother and child within days of birth without any valid basis for doing so. As illustrated by the timeline in this case, there was no need for precipitous, ex parte court action. Baby Brandon remained in the hospital for several days, during which time LCCYS could have corroborated (or questioned) the initial urine screen result. Indeed, the LCCYS Intake Screening Form noted that there was no present or impending danger.

By taking custody of Baby Brandon without any effort to corroborate the drug test and without talking to the parent, LCCYS policy did not provide sufficient protection for the fundamental parental rights involved in light of the drastic nature of the deprivation. The LCCYS action in this case was an arbitrary use of government power which transcended the realm of negligence and deliberate indifference. [Caseworker Eva] Lightel stated: “I have the hospital saying she tested positive and that was enough for me [to get an ex parte order to take the child].” The removal of Baby Brandon based solely on Jameson’s report of the initial urine screen — with no individualized investigation — shocks the conscience and violates Plaintiff’s substantive due process rights.

Pretty appalling. I agree that the law should try to protect children from neglect and abuse by their parents, including that evidenced by a mother’s using dangerous and illegal drugs during pregnancy. And I agree that there will always be some errors in such processes, as in any other human processes. But an error such as this, which endured for 75 days, is much harder to justify.

Source: Volokh Conspiracy

Adoption Target

July 18, 2011 permalink

The British government under Tony Blair believed that adoption was the cure to the ills of foster care and established incentives to encourage local authorities to increase adoptions. The result was not to adopt foster children, but the seizure of adoptable babies from good homes to meet the adoption targets. Here is a chilling recording of a social worker informing Martin and Vanessa Brookes of the planned seizure of their unborn baby: text recording (wmv). The Daily Express has an article on the topic, followed by an analysis by Birmingham MP John Hemming. The government claims the targets were abolished in 2006, it was really 2008, and they are still in force in some places. The technically literate Mr Hemming debunks many of the phony numerical claims by the government.




Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie’s death sparked action

AT LEAST 10,000 young children have been dragged from their families and needlessly adopted due to a flawed target at the heart of Government, it was claimed last night.

Vulnerable children were handed over in their thousands under a New Labour crusade driven by artificial adoption targets.

A top Oxford academic yesterday branded the policy as Tony Blair’s worst mistake.

The expert in social work who did not want to be named said: “Forget the Iraq War. “Blair’s adoption target was the reason I left the Labour party.” Last night backing came from MP John Hemming, who said the policy led to the unnecessary adoption of 1,000 children every year.

He claims the target set 11 years ago was flawed from the outset because it contained a fundamental error of maths and he has called for a full Parliamentary inquiry to prevent further damage.

One victim who had a 15-month-old baby taken from her and two siblings broke down in tears as she told her story to the Sunday Express, saying: “When you’re reliving it like this, it’s still as raw as the day it happened.

“It was like my heart was ripped out.”

Mr Hemming, who chairs the Justice for Families campaign group and exposed footballer Ryan Giggs’s misdeeds in Parliament, insists a “corrupt and secret” family court system shrouds adoption in silence and away from proper scrutiny.

Mr Blair introduced the controversial adoption formula in the wake of the abuse and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in north London in 2000, ordering a 50 per cent increase in the number of youngsters placed for adoption from care, and doling out more than £20million to councils as incentive bonuses to meet his aim.

Mr Hemming an Oxford-educated science scholar, said those rewards caused many social workers to go hunting for children from broken homes who could then be pushed through the care system into adoption.

Children were ripped not only from their parents, but also frequently separated for ever from brothers and sisters.

Though the target was dropped in 2006, Mr Hemming believes it caused a lasting change in social worker behaviour.

He said: “Tony Blair meant well when he introduced the adoption targets, but he and many others misunderstood the statistics.

“This is a really big issue. It involves corruption in the courts and legal system and a complete failure of our child protection system, which concentrates on getting children adopted rather than protecting them from harm.”

He said the formula was distorted because instead of comparing the flows of children in and out of care over a whole year, it focused on a random, meaningless snapshot by examining the picture on a particular annual date, March 31.

He said this meant people were duped into believing that barely any children were being taken from care and placed for adoption, when in fact the opposite was the case and there was, essentially, no problem to fix.

Between 1995 and 1999 about 2,000 children, most of them under four years old, left care for adoption each year. As the adoption target kicked in, those numbers rose to 3,100 in 2001, 3,400 a year later and peaked at 3,800 in 2004 and 2005, before settling at about 3,200 over the last two years.

Martin Narey, the Government’s adoption adviser, conceded targets were wrong but added: “Look at the figures: there were 22,000 adoptions in 1974. Last year, there were just 3,200. We have to make it easier for people.”

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said yesterday: “This Government has no intention of setting any new targets. Decisions about whether to adopt a child must be based on what is best for the child.”

Source: Daily Express (UK)

The Adoption Target and its effect today

The Sunday Express today has a story about how over a thousand children each year continue to be wrongly adopted as a result in part of an error in calculating the adoption target.

There is a lot of misinformation spread by civil servants (and parroted by ministers) about the adoption targets.

Each English Council with childrens services responsibility had a specific local target known as BV PI 163 or PAF C23. (Those are "Best Value Performance Indicator" or "Performance Assessment Framework".)

This was calculated as the number of children adopted from care each year by that local authority as a percentage of the total number of children that had been in care for at least 6 months as at the 31st of March of the same year. (The years go from 1st April to 31st March same as the financial years).

All local authorities had specific funding to encourage adoption and some also had financial rewards from the government for hitting their local target.

From April 2006 the adoption target was redefined to be a permanence target which included Adoption, Residency Orders and Special Guardianship orders.

This was scrapped from 1st April 2008.

The target, therefore, had the effect of skewing local authority decision-making up to and including the year that ended in 31st March 2008 (which is called in the stats 2008).

The first government lie is to pretend the target only lasted until 2006. It was redefined in 2006, but lasted until 2008.

Some local authorities (eg Merton) still have such a target. These targets, however, are not nationally agreed.

The mathematical error is to have as the numerator (children per year) and the denominator (children). This does not give a percentage. A percentage is a dimensionless number. This gives a dimension of (per year).

The problem is that it was generally thought that the proportion of children being adopted was in fact relatively low when it was far more common.

An example of this error of thinking can be seen in Ofsted's APA of 2008 or Alan Rushton's paper from 2007.

Outcomes of adoption from public care: research and practice issues written by Alan Rushton includes the following:

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to think that any wholesale moving of children from birth families into adoptive families is taking place. Adoption from care concerns just a small proportion (6%) of all looked after children in England (Department for Education and Skills, 2005) and so remains a relatively uncommon solution to the needs of these young people.

The problem is that the proportion is not a "proportion".

If we take all the children that left care aged under 5 in 2005 (4,200) we find that 2,100 were adopted. That is 50%.

Realistically as children get older they are less likely to be adopted. Those children that go into care above 10 are often those that do so because their parents cannot cope with their behaviour. It is, therefore, unlikely that they will be adopted.

In 1997 2,000 under 5s left care, but only 640 did so through adoption. That is a lower percentage (because a higher proportion went home to their parents). However, it is still 32% which is a lot more than the 6% figure that is quoted.

The argument that was put by the government is that they were dealing with children "languishing in care". Superficially you could say that there was an increase in the number of children leaving care and those were those which ceased languishing in care (again looking at those aged under 5). However, you find in fact that the difference between the number taken into care and that leave care still remains at about 2,000 per year (although 2010 was in fact 2,800).

What you find, in fact, is that when the pressure for adoptions started (which was actually earlier than the adoption target) that the numbers taken into care also increased. There are anecdotal reports of local authorities looking for potential adoptees (called by some practitioners adoptible commodities).

Hence what was a laudable objective was based upon a misunderstanding of the statistical picture. Furthermore there is a continuing problem.

Practice has not substantially changed although there has been a relatively small drop of in permanence numbers (which includes a higher reduction in adoption numbers, but still to a much higher position than pre the adoption target).

As far as the under 5s are concerned the 2010 figure was 2,000 compared to the 2005 figure of 2,100.

Furthermore we now have the nonsense from Martin Narey who compares the historic numbers of theoretically voluntary adoptions (in an era before better contraception, abortion and changing social attitudes led to large numbers of babies being born inconveniently and being adopted) to those forcibly removed from families through the use of some corrupt experts and a legal environment which is biased against non-institutional parties.

The Government Minister is also calling for more adoption from care without having any evidence base to identify which children it is that need to be adopted.

There is undoubtedly a big problem with reactive attachment disorder. This appears to be caused at times by babies being removed at a very early age and then getting insufficient personal attention.

Whether this policy will be shifted before enough of the people who have been through it create an outcry is unclear. A lot of damage is being done - particularly to the children - by a policy based on mathematical errors and a lack of intellectual rigour in policy setting.

The real flaws in the decisionmaking remain hidden, however, by the secrecy in the system and desire to protect the backs of those people who earn money from the system.

Source: John Hemming

Let Them Die

July 18, 2011 permalink

After David Weber rushed his bleeding wife to Brandon General Hospital to save her life and his unborn child, he got what he deserved: two expensive speeding tickets and a suspended drivers license.



He saves baby's life, gets huge ticket

Hits the gas pedal to get to hospital, now fights for licence

David Weber and wife Genevieve
David Weber and his wife Genevieve admire four-month-old Anabela who was born shortly after a harrowing journey to the hospital and two speeding tickets.

With his wife paralyzed by the pain of contractions that jeopardized her pregnancy, David Weber hit the gas pedal to save his unborn baby's life.

Now, the 32-year-old father is sitting in his farmhouse in rural Manitoba, frustrated by a system that has left him caring for a young family with a whopping speeding ticket and a suspended licence.

Weber plans to appeal the licence suspension at a hearing with Manitoba Public Insurance next week -- but first, he hopes to be publicly heard.

On March 21, Weber and his wife Genevieve, 29, were on their way back to their spacious hobby farm outside Portage la Prairie, after a day spent shopping in Winnipeg. Genevieve was 38 weeks pregnant with the couple's second child; due to a complication while giving birth to daughter Madison, now 3, doctors warned that natural labour could put future babies at risk.

So when contractions struck and blood started to flow inside their vehicle on Highway 1 near Oakville, the Webers panicked.

Their hope: make it to Brandon General Hospital, where Genevieve's doctors and medical records were waiting. She was scheduled to have a Caesarean section there only five days later, still a week before her due date; but at that moment, with Genevieve's contractions already coming fewer than five minutes apart, fear set in.

Although he doesn't usually speed, he said, David hit the gas on the couple's silver Honda Civic, surging as fast as 170 kilometres an hour on clear and lightly trafficked roads. When the couple saw an RCMP cruiser's lights flash just outside Portage la Prairie, they were "really relieved," Genevieve said. "We were thinking, 'Now we'll get escorted!' "

Indeed, the officer encouraged them to go to Portage General Hospital to seek surgery or call an ambulance to take them to Brandon. But worried about transfer time, and the fact that they had been advised that Portage General Hospital does not normally perform routine C-sections, the stressed couple begged to push forward to Brandon.

Instead of an escort, they came away from the 15-minute traffic stop with a $1,000 speeding ticket -- and a warning. "He said, 'If you go to Brandon, I don't want to see you guys speeding,'" David said. "I was half-crying... I said, 'We don't have time for a lecture.' (I was) trying to save my wife and baby's life."

Back on the road, with Genevieve in increasing pain, Weber hit the gas again. Thirty minutes later, he was stopped by a Carberry RCMP officer who had been alerted that the Webers may be speeding towards Brandon. The Carberry officer issued David another speeding ticket, warned him again of the dangers of speeding and called an ambulance.

The Webers estimate they waited about 15 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.

"I couldn't believe this was happening," Genevieve recalled. "I want my baby to be safe, and they're not taking me seriously. They're not protecting us. There's no common sense left, or something."

The good news -- the Webers' baby, Anabela, was born healthy in Brandon after an emergency C-section.

Soon after the incident, Weber -- who does not have a history of dangerous driving, he said -- went before a justice of the peace to ask for compassion, showing a letter from their doctor that, by the time Genevieve made it into the operating room, her uterus was "very close to rupture" and Anabela was in distress.

"She knew she had to come to the hospital as soon as possible due to concerns... with dire consequences for the baby as well as possibly mother," Dr. J.B. Helms stated. "In light of these circumstances, I think (Genevieve) and her husband did the right thing... It was thus unavoidable for them to drive faster than normal."

Despite the doctor's support, the justice of the peace declined to drop Weber's ticket or replace it with a reprimand -- though he did lower the price of the ticket to $400.

The Webers might have let the story end there, but for what happened next: in June, David Weber was called before an MPI hearing officer to explain the speeding. On July 8, the hearing officer's verdict came down: as a result of the ticket, Weber's licence will be suspended for five months.

To get it back he'll have to take a safe-driving course and could pay as much as $1,000 to renew his licence for years to come.

For a working father in rural Manitoba, with a newborn baby and a three-year-old at home, it's a nerve-wracking loss. Even applying for a special permit to get to work at his sales job in Portage la Prairie could take months, he said.

Though officials from MPI and RCMP would not comment on the specifics of Weber's case, citing privacy concerns, both noted that protocols are designed to keep Manitoba's roads safe -- while allowing for occasional crises. Reports indicate that many of those procedures were followed in the Webers' case.

"In any case of medical emergency, we would request an ambulance so they could get emergency medical assistance or escort them to hospital. Both would be offered," said RCMP spokesman Const. Miles Hiebert. "We would take them to the nearest hospital."

MPI spokesman Brian Smiley explained that a ticket for speeding at least 50 km/h above the posted limit is grounds for an automatic hearing on licence suspension. While medical emergencies would certainly be considered in the decision, Smiley said, an overarching factor is whether the ticket was upheld by a magistrate -- as Weber's was.

"In a situation where the person provides the medical information, or the ticket can be overturned at court level, it does give a little more flexibility for the hearing officer," Smiley said.

On hearing about the case, Len Eastoe, a former police officer who runs Traffic Ticket Experts, said the situation might have been better handled by RCMP officers driving Genevieve to hospital in their cruisers. "An emergency situation arrives, and you don't wait for the ambulance," Eastoe said. "You're driving an emergency vehicle... you get them to hospital."

Barring that, the exceptional circumstances around Weber's speeding ticket could well have merited more leniency from a justice of the peace, Eastoe said -- either dropping the ticket or a reprimand, which does not result in licence demerits.

"In a circumstance like this, (a discharge or reprimand) is certainly something the justice of the peace should be considering," Eastoe said. "Especially in a life-or-death situation. How do you not allow for something like that?"

Back home outside Portage la Prairie, Weber now hopes that one of the authorities involved in his case will consider giving him a little leeway, and help him get his licence back.

Going to the media was a last resort, he said -- and a chance to warn others that even in the stress of a medical emergency, repercussions for speeding can be serious.

"What would have happened if something happened to my wife, or my baby?" Weber said. "Who would have been responsible then? It's like there's no compassion anymore."

Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Paralegal Struggle Continues

July 18, 2011 permalink

Harry Kopyto faces more delays in his effort to save his paralegal practice, and get at least some representation for families unable to afford a lawyer.



Kopyto hits another roadblock

Harry Kopyto has been sent back to the drawing board by a Law Society of Upper Canada panel hearing his application to become a licensed paralegal.

Harry Kopyto
Harry Kopyto
efforts to get licensed as a paralegal have hit another snag.

The former lawyer has so far delayed, with constitutional and procedural objections to the process, a hearing on whether he has the good character necessary to continue the paralegal practice he started after being disbarred in 1989.

But two decisions released last week could pave the way for the hearing to finally begin as soon as this fall.

First, the hearing panel quashed Kopyto’s constitutional challenge to the law society takeover of paralegal regulation. Kopyto argued the LSUC was in a conflict of interest because the lawyer-dominated organization’s move restricted its cheaper paralegal competitors.

But panel chairwoman Margot Blight said in her July 5 decision that the panel lacked the jurisdiction to hear the challenge.

“The hearing panel does not consider itself institutionally competent to conduct the broad constitutional inquiries into such matters as the governance of the Society and the restrictions on paralegal practice,” she wrote.

On the same day, Blight also dismissed another motion of Kopyto’s that would have reversed the onus of proof for the good character hearing. In hearings applicants must prove they have good character at the time of the hearing. Instead, Kopyto wanted the law society to prove that he lacked the good character necessary to practise, but Blight said she saw no reason to change the current standard.

Blight, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, is chairing the third incarnation of the panel after the previous two collapsed following Kopyto’s attempts to have benchers on the panels recuse themselves.

After taking over paralegal regulation in 2007, the law society grandparented those paralegals already in practice from further educational requirements, as long as they met the good character test. Kopyto’s is one of the few remaining cases in the system.

Kopyto was disbarred in 1989 for overbilling Ontario’s legal aid plan by $150,000. He admits his billing practices were deficient but insisted he never got any more money than he was due from legal aid.

Source: Canadian Lawyer

Addendum: Harry Kopyto himself writes on the latest developments.



Kopyto mulls decision to force Blight to rule on constitutional challenge

Panel Told to Ignore Public Interest

When you go to court, you’ll either be found guilty or not guilty. You’ll either win or lose your case. Justice will be handed down, one way or another.

But the legal world of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) versus Harry Kopyto is a strange place. And the laws that govern other proceedings are sometimes nowhere to be found.

You know the story well. Harry faces a hearing before a three-person LSUC panel. It is the third panel he has faced — but that’s another story. He has to prove his “good character” to practice as a paralegal. The Law Society is controlled by lawyers. He doesn’t want to be judged by lawyers or those they appoint. He wants the public to decide if he can continue to work as a paralegal. Something, incidentally, he has done for twenty-two years without anyone saying “Boo”.

So Harry brought a motion before the Panel judging his character. The motion was to drop the proceedings against him. The grounds for the motion? By-law 4 — the law that put lawyers in charge of paralegals in 2006 is unconstitutional and should not be enforced. The law allowed lawyers to control and judge their competitors including allowing lawyers to appoint at least two of the three Panel members presiding at good character hearings. It put the fox in charge of the chicken coop. It permitted lawyers to strangle their more affordable competitors by cutting their scope of practice to the bone. The result? A monopoly by lawyers who charge $340.00 an hour on average making a mockery of accessible justice to the vast majority of Ontarians.

Harry argued his motion this spring. Because the scheme of the 2006 law denied affordable access to justice, the proceedings against him were part of an unconstitutional scheme and the panelists — appointed by lawyers — should decline to judge him in order not to be part of that unconstitutional scheme itself. Simple. Clear. Logical.

The LSUC prosecution, not surprisingly, argued otherwise. They said that the constitutionality of the scheme was not the Panel’s business. The Panel’s duty to give voice to the public interest applied only to judging the good character of candidates to be paralegals. They couldn’t question the scheme that gave them authority to exercise such judgment. (They are there just to fix the roof. Don’t mind that the foundations are rotten.) All of these points were made by the LSUC prosecutors in a motion to dismiss Kopyto’s challenge to the scheme on grounds of lack of jurisdiction.

Blight Refuses to Hear Constitutional Challenge on Grounds of Institutional Incompetence

The decision by the Panel, headed by Margot Blight, was finally released on July 5, 2011. In her decision, she refused to assume jurisdiction to deal with Harry’s constitutional challenge. She found that the Panel only has the power to rule on good character issues in respect to individuals and not with the class of paralegals as a whole. Harry’s arguments, she ruled, are based on facts not properly before her. By this reasoning, the Panel does not have the jurisdiction to do anything except deal with Harry’s character and nothing else is within its mandate.

Such narrow reasoning isolates the Panel’s function from the legislative scheme that it is a part of. Good character hearings didn’t fall from the sky. By-law 4 allows lawyers to appoint and administer the majority of the panelists at such hearings. Each Panel is therefore directly and personally implicated in the administration of the scheme as it is not legitimately appointed if the regulatory scheme is in fact unconstitutional. Harry’s argument, of course, is that it is unconstitutional because it denies access to justice by letting lawyers take over their more affordable competitors at the expense of access to justice.

While Blight had the decency to admit that Harry’s critique of the regulatory scheme deserved a hearing, she lacked the perspective of having her Panel deal with the issue. She chose not to open up a can of worms that would end up embarrassing the Old Boy’s Club that runs the LSUC. In an interesting and critical excerpt from the Reasons for her Decision, Blight wrote as follows:

Despite being implicated in this way, the Hearing Panel does not consider itself institutionally competent to conduct the broad constitutional inquiries into such matters as the governance of the Society and the restrictions on paralegal practice… The Panel considers that such questions are appropriately raised before a Court of original jurisdiction.

Blight’s decision raises more questions than answers. Does she have the right to refuse to deal with the validity of her own appointment? Curiously, she ruled that Harry’s motion falls outside of her mandate while at the same time recognizing that the validity of the appointment of the Panel is an issue within the Panel’s jurisdiction. Why is the Law Society not “institutionally competent” to deal with Harry’s constitutional challenge? God knows that the Law Society is an influential legal apparatus with over five hundred employees and massive resources (including a well stocked wine cellar that is the subject of utmost admiration by those who have sumptuously dined in the LSUC’s inner sanctum).

Blight Saves LSUC From Embarrassing Hearing

Margot Blight knows that the Law Society would be placed in an embarrassing position if it was forced to respond to Harry’s challenge to By-law 4. The conflict of interest in the LSUC’s position and conduct is glaring — having to promote access to justice in the public interest while in fact dramatically reducing the work that their more affordable paralegal competition are allowed to do. Blight understands that this was the essence of Harry’s argument made over the course of several hours before the Hearing Panel. She even summarized his position by acknowledging that you can’t “ride a horse in two different directions at the same time”. Granting Kopyto a hearing on this constitutional challenge, along with the disclosure of LSUC records that he would be entitled to receive, would have been a strategic defeat to the LSUC and to the Blight Panel’s handlers. She also does not see her role as that of confronting LSUC handlers and giving Harry an opportunity to bang the nails into the coffin of By-law 4. In order to avoid this unsavoury alternative, the only remaining option she had was to pass the buck by directing Harry to the Superior Court through an independent and unrelated proceeding.

Blight’s decision will not go down in history as her finest moment of reasoning. First, she decided to avoid considering the constitutional validity of her appointment to the Panel under By-law 4 on grounds that neither Harry nor the Law Society raised or were even considered in the written and oral arguments heard by her, which was clearly unfair. Secondly, the phrase “institutional competence” is usually used (logically) where there is more than one venue to raise a legal or factual issue. This is called concurrent jurisdiction. Someone fired from a job because of discrimination may choose to go either to the courts or a Human Rights Tribunal. In Harry’s case, however, there is no alternate venue to the Panel hearing. Despite Blight’s dubious advice that Harry’s argument could be appropriately dealt with by a Court, the proceeding against Harry would continue as if it was constitutionally well-founded thereby denying him any benefit or remedy in real life.

Is Kopyto Heading to the Divisional Court?

The suggestion that Harry seek relief in the courts rather then before Blight may be illusory. A court may decide that Kopyto has no right to raise an issue involving a constitutional challenge based on a denial of access to justice — after all, Harry personally is not the one who is being denied such access so he may have difficulty establishing standing in a court to bring such a proceeding. Yet the Panel’s suggestion that the LSUC is not competent to deal with Harry’s motion is predicated on there being another forum that could deal with the challenge, when in fact there may well be no such other forum.

Blight has once again pulled the fat out of the fire for the LSUC prosecution. She has averted an embarrassing showdown between Harry and his prosecutors that would have involved disclosing LSUC records that would undermine the legitimacy of the paralegal takeover. She flatly refused to allow a hearing on Kopyto’s argument that went to the very heart of the Panel’s legitimacy. She also made other glaring errors. For example, she concluded that the Panel could not grant any of the relief sought by Harry in his motion as the Panel could not invalidate legislation but merely refuse to apply it. In fact however, except for one declaration that was being sought in the alternative, Harry was simply asking the Panel to make findings of fact and not law. She wrongly misconstrued these requests for rulings on the legality of By-law 4.

Blight also failed to give effect to the duty of the Law Society to act to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and to maintain and advance the cause of justice as required by Section 4.2 of the Law Society Act. She also took a very narrow view of her duty to promote the public interest at the good character hearing. And she left Harry without any realistic remedies to his challenge that the Panel was personally part of an unconstitutional scheme.

Harry now has a choice. To proceed with his hearing on the merits on the charges of bad character against him with witnesses scheduled to be called on the next hearing date of September 6, 2011…or to seek an order from the Divisional Court of the Superior Court of Justice to force Blight to hear his constitutional argument. He is now mulling over his options. A decision as to what course he will take will be made in a few days.

Source: Harry Kopyto blog


July 18, 2011 permalink

On Saturday July 16 a motorcade for accountability and transparency ran from Kitchener to Hamilton. Police were friendly, even assisting the group through some intersections. Here are some photos. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]

A press report is below.



Protesters demand ombud oversight of children’s aid societies

Mary Najdzion-Gagnon
Children_s Aid protest Mary Najdzion-Gagnon, centre, is among a group protesting children's aid societies in Ontario. On Saturday, the group towed 12 white coffins through Kitchener and Cambridge, representing children who died under the care of children's aid societies.
Janek Lowe/Record staff

WATERLOO REGION — Child advocates are frustrated with what they say is a lack of accountability within the children’s aid societies in Ontario.

About a dozen protestors towed white coffins — which they said represented children who have died while under the care of provincial children’s aid agencies — from Kitchener to Cambridge and on to Hamilton on Saturday.

“There’s no oversight of children’s aid agencies,” protester Vern Beck said while stopped outside the Cambridge office of Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region.

Beck said Ontario is the only province in Canada without ombud oversight into children’s aid societies, and said an independent review of complaints is needed “for a start” toward accountability.

Children’s aid societies are treated as private institutions in Ontario. Ontario ombud André Marin does not have a mandate to investigate complaints of the system.

A private member’s bill failed in the provincial legislature in May. It called for ombud oversight into children’s aid societies, universities, hospitals, long-term care homes, school boards and retirement homes.

At the end of June, Marin wrote an editorial in the Toronto Star stating that the office of the ombud should have the power to investigate complaints made against the agencies.

“Since I first raised the issue in the spring of 2006, and counting the cases I’ll be reporting on today, we have received a total of 2,587 complaints about children’s aid societies. That’s more than 2,500 people we have been unable to help,” Marin wrote.

Local protester Catherine Frei said that, in response to the failed private member’s bill, their protest and about a dozen other similar protests around Ontario are trying to bring public awareness to the lack of oversight of Ontario’s 53 children’s aid societies.

Frei, 38 of Kitchener, had her son taken away by children’s aid for more than 700 days. She said she was frustrated that she had to “jump through hoops and jump through more hoops, and just when you think you’ve done everything to satisfy, (the society) throws something else at you.”

Now a Wilfrid Laurier University student, Frei said the independent review could help expose the failures in the system, which she said are made worse by a lack of registered social workers in front-line positions.

Karen Spencer, director of client services at Waterloo Region Family and Children’s Services, said registration with the Ontario College of Social Workers is not required for the child-protection workers at the agency, “it’s an individual decision.”

Spencer said employees are hired with a variety of social science university degrees and are put through training specific to child-protection work.

“Individual workers don’t make critical decisions on their own, they’re always made in consultation with a supervisor,” Spencer said.

There is also a review board, the Child and Family Services Review Board, that Spencer said is made up of “an independent panel” which hears complaints.

“That board really has no teeth,” Frei said. “They can make recommendations, but it’s not necessarily something they’re forced to adopt.

“Nobody wants to shut the children’s aid down, it’s very necessary,” Frei said.

“But there has to be checks and balances, and there aren’t.”

Source: The Record

Addendum: The same paper has a letter by Anne Patterson and an opinion piece on CAS.



Vulnerable children need ombud’s help

Re: Ombud oversight for children’s aid societies sought — July 18

Thank you for covering the rally to bring ombud oversight to the 53 Children’s Aid Societies.

I have advocated for this important measure for years. The Ontario ombud, as an independent investigative body, has been instrumental in reviewing matters where the government can improve. Ombud Andre Marin has probed various institutions including Ontario’s local health integration networks, the Workplace Safety Insurance Board, and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

The Liberals have refused this oversight, and the Conservatives have backtracked on the issue as well. The New Democrats have been steadfast in wanting this measure to be implemented.

Many of the ombud’s recommendations have led to policy changes that benefit Ontario citizens. Why then would such a formidable, important and helpful office be denied in its attempt to help the most precious and vulnerable in our society? If the Ontario ombud can probe lottery tickets, surely the welfare of innocent children should be included in the ombud’s mandate as an unbiased office.

Anne Patterson


Source: The Record

A better watchdog for children’s aid

In about a dozen cities across the province this spring and summer, protesters have taken to the streets to bring public attention to the fact that Ontario is the only province in the country that does not allow its ombud to oversee children’s aid societies.

The issue has been coming up for more than 35 years, from sitting ombuds, and from successive private members’ bills, to no avail.

“These are highly important and emotional and technical matters that involve our children,” Child and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten told the legislature as recently as May. The government prefers to leave the oversight to a little-known body called the Child and Family Services Review Board, which it says has the expertise to deal with such highly charged questions.

But the review board only deals with procedural matters: rather than review say, an allegation of abuse of a child under a society’s care, the board would either dismiss the complaint or order the Children’s Aid Society in question to respond. As well, the board will only consider complaints from only those who directly seek or receive services from a child protection agency; a grandparent or concerned neighbour, for instance, would be unable to appeal to the review board. An ombud can also take the larger view, highlighting trends or system-wide issues, rather than merely issuing decisions on individual cases.

The current ombud, André Marin, says his office has received more than 2,500 complaints about refusals to adequately investigate allegations of abuse or neglect, about concerns in the way children have been removed from a home, complaints about the care of children under the supervision of a children’s aid society, about inaccurate records or harassing behaviour by society staff.

There is no doubt the staff at children’s aid societies are committed professionals who perform a vital yet very difficult job under circumstances that are often fraught with emotion. That fact does not, however, erase the need for a transparent, easily accessible, arm’s-length system of oversight to which people can turn if they aren’t happy with the services they’ve received.

The province spends $1.4 billion a year on protecting some 18,000 vulnerable children through the services of 53 children’s aid societies. Such a broad function, consuming a significant amount of tax dollars, requires a clear system of oversight.

In 2009, the province set up a Commission to Promote Sustainable Child Welfare, which is set to report in the fall of 2012. As a minimum, the commission should clarify what Marin calls the “somewhat murky status quo.”

The thousands of complaints that have made their way to Marin’s office, and the protesters speaking out across the province, are abundant evidence that the current system, despite the minister’s bland assurances, is inadequate.

Source: The Record

Ruined by Foster Care

July 18, 2011 permalink

Paul Williams

Paul Williams, now 42 years old, posted the story of his years in foster care with the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto.



Paul Williams When I was a young boy I was taken from my parents, who werent the best at providing a stable environment. I keep running away from home and finally during the early winter months of 1975, I was taken, from a police station to a group home administered by the Catholic Childrens Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto. Well almost right from the get go I was subject to, corporal punishment by an older boy, who was the son of the people who ran the group home. The older boy would come to pick me up from school and as it was known I was a runner, if the older boy couldnt find me, hed get upset. When he did find me, hed beat the backs of my hands with a ruler. This occurred until I was put into a Group home, which was run by a black man and his family. The black man at the time, Al Harris was also employed by Earlscourt Childrens Services. While in this home I was also abused physically by three of the older boys in the home, Joey, Shane and Walter. Joey and Shane came one time with Walter into my room, loaded up with paper clips, kept shooting me and had Walter, who was 16 at the time, pull down his pants, Joey and Shane kept shooting at my face and head, until I took Walters penis in my mouth. It wasnt the only form of bullying I took at the hands of Joey and Shane, but it was so long ago I cant remember every event. As I was still a runner, disappearing from the group home, Al Harris would send Walter to pick me up at whatever police station I was at. Whenever Walter came to get me he would beat me with his leather belt.

One time after returning to the group home from a visit home, Walter took off his belt and in front of Joey, Shane and Al Harriss daughter beat my bare bottom so many times I lost count. I was in the Al Harris Group Home, until a space opened up in the Earlscourt Childrens Center. Nothing untoward occurred at the center, while I was there. In 1978 I was sent to foster home ran by Wayne Cubitt, on Airport Road south of Stayner Ontario. It was here that the worst of the abuses took place. There were two other boys in the home, Ralph Mitchell and Richard Simonato. Ralph was 16 and Richard was 13. Richard was the perpetrator of a lot of sexual and physical abuse, Ralph witnessed some of the physical abuse, such as Richard whipping me with branches from a willow tree, the pushing me to the ground, grabbing my feet and bending me over stomping on my back. Ralph had to warn him not to do that, or hed break my back. Other times Richard would have a way to get my mouth open and place 9-volt batteries on my tongue. Another time Richard tied a tea towel around my mouth so tight I started choking, couldnt breathe and vomited. When no one was around Richard would play with me, hed take his pants off, make me take mine off and would have me lie on top of him, and then hed go through the motions of intercourse. One time he had me lie down with my pants off in an old chicken coup. He then got on top of me and went through the motions of intercourse and then urinated on me. I eventually told Ralph what was happening and then told Wayne Cubitt. Wayne laid a beating on him and several days later Richard was taken out of the home by the Stayner OPP. Other things also went on such as, being forced to do work on the farm I was not physically capable of doing. Wayne Cubitt also one day in front of Ralph Mitchell kicked me several times, while wearing steel toed boots. The Cubitts, also rarely bought me clothes, I was going to school in the winter with running shoes with holes in them and clothes that were also in a similar state. My mother actually had to take me shopping and get me new shoes and clothes that were fit to wear. She eventually had to tell the Catholic Children's Aid that she wasnt taken me back there again, if something wasnt done.

In the spring of 1980, or 81 I was taken out of the Cubitts and placed in a foster home ran by Alvin Schultz. This foster home, I have fond memories of, was treated right and not subjected to any form of abuse. After being released from the Crown Wardship with the CCAS, I was really screwed up; I couldnt stay in school, or hold a job for any length of time, frequently going back and forth between the two. I got into trouble with the law. At 16 years old, after hijacking the TTC Subway, I was in real trouble, that incident actually made the newspaper the Toronto Sun. I have been in and out of jobs most of my life, made a little progress with school, have been in the hospital several times for psychological problems, have trouble with relationships and have had problems with my sexuality. I havent abused anyone, but have found it uncomfortable to be around children. I babysat my nephew a couple of times, and having to have to give him a bath, felt very self conscious, uncomfortable and still had to wash him. But I got through that and later as he grew older, wed constantly tell him that no one was allowed to touch him inappropriately.

I did after going through court ordered anger management, report Richard Simonato to the Stayner OPP.

He received 188 extra days in jail and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board awarded me $9000 for pain and suffering, plus put aside another $5000 towards covering the cost of any future medical costs I would incur if I needed counseling. I retained counsel (Gordon Vadum, Q.C.) to represent me with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. The worker, who was involved with me at the time, was concerned enough, when the charges came out against Richard Simonato, to pay me a visit. Howard Otterbien, who was my worker back when I was at the Cubitts farm, admitted they knew Richard Simonato was a bully. But yet they placed me with this monster and with the Cubitts never seeming to be around to supervise, placed me in a position where I was personally damaged and have never recovered. I never received any counselling while I was in the Catholic Childrens Aid Society, for the events that occurred at the Cubitts farm in the years I spent in care afterwards. Today Im on Ontario Disability Support Plan, my family doctor, Dr. Howard Jay was responsible for getting me on it. I didnt react well to stress, was on medication for the longest time, and cant find a job, never graduated High School. Now at 42, have given up on having a meaningful productive life. The Catholic Childrens Aid of Metropolitan Toronto has never helped me out with counseling, compensation for their part in the neglect in seeing to my safety and well being, which was the whole point with me being placed in the Aid to begin with. How many other kids placed in homes administered by the Catholic Childrens Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, suffered the same fate ? When are the Childrens Aid Societies, going to accept the responsibility that they have dropped the ball, offer an apology and compensation, then clean up the system, in which children are often abused, bullied and sometimes killed when under their care? How many victims have psychological problems which were/are untreated, have unproductive lives, have committed, or attempted suicide are going to suffer because of this? And why is it so hard, to sue them for the damages of their neglect?

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Protecting While Intoxicated

July 17, 2011 permalink

Renfrew CAS worker Cynthia Racine has been charged with drunk driving. She had two children in her car at the time.



Family case worker charged with drunk driving

Woman allegedly travelling with two children in car

A case worker with Family and Children Services of Renfrew County was allegedly travelling with two children in her car when she was arrested for drunk driving.

Renfrew County OPP received a traffic complaint last Friday around 4 p.m. about a driver on Elgin Street in Arnprior.

The driver of the car was arrested after she was given a breathalyzer test.

Cynthia Racine, 32, was charged with driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.

Reached at home, Racine refused to comment.

Arijana Tomicic, Family and Children Services of Renfrew County executive director, said she can’t speak specifically about the case, citing privacy concerns.

Tomicic wouldn’t say if Racine has been suspended from her job.

In most cases, an employee facing criminal charges would be suspended with pay until court proceedings are complete, Tomicic said.

“This is not taken lightly and this situation is not a usual situation that we have to deal with,” Tomicic said. “My responsibility and the responsibility of the agency is towards the children and the number one priority is to ensure their safety.”

Tomicic would not confirm if the two children in the car were Crown wards.

Source: Ottawa Citizen


Cynthia Racine will have her first appearance Wednesday, August 10 at the Pembroke Superior Court House, 31 Riverside Dr, Pembroke, ON K8A 8R6 for the charge of impaired.

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

There is a rally planned for the date of her court appearance.

Below is a request for information on the case.



July 19, 2011

Arijana Tomicic
Executive Director
Family and Children Services of Renfrew County
77 Mary Street Suite 100
Pembroke Ontario K8A 5V4

Phone: 613-735-6866
Fax: 613-735-6641
Toll Free: 1-800-267-5878

Subject: Cynthia Racine

Sent by email and Canada Post


An article in the Ottawa Citizen, copied at the end of this letter, indicates that a caseworker for your society was charged with drunk driving.

While I understand you mission to protect children prevents you from discussing children in your care, I have a question unrealted to any particular case which I hope you will be able to answer. Is Cynthia Racine still working as part of your society, or has she been suspended pending the resolution of the charges of impaired driving? If she has not been suspended, is she still acting as a caseworker, or have her duties been altered?

Thank you for your attention.

Robert T McQuaid
558 McMartin Road
Mattawa Ontario P0H 1V0

phone: 705-744-6274
email: rtmq at

The reply sets a record for unresponsiveness.



Family and Children's Services, Country of Renfrew, logo

Family and Children's Services
County of Renfrew

September 28, 2011

Robert T. McQuaid
558 McMartin Road
Mattawa, Ontario P0H 1V0

Dear Mr. McQuaid:

Re: Cynthia Racine

Thank you for your letter dated July 19, 2011 and bringing your concerns to our attention. Please note that Ms. Racine's case is currently before the court.

I can reassure you that our internal processes focus on children, their safety and well being. We strive to ensure that our processes are fair, respectful and communicate care to all involved, acknowledging that our priority will always remain children.


Arijana Tomicic signature

Arijana Tomicic, M.S.W.
Executive Director


Copies to: Lynn Lavery, Director of Investigation, Assessment and Legal Services

Arijana Tomicic, M.S.W. - Executive Director
77 Mary Street, Pembroke, Ontario K8A 5V4 Telephone (613) 735-6866 Fax (613) 735-6641
(Branch) 331 Martin Street, Renfrew, Ontario K7V 1A1 Telephone (613) 432-4821 Fax (613) 432-9278
Winning Kids Centre, 464 Isabella Street, Pembroke, Ontario K8A 5T9 Telephone (613) 735-6866 Fax (613) 635-4640

Here is the registration information for Cynthia Racine, in photocopy and text, below.



Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers Register

Racine, Cynthia Carolyn Mary

Registration #: 215565

Work Address: Renfrew County Family & Children's Services
131 Martin St.
Renfrew, ON K7V 1A1
Work Telephone: (800) 267-5878
Class of Certificate of Registration:General social work General social service work
Terms, Conditions and Limitations: None None
Notations: None Certificate Cancelled on June 22, 2001
Professional Corporations: None

End of Report:

Pat Niagara has donated two photo comments [1] [2].

Foster Alumna Murdered

July 17, 2011 permalink

Margarita Shumakova
Margarita Shumakova
Click image for bigger picture

Source: Durham Regional Police Service

Former foster girl Margarita Shumakova has been found murdered near Uxbridge Ontario. The story below gives the memories of her friend in foster care.



Slain teen's friend remembers gentle girl


Margarita Shumakova wasn’t like the other girls in the foster home.

When her long-time friend, Isys McKoy met the 14-year-old Shumakova she knew instantly she had found a friend.

“She was this sweet little Russian girl,” says McKoy, now 20, of that time about four years ago. “She wasn’t tough like the other girls there. I wasn’t either and that drew us together.”

The two girls only stayed in the Toronto-area foster home for a short time, returning back to their own separate homes once some typical teenager family issues could be ironed out with their mothers.

Although Shumakova and McKoy lived apart, their friendship stayed as strong as ever.

But word from a friend earlier this week that a body found on the side of a rural road near Uxbridge was Shumakova gave McKoy a horrible shock.

The 18 year old hadn’t been seen since Canada Day weekend when she disappeared after last being seen around 1 a.m. on July 3 outside City Nightclub on Richmond St. W. in Toronto.

“She wasn’t a friend to me, she was family, McKoy says. “Margarita was two years younger than me so she called me ‘big sister’ and I called her little sister.”

Shumakova was over at her home so much that McKoy’s mother and brother felt like she was a part of the family, she says.

Shumakova was always concerned about her friend’s overly-trusting and excessively caring nature — although, most of the time, it was endearing.

On a family trip to Guelph shortly after the girls met, the McKoys brought Shumakova along.

On that trip, McKoy remembers them taking a walk by themselves one afternoon when Shumakova spotted a wounded bird along the trail.

The tiny bird was scraping its wing on the ground, trying to remove a thistle that was preventing it from flying.

Shumakova, just 14 at the time, was so distraught she was driven to help the creature for over an hour. She insisted on waiting until a man with a Swiss Army knife cut off the thistle, and the little bird flew away free.

“She stood there, watching it fly away, and she cried, “ McKoy says, her voice muffled by tears.

McKoy says it was precisely that innocent sweetness about her friend that she always feared would get her into trouble.

As the years went by, McKoy became a flight attendant, and although she didn’t see Shumakova as much because she was busy with work, she kept tabs on her “little sister” through Facebook.

What she saw made her uncomfortable.

“The people in the photographs she was in looked sketchy and there were photos of her doing things on there that just didn’t seem like her, really. Like there were photos of her getting tattoos,” McKoy says.

McKoy said she was surprised by what she saw on her 18th birthday when Shumakova showed up at the party.

“She didn’t seem like the girl I remember,” McKoy says. “She was speaking differently, like she was more influenced by gangster culture.”

Although McKoy worried, she didn’t want to interfere with Shumakova’s lifestyle.

“She was two years younger than me and I thought it was just a teenage phase she was going through,” she says.

But McKoy received that frantic phone call while she was working as a flight attendant on a trip to Germany. It was from a friend, telling her that Shumakova was dead and her body had been found near Uxbridge.

“I feel like what happened to her was my fault,” McKoy sobs. “She was hanging out with the wrong crowd and because I was older, I should have steered her in the right direction.”

She says she wants her friend to be remembered as the sweet, caring girl she knew and she knows, at heart, she always was.

“She was just so naive,” McKoy says. “It seems impossible to taint something so pure.”

Source: Toronto Sun

Two Bruises, Five Kids

July 17, 2011 permalink

In two cases British child protectors snatch children for trivial reasons, tapping a girl on the arm with a roll of clingfilm or stumbling while carrying a baby. Once they are in foster care, shrinks manufacture evidence to justify permanently severing parent/child connections and the children are placed for adoption.



Child protection system tears two more happy families apart

Two shocking cases of children taken into care on the flimsiest pretexts

mother and child
Mother and child are often torn apart by our system of child protection
Photo: Alamy

The latest official figures show that the number of children being taken into care by social workers (now averaging more than 800 a month) has soared in the past two years by 41 per cent, to its highest ever level. In many of these cases, it seems that children are torn from their parents for no good reason, to such an extent that this has become one of the most disturbing scandals in our country today.

One of many startling features of this system is the remarkably casual grounds often given by social workers for seizing children in the first place, and the peculiar methods then used to justify their actions. Two new cases I have lately been following each began with a trivial incident which was then wildly misrepresented, resulting in the tearing apart of a happy family, and misery for both parents and children.

The first of these cases concerns a responsible mother who holds down an expert job in a law firm. A year ago, she was in the kitchen preparing packed lunches for her two children when her 11-year old daughter kept on interrupting. The mother tapped her daughter on the arm with a roll of clingfilm and told her to go uostairs.

The following day the girl casually mentioned to a teacher that her mother had “hit” her. This was reported to social workers who took her into care, on the grounds that her mother had hit her with an “implement”. They did so under a voluntary “Section 20” agreement, which the mother was prevailed upon to sign – like many other parents before her – in the belief that such a silly misunderstanding would quickly be sorted out and her child would soon return home.

However, the council then paid £14,000 to have the mother “psychiatrically assessed” by an “expert”, who produced a 235-page report which, on astonishingly flimsy and muddled grounds, found she had an undetermined “personality disorder”. On this basis, three days before Christmas, at 11pm, the girl’s nine-year-old brother was also taken into care, provoking such a severe panic attack that an ambulance had to called for him.

His sister, meanwhile, had been put in the care of an unmarried couple, who some months ago booked her to go on a foreign holiday with them outside the EU. Since it would be illegal for the child to be taken abroad by strangers without a full care order or parental responsibility, the social workers have lately been attempting to rush through the necessary legal proceedings - strongly resisted by the mother who is now represented by one of the very few law firms prepared to challenge our family care system

The second of my two cases is remarkably similar. A young mother of three children, married to the father of her youngest, a baby less than a year old, took part in a charity walk with her oldest daughter, aged six. She tripped over, pulling her daughter to the ground, and although the child sustained no more than a graze, reported the incident to the first-aid tent. The child continued going happily to school for several days, but when the mother tried to explain the small mark on her arm to a health visitor (who did not ask the child to comment), social workers arrived, escorted by three policemen, to take all three children into care.

The council commissioned a psychiatric assessment, which found that she was a competent mother. A second report found the same. The social workers then paid for a third report, which described the mother as suffering from a “borderline personality disorder”. Solely on these grounds, a court has now ruled that the three children must be put out for adoption.

In each case, the evidence seems to indicate that the distressed children want only to be reunited with their loving parents. In each case, as in so many others, the council has been able to find an expert to opine that the mother may have some “personality disorder”, a formula as vague as that other favourite of social workers, that a child may be “at risk of emotional harm”.

Most shocking of all is how often, once these damning verdicts have been put on the record, they remain unchallenged, not least by the judges themselves. Thus do such mockeries of justice destroy the lives of all involved – except those responsible for perpetrating the tragedies in the first place.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Confessional Bugged

July 16, 2011 permalink

Laws will soon require Irish priests hearing confessions to report to child protectors. Child protectors have previously solicited or compelled reporting from doctors [1] [2] [3], dentists, teachers, school administrators, school children, parenting coaches, baby-sitters, barbers, librarians Facebook, home repairmen, jilted lovers, and everyone.




Confessional not exempt from rules on reporting abuse

THE sacrament of Confession will not be exempt from rules on mandatory reporting of child abuse, Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald has vehemently insisted.

Amid the fallout from the Cloyne report’s exposure of former bishop John Magee for failing to report abusive priests, the minister reiterated warnings that there will be no exceptions to hardline rules on withholding information about child abuse.

New laws will also require frontline staff working with children taken into state care to investigate historic acts or allegations of abuse.

Health workers and carers will also be required to investigate allegations by adults about abuse that took place during their childhood.

Guidelines launched yesterday on protecting children include commitments to investigate the historic allegations of abuse.

Ms Fitzgerald said no child should ever suffer the evils of abuse as she launched Children First guidelines.

The guidelines include advice for frontline staff such as healthcare workers and gardaí who are alerted to the abuse or neglect of children.

The minister pledged that the guidelines would be enacted into law in the autumn.

Authorities will be required to investigate retrospective abuse disclosures by adults, so as to guard against the alleged perpetrator abusing other children.

Ms Fitzgerald said the recent report on clerical abuse in the diocese of Cloyne showed how society had failed children in the past.

"’My role as minster is to seek that never again will these evils be countenanced," she added.

The legislation will provide that all organisations comply with the Children First guidelines.

Health services, gardaí and care groups will have to share relevant information and co-operate in the best interests of the child.

There will be inspections of groups working with children and the guidelines for the first time highlight bullying as a feature of abuse.

"I want the message to go out that it is absolutely critical that if somebody has, on good faith, reasonable concerns over the abuse or neglect child then those concerns must be reported to the relevant authorities and to this end statutory reporting requirements will be addressed as one aspect of the proposed new Children First legislation," added the minister.

Children support groups welcomed the guidelines and the move to enforce them through legislation.

One in Four said it was an important step that historic allegations of abuse would have to be investigated under the new rules.

"Our clients are mainly adults who were sexually abused in childhood.

"The people who sexually abused them are often still living in the community and continue to pose a risk to children," explained executive director Maeve Lewis.

Gardaí said the guidelines would ensure there was no gap between services involved in protecting children.

Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne said members of the force would be trained in the new rules.

He added: "The brutal and ugly reality is that there are people in the community who seek to hurt and abuse children."

Barnardos called for the laws backing up the guidelines to be passed as soon as possible.

The guidelines also have expanded the definition of physical abuse to include slapping.

The responsibilities of schools, hospitals, mental health services, GPs and the HSE are also set out in the guidelines.

Other areas covered include guidance on allegations against employers, on interviewing children, as well as advice on investigating cases where the victim and alleged abuser are both children.

A handbook for services on the guidelines will be launched for services in the autumn to coincide with the new laws.

Youth Work Ireland, which vets thousands of staff and volunteers, also welcomed the new guidelines.

Abuse alert

THE list of guidelines to protect children describes the types of abuse that professionals working withchildren should be aware of.

These include emotional abuse, physical abuse, beating, slapping, hitting or kicking, terrorising with threats and suffocation.

Other types of abuse that gardaí and care workers are to watch for include signs or allegations of sexual abuse, including the child being exposed to sexual organs or being touched or molested.

Frontline staff investigating cases are also warned to look for signs that the child has been neglected.

Signs of abuse in general can be physical, behavioural or developmental.

Other signs a child has been abused include if they engage in abnormal sexual play, abscond from home or a care centre or if they attempt suicide.

HSE services should always be contacted when signs of abuse are noticed and only health professionals should interview a child about the issues.

The guidelines warn about the importance of intervention in a family where there are signs of abuse.

"Sympathy for families in difficult circumstances can sometimes dilute personal or professional concerns about the safety and welfare of children. However, the protection and welfare of the child must always be the paramount concern," the guidelines state.

"It is the responsibility of all agencies working with children and for the public to recognise child protection concerns and share these with the agencies responsible for assessing or investigating them, not to determine whether the child protection concerns are evidenced or not."

Source: Irish Examiner

confessional cartoon

Klees on Oversight

July 16, 2011 permalink

Anne Patterson has provided the text of a letter from Frank Klees on the subject of ombudsman oversight of CAS. Mr Klees favored bill 183 when it came up in the legislature, but if the Progressive Conservatives are elected to govern Ontario in October, don't expect them to enact legislation enabling the ombudsman. Mr Klees says ministers are elected and appointed to provide oversight and to hold agencies of the government accountable.

Under the previous Tory government from 1995 to 2003, children's aid doubled in size by three measures, budget, number of children and caseworkers. That same government orchestrated an extraordinary legislative session on May 3, 1999, the day before parliament was prorogued, in which the entire legislative process to amend the Child and Family Services Act was compressed into a single session. The abruptness of this procedure prevented the public at large from participating in the debate, or even knowing about it until it was too late. When it was all over, we learned that the bill greatly expanded the number of reasons for children's aid to take children from families. The Tory history suggests that they, as well as the Liberals, could benefit from an independent watchdog to ensure that government hears the concerns of families, and not just those of social work professionals.



Thank you for your email in which you ask me to clarify my comments concerning oversight of the CAS by the Ombudsman. As you rightly point out, I supported Bill 183 during debate in the legislature. I did so, because I share the frustrations of many in our province over the failings of the McGuinty government to live up to its responsibility to provide proper oversight of agencies such as the CAS. In the context of the McGuinty government's unwillingness to provide the necessary oversight, I and my colleagues supported the call for oversight by the Ombudsman.

I maintain however, that this should not be necessary if Cabinet Ministers would do their job. After all, they are elected and appointed to provide oversight and to hold agencies of the government accountable. As I stated to the media, it should not take an officer of the legislature to do what MPPs and ministers of the crown are elected to do. If they fail to do so, then the only recourse is to refer that responsibility to the Ombudsman.

My hope is that a PC government will have the opportunity to provide the oversight we agree is necessary for agencies such as the CAS...

Source: Anne Patterson

Get Dunn

July 15, 2011 permalink

John Dunn, who has spent years trying to alter the policies of Ottawa children's aid through purely legal means, today received a legal threat from a lawyer representing CAS Ottawa. CAS is complaining that the name of one of their clients appears on Mr Dunn's blog or website. According to a Google search, the offending phrase Sophie N.D. does not appear on Mr Dunn's blog or his website,, nor can it be found by searching The complaint has no basis in fact.



Ottawa CAS Possibly Retaliating Against Dunn for his Prosecution Against Them

It appears the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa is posturing to take retaliatory legal action against John Dunn for him initiating a prosecution against them earlier.

On Friday July 15, 2011 Dunn received the following e-mail from the senior legal counsel of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa, Tracy Engelking.

Dear Mr. Dunn:

A member of the staff of the CAS has noted on your website or blog information pertaining to Sophie N.D. I am not sure which as I do not access either. The information includes the name of the individual, the name of the individual's child, and several references to court proceedings and the Ottawa CAS related to this individual and child. Please remove it forthwith.

Tracy Engelking
Senior Counsel
CAS Ottawa

Dunn notes that a legal database named "CANLII" which is self-described as being "recognized as the largest Web resource providing access to legal documents from Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments for both legal practitioners and the general public" regularly publishes the first names of Children's Aid Society clients including the initials of those clients last names, the initials of the children and the foster parents, the intimate details of the court cases and the towns in which these clients live.

He also notes that the Society has made public photographs, video, and the names of individuals who are foster parents and foster children via television, Internet, and news paper.

Dunn responded to the Society's e-mail by saying "I read the post over and note that it contains the name "Sophie X" but does not mention any name of any child. Can you please explain why this needs to be removed?"

Source: Foster Care News (John Dunn)

Foster Abuse Numbers Faked

July 15, 2011 permalink

British Columbia representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says for years the province under-reported abuse of children in the care of MCFD. Because of recent corrections to procedures, the reported rate of foster abuse has tripled.



Injuries to children in care under-reported in B.C., representative’s report says

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s representative for children and youth says the number of critical injuries reported to her office has more than tripled since the ministry began in March to submit all relevant cases.
Photograph by: John McKay, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - The Ministry of Children and Family Development has been drastically under-reporting cases in which children were seriously injured while receiving government help, a new report shows .

Representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the number of critical injuries reported to her office has more than tripled since the ministry began in March to submit all relevant cases.

Before that, the ministry failed to report a wide range of files that Turpel-Lafond’s office believed qualified as critical injuries, including sexual assaults and incidents of abuse or neglect in foster homes.

The issue came to a head last fall when the ministry kept Turpel-Lafond’s office in the dark about the case of a 15-year-old developmentally disabled girl who was left alone with her mother’s corpse for up to seven days.

The ministry denied the girl, who had been receiving government services, suffered a reportable injury, despite the fact she was dehydrated, filthy and covered in a rash when found by neighbours.

Turpel-Lafond learned of the case through the media and said the girl’s emotional trauma alone constituted a critical injury.

She issued a report last December urging improvements and citing other troubling cases that were never reported to her office. In one case, a child suffered serious sexual assaults and incest at the hands of her father, while in another, a caregiver shared drugs with a 17-year-old and engaged him in sexual activity.

The ministry’s failure to report those and other cases resulted in an inaccurate portrayal of what was happening in the child welfare system at the time, John Greschner, chief investigator with the representative’s office, said Thursday.

“We certainly therefore didn’t have a good picture,” he said. “And what’s lost is several years of us looking at those [cases], and doing reviews on them.”

Children’s Minister Mary McNeil said her office took steps in March to improve reporting, which led to the recent surge in cases. From Feb. 1 to May 31, the representative’s office received reports on 123 critical injuries to children and youth who were either in care or receiving government services. The office received just 35 reports over the same period in 2010.

McNeil said the increase reflects the ministry’s efforts to provide the representative with as much information as she needs. “I think we’re erring on the side of caution by giving them lots,” she said.

McNeil said she agrees that more should have been provided to Turpel-Lafond’s office in the past, but staff were relying on a narrower definition than is used now.

Greschner said the ministry and representative’s office are working together to clarify reporting policies. “There’s still work to be done, but we’re reasonably satisfied that we’re receiving all of the relevant cases,” he said.

NDP children’s critic Claire Trevena expressed alarm at both the number and seriousness of cases that went unreported for years. “If the ministry didn’t think that those were a critical injury for a child in care, I find that actually inconceivable,” she said. “And secondly that those figures can cause a tripling in figures reported to the representative, it really is very, very worrying.”

Greschner said the representative’s office is assessing the effect the rise in reported cases will have on its workload. Each case has to be screened to see whether it warrants a review, a full investigation, or inclusion in an aggregate review that identifies and analyzes trends in injuries or deaths.

“It is quite a dramatic increase,” he said.

McNeil said her office took steps in March to improve reporting, which led to the recent surge in cases. From Feb. 1 to May 31, the representative’s office received reports on 123 critical injuries to children and youth who were either in care or receiving government services. The office received just 35 reports over the same period in 2010.

Thursday’s report was the latest on child death and injury statistics from Turpel-Lafond’s office. The figures are updated every four months.

Source: Vancouver Sun

Rubber Stamp

July 14, 2011 permalink

Previously when we referred to courts rubber-stamping requests by social workers it was a figure of speech. No more. The warrant to pick up the daughter of Maryanne Godboldo had a rubber stamp in the signature block.



Was the order removing Godboldo's daughter from her custody valid?

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Detroit mother accused of firing a gun and holding police at bay after they came to take her daughter was in court Thursday.

The judge postponed the preliminary hearing for Maryanne Godboldo – but Action News Investigator Heather Catallo is digging into a key claim that arose today in court: was the order used to take the child valid?

The Investigators have been taking a close look at how child protective services workers take children away from the parents. The attorney in the Godboldo case is now claiming the signature on this order was rubber stamped – and she’s not sure it was the judge who actually stamped it.

Maryanne Godboldo’s attorney says when a CPS caseworker came to take her 13 year old daughter in March – Godboldo demanded to see the court order authorizing the child’s removal from her home. Allison Folmar says her client never got a good look at the order before the situation spiraled out of control, with allegations that Godboldo fired a shot, followed by a lengthy police standoff.

Now Folmar is saying the order isn’t valid.

“The order was never verified; it was never confirmed as to whether or not this is actually an order. The police met the CPS worker on the street, she hands them a piece of paper that is not officially filed with the county, it has a rubber stamp, and it’s not completely filled out,” said Folmar

Folmar says Godboldo came to the attention of CPS because she decided to stop giving her daughter anti-psychotic medication that Godboldo believed was harming the girl. Folmar says there’s no indication that the caseworker ever presented a judge with evidence that the child needed to be on the drugs, and she’s arguing that if the order to take the child is invalid, the police had no right to enter Godboldo’s home.

“We know there’s a child in the home, who is presumed to be mentally compromised – why do you kick the door in? Why do you scare the child and the mother? Let’s use the least amount of force first,” said Folmar

The Action News Investigators obtained this copy of the order that sparked the standoff. Folmar points out that the caseworker claims on the order that Godboldo had “numerous” referrals in the last year to CPS for “medical neglect” – Godboldo’s attorneys know of only one. It appears the caseworker checked contradicting boxes on the order – stating both that reasonable efforts to “prevent removal of the child from the home were not made” and that they were made. So which is it? Folmar says the date stamp for when the order was supposedly filed is invalid – it should be an official stamp from the Wayne County Clerk.

And Folmar points out that this alleged signature from the judge is a rubber stamp signature – which she says is not supposed to be used on these removal orders. That’s the same rubber stamp issue that’s at stake in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade case that the Action News Investigators exposed in May. In that case Christopher Ratte mistakenly gave his son, Leo, alcoholic lemonade at a Tiger’s game. The ACLU is suing the state agency which oversees CPS – and the ACLU says CPS workers put Leo into foster care using an invalid order with the “electronic signature of a judge ‘affixed’” to the order.

“The practice as we understand it, and as we understand happened in this case, is a caseworker rubber stamps a judge’s signature on these orders, and that to us is another indication that it’s a system gone awry, and there’s not enough checks and balances,” said ACLU Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg.

The ACLU lawsuit claims that Detroit police have an on-going practice of helping CPS case workers remove children without valid court orders. And this question of what's called judicial review is a big deal - if judges are not actually hearing the evidence to remove a child from the home, legal experts tell us that's unconstitutional. This one of many issues that will be challenged in this case. Maryanne Godboldo will be back in court on July 25, 2011. So far, CPS officials are not commenting on this.

Source: WXYZ Detroit

Addendum: Testimony reveals the identity of the person wielding the rubber stamp. It was Mia Wenk, qualified by a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, three weeks on the case and one year on the job with a brief period of on-the-job training. No mention of mothering know-how.




Maryanne Godboldo and Roger Hakim
Parents of Ariana, Maryanne Godboldo and Roger Hakim, leave court after earlier hearing

Probation officers routinely stamp Family Court judge’s signature

DETROIT – Children are routinely being removed from their homes in Wayne County on the word of a state worker with a bachelor’s degree, and a Wayne County Family Court probation officer who stamps Presiding Judge Leslie Kim Smith’s signature on a court order without her authorization. The judge never even sees the order or accompanying documentation.

Ariana Godboldo's home
Ariana Godboldo's home on Blaine, in a neighborhood that is 98.6 percent Black, where 31% of the residents live below the poverty level.

That was the testimony of Vikki Kapanowski, Juvenile Intake interim supervisor, on Aug. 1 in the Ariana Godboldo case. Detroit police, along with a Special Response Team including tanks, helicopters and assault weapons, removed the frightened 13-year-old child from her home March 24 as a result of such an order.

Her mother faces criminal charges for resisting what she and her attorneys say was an illegal home invasion and seizure of the child.

Attorneys for Maryanne Godboldo and Mubarak Hakim, Ariana’s parents, were outraged.

Wanda Evans
Atty. Wanda Evans

“It was the intent of the legislature, to ensure the protection of families, to make sure that the judge has reviewed and signed the order on their own, not to leave that responsibility to a referee or probation officer, ” argued Wanda Evans, co-counsel for Ariana’s mother.

Under state law, she said, probation officers must be officially sworn in as referees to function in that capacity, and referees can only make recommendations. Referees must also have law licenses.

She referenced the state Probate Code, 712 A.10, which reads as follows:

Probate code of 1939

Adam Shakoor and Elaine Steele
Attorney Adam Shakoor with Rosa Parks' long-time friend Elaine Steele

“It is the fundamental right of the parent to have custody of their child and raise their child,” co-counsel and well-known Detroit attorney Adam Shakoor chimed in. “This was an improper protective custody order, and everything that flows from it is void. To get to the point where the law allows the seizure of a child, the rights of the parent have to be protected. The court is left with no other option than to quash the order.”

Kapanowski testified that one of three probation officers on her staff designated to do so reviews petitions for removal submitted by CPS workers.

“Once they are convinced there are sufficient grounds, they issue protective orders,” Kapanowski said. “Then they are file stamped and stamped with the presiding judge’s signature.”

Wenk home
Wenk home in Flushing, a suburb of Flint which is 94.6 % white and has a 4.7 % poverty level

She said a probation officer named Marcia Hurst stamped Wayne County Family Court Presiding Judge Leslie Kim Smith’s signature on the petition to remove Ariana Godboldo March 24. Although the order provided 30 days for execution, Wenk went to Godboldo’s home on Blaine immediately and called 911 to summon police.

Kapanowski also testified that her staff members have not been sworn in to function as referees and have no law licenses.

In the Godboldo case, the worker, Mia Wenk, had a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, three weeks on the case and one year on the job with a brief period of on-the-job training. State regulations provide that a probation officer “may” have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Asst. state AG Deborah Carley

Assistant state attorney general Deborah Carley argued several times that unproven allegations that Maryanne Godboldo fired a shot at the police were sufficient to override any flaws in the court order, and cited an unpublished Court of Appeals decision. She said the probation officer was designated as a referee, ignoring Kapanowski’s testimony to the contrary.

Attorney Roger Farinha, who represents Ariana’s father, angrily denounced her references to the gunshot.

“If the attorney general can argue such an issue, than I can argue that nothing shows that they can medically treat a child,” Farinha said. “There is no doctor’s letter in the file. They can’t take a child and warehouse her to experiment on her.”

Roger Farinha
Atty. Roger Farinha

The chief reason Wenk cited for Ariana Godboldo’s removal was her mother’s decision to take her off the psychotropic drug Risperdal, which many medical professionals have said is dangerous. The consent form Maryanne Godboldo signed when she agreed to have her child take the drug specified that she had the right to take her off it at any time.

Family Court Judge Lynne A. Pierce struck Carly’s statements related to the alleged gunshot, but upheld her other arguments.

In ruling that the order was valid, and disallowing testimony on its legality in the upcoming jury trial, set for Aug. 2, Pierce also ignored Kapanowski’s testimony that her staff was not authorized to function as referees.

Lynne A Pierce
Family Court Judge Lynne A. Pierce

She said state law authorizes a referee to review and approve petitions for removal of children.

“Based on CPS/DHS’s provision of a petition with allegations under MCR 3.963, and that the allegations were made to a referee and the fact that the statute allows non-judicial action, the court finds the written order stamped with the judge’s signature by the referee/probation officer authorized DHS to enter the premises.”

That rule , MCR 3.963 (B) Court-Ordered Custody, reads in part:

(1) The court may issue a written order authorizing a child protective services worker, an officer, or other person deemed suitable by the court to immediately take a child into protective custody when, upon presentment of proofs as required by the court, the judge or referee has reasonable grounds to believe that conditions or surroundings under which the child is found are such as would endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the child and that remaining in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child.”

Part A of the section allows a child to be taken without a court order under extraordinary circumstances, but in this case, a court order was used as the pretext for Ariana’s removal.

Pierce also ruled that an amended order to remove Ariana Godboldo would be the only one allowed into testimony at the trial, not the original order that led to her removal.

Pierce home in Grosse Pointe Woods, which is 99.1 % white and has a poverty rate of 3.1%

Pierce would have had to reverse her own after-the-fact ruling in a subsequent show cause hearing if she had granted the defense motion to quash the original order.

Pierce also refused to allow the hiring of Attorney Michael Bishai to represent Ariana Godboldo, in addition to current court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem Daniel McGuire. Bishai said he wanted to represent the child to safeguard her legal rights to remain with her family and not to be medicated against her will or their will.

After Ariana was taken, she was placed in Hawthorne Psychiatric Hospital in Northville and medicated with Risperdal along with three other drugs until attorneys for her mother obtained a court order from Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt barring the forced medication.

Pierce denied Bishai’s request to represent Ariana, but said he could act as co-counsel for her mother.

Source: Voice of Detroit

Addendum: Criminal charges against Maryanne Godboldo have been dismissed, but that does not put her family back together.



Charges dismissed against Maryanne Godboldo, mom involved in police standoff over care of daughter

DETROIT (WXYZ) - All charges have been dismissed against the Detroit mother who was involved in a standoff with Detroit Police over the care of her daughter.

Godboldo faced a series of charges stemming from the 10-hour barricaded standoff that took place last March. She was accused of firing a shot at police after Child Protective Services case workers showed up at her door to take custody of her 13-year-old daughter.

CPS alleged that Godboldo was not administering the correct medication to her daughter. The 13-year-old is disabled and has a reduced mental capacity.

Godboldo denies she fired at police and says caseworkers had no right to remove her daughter.

Maryanne Godboldo’s attorney says when a CPS caseworker came to take her 13-year-old daughter in March – Godboldo demanded to see the court order authorizing the child’s removal from her home. Allison Folmar says her client never got a good look at the order before the situation spiraled out of control, with allegations that Godboldo fired a shot, followed by a lengthy police standoff.

Folmar argued that the order was not valid.

“The order was never verified; it was never confirmed as to whether or not this is actually an order. The police met the CPS worker on the street, she hands them a piece of paper that is not officially filed with the county, it has a rubber stamp, and it’s not completely filled out,” said Folmar.

Folmar says Godboldo came to the attention of CPS because she decided to stop giving her daughter anti-psychotic medication that Godboldo believed was harming the girl. Folmar says there’s no indication that the caseworker ever presented a judge with evidence that the child needed to be on the drugs, and she’s arguing that if the order to take the child is invalid, the police had no right to enter Godboldo’s home.

Source: WXYZ Detroit

rubber stamp: SNATCH KID

Return Ayn

July 14, 2011 permalink

Derek Hoare, the British Columbia father who lost his autistic daughter Ayn to MCFD is getting support from the community for reunification. No support so far from MCFD, but they have drugged Ayn to sedate her.



Support grows for Abbotsford dad trying to get back his autistic daughter

Derek Hoare with sons Wyatt and Lyric
Derek Hoare and his sons Wyatt (left) and Lyric are missing his nine-year-old daughter Ayn, pictured in the foreground, who was taken from the family by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
John Van Putten

An Abbotsford dad said his autistic daughter cried for 18 days straight after she was removed from his care, and he was asked to provide a photo of himself to help calm her down.

Derek Hoare, whose story was first reported June 25 in The News, has been fighting to get back his nine-year-old daughter, Ayn van Dyk, since she was taken by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) on June 16.

Hoare said he was told the ministry was taking Ayn because, as a single father caring for two other children, including a 10-year-old autistic son, he had overwhelming responsibility.

The removal came four days after Ayn had disappeared from their home for three hours, resulting in a search by the Abbotsford Police. She turned up safely in a neighbour’s backyard, but Hoare said the incident was used as an example that he could not properly care for her, and that Ayn’s behaviour was “self-endangering.”

He appeared at a family court hearing on Tuesday – the second scheduled appearance since Ayn’s removal – but was only able to declare that he did not give his consent for his daughter to be in ministry care.

The next court date, when Hoare will be able to present his case, will not be set until at least September.

Hoare said Ayn spent 12 days in hospital after she was taken and is now in a foster home for two to eight weeks while on the waiting list for a more intensive six-week hospital evaluation.

Hoare said a report from her 12-day hospital stay concluded that Ayn showed no evidence of physical abuse or neglect.

It also indicated that she had been medicated to sedate her due to her becoming “profoundly dysregulated and aggressive; biting, kicking, scratching and screaming...”

Hoare said he is adamantly opposed to medicating his daughter, and she did not exhibit this behaviour at home, although he acknowledges that she has outbursts in other environments, particularly school.

He said he received a call from a social worker last week requesting a photo of him that could be given to Ayn, who was upset and had been crying incessantly. Hoare said he is hesitant to visit her, only to leave her again and cause further distress.

“I want to see her, but I think it would permanently damage her.”

Since Hoare’s story was first published, his Facebook page detailing his plight has garnered more than 2,800 supporters. The page is called “Help Bring Little Autistic Girl Back to her Daddy.”

Many of the members are themselves parents who struggle with the challenges of raising an autistic child and have spread Hoare’s story across the Internet.

A petition urging that Ayn be returned to Hoare has so far collected more than 2,300 signatures, and another Facebook page is raising funds for his legal fees.

Hoare said his emotions have ranged from “devastated to very driven,” and he will do everything he can to get Ayn back.

“The love I have for her heals me ... I will fight until I get her home,” he said.

The MCFD does not comment on individual cases.

Source: Abbotsford News

Addendum: A comment of the harshness of waiting months for a court hearing.



Court delays unacceptable

It was easy to see first-hand the misery that is caused by B.C.’s backlogged court system, with two cases in Abbotsford last week.

They are illustrated this week in the case of Derek Hoare, whose nine-year-old autistic daughter Ayn was seized by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development on June 16.

On July 12 he finally got a court hearing on the matter, but only to state that he does not give consent for his daughter to be in ministry care. Later, he will get the opportunity to make his case to have her returned. The earliest opportunity will be September.

So this grieving father, who has learned that his daughter cried for the first 18 days she missed him and is now in a foster home, is forced to wait at least three months before he gets his day in court. Even then, the process is likely to drag on.

It is outrageous for a government ministry to put a family through such heartache without being required to justify its reasons in a timely manner.

The family of Laurel Wilson, who was seven months pregnant when she was struck by a car and killed; and of her father Ralph Jewell, who was killed in the same pedestrian accident; came to Abbotsford on Friday for the sentencing hearing for the man who caused the accident.

Many of the family members took time off work for the hearing, and many travelled from the U.S., hoping to get the closure that a court verdict offers.

Morning cases went longer than expected, and the hearing was put over until Monday. Such delays are routine, and even expected. Yet, despite demand for more courtrooms, judges and courthouse staff, Victoria has passed a budget that will require further cuts.

Source: Kelowna Capital News

Set Up

July 14, 2011 permalink

A mother is engaged in a crown-wardship trial over her three children. During the course of her ordeal with Leeds and Grenville children's aid, they placed her in a room for a one-on-one confrontation with her most objectionable social worker. She managed to end the meeting without fisticuffs. Later the mother learned that there were two policemen waiting just outside the door to arrest her in case the expected scuffle developed.

In parts of the story familiar from other cases, her oldest child has been starved in foster care, and is nearing medical complications from malnutrition. The legal-aid lawyer representing the mother is ineffective and has not even cross-examined adverse witnesses.

Source: conversation with mother

policemen standing by

Spreading Polio

July 13, 2011 permalink

While preaching best interest of the child to justify family destruction, the US has set real child protection back in its war on terror. The US is boasting about a phony vaccination campaign launched in Abbottabad Pakistan in an effort to get doctors inside the suspected residence of Osama bin Laden. There the vaccination needles were supposed to gather blood samples so that DNA tests could identify the children as bin Laden's.

To understand why this is such a setback, watch the TED talk by Bruce Aylward How we'll stop polio for good (local copy mp4). Polio has been nearly eradicated by vaccinating children in the world's poorest countries. One of the obstacles to vaccination is suspicion, sometimes spread by local religious leaders, that vaccination is part of a sinister plot to harm children. Those suspicions just got a big boost from the American war on terror.

Enclosed are two articles, one about the phony vaccination scam, the other discussing the setback to be expected in polio eradication.



CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden's family DNA

Senior Pakistani doctor who organised vaccine programme in Abbottabad arrested by ISI for working with US agents

bin Laden home
Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad
CIA organised fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad to try and find Osama bin Laden.
Photograph: Md Nadeem/EPA

The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.

As part of extensive preparations for the raid that killed Bin Laden in May, CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise the vaccine drive in Abbottabad, even starting the "project" in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic, according to Pakistani and US officials and local residents.

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has since been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for co-operating with American intelligence agents.

Relations between Washington and Islamabad, already severely strained by the Bin Laden operation, have deteriorated considerably since then. The doctor's arrest has exacerbated these tensions. The US is understood to be concerned for the doctor's safety, and is thought to have intervened on his behalf.

The vaccination plan was conceived after American intelligence officers tracked an al-Qaida courier, known as Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, to what turned out to be Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound last summer. The agency monitored the compound by satellite and surveillance from a local CIA safe house in Abbottabad, but wanted confirmation that Bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country.

DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

So agents approached Afridi, the health official in charge of Khyber, part of the tribal area that runs along the Afghan border.

The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B. Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to Bin Laden. Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the Bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children.

Afridi had posters for the vaccination programme put up around Abbottabad, featuring a vaccine made by Amson, a medicine manufacturer based on the outskirts of Islamabad.

In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations, although nurses could have been trained to withdraw some blood in the needle after administrating the drug.

"The whole thing was totally irregular," said one Pakistani official. "Bilal Town is a well-to-do area. Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines? And what is the official surgeon of Khyber doing working in Abbottabad?"

A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.

Mukhtar Bibi, who was unaware of the real purpose of the vaccination campaign, would not comment on the programme.

Pakistani intelligence became aware of the doctor's activities during the investigation into the US raid in which Bin Laden was killed on the top floor of the Abbottabad house. Islamabad refused to comment officially on Afridi's arrest, but one senior official said: "Wouldn't any country detain people for working for a foreign spy service?"

The doctor is one of several people suspected of helping the CIA to have been arrested by the ISI, but he is thought to be the only one still in custody.

Pakistan is furious over being kept in the dark about the raid, and the US is angry that the Pakistani investigation appears more focused on finding out how the CIA was able to track down the al-Qaida leader than on how Bin Laden was able to live in Abbottabad for five years.

Over the weekend, relations were pummelled further when the US announced that it would cut $800m (£500m) worth of military aid as punishment for Pakistan's perceived lack of co-operation in the anti-terror fight. William Daley, the White House chief of staff, went on US television on Sunday to say: "Obviously, there's still a lot of pain that the political system in Pakistan is feeling by virtue of the raid that we did to get Osama bin Laden, something the president felt strongly about and we have no regrets over."

The CIA refused to comment on the vaccination plot.

Source: Guardian (UK)

File Under WTF: Did the CIA Fake a Vaccination Campaign?


A number of years ago, I was in New Delhi, at the end of an exhausting 18 hours in which I had torn around the city to watch a National Immunization Day. On those days — like a national holiday, with flags and banners and kids let out from school — tens of millions of children line up to stick out their tongues and receive the sugary drops that contain the vaccine that should protect them against polio.

The Indian government, along with the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the volunteer ground troops of Rotary International, has been organizing these days now for most of two decades, always coming closer to the goal of eradicating polio, never quite getting there. On this day, which occurred close to the end of weeks I had spent embedded with a WHO “STOP Polio” team, 135 million children were expected to queue in cities and suburbs and rich neighborhoods and slums. I spent the day with the team I had been observing, racing in a battered turquoise Tata from neighborhood to neighborhood, trying to understand where the campaign’s message was working and where its earnest persuasions had failed. (You can read my account of the day here.)

There was one neighborhood, about 15 miles outside the center of New Delhi, where things were not going well. It was a Muslim area, and the local masjids supported the campaign — all the imams had preached in favor of it — but the appeals had not penetrated. Only a few children, about 25 in a slum that held thousands, had wandered up to receive the drops and the swipe of gentian violet across a fingernail that would signal to canvassers that a child had been immunized.

A young mother selling fish in a muddy side street shrugged and dismissed the importance of her four children receiving the vaccine. In the next few days, she said, the government would send “mop up” vaccinators into the alleys to find the children who had missed the big campaign. Maybe they would find her children; maybe she would get paying work that day, and then she would be away from home, and the children too. The government’s priorities were not hers.

Late that night, over whiskey-sodas served without ice because of the water quality, a longtime local health worker explained what he thought was going on. Hypothetically, protecting against polio requires four rounds of drops. But in tropical temperatures, with inadequate sanitation and endemic diarrheal diseases, it can take many more rounds of immunization to ensure a child is immune. That unplanned-for reality had combined with the longstanding distrust between Hindus and Muslims to produce a situation that no one had foreseen.

“We come back to their neighborhoods, month after month, telling them that these drops will protect their children from being paralyzed,” he said. “We come 10, 11, 12 times and the kids become paralyzed anyway. They start to think we’re doing this for some other reason, and they suspect us, and they don’t want to bring the kids out any more.”

And that is why the CIA’s decision to use a fake vaccination program in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, if that story is true, is such an appallingly, idiotically bad idea.

As reported by the Guardian and subsequently by the New York Times, intelligence operatives funded a sham vaccination program in hopes of obtaining a sample of DNA to prove that bin Laden, then rumored to be in the area, was actually living in the compound where he was subsequently found and killed. From the Guardian:

DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

So agents approached [Shakil] Afridi, the health official in charge of Khyber, part of the tribal area that runs along the Afghan border.

The doctor went to Abbottabad in March, saying he had procured funds to give free vaccinations for hepatitis B. Bypassing the management of the Abbottabad health services, he paid generous sums to low-ranking local government health workers, who took part in the operation without knowing about the connection to Bin Laden. Health visitors in the area were among the few people who had gained access to the Bin Laden compound in the past, administering polio drops to some of the children…

In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighbourhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.

There is no evidence the “vaccinations” produced DNA that helped identify bin Laden. The physician named in the article has been arrested by the Pakistani security forces. The CIA has understandably refused any comment. But the allegation that a vaccine program was not what it seemed — that it was not only suspect, but justifiably suspect — has been very widely reported.

This is awful. It plays, so precisely that it might have been scripted, into the most paranoid conspiracy theories about vaccines: that they are pointless, poisonous, covert shields for nefarious government agendas meant to do children harm.

That is not speculation. The polio campaign has already seen this happen, based on just those kind of suspicions — not in a single poor slum in New Delhi, but across much of sub-Saharan Africa.

In the fall of 2003, a group of imams in the northern Nigerian state of Kano — the area that happened to have the highest rate of ongoing polio transmission — began preaching against polio vaccination, contending that what purported to be a protective act was actually a covert campaign by Western powers to sterilize and kill Muslim children. The president of Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Sharia Law said to the BBC: “There were strong reasons to believe that the polio immunisation vaccine was contaminated with anti-fertility drugs, contaminated with certain virus that cause HIV/AIDS, contaminated with Simian virus that are likely to cause cancers.”

The rumors caught like wildfire, and they were spread further by political operatives who saw an opportunity to disrupt a recent post-election power-sharing agreement between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Three majority Muslim states — Kano, Kaduna and Zamfara — suspended polio vaccination entirely. Vaccination acceptance in the rest of the country fell off so sharply that the national government was forced to act. It ordered tests of the vaccine by Nigeria’s health ministry and empaneled a special commission to visit the Indonesian labs where the vaccine administered in Nigeria was made. The WHO convened emergency meetings.

And polio began to spread. At the end of 2003, when the boycott began, there had been only 784 known polio cases in the entire world. By the end of 2004, there had been 793 new cases just in Nigeria. Polio leaking across Nigeria’s borders reinfected Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Sudan and Togo. Nigerian strains appeared in Yemen, site of the largest port on the Red Sea, and in Saudi Arabia, imperiling the millions of pilgrims coming to the country on hajj. (Here’s a 2004 round-up of the consequences from the South African publication Science in Africa, and one that I wrote in 2005.)

The last holdouts in Kano did not fully accept polio vaccination until the end of 2004. By then, so many children had gone unprotected that when Nigeria experienced the random bad luck of a vaccine-virus reversion to wild type in 2006, it ripped through the country in weeks — and further fueled lingering suspicions that had never really gone away.

The accusations that polio vaccination was a Potemkin cover for anti-Islamic activities almost ruined the international eradication of polio when they were false. Now, on the basis of the CIA’s alleged appalling ruse in Pakistan, they may be made again. And they will be much more believable, because this time they might be be true.

Notable reactions, among many: Longtime global-health reporter Tom Paulson says this will “undermine global health“; Seth Mnookin, author of The Panic Virus, calls it a “horrible move with potentially dangerous consequences“; infectious-disease physician Kent Sepkowitz says it’s a “paranoid’s dreamy nightmare“; and blogger Brett Keller bluntly calls it “despicable.” (Update: The Guardian’s Sarah Boseley adds: “a black day for medical ethics and a one-off crazy scheme.”)

I agree with them all.

Source: Wired

Addendum: In this report from December 2012 the Taliban killed five women administering polio vaccine in Pakistan. They think the vaccine makes children sterile. This attack is probably the end of any prospect of eradicating polio in our generation. Volunteers will fear to participate and health workers may start traveling with armed security.

In later news, the United Nations suspended the vaccination drive after the number of dead workers rose to eight. No one has claimed responsibility, but the Taliban is suspected.



Gunmen kill 5 women working on polio campaign opposed by Taliban in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan — Gunmen shot dead five women working on U.N.-backed polio vaccination efforts in two different Pakistani cities on Tuesday, officials said, a major setback for a campaign that international health officials consider vital to contain the crippling disease but which Taliban insurgents say is a cover for espionage.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio is endemic. Militants however accuse health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the vaccine makes children sterile. Taliban commanders in the troubled northwest tribal region have also said vaccinations can’t go forward until the U.S. stops drone strikes in the country.

Insurgent opposition to the campaign grew last year after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the town of Abbottabad in the country’s northwest.

The Taliban have targeted previous anti-polio campaigns, but this has been a particularly deadly week. The government is in the middle of a three-day vaccination drive targeting high risk areas of the country as part of an effort to immunize millions of children under the age of five.

“Such attacks deprive Pakistan’s most vulnerable populations — especially children — of basic life-saving health interventions,” said a statement jointly released by the government and the U.N. “We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan.”

The women who were killed Tuesday — three of whom were teenagers — were all shot in the head at close range. Four of them were gunned down in the southern port city of Karachi, and the fifth in a village outside the northwest city of Peshawar. Two men who were working alongside the women were also critically wounded in Karachi.

The attacks in Karachi were well-coordinated and occurred within 15 minutes in three different areas of the city that are far apart, said police spokesman Imran Shoukat. In each case, the gunmen used 9 millimeter pistols. Two of the women were teenagers, aged 18 and 19, and the other two were in their 40s, he said.

Two of the women were killed while they were in a house giving children polio drops, said Shoukat. The other two were traveling between houses when they were attacked, he said.

On Monday another person working on the anti-polio campaign, a male volunteer, was gunned down in Karachi. Taliban militants also killed three soldiers in an ambush of an army convoy escorting a vaccination team in the northwest.

Officials in Karachi responded to the attacks by suspending the vaccination campaign in the city, said Sagheer Ahmed, the health minister for surrounding Sindh province. The campaign started on Monday and was supposed to run through Wednesday, he said.

Immunization was suspended in Karachi in July as well after a local volunteer was shot to death and two U.N. staff were wounded.

There were conflicting reports about whether the campaign was also temporarily suspended in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the fifth woman was killed Tuesday.

The statement released by the government and the U.N. said the drive was halted in both Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

But Janbaz Afridi, a senior health official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said he had not received any suspension orders and planned to continue the campaign on Wednesday.

“These incidents are depressing and may cause difficulties in the anti-polio drive, but people should not lose heart,” said Afridi. “The government is very serious, and we are determined to eliminate polio despite all odds and difficult conditions.”

The shootings in Karachi all took place in areas mainly populated by ethnic Pashtuns, said Ahmed, the health minister. The Taliban are a Pashtun-dominated movement, and many militants are reported to be hiding in these communities in the city.

Rukhsana Bibi, whose 18-year-old daughter Madiha was killed in Karachi, seemed to blame the organizers of the vaccination campaign for her death.

“Why are you doing this by coming here?” said Bibi, standing next to her daughter’s body at the hospital. “This is a prohibited area. Taliban are here.”

Madiha was the only source of income for the family, which includes seven other children, said Bibi, whose husband is too sick to work.

The woman who was killed in the northwest was also a teenager and was shot by gunmen on a motorcycle as she was working with her sister in the village of Shinkai Hindkian, said Afridi, the local health official. She was rushed to the hospital after the attack but eventually died from her injuries, said Afridi.

Another official in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said the woman was shot by her cousin because of a family dispute. He said she was working on the anti-polio campaign at the time, but he claimed the two things were unrelated.

Polio usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions, attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze. Most of the new cases in Pakistan are in the northwest, where the presence of militants makes it difficult to reach children. A total of 56 polio cases were reported in Pakistan during 2012, said Ahmed, the Sindh health minister.

Despite the obstacles, the government has teamed up with U.N. agencies to give oral polio drops to 34 million children under the age of five. Clerics and tribal elders have been recruited to support polio vaccinations in an attempt to open up areas previously inaccessible to health workers

Also Tuesday, two men on a motorcycle hurled hand grenades at the main gate of an army recruiting center in the northwestern town of Risalpur, wounding 10 people, including civilians and security personnel, said senior police official Ghulam Mohammed.

Gunmen on a motorcycle also shot a member of an anti-Taliban militia in the northwest Swat Valley, said senior police official Gul Afzal Khan.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for both attacks by telephone to The Associated Press.

Source: Washington Post

Addendum: In May 2014 the New York Times reports that polio is resurgent. There is no mention of the fake vaccinations in Abbottabad.



Polio’s Return After Near Eradication Prompts a Global Health Warning

Alarmed by the spread of polio to several fragile countries, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency on Monday for only the second time since regulations permitting it to do so were adopted in 2007.

Just two years ago — after a 25-year campaign that vaccinated billions of children — the paralyzing virus was near eradication; now health officials say that goal could evaporate if swift action is not taken.

Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon have recently allowed the virus to spread — to Afghanistan, Iraq and Equatorial Guinea, respectively — and should take extraordinary measures to stop it, the health organization said.

“Things are going in the wrong direction and have to get back on track before something terrible happens,” said Gregory Hartl, a W.H.O. spokesman. “So we’re saying to the Pakistanis, the Syrians and the Cameroonians, ‘You’ve really got to get your acts together.' ”

The declaration, which effectively imposes travel restrictions on the three countries, represented a newly aggressive stance by the health organization. In the past, it has often bent to pressure from member states demanding no consequences even as epidemics raged inside their borders and sometimes slipped over them.

“This is a fundamental shift in the program,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, the organization’s chief of polio eradication. “This is the countries of the world signaling that they will no longer tolerate the spread of the virus from the countries that aren’t finished.”

The emergency was declared though the total number of known cases this year is still relatively small: 68 as of April 30, compared with 24 by that date last year.

What most alarmed experts, Mr. Hartl said, was that the virus was on the move during what is normally the low transmission season from January to April.

“What we don’t want is cases moving into places like the Central African Republic, South Sudan or the Ukraine,” said Rebecca M. Martin, director of global immunization for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has provided money and expertise to the eradication campaign since it began in 1988.

Fighting the virus normally includes several rounds of vaccination of all young children in a target country. But, in an unusual step, the agency also said that all residents of Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon, of all ages, should be vaccinated before traveling abroad, and that this restriction should be retained until one year after the last “exported case.”

It also said another seven countries should “encourage” all their would-be travelers to get vaccinated. Those are Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria and Somalia.

Israel has had no confirmed human cases of the disease, but a Pakistan strain of the virus has been detected in sewage in Tel Aviv and elsewhere.

While the W.H.O. has no enforcement power, the regulations are part of a 2007 global health treaty saying all parties “should ensure” that steps it recommends are taken. That applies to Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon. The other seven only need to “encourage” those steps.

But countries could use the document to refuse to admit migrants, visitors or even business travelers who lack vaccination cards.

Polio, short for poliomyelitis, is a highly contagious virus spread in feces; although only one case in 200 causes symptoms, the hardest-hit victims can be paralyzed or killed. With so many silent carriers, even one confirmed case is considered a serious outbreak. There is no cure.

Unlike influenza or other winter viruses, polio thrives in hot weather. Cases start rising in the summer and often explode when the monsoon rains break the summer heat, flooding sewage-choked gutters and bathing the feet of romping children with virus, which they pick up by touching their feet or a ball and then putting a finger in a mouth.

Though the disease primarily strikes children, evidence has mounted that it also crosses borders in adult carriers, such as traders, smugglers and migrant workers.

With 54 of this year’s 68 new infections, Pakistan is by far the riskiest country, Dr. Aylward said. Polio has never been eliminated there, Taliban factions have forbidden vaccinations in North Waziristan for years, and those elsewhere have murdered vaccine teams.

Syria has had only one confirmed case of polio this year, but it had 13 cases last October, the first in the country since 1999.

Before the uprising began in 2011, Syria had a 90 percent vaccination rate, but it fell rapidly in war-torn areas. About 300,000 children are in areas blocked off by the government or too dangerous to reach, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The Syrian cases from last year were of the Pakistan strain, which was found in Egypt last year, then moved into Israel, first in a largely Bedouin desert town, then elsewhere. How it reached Syria is unclear, but in April it was found in a Syrian refugee camp in Iraq, despite extensive vaccination campaigns in camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and elsewhere.

“Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do in refugee camps,” Mr. Hartl said.

With Syrians fleeing massacres and bombings, it seems absurd to make them stop and produce vaccination cards, critics said.

Cameroon’s outbreak is of a strain from Nigeria, which previously had more cases than any country in the world but which has had only two so far this year. As in Pakistan, Islamic terrorist groups in Nigeria have killed vaccinators. Nonetheless, multiple vaccination rounds have reduced the problem.

Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and other African countries are all vulnerable because their routine immunization rates are so low; in Equatorial Guinea, only 26 percent of all children are protected, Dr. Martin said

It is unclear whether the new travel restrictions will hurt the economies of the affected countries. Pakistan already has vaccination booths where its highways enter Afghanistan, China and Iran.

Pakistan’s health minister, Saira Afzal Tarar, said her office had recommended vaccinating travelers at the country’s five international airports before they board. (The W.H.O. calls for vaccination at least four weeks before traveling, except in emergencies.)

She expressed her disappointment at the restrictions, saying, “We have been doing whatever we can, but due to the law and order situation in our country, especially in the two tribal regions, we are facing extraordinary challenges.”

Until 2012, the world was making enormous progress toward eliminating polio. India, which once had millions of cases, had its last three years ago. Monday’s emergency was declared both to alert donors and to pressure the affected countries to organize vaccination drives, Mr. Hartl said.

That means recruiting and training hundreds of thousands of vaccinators, and sending them into the field with millions of doses of vaccine, which must be kept cold, usually by packing them on ice in a foam plastic box each vaccinator carries on a shoulder strap.

It is a huge logistical undertaking. Vaccinators go door to door in villages and cities, approach passengers at railway stations and on buses, and walk up to cars at toll plazas and in traffic circles. The ideal is to vaccinate every child in the country several times, with a month or so between each round.

It also entails many conflicts. Even when there is no local opposition, there are struggles over issues including who gets the vaccinator jobs, which usually pay $2 to $5 a day, and who controls the gas money for minibuses taking teams to villages.

Source: New York Times

Fattening Foster Care

July 13, 2011 permalink

Ever alert for ways to expand intervention, the child protection industry is eying obesity as its newest pretext. Lindsey Murtagh and David S Ludwig writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association propose that obese children should be placed in foster care. Only the first 150 words of the article State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity are available online. While professionals lay plans to steal your children, only members are permitted to see the plans in detail. Alex Jones has regular commentary on this kind of elitism.

In the absence of the real article, here is a video (YouTube or local copy mp4) by a journalist giving the opinion of Dr Ludwig. Another journalist summarizes the doctors below. They present a dreamy view of foster care in which social services support not just the child but the whole family. They show no understanding of the devastating effects of long-term foster care on later adult outcomes. A contrary opinion by Arthur Caplan is also enclosed.

Translated into practice, intervention will not be limited to the over-300-pound children in the literature. The social worker seeing a child even one pound over the standard weight table will check off a risk-assessment box labeled "overweight". A half-dozen boxes checked means off to foster care.



Should parents lose custody of super obese kids?

Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids' weight? A provocative commentary in one of the nation's most distinguished medical journals argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.

It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, said the point isn't to blame parents, but rather to act in children's best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can't provide.

State intervention "ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting," said Ludwig, who wrote the article with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health.

"Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child," Murtagh said.

But University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents. Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying -- things a parent can't control, he said.

"If you're going to change a child's weight, you're going to have to change all of them," Caplan said.

Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese. Most are not in imminent danger, Ludwig said. But some have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, Ludwig said.

While some doctors promote weight-loss surgery for severely obese teens, Ludwig said it hasn't been used for very long in adolescents and can have serious, sometimes life-threatening complications.

"We don't know the long-term safety and effectiveness of these procedures done at an early age," he said.

Ludwig said he starting thinking about the issue after a 90-pound 3-year-old girl came to his obesity clinic several years ago. Her parents had physical disabilities, little money and difficulty controlling her weight. Last year, at age 12, she weighed 400 pounds and had developed diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

"Out of medical concern, the state placed this girl in foster care, where she simply received three balanced meals a day and a snack or two and moderate physical activity," he said. After a year, she lost 130 pounds. Though she is still obese, her diabetes and apnea disappeared; she remains in foster care, he said.

In a commentary in the medical journal BMJ last year, London pediatrician Dr. Russell Viner and colleagues said obesity was a factor in several child protection cases in Britain. They argued that child protection services should be considered if parents are neglectful or actively reject efforts to control an extremely obese child's weight.

A 2009 opinion article in Pediatrics made similar arguments. Its authors said temporary removal from the home would be warranted "when all reasonable alternative options have been exhausted."

That piece discussed a 440-pound 16-year-old girl who developed breathing problems from excess weight and nearly died at a University of Wisconsin hospital. Doctors discussed whether to report her family for neglect. But they didn't need to, because her medical crisis "was a wake-up call" for her family, and the girl ended up losing about 100 pounds, said co-author Dr. Norman Fost, a medical ethicist at the university's Madison campus.

State intervention in obesity "doesn't necessarily involve new legal requirements," Ludwig said. Health care providers are required to report children who are at immediate risk, and that can be for a variety of reasons, including neglect, abuse and what doctors call "failure to thrive." That's when children are severely underweight.

Jerri Gray, a Greenville, S.C., single mother who lost custody of her 555-pound 14-year-old son two years ago, said authorities don't understand the challenges families may face in trying to control their kids' weight.

"I was always working two jobs so we wouldn't end up living in ghettos," Gray said. She said she often didn't have time to cook, so she would buy her son fast food. She said she asked doctors for help for her son's big appetite but was accused of neglect.

Her sister has custody of the boy, now 16. The sister has the money to help him with a special diet and exercise, and the boy has lost more than 200 pounds, Gray said.

"Even though good has come out of this as far as him losing weight, he told me just last week, 'Mommy, I want to be back with you so bad.' They've done damage by pulling us apart," Gray said.

Stormy Bradley, an Atlanta mother whose overweight 14-year-old daughter is participating in a Georgia advocacy group's "Stop Childhood Obesity" campaign, said she sympathizes with families facing legal action because of their kids' weight.

Healthier food often costs more, and trying to monitor kids' weight can be difficult, especially when they reach their teens and shun parental control, Bradley said. But taking youngsters away from their parents "definitely seems too extreme," she said.

Dr. Lainie Ross, a medical ethicist at the University of Chicago, said: "There's a stigma with state intervention. We just have to do it with caution and humility and make sure we really can say that our interventions are going to do more good than harm."


Source: Lancaster Online

Obesity alone is no reason to remove kids from their homes

Opinion: State laws governing abuse and neglect shouldn't apply to weighty issue

You don’t need to be a doctor or scientist to see that Americans are getting fatter and fatter. We are the United States of obesity. Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent, a just-released report from Trust for America's Health shows.

Even the state with the highest percentage of people who are normal weight, Colorado, has a 20 percent obesity rate.

What's even worse is the epidemic of blubber among children. Obesity rates have skyrocketed among the nation's kids in the past two decades. Nearly 32 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fully 12 percent have topped the category of extreme obesity. That's a lot of heavy kids.

This well-documented epidemic now has led two prominent Harvard School of Public Health researchers to call for consideration of drastic action: Use state laws governing child abuse and neglect to empower protective services staff to pull dangerously fat kids out of their homes, saving them from the diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, cancer, depression and arthritis that surely await.

"Involvement of state protective services might be considered, including placement into foster care in carefully selected situations," write Dr. David S. Ludwig and lawyer Lindsey Murtagh in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers carefully trace the history of a movement that has seen a few severely obese children removed from homes in which parents were unable or unwilling to address their weight — and the serious health problems it presented. They note that a handful of states — including California, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas — have precedent to apply laws governing intervention in cases of malnourishment to "overnourishment" and severe obesity.

As Murtagh noted in a 2007 article in the journal American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics, Brittany, a morbidly obese 9-year-old girl in Chemung County, N.Y., was shuttled between her home and foster care for four years with her parents under orders to watch her diet and take her to the gym two to three times a week. When the parents failed to heed the order, the child was placed in the care of the state.

Such a case may be dramatic, and, indeed, the obesity epidemic is the single biggest health crisis facing this country and its kids. But forcing heavy children out of their homes is not the solution.

Our laws give enormous authority to parents and rightly so. The only basis for compelling medical treatment against a parent’s wishes are if a child is at imminent risk of death — meaning days or hours — and a proven cure exists for what threatens to kill them. Obesity does not pass these requirements.

The risk of death from obesity is real, but it is way down the road for kids. There is no proven cure for obesity. The ability to treat a child with diet or a lifestyle change who does not want to be "treated" by strangers is a long shot at best. The number of kids involved — an estimated 2 million children with body-mass index above the 99th percentile — would quickly swamp already overwhelmed social service departments. And, no matter what you do with overweight children, sooner or later they are going back home where their often overweight parents will still be.

In Brittany's case, for instance, her mother weighed more than 430 pounds.

Fat chance this is going to become widespread public policy. But if we don't yank heavy kids from their obesity-encouraging homes, what should we do?

We live in a society that is awash in food. Everywhere you turn, from billboards, to television, to magazines to the radio, someone is trying to tell you to rush down to a fast-food joint, an all you can eat buffet at the mall, to imbibe more sugary drinks or consume the largest portions ever to fall off a plate at your local steakhouse or rib joint. Add to this the fact that barely anyone in the entire nation is moving around — including kids, for whom gym, recess and sports are fast becoming topics for history class. Overall, you have a population lumbering toward XXXL.

But before we start grabbing porky youths out of their homes and sending them off to government fat camps, might we try to change our food culture? This means doing what we have done for smoking. Demonize the companies that sell and market food that is not nutritious. That means you, candy, soda, fried food and snack food outfits. Tax them too. And get Hollywood and television to make overeating and not exercising uncool just like they did with smoking. Put exercise back on the menu for all school kids.

I am not letting parents off the hook. But, putting the blame for childhood obesity on the home and then arguing that moving kids out of homes where obesity reigns is the answer is short-sighted and doomed to fail. We need the nation to go on a diet together and the most important places to start are at the grocery store, schools and media.

Source: MS-NBC

Addendum: Owing to the notoriety of the article, JAMA has made it public for one week. Here is the link to the pdf, local copy.

Addendum: Larry Killens writes on the subject.



Dumb and dumber

Obesity a problem in Canada?

A good question for people to consider in Ontario, as well as other provinces is, "How do we deal with obesity in children in Ontario?" Absolutely no one is arguing that it is not a monumental problem.

The solution, as suggested by social services agencies, in my humble opinion is off the end of the scale, dumb. They propose taking the children from the parents.

Did the government consider the real problem may be that parents cannot sustain and afford nourishing foods, fruits and vegetables, but junk food is within their means? Government mishandling of the economy, cumbersome rules and regulations, inspectors inspecting inspectors put the costs of food out of sight.

With all the Ontario government cutbacks and slashing of expenditures, new income from HST, would it be too much to ask the government what it is doing with all our money? I mean, other than the raise they gave themselves, taking more time off, building fake lakes, arenas that were, well, just a nice thing to build and other hidden foolish expenditures.

I do not care if it is federal or provincial. Premier Dalton McGuinty has proven he has somewhat of a mind and a mouth. He could speak up for the federal waste and Algoma Manitoulin MPP Mike Brown could remind McGuinty that people do live past Parry Sound.

What a solution. Take children away from their loving parents and place them in a system run by social services agencies such as children's aid societies. This same private entities of CAS where newspaper reports claim every year children die in the CAS care and foster homes -eight alone one year in Hamilton. In February 2009, Ontario's child advocate Irwin Elman reported that 90 children had died in the care of Ontario's children's aid societies in one year.

Criticism originating with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies quickly claimed that in 36 cases, children's aid only got involved after the death of the child, reducing the number of CAS fatalities to 54. Spread over Ontario's 18,800 foster children (Sept. 30, 2004, figure from OACAS), the two alternatives give death rates of 479 or 287 per 100,000 child years -- 17.1 or 10.2 times the parental care rate.

May I be so bold as to suggest that children are starving in our own country/neighbourhood. A real hard fact is that, in our democratic, free society, our children do not have parents who can afford the nourishing foods they need.

Please remember this when you are unselfishly donating monies to Oxfam, United Way, Save the Children fund globally: our own home is not looked after and least of all by our government. Also remember that only a small portion of every dollar you donate is helping the person you intended to help.

Take children away from parents who allow them to be obese? No, let's educate our parents and help them afford nourishing foods and above all, keep the government out of the mix and look to our non-profit helping organizations. If an obese child isn't mentally distraught about being obese, that child will certainly be when removed from their parents.

I have a saying: you cannot fix stupid, not even with duct tape. So there is no shock and horror at my statement, I am referring to government bureaucracy.

Larry Killens South Baymouth

Source: Sudbury Star

Statistical Fantasies

July 13, 2011 permalink

A GAO report confirms what fixcas has reported for a long time: official (US) statistics on child abuse deaths are fantasies.



GAO: US tracking of child-abuse deaths is flawed

America used flawed methods to tally and analyze the deaths of children who have been maltreated, and the latest annual estimate of 1,770 such fatalities is likely too low, the Government Accountability Office says in a new report to Congress.

Better data, says the GAO, would aid in developing strategies that could save many children's lives in the future.

The GAO report, the subject of a House Human Resources subcommittee hearing Tuesday, says state agencies and the Department of Health and Human Services should broaden the scope of data collection, improve coordination, and seek uniform definitions of abuse and maltreatment.

"We need to do a much better job working together at the local, state and national level," said Theresa Covington, director of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, in testimony prepared for the hearing.

"Children have no power or say in what happens to them," Covington said. "It is our responsibility and duty to protect them and use our knowledge and lessons learned from a child's death to prevent another death."

The main source of nationwide data on child-maltreatment deaths is the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which issues an annual report based on information submitted voluntarily by the states. NCANDS' latest report, for the 2009 fiscal year, estimated that 1,770 children had died from abuse or neglect, up from 1,450 in 2005.

The GAO notes that many state officials believe that increase stems at least in part from new procedures and better reporting, rather than a surge in abuse of children. But reporting standards differ widely from state to state.

Some of the problems highlighted by the GAO:

—Nearly half of states included data only from child welfare agencies in reporting maltreatment deaths to NCANDS. Yet not all children who die from maltreatment have had contact with these agencies, likely leading to incomplete counts due to lack of data from coroners' offices, law enforcement agencies and other sources. One study cited by the GAO found that maltreatment deaths in three states were undercounted by 55 to 75 percent.

—HHS collects some information about maltreatment deaths, such as perpetrators' previous abuse of children, yet does not report it. And the federally funded center for child death review does not synthesize or publish the detailed data that it collects from states about maltreatment deaths.

—At the local level, lack of medical evidence and inconsistent interpretations of maltreatment challenge investigators in determining whether a child's death is caused by maltreatment. At the state level, limited coordination among jurisdictions and state agencies, in part due to confidentiality or privacy constraints, poses challenges for reporting data.

According to the GAO, state officials said that better data on maltreatment deaths would enable them to craft more effective prevention strategies — comparable to already widespread efforts to curtail the problem known as shaken-baby syndrome.

"As a society, we should be doing everything in our collective power to end child deaths and near-deaths from maltreatment," the report concluded. "The collection and reporting of comprehensive data on these tragic situations is an important step toward that goal."

It recommended that HHS expand the range of data that it distributes, while also helping states gather more complete and reliable information.

HHS, in a formal response, said it agreed with the recommendations and was taking steps to implement them.

Witnesses at Tuesday's hearing, in their prepared remarks, acknowledged that state and federal budget difficulties complicated any push for more funding to curtail child abuse. However, Michael Petit of the advocacy group Every Child Matters nonetheless called for up to $5 billion in additional federal spending.

Jane Burstain of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a think tank in Austin, Texas, asked politicians to at least maintain current levels of spending on programs aimed at preventing abuse.

"As families struggle and stress levels rise, child maltreatment becomes more of a risk," she said. "To cut programs that support struggling families in tough economic times is the very definition of penny wise and pound foolish and is a choice our children will pay for with their lives."

Dr. Carole Jenny, a pediatrician and child-abuse expert at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I., urged federal support for training more doctors in child-abuse pediatrics.

"When a child does die from abuse or neglect, these pediatricians can help police, forensic, and social service agencies make the correct diagnosis, by doing the appropriate medical work up in the hospital and by ruling out conditions that mimic abuse or neglect," she said in her testimony.

Another expert on child welfare, Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, said the GAO report — by detailing the inconsistency of child-fatality data — highlighted the potential flaws in trying to rank states in this area.

"Phony 'scorecards' claiming state X or Y is 'worst' when it comes to child abuse deaths penalize states that are rigorous in ferreting out such deaths and reward states that ignore them," Wexler said.

Source: Washington Examiner

The Red Market

July 12, 2011 permalink

Scholar and author Scott Carney has researched the trade in human body parts and children. In Chennai India children were kidnapped and supplied to overseas adoption agencies, where they were eventually adopted by Christians thinking they were saving orphans. Carney's suggestion for stopping the rackets: open all adoption records, not just to interested parties, but to anyone. Extending this idea to all family court actions would allow any journalist or scholar to ascertain the degree of abuse in child protection cases. Then there would be no need for ombudsman oversight.

Scott Carney's book is titled The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Thieves, Blood Farmers and Child Traffickers. Listen to the interview of Scott Carney on CBC's The Current (mp3).

Source: CBC

Same-Sex Marriage/Adoption

July 12, 2011 permalink

Now that New York has legalized same-sex marriage the state is preparing for a flood of same-sex adoptions. The story suggests that adopted children are relinquished voluntarily by the real parents. There is no mention that lots of adopted children were snatched from their families by force of arms.



Gay Marriage Will Spur Adoption Boom, New York Lawyers Predict

Gay Marriage Adoption

NEW YORK -- First comes love, then comes marriage. Now adoption lawyers and agencies in New York say they're getting ready for a baby boom as same-sex couples emboldened by the state's new gay marriage law take the next step and try to adopt children.

New York will allow same-sex marriages beginning July 24, becoming the most populous state to legalize such weddings. Thousands of couples are expected to tie the knot.

The state already permits unmarried couples, both gay and straight, to adopt children. But a wedding ring is an important milestone in a relationship – and can also bolster a couple's case as they try to impress social workers, adoption agencies and birth mothers during the often competitive adoption process, couples and adoption experts say.

"It's sort of the next natural progression," said Jonathan Truong of Brooklyn, who decided to adopt a boy after marrying his longtime partner, Ed Cowen, in Canada. "You have that feeling of wanting to be in a family."

Experts won't know for sure whether adoptions have increased in the five other states, plus Washington, D.C., that have legalized gay marriage until the results of the 2010 census are released this year, said Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, a think tank at the University of California-Los Angeles.

But nationwide, about 19,000 gay couples had adopted children as of 2009, he said. That's up from 10,700 couples in 2000 – the same year Vermont began offering civil unions and four years before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

"I think they will feel more entitled to be a family under the new law," said Susan Watson, director of U.S. adoptions at the Spence-Chapin adoption agency in Manhattan.

The prospect has alarmed conservative religious groups that consider same-sex relationships and parenting immoral.

"Sanctioning such unions as `marriages' only makes the violation worse; and adding children to the mix, worse still," said Avi Shafran, a spokesman for the Agudath Israel of America, an Orthodox Jewish group.

Rumaan Alam, 33, and David Land, 37, of Brooklyn, adopted their son, Simon, soon after getting married in California in 2008. The state banned such marriages just five months after they were legalized.

Alam said they plan to get married again in New York for the benefit of their nearly 2-year-old son.

"He's going to go to school and know that he doesn't have a mommy and a daddy like other kids," Alam said. "We think it's something important for him being able to say, `Well, at least my Dad and my Papa are married the way that everyone else's parents are.'"

For lesbian couples, the road to parenthood is relatively easy. All that's needed is a sperm donor or a cooperative male friend who will agree to terminate parental rights when the baby is born. The other partner then adopts her partner's child through a "second-parent" adoption.

The new marriage statute will make the second-parent adoption unnecessary under New York law. But most adoption lawyers are recommending that parents do it anyway to protect themselves if they travel or move to a state that doesn't recognize gay marriage.

"The state where you're vacationing may not see things the same way," said Nina Rumbold, an adoption lawyer.

For men or for women who can't conceive, the process is more complicated.

Cowen and Truong said the urge to start a family began after they got married in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2005. They looked into hiring a surrogate mother, but that route was expensive and fraught with legal hurdles. New York prohibits surrogacy-for-hire, so they must be done in another state.

Adopting from another country was a difficult option because most countries bar same-sex couples from adopting.

The couple decided to try for an American baby and began the months-long process of applying to be parents. There were forms to fill out documenting both men's background and finances. Then a social worker came to their Brooklyn apartment and did a long interview.

Next came the hunt for a pregnant woman looking to give up her baby. To get around the long waiting lists at many New York adoption agencies, many couples advertise themselves directly to mothers through classified ads and websites.

Cowen and Truong bought newspaper ads and rented a toll-free number. Worried about spooking young mothers, they hired an answering service to explain to callers that they were a gay couple.

They were surprised to find that many didn't care.

"A lot of them were brought up without a father in the home, and so they really miss their father and they think the idea of two fathers is amazing," Cowen said.

Other mothers felt that two working men made the household more financially secure, he said. Truong manages the laboratory at a hospital, and Cowen owns an advertising firm.

Less than a year later after starting the application process, the two men were the proud fathers of Franklin, now a bubbly 2-year-old. Truong is "Daddy" and Cowen is "Dada."

"What color is that?" Truong asked as Franklin scribbled on an envelope with a pen one recent afternoon.

"Blue!" Franklin shouted.

"He's so smart," Cowen said, beaming.

They're now trying to adopt another child.

New York's new marriage law comes as several other states are wrestling with the issue of adoptions by gay couples. In April, an Arkansas court struck down a ban on such adoptions. Arizona, meanwhile, passed a law giving heterosexual married couples preference.

In Illinois, a Catholic organization that licenses foster and adoptive parents is suing the state over a law barring discrimination against gay or unmarried couples. Three Catholic dioceses have suspended their adoption placement services, following the lead of Catholic charities in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

"Children do best when raised by a married mother and father," said Peter Sprigg, a policy adviser for the Washington-based Family Research Council, which has fought gay marriage. "Mothers and fathers contribute to the parenting task in unique ways."

In New York, the new marriage law contains a clause allowing religious groups to deny "accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges" to same-sex couples. That should allow church-affiliated adoption agencies to deal only with heterosexual couples, avoiding the legal controversies that have flared in other states, Rumbold said.

Same-sex adoptions in New York date to 1995, when a state court decision cleared the way for all unmarried couples to adopt. But not all cases went smoothly.

College professor Peri Rainbow and her wife, Tamela Sloan, went through the process of adopting a daughter, Cecelia, from foster care nine years ago, when the girl was 6.

"We were asked if we would kiss in front of Cecelia, if we expected her to be gay," Peri Rainbow said. "Would we have enough men in her life? I can't recall the exact questions at this point, but they were quite offensive."

The couple was informed before the adoption was finalized that it would not go through. The stated reason: They had altered legal forms by crossing out the phrases "adoptive mother" and "adoptive father" with "adoptive parents," she said.

"They said we had desecrated legal documentation," Rainbow said.

On the advice of a lawyer, the couple resisted urge to sue. Instead, Rainbow filed papers to adopt Cecelia. Sloan filed separate adoption papers. They were accepted.

Rainbow and Sloan have already been married in Canada but plan to renew their vows in New York. And they are still raising Cecelia, now 16.

"She's doing very well," Rainbow said. "She's thriving."

The full impact of gay-marriage laws on adoption will probably become clearer over coming decades, as society becomes more gay-friendly and younger couples adopt the familiar patterns of dating, engagement, marriage and child-rearing, said Gates, the demographer.

"Their lives are going to start to look like those of their different-sex counterparts, but that's going to take a while," Gates said.

A 2009 Census Bureau survey showed no evidence of an increase in the percentage of same-sex couples adopting in Massachusetts after that state legalized gay marriage in 2004. But the sample was so small – only about 100 couples – that estimates are very imprecise, Gates said. Figures from the 2010 Census should offer a more accurate look.

The Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange, a group that educates families about adopting foster children, said it has seen a rise in the number of same-sex couples seeking information since 2004. They now account for 381 of the 3,360 couples in the group's database, or about 11 percent.

Vincent Russo, a spokesman for Connecticut's probate court system, said judges in that state have noted an increase in same-sex couples adopting since gay marriage was legalized there in 2008.

"Once people were able to marry, they had a bit more security," Russo said. "Once that they have this feeling that, `OK, now that we are a family unit and in this marriage' they feel a little more comfortable, a little more security about adopting children."

Source: Huffington Post

Foster Expert Reports

July 12, 2011 permalink

Michael Jacobson

To do its story on foster care New York's WNYC recruited the most knowledgeable reporter: foster child Michael Jacobson. In a recent foster home, a real son about his age had a car and a room of his own. Michael had no wheels and one deck in a triple bunk. When the foster mom got tired of him, Michael was kicked out of her home. Listen to his report Nothing's Ever Permanent in Foster Care (mp3).

Source: WNYC

Quebec Crackdown

July 11, 2011 permalink

Quebec is cracking down on homeschoolers, as shown by this letter from Paul Faris of the Home School Legal Defence Association.



Alert: Homeschooling children ordered to attend school

We have received a shocking decision where a Québec family has been ordered to cease homeschooling and place their children in the local public school. Even more concerning, they have been ordered to place their younger children, who are not yet of compulsory school age, into daycare.

This saga began late 2009 when this family was reported to Youth Protection Services, likely by their school board. They were first taken to court early in 2010. In a subsequent court appearance, their children were ordered to attend the local public school as a “temporary protection measure”. There followed multiple legal procedures and four days of trial, followed by a four-month wait for the judge’s decision, all of which took their toll on this family.

After refusing to hear our expert witness, as well as evidence on the value of homeschooling versus public school, the court ordered that the children attend the local public school. They went on to order that the younger children attend daycare, even though they are not yet of compulsory school age. In giving reasons, the court placed great weight on the Youth Protection experts who testified that, given the hearing impairments of one child, the public school was necessary for him to overcome his limitations and maximize his potential. The court also found that given the parents’ desire to protect their children from an outside environment they perceived as bad, they had deprived their children of an adequate education.

The values expressed by the court are a slap in the face for homeschooling families everywhere.


HSLDA is committed to appealing this case but we need your help.

This is not the only family we have had to defend in Québec this past year, and each case required a number of court appearances. Just in Quebec last year, HSLDA spent over $50,000 on legal fees. In 2010, HSLDA spent more money defending homeschooling families than in any other year of our history. We were a strong voice and left our mark for homeschooling freedom in 2010, but we need your help to continue. Financial resources are necessary, not only to appeal this case, but also to fight other oppressive decisions and government policies.

The more members we have, the greater our resources to battle these key cases. Also, when extraordinary challenges like these arise, we need donations over and above membership fees so we can vigorously oppose government oppression of homeschooling.

Please donate to help support these cases and keep homeschooling legal in Québec, and across the country. Click here to submit your tax deductible donation.

Paul Faris
HSLDA Canada

Please contact us by email or telephone 519-913-0318 if you have any questions about this posting or about donating to CCHE.

Source: Home School Legal Defence Association

Sweetheart Suits

July 9, 2011 permalink

We have long said that those suits by Children's Rights Inc against American state welfare departments are a form of collusion with social services. The result is invariably a settlement requiring more spending on the foster care system, and attorney's fees paid to the plaintiff. Enclosed below is a brief analysis of collusive suits by scholar Walter Olson.



EPA Gives Millions to Enviro Groups That Sue it

It’s all a happy circle of funding, as John Merline reports at Investor’s Business Daily: the Environmental Protection Agency gives millions in grants to green organizations that perennially sue it demanding that it regulate more things. When the EPA settles or loses those suits, it then awards the groups millions more in attorneys’ fees under the federal Equal Access to Justice Act and other “one-way” attorney’s fee provisions (called “one-way” because they allow winning plaintiffs to collect fees from defendants, but not vice versa).

“The EPA isn’t harmed by these suits,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, who was an EPA official during the Bush administration. “Often the suits involve things the EPA wants to do anyway. By inviting a lawsuit and then signing a consent decree, the agency gets legal cover from political heat.”

Holmstead called this kind of litigation “sweetheart suits.”

As blogger Coyote puts it, “Our rulers are pretty good at finding tricky ways to expand their power.”

I go into much more detail on collusive public-sector litigation in chapter 8 of my new book Schools for Misrule. Other government agencies, much like the EPA, use settlements of pressure-group lawsuits as a way to go along with desired expansions of power; corrections and foster-care systems commit to step up program offerings and (no! anything but that!) seek higher funding to accomplish their missions; union-allied public-sector managers give away the store on employee benefits disputes, and so forth (scroll to “Consent of the Governors”). From New York to Alabama, state education departments have covertly or even openly assisted lawsuits against themselves intended to force spending expansion. And once sweetheart negotiations result in an adverse consent decree, with little or no formal input from taxpayers, parents, or other affected constituencies, the locked-in big-government policies can be nearly impossible to unlock later on, should voters’ moods change.

With a few exceptions, as with Prof. Ross Sandler and David Schoenbrod’s superb critique Democracy by Decree, these methods of agency governance are virtually uncontroversial and indeed highly popular in legal academia — and no wonder, since they transfer much power over public policy to a corps of “public-interest” litigation professionals who tend to be products of the finer law schools. But others, particularly Western land activists and Republicans in Congress, are skeptical. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) points out that since a rules revamp in 1995 the federal government no longer even tracks EAJA fee payouts in any organized manner, which makes it harder to catch double payments as well as suggestive patterns in which (critics have charged) certain environmental groups have filed hundreds of suits, assembly-line style, and cashed them in for fees. Lummis and home-state colleague Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) have introduced a bill called the Government Litigation Savings Act that would, among other provisions, reinstitute data collection regarding EAJA outlays, limit the size of awards to $200,000 per case and the number of annual awards to a given group to three, and cap hourly attorneys’ fee awards at an inflation-indexed $175/hour. (Sen. Orrin Hatch, another co-sponsor, summarizes the provisions here.) Whatever the merits of individual details, the bill furnishes a jumping-off point for a public debate that’s long overdue.

Source: Cato Institute

Million Dollar Bride

July 9, 2011 permalink

While we don't usually post cases of mom vs dad, here is an exception for mom vs dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad and dad. Bobbi Ann Finley gave birth to nine children by nine of her at least fourteen husbands. The dads, abandoned long before the pregnancies came to term, never knew they had become fathers until the mother of one of Bobbi's victims tracked her down. Bobbi stole up to $100,000 per husband, and swindled dozens of non-husbands as well, putting her booty in the million dollar range.

ABC 20/20 produced an investigative report: Bobbi Ann Finley: From Military Mistress to Convicted Felon. Since Canadians are not permitted to view it online, here it is in five segments: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] all mp4.



'Military Mistress' accused of marrying at least 14 men and draining thousands from their accounts claims she is just unlucky in love

A woman dubbed the 'Military Mistress' after she married at least 14 men and allegedly drained thousands from their bank accounts has claimed that she was just bad at being in love.

Bobbi Ann Finley is accused of stalking, conning and stealing up to $100,000 each from American soldiers for almost two decades.

But the 35-year-old, who is currently in jail after pleading guilty to theft by deception, has said that her marriages to the servicemen were not a con.

Finley, who had nine children with as many men, became infamous for targeting military personnel before allegedly taking their money and leaving them in financial ruin.

In a jailhouse interview, the woman admitted that she may have destroyed lives, but she claims she is a victim who has had a hard upbringing.

'I wasn't running a con,' Finley said. 'I wanted protection, the protection that I should have had growing up... I married these guys I couldn't love.'

'I was looking for love. I was looking for understanding, I was looking for someone to say, "You know, it is going to be OK",' Finley told ABC's 20/20.

'In many of the cases, you look and you started out and you get married and you're thinking, 'Oh, I'm going to live happily ever after." And then you realise as soon it's done... it was a mistake,' she said.

Bobbi Ann Finley
Blame game: Finley said that she found it hard staying in love with people because of her difficult childhood

For nearly 20 year, Finley allegedly preyed on military bases where she lied to servicemen claiming to be a wealthy heiress, the daughter of a general or an injured veteran about to get a large pay-out.

'She was smart, funny, witty, beautiful,' Jacob Anderson, one of Finley's ex-husbands, told ABC News.

'I mean, you'd come home... you didn't need to ask one... it was clean.

'Our food was cooked, and the food was excellent. Dishes were done, house was immaculate. You were going like, "Wow, I couldn't ask for anybody better".'

But things soon changed when the men married Finley and money allegedly started disappearing from their accounts.

'The devil himself is a pot of gold compared to her,' said Shane Cheesman, one of Finley's ex-husbands whose marriage was annulled after a week.

'She has no heart. She has no feelings, no remorse,' he told ABC News.

But Finley's alleged scam began to unravel in 2004 when she got on the wrong side of one of her many mother-in-laws.

Katie Wegg, whose son Rodney had fallen for Finley when he was a reservist stationed in Texas, began a six-year-crusade to bring her to justice after her son went away for the weekend and came home to find money gone from his checking account.

She found that Finley had a history of fraud and bigamy, and had given birth to children and never told the fathers.

'[Rodney] had a child out there and he wanted to know where this child was. And he wanted his child,' Mrs Wegg told ABC News. 'These guys didn't know they had children.'

Finley served an eight-month sentence for forging cheques from Mr Wegg's account in 2007.

She was arrested again in June 2010 and extradited to Alabama was jailed in February after pleading guilty to theft by deception and ordered to pay $5,300 in restitution. She is wanted on further charges in other states.

'I mean, I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm lonely... because of what Bobbi did,' said Jeffrey Dietiker, one of Finley's ex-husbands.

'And now I'm paying for it, with every relationship I get in... Trust was everything I had, and now I don't.'

Source: Daily Mail

Mother, Go Home!

July 8, 2011 permalink

Mother Antonia Campos and her three daughters, citizens of different countries, were ripped apart by American immigration police. After a year's litigation, they have been reuntied.



Deported woman reunited with US citizen children

Antonia Campos with daughters Yulissa Nevarrez, Mireya Nevarrez and Milka Nevarrez
Antonia Campos sits with her daughters Yulissa Nevarrez, 11, left, Mireya Nevarrez, 14, and Milka Nevarrez, 12, right, after the custody battle for her children ended in her favor Thursday at the El Paso County Courthouse.
Mark Lambie/El Paso Times

A woman who was deported to Mexico and separated from her five children, all United States citizens, for more than 10 months regained custody on Thursday after a children's court judge dismissed the case.

Antonia Campos was detained on Aug. 29, 2010, after trying to illegally enter the U.S. Campos had been living in America for 17 years yet traveled to Mexico with her children to visit Campos' ailing father.

Her five children, ranging in age from 7 to 15, returned to El Paso before Campos. She was arrested while attempting to cross the Rio Grande.

After her detention, Child Protective Services officials visited Campos' home and took the unattended children into custody. Campos was deported to Mexico; her children were placed in foster homes.

They had no immediate relative living in the U.S.

Since then, Campos had been pushing for her children's release so they could reunite with her in Mexico.

Campos, who was allowed to enter the United States temporarily for the court appointment, hugged her children after Thursday's hearing.

"I told (the children) that we're going to struggle a bit, but we're going to make it," she said.

Mireya Nevarrez, 14, said she was also concerned about the change, yet was happy to be reunited with her mother.

"At first I felt afraid, but now that I'm going to be with my mom again, I don't feel that anymore," she said.

Campos' attorney, Maria Ramirez, issued a news release stating that Campos has found a home in Juárez and obtained a job as a medical aide for a disabled person.

"We're very happy. My client is a very good mother, and they are good children because of her," Ramirez said.

During the hearing, Campos said the Family Integral Development office in Juárez, or DIF, which is in charge of children and family services in the city, conducted an extensive investigation of Campos' home.

It issued a report stating that it found the home appropriate for the children.

CPS officials, upon reviewing the report, agreed to let Campos reunite with her children.

"All we care about is the safety of the children," said Richard Deck, an El Paso County attorney representing CPS. Deck requested the case be dismissed, yet noted that the children suffered from neglect after Campos' arrest, going nearly two weeks without food at home.

Rosendo Torres, a private attorney appointed to represent the children, also agreed with the dismissal. Torres pointed out that the oldest child, 15-year-old Arnoldo, expressed his preference to remain in the United States.

In a letter read in court, Rafael Salas, the children's appointed legal guardian, wrote he believed it was in the children's best interest to stay in the U.S. and avoid the dangers of living in Juárez.

Children's Court Judge Oscar G. Gabaldon Jr., upon reaching his verdict, said he saw enough evidence to see Campos as willing and capable to provide for her children. Throughout the process, he said, Campos "remained in contact with the children and showed unconditional commitment by being proactive."

"Government intervention in the life of parents and children is only to ensure that children are safe from the risk of harm," Gabaldon said. "The parental presumption is that the best interest of children is with their parents."

Ramirez, who pointed out that there is no law allowing children to be removed from their parents for being undocumented, said authorities never questioned Campos' competence as a mother because of her status as an undocumented immigrant.

Source: El Paso Times

Witches of Waterford

July 8, 2011 permalink

A legendary test for accused witches is to hold them under water for three minutes. Those that perish are innocent. The survivors are adjudged guilty and hanged. Connecticut does just about that to families. Parents John and Christine Berkery were jailed and their daughter Emma went to foster care. The only way for the parents to get out of jail was to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit. Now as convicts they are unfit parents and the foster mom is keeping Emma.



Custody battle brewing in Waterford

WATERFORD, Conn. (WTNH) - A custody battle continues to brew tonight after the state took a child out of what seemed to be an unfit home and placed her in foster care.

Now the child's biological parents say they want their kid back, but the foster parents won't let that happen without a fight.

A battle has been taken to court because police say a young girl was starved by her parents. Those parents now want her back now that they're out of jail but the foster parents are hoping to stop it.

Denise Mathieu is little Emma's foster parent. The then one-year-old had been taken from her mother Christine Berkery in Jan. 2010, when she and her husband John were arrested for allegedly starving her.

"She's doing great. She's a child that wouldn't look into your eyes nine months ago and she's a happy, well adjusted child now. She's thriving in her current environment," says Denise Mathieu, foster parent.

Mathieu was hoping to stop the Berkery's who a year later plead to a charge of reckless endangerment. In a statement John Berkery says "My wife and I took a deal earlier this year to get out of prison the fastest way we knew how in order to fight for our children back." Denise Mathieu says this is an issue of civil rights and believes Emma has not been represented appropriately by DCF or the child's attorney.

"This is a top down issue. We reached out to the commissioner's office back in May. Not only were we not taken seriously with our concerns, but we were provided with no response back from DCF," says Mathieu.

DCF told News 8 it is grateful for the love and devotion given to Emma, but if the court decides the mother is prepared to parent it will support that decision. Berkery says "This foster mother has grown attached to our child in the few months she had her and will stop at nothing to keep our child." The court ruled to reunite Emma with her parents Thursday afternoon.

"Our concern is that there's grave danger for this child, that this child's safety is being compromised," says Mathieu.

John Berkery didn't want to go on camera but told News 8 he and his wife were wrongly accused and wrongly arrested and that is why DCF now is trying to help them get their child back.

Source: WTNH

dunking witch

Surprise Crown Wards

July 7, 2011 permalink

Lisa Stevenson, maiden name Lisa Spring Sweet, got involved with CAS when Kingston Ontario CAS seized her children in February 2007. She later moved to British Columbia where she had another child. Last month her children became crown wards in an Ontario court action, though Lisa was not informed of the trial until a month after the crown ward decision. (The court record probably says that Lisa was served but failed to appear, so judgment was awarded by default). Lisa is aware of the abuse awaiting her children because she grew up in foster and adoptive care herself. Here is a link to a website Lisa created in 2007, her narrative is enclosed below.



I live in Duncan BC, I have children placed in foster care in Ontario. They were taken back in 2007 claiming AT RISK for neglect. 6 months later nothing was accomplished in the courts, so I placed the children with a family member of their father rather than having them in foster care any longer. In August 2007 it went sour, they denied me access and no lawyer would bother to help since it said at the families discretion. They however felt it ok to let the drug addicted father to visit the children since he is their nephew and were upset I had left him. I not being able to see my children moved away, I couldn't deal with it very well so I moved here to BC. I was able to see the children in May 2008 upon returning to Kingston Ontario for a half hour on my youngest daughters birthday at which point the aunt who has them said I was not to tell their father because he didn't want me to see them. That was the last time I seen them. The aunt said because someone told her I was going to kidnap my kids (which was a lie) that she would put a restraining order on me if I came around again. I returned once again to BC.

In August 2008 I became pregnant and when my sister who lives in Quebec found out she called in to tell them and claim I was mentally unstable and refusing to take my medications (never happened, at all shes a liar that's what she does all her life) and also told them I was an escort. (she is the escort actually, not me.) The ministry MCFD here in Duncan decided to get involved after they checked my file back east. They put an alert on me at the hospital.

I will say I was lucky there, I got a worker by the name of Vanessa Porter who did her homework. She read my file, and actually decided to follow up on many of the allegations such as me being drug addicted and an alcoholic as well as the mental health issues. She found them to be unfounded and of no proof and disregarded them.

I now have my two year old son in my care, have been intensively investigated by MCFD .

In August 2010 my four girls were basically dumped in foster care by the aunt and uncle who no longer wanted them. Rather than let me know because they figured since their nephew can't look after them, well their mother can't either. I have been promised phone conversations both my the aunt and uncle preceding the time the kids went back into care, and once they were in care. Nothing to date.

I cannot get legal aid, so I sent the plan of care to the worker in Kingston, Max Price. He said he got it and that we were now awaiting a case conference. Nothing for months. After contacting him almost everyday, I had a worker here by the name of Daniel Bell call back east and he was told I am in default and that the crown wardship court case is going ahead without me. I have been calling almost everyday for the last two months to legal aid to find out their decision, still nothing. Time goes on, the court case goes on. My girls are going to be adopted.

MCFD worker told Max Price in Ontario they fully support my four girls coming home to me. It apparently is not good enough for them that I have been cleared by MCFD.

Now here I sit today unknowing as to what is going on because now neither agency will speak to me. MCFD Duncan won't since I am no longer involved with them and have my child and they have no concerns, nor will Ontario. I had to take that to the child and youth board.

My one daughter was on Facebook but because her foster mother doesn't agree with the fact I don't feel she should be making my daughters call her their mother she blocked Lilly the 11 yr old from contact with me.

What can be done? I know I have basically lost, and stand no chance but I have to try for them. Nor can I give up, anything I can do to make my story known helps others in the long run, so its not just about me, its about all the innocent families out there.

Lisa Stevenson

ps I grew up in foster care and a very abusive adoptive home so this was their biggest reasoning I may harm my own children.

Source: email from Lisa Stevenson

Vote Liberal for Kids!

July 7, 2011 permalink

Ontario's Liberal Party will be running tv ads (mp4) patting itself on the back for treatment of children. The baby in the first clip is apprehensive because coming up positive on the wrong test could get him into foster care.

See No Evil

July 7, 2011 permalink

The Alberta Ministry of Children and Youth Services has a way of reducing child fatalities — not reporting them. Opposition MLA Rachel Notley found that a death reported to her privately did not appear in the ministry's annual report.



Death of Alberta baby omitted from report

NDP calls for better transparency in system

Rachel Notley
New Democrat MLA Rachel Notley
Photograph by: John Lucas,

EDMONTON - The death of a four-month-old child in the province’s care, which was not mentioned in the Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ annual report, prompted NDP opposition MLA Rachel Notley to call Wednesday for more disclosure regarding children in care.

Notley said she became aware of the death in December 2010, when the child’s family contacted her office. She said the family told her that what was initially ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was later reported to be due to unknown causes. The death, Notley said, was left out of the annual report, released June 11.

Notley said the case is just one example that illustrates the government’s approach of “secrecy first, disclosure only when absolutely required. By keeping it hidden ... we ensure a low level of accountability.”

The system in British Columbia is far more efficient, with more consistent and frequent reporting, she said. B.C. reports all deaths in care when they occur. In Alberta, the ministry does not report deaths that are considered of natural causes.

“At what point does neglect contribute to natural causes?” Notley asked.

There were six reported deaths of children in care in Alberta from April 2010 to March 2011, compared to 93 in B.C.

Minister of Children and Youth Services Yvonne Fritz said while she was not familiar with the death Notley referred to, the report was clear and factual.

“If there is a death that is not reported in the annual report, the death is not an injury-related death,” Fritz said. “We report the death of all children to our medical examiner.”

Fritz said they ministry continually looks to other jurisdictions for improvement, including B.C.

She said the ministry doesn’t immediately report on deaths of children in care because it would interfere with police investigations and ongoing court cases.

“I think it is important to follow the legislation that we have,” she said.

Alberta also does not have an independent child welfare advocate. In the province, the advocate has to report to the minister of Children and Youth Services and anything that is published must first be approved.

The advocate is not allowed to launch independent investigations on specific cases or conduct audits on the child welfare system, powers afforded to advocates in B.C.

“In the B.C. model ... the child representative operates fully independently,” Notley said. “What that means is you have a much more engaged, quality, informed conversation about how we are taking care of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Source: Edmonton Journal

Bureaucracies Cheat

July 6, 2011 permalink

Educators test students to measure the performance of students, teachers and schools. In Atlanta, cheating became endemic over a course of years, not by students, but by teachers eager to raise the ratings of their schools. Teachers congregated in off-campus parties to erase student answers and replace them with correct ones. The wrongdoing was not restricted to teachers, but pervaded higher levels of the bureaucracy. Investigations were met with stonewalling and altered records, while whistleblowers were reprimanded.

This article makes good reading for people who think that large bureaucracies cannot harbor widespread fraud. After seeing this example, it becomes harder to justify keeping Ontario's children's aid societies out of reach of any real oversight, such as from the provincial ombudsman.



Investigation into APS cheating finds unethical behavior across every level

Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes.

Beverly Hall
A state investigation found former Atlanta schools superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides either ignored or destroyed evidence of test cheating across the district.
Curtis Compton,

Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

In the report, the governor’s special investigators describe an enterprise where unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior pierced every level of the bureaucracy, allowing district staff to reap praise and sometimes bonuses by misleading the children, parents and community they served.

The report accuses top district officials of wrongdoing that could lead to criminal charges in some cases.

The decision whether to prosecute lies with three district attorneys — in Fulton, DeKalb and Douglas counties — who will consider potential offenses in their jurisdictions.

For teachers, a culture of fear ensured the deception would continue.

“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.

The voluminous report names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating. More than 80 confessed. The investigators said they confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.

The investigators conducted more than 2,100 interviews and examined more than 800,000 documents in what is likely the most wide-ranging investigation into test-cheating in a public school district ever conducted in United States history.

The findings fly in the face of years of denials from Atlanta administrators. The investigators re-examined the state’s erasure analysis — which they said proved to be valid and reliable — and sought to lay to rest district leaders’ numerous excuses for the suspicious scores.

Deal warned Tuesday “there will be consequences” for educators who cheated. “The report’s findings are troubling,” he said, “but I am encouraged this investigation will bring closure to problems that existed.”

Interim Atlanta Superintendent Erroll Davis promised that the educators found to have cheated “are not going to be put in front of children again.”

Through her lawyer, Hall issued a statement denying that she, her staff or the “vast majority” of Atlanta educators knew or should have known of “allegedly widespread” cheating. “She further denies any other allegations of knowing and deliberate wrongdoing on her part or on the part of her senior staff,” the statement said, “whether during the course of the investigation or before.”

Don’t blame teachers?

Phyllis Brown, a southwest Atlanta parent with two children in the district, said the latest revelations are “horrible.” It is the children, she said, who face embarrassment if they are promoted to a higher grade only to find they aren’t ready for the more challenging work.

Still, she doesn’t believe teachers should be punished.

“It’s the people over them, that threatened them, that should be punished,” she said. “The ones from the building downtown, they should lose their jobs, they should lose their pensions. They are the ones who started this.”

AJC raised questions

Former Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered the inquiry last year after rejecting the district’s own investigation into suspicious erasures on tests in 58 schools. The AJC first raised questions about some schools’ test scores more than two years ago.

The special investigators’ report describes years of misconduct that took place as far up the chain of command as the superintendent’s office. The report accuses Hall and her aides of repeatedly tampering with or hiding records that cast an unflattering light on the district.

In one case, Hall’s chief Human Resources officer Millicent Few “illegally ordered” the destruction of early, damning drafts of an outside lawyer’s investigation of test-tampering at Atlanta’s Deerwood Academy, the report said.

Another time, Few ordered staff to destroy a case log of cheating-related internal investigations after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested it, the report said. Few told staff to replace the old log with a new, altered version. When the district finally produced the complaints, the investigators wrote, it illegally withheld cases that made it “look bad” — either because its investigation was poor or because wrongdoing received minimal sanction.

Few also made false statements to the investigators, the report said.

Few, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, denied to the investigators that she tampered with documents or ordered anyone else to do so.

Lying to investigators and destroying or altering public records are felonies under Georgia law with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine, as well as area superintendents Michael Pitts and Tamara Cotman, also gave the investigators false information, the report said, and the district’s general counsel Veleter Mazyck “provided less than candid responses.”

The report also said Hall and Augustine illegally suppressed a report by a testing expert last year. Andrew Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, largely confirmed an AJC analysis that suggested cheating occurred, but the district withheld his findings from the media and public.

Augustine, Pitts and Cotman could not be reached Tuesday. Mazyck referred questions to her attorney. “I’m shocked that they would characterize her statements as less than candid,” said Richard Sinkfield, Mazyck’s attorney. “She was fully cooperative, fully open, and has not participated in any wrongdoing.”

The investigators said district officials misled them and hampered their investigation.

“Dr. Hall pledged ‘full cooperation’ with this investigation, but did not deliver,” the report said. “APS withheld documents and information from us. Many district officials we interviewed were not truthful.”

‘The chosen ones’

The district passes its scores on to the state each year and pledges they are accurate. Giving a “false official writing” is also a felony.

In some schools, the report said, cheating became a routine part of administering the annual state Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests. The investigators describe highly organized, coordinated efforts to falsify tests when children could not score high enough to meet the district’s self-imposed goals.

The cheating cut off struggling students from the extra help they would have received if they’d failed.

At Venetian Hills, a group of teachers and administrators who dubbed themselves “the chosen ones” convened to change answers in the afternoons or during makeup testing days, investigators found. Principal Clarietta Davis, a testing coordinator told investigators, wore gloves while erasing to avoid leaving fingerprints on answer sheets.

Davis refused to answer the investigators’ questions. She could not be reached Tuesday.

At Gideons Elementary, teachers sneaked tests off campus and held a weekend “changing party” at a teacher’s home in Douglas County to fix answers.

Cheating was “an open secret” at the school, the report said. The testing coordinator handed out answer-key transparencies to place over answer sheets so the job would go faster.

When investigators began questioning educators, now-retired principal Armstead Salters obstructed their efforts by telling teachers not to cooperate, the report said.

“If anyone asks you anything about this just tell them you don’t know,” the report said Salters said. He told teachers to “just stick to the story and it will all go away.”

Salters eventually confessed to knowing cheating was occurring, the report said. He could not be reached Tuesday.

At Kennedy Middle, children who couldn’t read not only passed the state reading test, but scored at the highest level possible. At Perkerson Elementary, a student sat under a desk, then randomly filled in answers and still passed.

At East Lake Elementary, the principal and testing coordinator instructed teachers to arrange students’ seats so that the lower-performing children would receive easier versions of the Fifth Grade Writing Tests.

Principal Gwendolyn Benton, who has since left, obstructed the investigation, too, the report said, when she threatened teachers by saying she would “sue them out the ass” if they “slandered” her to the GBI.

When the investigators interviewed Benton, she denied knowing cheating took place. She could not be reached Tuesday.

District employees suffered intense stress — enough to send at least one to the hospital — in a workplace where threats from supervisors kept them from reporting wrongdoing for fear of losing their jobs.

Area superintendents, who oversee clusters of schools, enforced a code of silence. One made a whistle-blower alter his reports of cheating and placed a reprimand in his file — and not the cheater’s. Another told a teacher who saw tampering that if she did not “keep her mouth shut,” she would “be gone.”

“In sum, a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation permeated the APS system from the highest ranks down,” the investigators wrote. “Cheating was allowed to proliferate until, in the words of one former APS principal, ‘it became intertwined in Atlanta Public Schools ... a part of what the culture is all about.’ ”

Three key reasons

The investigators gave three key reasons that cheating flourished in Atlanta: The district set unrealistic test-score goals, or “targets,” a culture of pressure and retaliation spread throughout the district, and Hall emphasized test results and public praise at the expense of ethics.

Because the targets rose each time a school attained them, the pressure ratcheted up in classrooms each year. Cheating one year created a need for more cheating the next.

“Once cheating started, it became a house of cards that collapsed on itself,” the investigators wrote.

Educators most frequently cited the targets to explain cheating.

“APS became such a ‘data-driven’ system, with unreasonable and excessive pressure to meet targets, that Beverly Hall and her senior cabinet lost sight of conducting tests with integrity,” the report said.

The investigators said Hall’s aloof leadership style contributed directly to an atmosphere that fueled cheating.

She isolated herself from rank-and-file employees, the report said. Mazyck, the district’s general counsel, told investigators that her job was to provide Hall with “deniability,” insulating Hall from the need to make tough choices.

Sinkfield, Mazyck’s attorney, said the investigators took her statements about law practice in general “totally out of context.”

A major reason for the ethical failures in Hall’s administration, the investigators wrote, was that Hall and her senior staff refused to accept responsibility for problems.

“Dr. Hall and her senior cabinet accepted accolades when those below them performed well, but they wanted none of the burdens of failure,” the report said.

The district’s priority became maintaining and promoting Hall’s image as a miracle worker.

After an earlier investigation into cheating by a group of civic and business leaders, Hall was under pressure to crack down. The investigation was flawed, however, producing allegations but no confessions.

Nonetheless, Hall forwarded the names of about 100 Atlanta educators to the teacher licensing board for possible disciplinary action. She did so based on statistics showing high erasures in certain classrooms, despite the fact that someone other than the teacher could easily have done the erasing.

The investigators said Hall made the referral so it appeared she was taking a tough stance.

They called her actions “unconscionable.”

The report also touched on the support the Atlanta business community has provided Hall for years.

Her supporters were so concerned the district’s problems would reflect poorly on the Atlanta “brand,” the report said, that they attacked those who asked questions about the district’s purported success. A senior vice president at the Metro Atlanta Chamber, for instance, suggested a report commissioned by business and civic leaders that found cheating was limited to a dozen schools would need to be “finessed” past Gov. Sonny Perdue, the report said.

That effort failed. Perdue appointed the special investigators in August 2010.

Hall preferred to spend her time networking with philanthropic and business leaders rather than walking the halls of her schools, the investigators found.

But when the scandal erupted, she withheld key information — state data on the suspicious erasures — even from executives and civic leaders who the school board, at Hall’s urging, appointed to conduct the inquiry.

“In many ways, the community was duped by Dr. Hall,” the report said. “While the district had rampant cheating, community leaders were unaware of the misconduct in the district. She abused the trust they placed in her.

“Hall became a subject of adoration and made herself the focus rather than the children,” the investigators wrote. “Her image became more important than reality.”

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bike for Kids

July 6, 2011 permalink

coffin for foster children

The Motorcade and Biker Run for Accountability and Transparency will take place Saturday July 16 starting in Kitchener. Catherine Frei gives specifics.



Motorcade and Biker Run for Accountability and Transparency

We are inviting members of the media to our Motorcade and Biker Run for Accountability and Transparency of Children’s Aid Societies being held Saturday, July16, 2011 from 11am until 4pm . This motorcade will begin in the Southwest parking lot of Victoria Park (near the Pavillion) in Kitchener. We will travel through Cambridge, stopping at the Children's Aid at 168 Hespeler Road and then through to Hamilton Catholic Children's Aid Society at 735 King St.E. In Hamilton.

This event is one of dozens taking place across Ontario seeking oversight of Ontario's 53 Children's Aid Societies. Leading this motorcade will be a flatbed trailer with 12 white coffins, each one signifying 10 children that died in the Children's Aid care in 2009. That year alone 120 children died under the direct and/or indirect care of these agencies.

In the past four years there have been 384 children that have died under the care of the Children's Aid in Ontario. In the past 18 months there have been over 75 protests across Ontario.

Some of our issues:

  • We want the Ontario Government and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services to begin taking responsibility for the 53 Children’s Societies actions across Ontario. We want Government Oversight over Children’s Aid Societies to protect kids in dangerous foster care situations and innocent families. Criminal investigations will show workers from around the province have committed criminal acts. Ontario is the only Province in Canada without oversight.
  • The Canadian Government’s Child Abuse & Neglect statistics supplied by CAS’s state most parents who become involved with Children’s Aid are 100% innocent. They are not substance or child abusers; they did not make poor parental decisions and never required involvement of any kind.
  • Ontario courts and enquiries have proven children aretaken from innocent parents and some put up for adoption. The total number is unknown until the Ontario Government is pressured to begin criminal investigations.
  • The Children’s Aid and the Ministries Child and Family Services Review Board will not review:
    • Matters currently before the courts or the courts have already decided.
    • Matters that fall under other decision making processes under the Child and Family Services Act or the Labour Relations Act. (Every single case!!)

    ** We need the media to ask Children’s Aid Societies what complaints the CAS or the Ministry of Child and Youth Service’s Review Board will not deal with.

  • According to one research Doctor at the RCMP Missing Children’s Services children taken from innocent parents suffer the same effect of abduction. Most professionals agree abduction is emotional abuse.
  • The Ontario Child Advocate has concerns about the high death rate among children while in CAS care.
  • Children’s Aid Job Bank postings show certificates, licenses, memberships, courses, etc from accreditation bodies are not required. Why? Workers began using “Child Protection Worker” and not accreditation such as “Registered Social Worker” for example preventing accountability by the College of Social Workers under the SWSSW act among others.
  • All 53 Children’s Aid Societies are self regulated, non-governmental organisations that should only receive more funding with oversight. This will save tax payers billions.
  • Recently Sudbury CAS lawyers attempted and failed to protect a convicted pedophile foster parent from having his name published against his former foster child wishes so other victims would come forward.
  • As you may remember the Ontario Auditor General’s 2008 audit of 4 CAS’s showed 4 out of 4 Children Aid Societies were mismanaging our money with personal memberships, trips, SUV’s.
  • Attending many of the rallies across Ontario are the wrongfully convicted of the disgraced Charles Randal Smith.

As we've previously stated the purpose of the peaceful motorcade is for oversight and accountability of Ontario’s 53 Children’s Aid Societies. Our requests for oversight are reasonable, not attacks on good social workers or attempts to close important services like Children's Aid Societies. Oversight will ensure safer, accountable and transparent Child protection services across Ontario and we can assure the public in some cases lead to criminal investigations. They have been entrusted to regulate themselves and these Non-governmental organizations have failed miserably.


Catherine Frei
Child and Family Advocate

Source: Exchange Magazine

Safe from CAS

July 5, 2011 permalink

Miller Hudak, three-year-old daughter of Ontario opposition leader Tim Hudak, has been released after a month in the hospital. With lots of other families, social workers would be nosing around with questions, but not in this case. What keeps them away? Certainly not fame or fortune. Others with more fame and money have had their lives shredded by family law. The difference is that Mr Hudak may, according to current polls, become Ontario's premier after this October's election. Alienating Mr Hudak could lead to rapid reform of CAS. They will steer clear in this case.



Hudak's daughter out of hospital

Tim Hudak and Deb Hutton with daughter Miller Hudak
Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak is joined by his daughter Miller Hudak, 3, and wife Deb Hutton after delivering the keynote address at the provincial PC convention at the Toronto Congress Centre on May 28.
ERNEST DOROSZUK/Toronto Sun files

Miller Hudak — the daughter of PC Leader Tim Hudak and wife Deb Hutton — is home from hospital after a month-long stay.

"4 long weeks but Miller is out of hospital. Continues to visit great Sick Kids team in mos (months) ahead but today our home is whole & happy again," Hudak tweeted Tuesday.

The three-year-old girl is recovering from an undisclosed illness that required treatment in the Intensive Care Unit.

"My heart burst at the sight of her sleeping peacefully in her own bed again," Hudak tweeted. "My beautiful little girl is home."

Source: Toronto Sun

Sterile Policy

July 5, 2011 permalink

Kelly Richards is a victim of what Barbara Bryan calls constructive serial sterilization. At age 19 Kelly, then single, gave up a baby for adoption. Now age 28 and married, she fears that her future babies will be seized at birth, a fear that is amply justified by child protector practice.



‘Giving up my baby was biggest mistake of my life’ - Burnley mum

Kelly Richards

A DYSLEXIC woman whose baby was taken away from her says she is terrified to have another child for fear of going through another ordeal.

Kelly Richards was just 19 and alone when she had her son. She loved him dearly, and not wanting to cause him harm, says she turned for help — and made the biggest mistake of her life.

Said Kelly: “I knew I was dyslexic and was worried I would get measurements mixed up if I had to give my little boy medicines. I would never, ever have hurt him. I didn’t have family to support me so I thought social services might help. It was the worse thing I ever did.

“It is just as though he is dead. He’s gone, but I know he is alive and living somewhere in Lancashire. I grieve every day and can’t face the thought of it happening all over again.

“I’m dyslexic, not a bad person. I’ve never taken drugs or abused anybody and the only time I have a drink is at Christmas or a birthday, but I never stood a chance.

The photos I have show we were happy and he was not neglected.”

Kelly, now 28, is happily married and would like a family.

She said it had taken her years to come to terms with her emotional turmoil. She has improved her English and maths by attending classes, and intends to start a college course in September, but is still frightened for the future.

“I’m scared”, said Kelly. “My lovely baby is nine years old now. I’ve never seen him. They put him up for adoption and I am allowed to write to a box number once a year. I’d never even heard his voice until recently. When I wrote I asked the adoptive parents if they would make a recording of him talking. It brought tears to my eyes when I played the CD of him playing.

“According to social services I wasn’t a fit mother as I was dyslexic. That is what was written on the paperwork. I would never tell anyone to go to social services for support or help, because you get your child whipped off you.”

Frances Mercer, chairman of the North East Lancashire Dyslexic Association, said teenager Kelly should have been supported and helped. She said: “I can understand there were difficulties for Kelly and fears about how she was managing. Dyslexia is also associated with dyscalculia– difficulty with numbers – and dyspraxia – organisational skills that affect our day-to-day management of life. She needed the correct support and understanding.

“That is what should have happened. With the correct support she would have been OK.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council Social Services Department said: “We never comment on individual cases because of confidentiality, but if this lady would like to get in touch we are more than happy to talk about her concerns and put her mind at ease.”

Source: Pendle Today

We Aint Got No Kids

July 3, 2011 permalink

Fixcas has an occasional story in the category fear of services, cases where parents fail to get medical attention for their children out of fear of child removal. Here is a new version: denial that you even have children.

Sharon Kay Palmer A new sad pattern evolving in our small town. People who you first meet now are denying they are mothers, fathers and parents. When I ask why of the few who have done this, I was told the following: They are protecting their children, as they are scared if someone new they may meet doesn't like them and if they tell them they do not have children, this new person can not be vindictive and make a false allegation to start a CAS investigation. WOW!

Source: Facebook

Shaken Baby Doubts

July 3, 2011 permalink

Norman Guthkelch, the originator of shaken baby syndrome, is having second thoughts about the validity of his theory. Here is the audio from NPR (mp3). There is an accompanying tv program The Child Cases. Since the pbs website is a technical nightmare nearly impossbile for Canadians to view, here is a magnet link for bittorrent users.



Rethinking Shaken Baby Syndrome

The dispute over shaken baby syndrome is a bitter civil war. On one side, doctors, lawyers and other experts say the diagnosis is key to winning convictions of people accused of the most horrible acts of child abuse. Opponents say the diagnosis is used too freely and that sometimes, innocent people go to prison.

Norman Guthkelch, the pediatric neurosurgeon who is credited with first observing the condition in young children, is speaking out for the first time about his concerns regarding how that diagnosis is used. He worries that it is too often applied by medical examiners and doctors without considering other possible causes for a child's death or injury.

Norman Guthkelch
Norman Guthkelch, a pediatric neurosurgeon who is credited with discovering shaken baby syndrome, is now having second thoughts about how the diagnosis is used in court.
Courtesy of Norman Guthkelch

Guthkelch, who is now 95, would like to play peacemaker. "There are cases where people on both sides, both of whom I admire equally, are barely able to speak to one another," he says. "And that's a shame."

Guthkelch is concerned that there are too many cases like the one he recently reviewed in Arizona. A defense attorney asked him to look at the case of a father who has spent 10 years in prison after being convicted of killing his 5-month-old son by shaking him.

After reviewing the trial record and medical reports, Guthkelch said he was troubled to see that the medical examiner's autopsy had concluded that the baby died of shaken baby syndrome while discounting other possible causes: A month prior to the child's death, the boy had been admitted to the hospital with uncontrolled seizures. The baby had also briefly been in the neonatal intensive care ward after a difficult birth.

To Guthkelch, this suggests the boy may have instead died from natural causes. "I think I used the expression in my report, 'I wouldn't hang a cat on the evidence of shaking, as presented.' "

NPR teamed up with PBS Frontline and ProPublica and studied nearly two dozen cases in the U.S. and Canada where people were first convicted of killing children but later acquitted or had the charges dropped. Common patterns in these cases emerged over questionable autopsies and testimony, as well as disputes over medical evidence, such as the shaken baby syndrome diagnosis.

Diagnosing Shaken Baby Syndrome

Three years ago, Guthkelch received a standing ovation when he was introduced at the international conference of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

"So who should be credited for discovering shaken baby syndrome? My vote is for Dr. A. Norman Guthkelch," said Carole Jenny, a pediatrician with a specialty in child abuse prevention, as she introduced him to the group.

Jenny noted that Guthkelch wrote his groundbreaking paper in the British Medical Journal in 1971. It was just two pages long and called "Infantile Subdural Hematoma and its Relationship to Whiplash Injuries." That paper, Jenny explained, "is the first clear, unambiguous reference in the world's medical literature to shaking as a mechanism of head injury in infants and small children."

Guthkelch was trying to solve a medical mystery: Babies, toddlers and other children were showing up at his hospital with subdural hematomas — or bleeding on the surface of the brain — yet there were no signs of the cause. These children came with no broken bones, bruises or other signs of physical abuse.

He solved the mystery with a simple observation: In northern England, where he lived, parents sometimes punished their children by shaking them.

It was socially acceptable. "They had no motive to lie," Guthkelch says. "So the parents told me the truth. 'Yes, I shook him.' "

At the same time, Guthkelch heard a revealing story from William German, a Yale University professor of neurosurgery. German told Guthkelch about a day he took his grandchildren to an amusement park. "They all went on the roller coaster and when it got to the summit of its travel, apparently it stopped violently and everybody was thrown quite violently," Guthkelch explains.

A few days later, German developed bad headaches. He checked himself into the hospital where he worked and was found to have a subdural hematoma that required surgery. German figured it must have been caused by the violent jerk of the amusement park ride.

Guthkelch put these observations together and came up with his theory that a child could be shaken violently and develop bleeding on the brain — without any broken bones, bruises or other signs of physical abuse.

Controversy Among Medical Experts

Guthkelch's chief concern was to inform parents about the dangers of shaking and to prevent abuse. And that's still just as important today, he says. A baby's brain is soft and surrounded by a thin skull, both of which can be easily damaged.

Other scientists built on his research. Now shaken baby syndrome is diagnosed when doctors find unexplained bleeding on the brain and two other symptoms: bleeding behind the retinas and brain swelling. This constellation of symptoms is referred to as "the triad."

Too many medical experts see that triad of symptoms and conclude a child has been shaken without considering other possibilities, Guthkelch says. "I don't think that the famous triad, however well some people think it's defined, can ever be so well-defined that you can say that and nothing else cause it — that meaning shaking."

Still, while shaken baby syndrome has been a widely accepted diagnosis for decades, a growing number of medical experts — particularly forensic pathologists — now question the diagnosis. Some skeptics cite research by biomechanical engineers that says you can't shake a baby with so much force that you cause internal head injuries but leave no external marks, bruises or injuries to the neck or spine.

Others — including many pediatricians — strongly defend the diagnosis and say they often see its devastation. They say that violent shaking alone can cause a child's death or severe brain damage with lifelong disabilities.

There are no exact numbers on shaken baby syndrome cases. The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, a resource and advocacy group, estimates there are about 1,200 to 1,400 cases a year of severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse. The FBI reports about 500 homicides a year of children under the age of 5, from all causes.

Too Much Caution?

Not all experts share Guthkelch's desire for new caution in diagnosing shaken baby syndrome. And some, like Teri Covington, who runs the National Center for Child Death Review Policy and Practice, worry that there's already too much caution. She says that because of disputes over the science, there are growing cases of child abuse where the abuser isn't punished at all.

Covington's federally funded research center helps states investigate child deaths. And Covington says that when she meets with prosecutors, police and medical examiners, they say they're already reluctant to bring even pretty clear cases.

"I have heard many a discussion of reluctance from both law enforcement and prosecutors to even start moving these cases forward in the way that they would have done five or 10 years ago," she says.

Now, Covington says, many prosecutors won't pursue cases unless they have a "definite whodunit" that can be proved easily in court. "I've seen that happen several times in the last few months," she adds.

When Medicine Enters The Courtroom

Guthkelch says doctors need to be extra cautious when medicine reaches the courtroom. Medical knowledge changes over time, but the criminal justice system wants certainty to determine guilt or innocence. "In a case of measles," he says, "if you get the diagnosis wrong, in seven days' time it really doesn't matter because it's cleared up anyhow. If you get the diagnosis of fatal shaken baby syndrome wrong, potentially someone's life will be terminated."

That's one reason Guthkelch says it's time to get all sides together and try to agree on what can be said with scientific certainty about shaken baby syndrome.

At first he thinks perhaps a funder would sponsor a conference that would bring all the sides together. "If you have a spare couple million bucks and you'd like to finance a meeting, preferably in one of the good places like Vegas or Bermuda or whatever — then away we go," he says with a laugh.

But then, on reflection, he thinks about the long-standing bitterness between all those competing doctors, lawyers, medical experts and child advocates. He says it's important to have a civil dialogue — and almost a dream to think it can happen.

Source: NPR

Addendum: Here is a later NPR program on Tammy Marquardt and Dr Charles Smith (mp3).

Fatherhood Expunged

July 3, 2011 permalink

Christopher Booker reports on the filching of two girls from a single father. Meanwhile, Fathers 4 Justice founder Matt O'Connor has announced his intention to start a hunger strike on July 10. And a separate organization Real Fathers 4 Justice is continuing its campaign against unfair family law. In a YouTube video (local copy mp4) Garry Roe, dressed as Batman, approached British Secretary of State for Justice Ken Clarke questioning him about family law.



A father's nightmare

Torn apart: the system of child protection is a national scandal
Photo: ALAMY

Last month, a French-Italian language teacher, who had been happily bringing up his two daughters "somewhere in southern England" since their mother walked out on them seven years ago, was plunged into an inexplicable nightmare. It seemed one of his girls had been overheard by a teacher telling a friend that she had been "fighting" with her father. The girls were taken by social workers to hospital, where neither showed any marks or sign of injury – hardly surprising, since the girl and her father had merely been having an argument.

The girls were taken into care; the father was arrested by the police and allowed home on bail, although no charges have been brought. The girls attempted to smuggle notes to their father via a school friend, to say that they loved him and wanted to come home. A teacher discovered one of these notes, prompting a search of the bags of all the pupils for others.

The father was presented by a social worker with a scrawled "agreement", laying down the strict conditions on which he could have brief "supervised contact" with his daughters once a week, any breach of which would lead to the contact being instantly terminated (such conditions being routinely imposed on parents whose children have been snatched).

One condition was that he and the children "will only speak English to each other during contact", although they normally talk to each other in a mixture of French and Italian. The father said he was unable to sign such a document. Even though the emergency order under which the children were seized expired last Monday, the judge adjourned hearing the council's application for an interim care order until next week. This means there is no order in force allowing the council to keep the children.

The father is utterly bemused that such "Kafka-esque events" could happen in Britain. His surprise is understandable. There is not another country in Europe where the law would allow such a bizarre episode to take place. Here, alas, the courts and our MPs have allowed it to become commonplace.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Baby Thief for President

July 1, 2011 permalink

US presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is treating her past as a foster mother to 23 children as a positive accomplishment. More recently, she has tugged on our heart strings with the revelation that she suffered a miscarriage. Two articles are enclosed below.

Bachmann preaches small government while earning a living collecting welfare cheques. She took in troubled cases, qualifying her for premium foster rates. There is not a hint in her politics that she recognizes that most foster children were stolen from their parents. How long will it be until the press turns up a tearful girl whining: "Social workers took me from mom and sent me to Michele Bachmann?"



Michele Bachmann

How 23 Foster Kids Led to Michele Bachmann’s Career in Politics

You could be forgiven for thinking that Michele Bachmann had already begun her campaign for the GOP nomination. She gave the buzziest performance in the most recent debate and preannounced that she was running for president. But she didn't announce that she had started to run for president: It doesn't count unless you say it! The Huffington Post reports that Bachmann will officially start referring to her activities as campaigning on Monday in Iowa.

Bachmann might have perfected the primary-season art of ginning up as many limelight-stealing pseudo-events as possible, but she's been strikingly attention-shy when it comes to her family life. Bachmann has often been lumped in with the rest of the post–Sarah Palin Mama Grizzlies, and not without reason: She happily presents her credentials as a mother of five and foster mom to 23, and the last couple of election cycles have shown that Republican voters find maternal narratives extremely compelling in female candidates. But in her campaign (sorry, precampaign), Bachmann has been more interested in playing up her professional background, especially the tax-attorney bit — after all, she's the tea party's candidate of choice. And unlike Sarah Palin, she's got a current full-time gig.

It was her role as a mother that helped get Bachmann into politics, the New York Times reports in the most detailed look yet at Bachmann's family life. Details on how exactly she handled 23 foster children, starting in 1992, remain murky; Minnesota allows foster-child records to be destroyed after seven years, and the names of her foster children have never been made public for privacy reasons. Bachmann and her husband, who runs a Christian counseling center, specifically wanted to take in "unwed mothers." The Bachmanns didn't end up doing so, but they did take in multiple girls with eating disorders. Because the couple took in particularly troubled cases, their house was designated as a treatment home, meaning they got slightly more money than usual for their work. (Today, the government hands out $47 per day for those who perform that service.)

Bachmann, who had home-schooled her own kids and eventually enrolled them in private Christian schools, sent one of her foster kids to New Heights School, a "back-to-basics" public charter school. Bachmann ended up joining the New Heights board, which was beset by controversy over its heavy Christian overtones. The Times reports that "some parents wanted a school 'based on godly principles,' while others contended that 'the idea to be as close to a Christian school and be public while taking public money is deceit.'"

Teachers complained that they could not teach about "'Native American spirituality' or even yoga, and that one who wanted to show the Disney movie 'Aladdin' was told she could not because it involved magic." Bachmann ended up leaving the school's board after "state and local school officials warned the school that it was at risk of losing its charter."

Several years later she began giving talks in church basements about education reform that were likened to tent revivals, and her political career, which as of Monday will include a run for the White House, was born.

Source: New York Magazine

Bachmann’s Views on Abortion Shaped by Miscarriage

Representative Michele Bachmann held a town-hall-style meeting at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., on Wednesday night.
Emmanuel Parisse/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Representative Michele Bachmann’s personal story has become an important part of her campaign narrative: mother of five, foster parent to nearly two dozen.

But Mrs. Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, surprised voters at a town-hall-style meeting in South Carolina on Wednesday by revealing that she had a miscarriage about two decades ago. It was an event, she said, that shaped her views about abortion.

“After our second child was born, we became pregnant with a third baby,” Mrs. Bachmann said on Wednesday night, as reported to Politico and others. “And it was an unexpected baby, but of course we were delighted to have this child. And the child was coming along, and we ended up losing that child. And it was devastating for both of us, as you can imagine if any of you have lost a child.”

She added: “When we lost that child, it changed us. And it changed us forever.”

Mrs. Bachmann is a vocal opponent of abortion, describing herself during a recent debate as “100 percent pro-life.”

Source: New York Times


July 1, 2011 permalink

When Amanda Sutherland got the record of her life in Nova Scotia foster care, every name was blotted out.



Ex-foster child goes to court for details of her past

Amanda Sutherland
Amanda Sutherland says deleting names sends a 'terrible message' to former foster children.

A former foster child says Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services is withholding information that would help her understand her own life.

Amanda Sutherland, 41, is preparing to go to court to force the department to give her the details she wants.

Sutherland requested a government file about her life. She received papers, but all of the names were deleted.

She isn't impressed with the department's explanation that it has to protect the information of any third parties listed on the file.

"To have every single person that was involved in my life deleted and being told as a former foster child that I'm an unreasonable invasion into those people that were a part of my life, I think sends a terrible message to foster children in this province," she told CBC News.

Sutherland was born on Sept. 15, 1969, at Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow. She entered care as a toddler and had nine foster families over 18 years.

Only the details of her birth are in the government document. The names of her biological parents, foster parents, and even high school teachers are all missing.

Sutherland knows some names, including those of her parents and some foster families. But she was hoping to get more details from the province.

"I wanted to have healing and closure and understand my past in its entirety," she said.

Community Services says it cannot comment on an individual case. A spokesperson said the department can't assume that people want their information released, so it doesn't name them.

Sutherland's last foster mother told CBC News she had no problem releasing her personal information. In her opinion, they already know each other.

Sutherland is taking Community Services to court to get the information she wants. She hopes her case sets a precedent for other foster children trying to uncover their past.

Her case is scheduled to be heard in Nova Scotia Supreme Court this fall.

Source: CBC

CAS Directors Needed

July 1, 2011 permalink

Huron-Perth CAS, taken over by the ministry in October, is recruiting board members so that it can return to autonomous governance, and get out of reach of the ombudsman, in September.



Huron-Perth CAS recruiting board members

Part of transition to becoming locally run once again

The Huron-Perth Children's Aid Society is recruiting board members as it continues a transition to being locally run once again this September.

"The agency is now moving forward and we're formed a committee of citizens from both counties who have agreed to take on the task of recruiting 14 potential board members," interim supervisor Larry Marshall said Thursday in an interview.

Former Huron-Perth CAS board chair Marie Parson is leading the advisory committee, whose mandate is recruit and recommend potential board members.

The committee will be recruiting this month and interviewing candidates in August to have the board in place for September.

The board's bylaw calls for 14 members. Marshall said there is not a set formula for representation from the two counties.

"We do try to get a good cross-section from both counties," he said.

Marshall said the Children and Youth Services Ministry's plan is to hand over responsibility for running the Huron-Perth CAS to the new board this fall. One of the board's first orders of business will be to hire a new executive director.

Marshall, who works for the Youth and Children's Services Ministry, took over in January as interim supervisor. He succeeded Vince Tedesco, who was appointed interim leader in October 2010 after Children and Youth Services Minister Laurel Broten fired Huron-Perth CAS executive director Tom Knight and dissolved the board of directors.

Broten stepped in after Knight and board chair Vince Judge held a news conference to announce the agency would lay off 125 staff and close its doors Dec. 15 due to a lack of funding. The agency had $870,000 in past debt and was expected to run a deficit of $1.3 million for 2009-10.

Before he was let go, Knight said the Huron-Perth CAS was one of the lowest-funded CAS agencies in the region. Its 2010-11 budget of $17 million was about half the size of some similar-sized CAS agencies.

Marshall's task was to lead a review of how the Huron-Perth CAS delivers its services and the transition to board governance.

Tedesco was in charge of a financial review of the organization.

The Huron-Perth CAS serves about 450 families a month and conducts more than 1,600 abuse investigations annually. There were 200 children in its care.

People interested in becoming a board member are asked to visit the Huron-Perth CAS website site at to see eligibility criteria and contact Angela Simpson at 519-271-5290, ext. 2398, or by email at

Source: Stratford Beacon Herald

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