I Lost Seven Children To These Criminals

at a glance

Lisa Stevenson
Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Video Editor
City of Kingston & County of Frotenac Children's Aid Society
1973 - 2011
Children and Youth Services Community and Social Services
Laurel Broten (LIB) Dr. Eric Hoskins (LIB) Deb Matthews (LIB) Marie Bountrogianni (LIB) Mary Anne Chambers (LIB) Janet Ecker (PC) John Baird (PC) John Beer (LIB) Zanana Akande (NDP) Marion Boyd (NDP) Tony Silipo (NDP) David Tsubouchi (PC) Bruce McCaffrey (PC) James Francis Drea (PC) Robert Elgie (PC) Ernie Eves (PC) John Sweeney (LIB) René Brunelle (PC) James Taylor (PC) Keith Norton (PC)

A letter to my Children

Life has not been the same without you.

I hope that life brought you good things and I am so very saddened by the fact I could not be in your lives for very long. It was a GREAT pleasure raising you for as long as I was permitted to. I couldn’t have asked for a better life with you guys. You were the best. I hope you know that Mommy loves you and I have thought of you each and every day of my life and I can’t wait to see you again in the future. I have missed you all over the years.

Remember, none of this was your fault. I know you thought your fight at school was what caused this, but it wasn’t. I think of you everyday, all of you. Now that I know where all but one of you are, there is a tiny bit of relief, though not much. I miss the times spent playing out on the big hill in the cold winter snow, the snow forts, and all the things we used to do together. I hope you were able to continue with your piano lessons, I remember when you told me how excited you were to learn that new song. I wish I had the chance to hear you play. I wish I had the chance to see your beautiful smile again and hear you all laugh. Everyone that knew us all loved you guys, they too speak of how they miss you. I hope you got to take the horse riding lessons that you wanted to do, or anything else you have wanted to experience in your lives.

I want nothing more than the best for you guys. I want nothing more than for us to meet again, or have you back home where you belong, away from all that has gone on over the last few years.

They say everything in life happens for a reason. For us, I am still unsure 20 yrs later what exactly that reason is, and maybe someday, someone will enlighten me about the reason why these things happen to families such as ours.

Love, Mom

Lisa's Story

I was sexually abused by my father. I also witnessed tremendous amounts of abuse by my father toward my mother, even holding her at gun point. When my mother died in 1980, my sister and I became crown wards and were placed permanently into foster care. We were both physically and emotionally abused in these homes. When my sister was four years old, we were placed in foster care with friends of the family and they tried to drown her. The worst abuse happened in our final adoptive home. The mother would beat us with leather belts and force my sister to eat her own vomit. I called my CAS worker and told her what was going on. The worker called me a liar and said that I was a troubled 11 year old who used lying to get out of something I didn't want to do. At 18, I hit the woman who beat us. I had had enough of our abusive adoptive mother and struck back. That day I was escorted from the home and placed in a hotel.

At 19, I became pregnant while in an abusive relationship. I lost my first child to CAS because of false allegations of drug abuse and neglect. I did not drink nor did I use drugs. It was May, 1993 and my son was taken from me at the hospital when he was four months old. I was told he wasn't gaining weight properly and that at 12 lbs he wasn't doing well. While the hospital claimed this was fine, my son displayed signs of not responding to adults and would often stare out into space (common of autism I am told). I was 19 at the time and did not have the knowledge to deal with the CAS. When I went home to eat and came back, he was gone. It took a few hours to find out he had been taken by Hastings CAS.

I don't know the exact reason my other children were taken from me because CAS has refused to show me my file, even after requesting it many times. I lived in what is known in housing as 'drug central'. People around there called CAS on each other over anything and everything. People who abused their kids and got called on, would call on the person they thought did it with some bogus claim. One woman even called on her best friend, then told her friend it was me who did it. CAS was constantly in people's lives because it was used as a mechanism for revenge between neighbours. The school would say things like my children's hair was messy in the winter after taking their hats off, or they were dirty. They went to school clean and were often dirty by the end of the day. I have a copy of a school interview where CAS asked the children several times if they were hit, until the kids finally said what they wanted to hear. They claimed that my daughter was the issue. She and her father often argued about getting ready for school and she would often take off during school hours with an older child who was a bad influence on her. They had all kinds of reasons.

After I left my husband, CAS told me I had to pretend we were still together because the courts didn't like single mothers and I would lose. Despite what the worker advised, I didn’t go back to him. I had had three children with him and left him before the third child was born. There is even a restraining order on him that dates back to 1999 because he threatened to kill me if he didn't get custody of the third child. I had a court trial for three of my oldest children and lost them. When CAS was told to give my children back, they argued that my kids preferred their foster mother and didn't see me as being their mother anymore. Two of my children were adopted and the oldest is still with the same foster parent.

My youngest four children had a different father. The girls were 2, 4, 6 and 8 when they were apprehended in 2007. The CAS refused to show me a warrant and the police officer reached for his taser when I asked to see it. All four girls were placed with their aunt and uncle on their father's side.

While I was working on getting my girls back, CAS had me do a Parenting Capacity Assessment. The questions were drug and alcohol related. I never drank alcohol nor did I ever do drugs. Because I answered no, I was told that I was refusing to own up to my issues and that my children should not come home. I was even told that I was a liar because everyone lies. I was asked to redo the test twice and each time when asked if I was lying, I answered no. I was told by the assessor to put “yes” because everyone lies, even her.

The aunt and uncle told my older daughter that I was “screwed in the head” and abandoned them. I was able to see my kids once, for one hour, on June 1st, 2008, which is the last time I saw them. The children began to act up because they wanted to come home with me. The aunt took me in front of the CAS worker and said that if I ever contact them again, by phone or any way else, I would be slapped with a restraining order. I feel bad because that day, I promised my kids we would be together again. I could not persuade a lawyer to do anything about it. The order stated that visitation was at the aunt and uncle's discretion.

Feeling frustrated, upset and helpless, I moved to British Columbia. Two years later, the aunt contacted me with a question about the children's health cards. She promised me web cam and phone conversations. That never happened. She also told me that she didn't mean the restraining order the way I took it. In August, 2010, I learned the aunt and uncle had dumped my children into CAS. Four months after the kids were placed into foster care, CAS finally sent me the papers. I couldn't get a lawyer and legal aid wouldn't help. I was calling and emailing CAS almost daily. I asked the CPS in British Columbia to help me out, but Ontario CAS refused to speak with them. The CPS worker told me they were 100% behind my kids living with me and that they had no concerns about my parenting skills. I finally got a lawyer to help me. She spoke to the CAS on the phone and was told that nothing could be done because I was blocked from seeing my kids for so long that my file was sealed. I was wrongfully put into default because the CAS failed to communicate any plan of care meetings with me. The kids were made crown wards without a trial. I complained to the Child and Family Services Review Board about the lack of communication, but this board cannot reverse a crown wardship.

No one wants to fight these people. I lost 7 children to these criminals and it was all based on RISK. I never did anything to hurt my children. I took parenting courses, but that was never good enough. I was even told I couldn't go back to school to study early childhood education, which I wanted to take and was approved for. The CAS told me if I wanted my children back, I had to stay home. Then they used that against me when I was on welfare.

Today, I know when to leave an abusive relationship. I know the signs and I will no longer stay in a situation that is bad for me or my children. I didn't know it wasn't supposed to be like that. It's what I grew up seeing with my biological parents, and then I was abused again in CAS care. It was considered “normal”. My father served time in Kingston Pen, though I don't know what for. As a child, he was in and out of CAS foster care himself. I think he died sometime around 1995. I was told he wanted to see his kids but I refused to go. He had sexually abused me and harmed my mother. I wanted no part of him. Now, I wish I had gone to see him because there is a lot I want to say to that man.

Maybe CAS can teach us that abuse isn't normal, and how to recognize the signs before it's too late. They need to help us keep our kids, and not use apprehension as a first and foremost to take our children away forever. There are many days I wish the world would end, so that all the innocent children and parents could be free from the everyday torment. I have been told that the only way to fight CAS now is to come back to Ontario.

Three years ago, I gave birth to my eighth child - a son that I am afraid to bring with me to Ontario because I can't risk CAS taking him away. I am all that he has. I am proud of how he has turned out. He is only 3, but I have custody of him. He is very intelligent for his age. I think that I do my best, given what has gone on in my life. I attended therapy and counselling to deal with some of the trauma. Today, I know very little about my kids, except my 12 year old daughter. We stay in touch until the foster parent catches her and blocks her. She has spoken to friends of wanting to be with me, as has her older sister that doesn't live with them. The two younger ones I have no clue. I know what they look like as their picture is on the internet, on the foster parents' page. Often times I torture myself and go look. My youngest wouldn't know me at all because they took her when she was only two years old.

I have come to realize that I had my kids because I was filling a void, which often times women do when they lack the love and acceptance they would normally have within a family. If I could change anything, knowing how the world is today, and how an agency such as the CAS works, I would never have had children at all. As harsh as it sounds, it would have been for the best because now my children might suffer in the care of the CAS the way I did. I also tried birth control but it caused a lot of health problems for me. After my three year old son was born, I had my tubes tied. When I got pregnant with him, I was on the pill. The fact that I got pregnant at all is a true miracle because he is the reason I exist today.

I hope that one day this agency is brought to its knees. If my children have children, they will surely be a target for these people unless they leave Ontario forever. I had to run in order to protect my youngest child from them. They said they would take him if I come back to Ontario. I have even been threatened with criminal charges if I tell my story. Since I have little to lose, I am now telling it to anyone who will listen.

Source: Esther Buckareff