On February 14 2002 in the early hours of the morning, Children's Aid of Hamilton took three children from a family. The children were returned to the mother in six days, but the father is still required to remain away from the home. This is their story, as written by the mother, not a professional writer. Every word is hers, only punctuation has been altered, and surnames deleted. Dufferin VOCA does not vouch for the accuracy of the facts presented, but we note the great similarity to other CAS cases. Also note the fabulous level of alleged abuse (stabbing, hitting, stepping) against children without physical injuries. The trick question below addressed to Tricia's father allowed either a positive or negative response to be used against the family. Since we cannot report the names of children in protection cases, the surname of the family has been deleted. A social worker, Haley W, gets the initial to distinguish her from a child with the same given name.
|Caitlin||daughter age 9 years|
|Cody||son age 7 years|
|Haley||daughter age 5 years|
|Ryan||brother of Dave|
|Sabatina||friend of Ryan|
|Sheila||mother of Dave|
|Mr Cole||Cody's teacher|
|Dr Kathy Hellner||intern Chedoke|
|Dr Waxman||family physician|
|Robin Vermeiren||social worker|
|Haley Weber||social worker|
|Mary Meyers||social worker|
|Brenda Bailey||social worker|
First, my name is Tricia. My husband's name is Dave. We have 3 children named Caitlin who is 9, Cody who is 7 and Haley who is 5. It has taken me a long time to write this letter of complaint. I have gone through more in the past 3 weeks than I would wish anyone to go through in a lifetime. Not only have your actions left me without my husband of 14 1/2 years but also it has left my children without their father. They have never been separated from us for more than a day. I have been left alone to pick up the pieces of the three little hearts you broke. I shouldn't say alone. One thing I have realized is what incredible, supportive families my husband and I have. Unfortunately, my husband cannot be here, as he should to help our children. The trauma of first being separated from both of us for six long days and from their father since February 13/02. I am writing this in hopes that someone will see what a horrible mistake has been made.
First, this all started because we were trying to get help for our then 6 year old son, Cody. We went to our family doctor, Dr Waxman, with concerns about Cody. He was having many behavioural and self-harming problems at school and home. I had concerns of possible Asperger's or ODD. He referred us to a paediatrician, Dr Peer. After talking with him the only help he offered was Ritalin. We wanted a diagnosis before we would consider medicating Cody. He said he would have someone from Chedoke Child and Family Centre contact us. A few weeks later they called me and we did a Q & A over the phone. They told me it would be at least Spring until someone could see Cody. I received allergy forms in the mail and when I mailed them back I enclosed a letter from myself and Mr Cole, Cody's teacher stating things were getting worse and a wait till Spring would be too long. Soon after we got a call setting up an appointment with Dr Kathy Hellner, an intern at Chedoke. We had 3 appointments between January 15 and January 29. We told her about the problems we had with Cody at home and at school. We filled out some questionnaires and she spent some one on one time with Cody. Follow up appointments were made for February 18 and an important school observation was to take place February 28. These had to be cancelled because CAS took the kids from their beds in the middle of the night on February 14 at 12:30 am.
Tuesday February 5 Caitlin was taken out of class and interviewed by Robin Vermeiren. At 4 pm Robin Vermeiren came to our home. I was at piano lessons with Caitlin. Dave told me that she came to our home and asked where the children were. He said Caitlin was out with me; Cody was sleeping on the couch as he had been home sick that day and Haley was in the dining room watching TV. Robin told Dave Dr Hellner had called them. She asked Dave about disciplining the children and Dave stated he cannot remember when our children had ever been spanked. She stated that Caitlin had said the same in their interview. She made and appointment on February 11 at 4:00 pm to talk to the other 2 children. She also stated Dr Hellner should have informed us and doesn't know why she didn't.
I spoke to Dr Hellner in her office about this and she told me that she had been "strongly recommended" by CAS not to inform us of their involvement. She told me this was the first time she had ever been told this. She has this documented in her files. Monday February 11. I called Robin V and left a message asking if Dr Hellner had called her to state she felt there was no reason CAS needed to be involved. Dr Hellner called us on Friday, February 8 and spoke to Dave. She apologized to Dave for calling CAS and explained why she had called and added that she did not believe there was any abuse going on based on how she understood the way Cody could exaggerate and by talking with Dave and I. She stated she was sorry but she was told not to contact us. She also said she would gladly find another doctor for Cody if we felt uncomfortable with her because of this. We said no, we still wanted to see her. She asked us for Robin's name and number.
When Robin called me back she said Dr Hellner had not called her office. She made no mention of the appointment we had for today but asked if Dave and I would be home tomorrow at 4:00pm. I said yes, we would see her then. Tuesday February 12. Robin calls and cancels 4:00 p.m. appointment and asks if she can interview kids quickly tomorrow during their lunch. It would take approximately 10 min per child. Wednesday February 13, 11:40-1:30. Robin first interviews Cody for 30 min and then Haley for 30 min.
statements of children
Then she tells Dave and I of the interviews. She says that Cody said, "Daddy stabbed him with knives and steps on his legs just to hurt him. He hits Mommy and me and we both run and hide." We told Robin at this time that we were seeking help for Cody. How Cody could misinterpret tickling for being hurt. How that he seemed very sensitive to touch at times. She said maybe we should ask before we have contact with him. As far as the stabbing and running and hiding, his imagination seemed to be working overtime. The only time he ran and hid from Daddy was during games of hide and seek. She then went on to tell us what Haley had said. "Daddy chases me with knives and then I run and hide under my bed". We told her again this had never happened, as Haley had a bunk bed and hiding under it would be impossible as it sits directly on the floor.
interrogation of parents
She asked us about how we discipline our children and also asks how we were disciplined as children. We told her that time out in their room or a corner was what we did. We also said that Haley and Caitlin only got punished on rare occasions. Cody was our biggest discipline problem. We had listened to the advice of others on maybe two occasions when we were told, "Maybe all he needs is a swat on the bum". Robin explained that no more than 3 spanks, open hand and fully clothed was acceptable. We said he never even got that because we both disagreed with spanking as a form of punishment. We said that we were raised with occasional spanking but we made a conscious decision long before our kids were born not to use this form of discipline and to find better ways. She said jokingly that she remembered all too well when she was raised that hairbrushes and spoons were her parent's favourites. She also asked what happened when Dave and I fought. We explained we would yell at each other but didn't fight very often. She made the comment that yelling was not against the law. She suggests that because of the problems we are having with Cody that maybe it would be helpful for someone to come in and observe Cody and maybe offer some suggestions for dealing with him. We explained we had not yet received a diagnosis for Cody so as of yet we didn't know what his problems were but we would take any help offered. She said she was concerned because she felt we should have received a diagnosis by now. She also felt that because Dr Hellner had not yet done any blood work on Cody that maybe we should find a new doctor. She told us of an organization called "CONTACT". She also said because of the collaborating stories of the 2 children, anger management would probably be suggested for Dave. He said although the stories were false, he would agree to this. We asked her "So what now?" She laughed and responded with, "Don't worry, we're not going to take your children away. I just have to talk to my supervisor and I will call you with the information on what we talked about tomorrow". With that, she left.
what the children really said
When Cody got home from school we asked him about the knife incident and told him what Robin had us. At first he laughed as he thought we were joking. When we tell him we are serious he says repeatedly and upset that he never said those things. We calmed him down and told him not to worry, that we believed him. Dave asks Haley the same and she responded by moving her head side to side to gesture no.
Wednesday February 13 5:00pm-5:30pm. Robin returns with Haley Weber. Robin says she just wants to ask Caitlin a few more questions. At least 30 minutes later they come downstairs and said now Caitlin's story collaborated with the other 2. They tell me I should take the kids to a Woman's Shelter. Dave and I were both shocked to hear this. I tell them I don't want to take them from their home. Robin and Haley W state that the other option was for Dave to leave the house. If he were to leave now and cooperate that this would fine. We still couldn't believe that this was happening. Dave then asks Haley W that if he left right then and cooperated fully would the kids and I be kept together in the home and not be separated. She said yes. Dave then confronted Robin with the question about the knives. He told her that Cody definitely denied saying he was stabbed with knives. She then changed her story and said that only Haley had said that. Dave asked how could that be when you said that was the story they collaborated on. She then quickly changed the subject by asking Dave where would he be staying. He said he would go to his Mother's house down the street. They said that was fine and that he should go and get himself some clothes together and tell the kids he was going to visit Grandma's for awhile. While Dave said goodbye to Caitlin he told her that Robin and Haley W said that she said that Daddy hits Mommy and her. She said, "No, I didn't say that. They're lying. I didn't say that" and she started to get upset. Dave told her not to worry, this was no fault of hers. Everything would be ok. He then left for his Mom's.
After he left, Robin and Haley W asked how would I manage with taking care of the kids. I said that Sheila, Dave's Mom would be able to come and baby-sit. They said that Dave's Mom would probably not be the best option because she was too close to Dave and asked about my parents. I said that they lived far away but I would call them. When they left I did call. I explained what had happened and they said they would leave right away. I then called my brother-in-law Ryan's girlfriend, Sabatina, and asked if she would go to the store and buy me cigarettes and coffee cream. I had just put a pot of coffee on in anticipation of not sleeping well considering what had just transpired. I had actually successfully quit smoking for almost 2 months till this happened.
Sabatina arrived about 20 minutes later. She told me that Dave and Ryan were getting ready to go to a downtown Pizza restaurant for a get together they had had planned for some time now. They were to meet 13 other guys on the second Wednesday of every month. She said Dave didn't seem to be looking forward to going, but Ryan persisted saying it would help distract him from what had just happened. She also said she noticed a car parked down at the bottom of our court on her way here. She said it was red with personalized plates. I told her it sounded like Robin, the CAS workers' car. We thought this was strange but didn't think much of it. Sabatina then left. Dave told me later that when he left to go downtown he was sitting at the stoplight next to Robin and Haley W and he assumed they were leaving.
interrogation of Caitlin
While I was waiting for my parents to arrive I asked Caitlin if she could tell me what they had asked her. She said, "Mommy, they just kept asking me the same questions over and over and over. I was watching my clock wondering when it was going to be over. They made me say things I didn't want to say. They made me lie, they made me say things." She started getting upset so I asked her if she would like to write it down if it would be easier. So she did.
My parents arrived and we talked. I told them I would tell them more after I put the kids to bed. They got all their Valentine's ready for the next day, got ready for bed and went to sleep.
About 11:45 I got a phone call from my Mother-in-Law Sheila saying she just saw a Paddy Wagon and Police Cruiser go up into my court. I looked out my window and saw Haley W talking to the officers. While I was on the phone still, my Brother-in-Law, Ryan decided he was going to come over and investigate and I could see him from the window. He said he heard Haley W tell police that she had reason to believe that Dave had been back to the house tonight. Ryan immediately spoke up and said "I'm his brother Ryan and Dave has been with me all night. He hasn't come back to the house just as you requested. He is doing exactly what you asked and he has stayed away". I opened the door and saw the 2 officers (PC David Hartless and PC Blake Easto) and Robin and Haley W. They came in and the officers stated "Don't mind us, we're just furniture here" and Robin and Haley W went to the couch and sat down. They started to ask my parents some questions, names, DOB etc. Sheila and Ryan are also at the house now. They ask me if it is ok to speak in front of my parents. I said yes, I had told them everything.
They asked my parents what they thought about what was going on. They said it was absolutely ridiculous. They then asked my Dad what would he do if Dave were to come to the door right now, what would he do? My Dad said he would tell him he loved him and give him a hug. He said he knew his Son-in-Law very well and they were wrong about him. "So you would let him in?" they asked. "Of course", my Dad started to say when I intervened and said, "Dad, don't you see what they are doing? They are trying to twist your words. They are trying to get you to say you would let him in when they have told him to stay away. And he has stayed away. He is doing what you asked. If they can do this to you, do you see how they did it to the kids too?". (Sheila had overheard them asking this and she said it sounded to her they were just trying to find out what my Dad thought of Dave). They said that I wasn't taking this seriously. I wasn't taking the threat of Dave seriously. I again stated he was no threat to us but we were still doing everything they asked. He was asked to stay away and he did.
I had my parents come down. My Dad said how come if Dave is abusing the family we never had any bruises or marks. He said they frequently came down in the summer when the kids were always in their bathing suits and never a mark on them. CAS said that depends on how hard and where they were hit. My Dad said, then take Tricia upstairs and check her. The bruises could have healed by now. That doesn't mean she doesn't get hurt. The CAS asked me if Sheila had been back to the house after they left. I said no she had not. (The only person at the house other than my parents after they left was Sabatina. She was driving Sheila's van when she came but looks nothing like her. Sabatina stands 5'1" and weighs 100lbs, has light brown pulled back hair and wears glasses. Sheila is 5'7" and has almost black hair. I don't know if they thought I was lying when I said Sheila had not been there, maybe they mistook one for the other?? If Sheila had been there I would have said so because it was only Dave that couldn't be there).
Social workers smile
One thing that really bothered me was when I was talking to Haley W; I would be in the middle of a sentence and she would look away towards Robin and start talking to her with her hand partially covering her mouth. It was as if nothing I had to say was important to them. She kept smiling in a way that made me feel at the time that in some way she was enjoying this. During all this they kept leaving to go outside to make phone calls.
It was after this last phone call they informed me they would immediately be taking the kids. That I would offer them no protection. My parents asked if they could take them to a hotel for the night. This was refused. I told them no way were they taking my kids. My kids are my heart and soul, were there no other options? (We had many other family members who would have taken the kids that night. Why was that never considered?). An officer leaned over and said he was sorry, he knew this was hard but I had to comply or I would be taken into custody.
At this point I had to do the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I had to go wake my children in the middle of the night to be taken away by strangers. I was also told they would probably be separated since it was an emergency and nobody would have room for three kids. I had to tell them that everything was going to be ok. But I knew it wasn't. These kids have never been in the care of strangers. Nobody has ever taken care of them but family. As I got them and their stuff ready I told them one thing I surely knew. I told them how much Daddy & I loved them and we would be fighting for them and thinking of them every second they were away.
After they drove off, I remained outside, still stunned at what had just taken place. Apparently I wasn't the only one. The officer in the cruiser came back to talk to me with a cigarette in hand and tears welling up in his eyes. I am so sorry he said. I'm just "sickened" by what I just witnessed in there. I'm so sorry. What you should do is get a lawyer and have him subpoena the other officer and myself to court. That way not only would they have their notes to what just happened but we would be able to give their personal opinions as well. He said he hoped he would never have to go through anything like this again, once was enough.
Today I am back at the same point I was earlier that evening. My Husband, their Father is not here but so much has changed since that night. My children were traumatized for 6 long days needlessly. Haley and Cody were placed together; Caitlin somewhere else. They missed their Valentine's Day parties at school. My Son had to celebrate his 7th birthday with a very unkind Foster Parent named Vicki. I am still waiting for answers concerning what happened to him when he was gone. He still comes out with things when something triggers a memory. He told me of how he had an accident in his pants and was crying when Vicki made him wash his underwear by hand. I didn't know why the school called me and told me he kept writing the word "ASS" on a paper one day till Cody told me how Vicki kept telling him he had better learn to wipe his ass. How if he had any more accidents he was going to have to go to another home without his Sister. Cody told me he was afraid to go to the bathroom because that meant he would have to leave his Sister, Haley. Cody sat in front of Sheila and I one day telling us how when they went to McDonald's for Cody's birthday they were told they had better eat all their food because they "paid good money for it". Cody told us Vicki had told him on several occasions when he was acting up "I can see why your Daddy hurts you". Haley spoke right up when he said this and said she had also heard Vicki say this to Cody. Cody told me one night he had to eat supper in his room and another night he couldn't sleep because his "hungry tummy" was keeping him awake because he was sent to bed without supper. Since Cody has been back home he can barely make it through the morning at school before being sent home. He says he's trying his best but he misses Daddy so much, he can't stand it. My Daughter Haley tells me how Vicki would let her go to the neighbour's "all by herself". She is only 5 years old. She tells me how when she was lying in bed at night crying because she missed me and Daddy so much, she was told to be quiet or she would wake the baby. She told me she wet the bed on several occasions. She had not been wetting the bed for a long time before February 13. Now she has to wear diapers to bed every night. She now spends all her free time drawing pictures for me to send to Daddy.
On their first night home I had to go to bed early. You see they were so afraid to leave my side; they had to sleep with me. As soon as I turned out the lights Haley began sobbing loudly that she was afraid of the dark. She never was before. She still wakes up crying in the night from nightmares. Caitlin hasn't felt like herself since she came back either. Everyday she complains of stomach aches and headaches. This is a complaint she never had before. The other day on our way to her piano lesson she asked me why did the CAS tell her they were going to make her life happier and safer "Why did they have to ruin it? It was perfect before they came along. I hate them". When interviewing Caitlin the CAS asked her if she had one wish what would it be. She said she didn't know. They other day I saw her writing the answer down to that question in her journal. If she could only have one wish in the whole universe, it would be to have her Dad back.
lies and broken promises
Why, when the kids were away, did Brenda Bailey tell me on the phone one day that Caitlin was great and asking when could she be enrolled in her new school? Brenda asked me to explain this. I said I know my daughter and she would never say that. I asked Caitlin one day after she was home about what Brenda had said. Turns out I was right. She never said that. She never even asked about school even though she was missing it. The day after the kids were taken Brenda informed me that when the police were there the night before, I could have said I had changed my mind and was now going to a Woman's Shelter and I would have been allowed to go. I stated that was my right to information, why wasn't I told this? She stated I already was. I explained that when this option was given we also were given the option of Dave leaving and staying away and we chose that option, feeling it was better for the children to stay in their home. We did as they said and the kids were taken anyway. Why would I feel that taking them to a Woman's Shelter now would be acceptable? Why wouldn't they tell me I could still do this, this was my right to information. She stated, "Mrs (Tricia), you are an intelligent woman, you should have known this". I told her had I known this, "I would have been out the door in a second if that meant I could stay with my children". I felt at this point they had already made up their minds. Brenda also asked me if there was anything I could say that would change what was happening. "If you want me to say your allegations are true, I won't. If you want me to say my husband is some kind of monster, he's not. I would do anything to get my kids back, but I won't lie. What you are accusing us of isn't true".
My Mother-in-Law, Sheila spoke to Mary Meyers today. She was told the kids were taken away that night because Dave had been back to the house. She also told her police response time had been six hours. My question is when did they think Dave returned to the house? Six hours prior to the police coming, Dave had already left for downtown. There is only one way in and out of Limeridge Court where we live. Robin and Haley W should have known he had not come back since Sheila told me she saw them (Robin & Haley W) returning to the court shortly after they left the first time.
One thing I have done is let my kids dictate when they want to talk about all this. I have let them all talk about it in their own way whenever they want to. The one question they keep asking me is why the whole time when they were being questioned weren't they allowed to fully answer the questions. Why weren't they allowed to tell them the whole story and cut off mid sentence, they ask? Why were the answers my husband and I gave during our interview taken out of context and again only partial statements recorded?
The bottom line is many mistakes were made here. Robin and Haley W made reference to the two CAS cases that had gone so wrong in Toronto and London. Is this why they employed such over zealous methods with us? Many questions remain unanswered and Dave has still not been able to see his kids even though he constantly calls to request visitation, his calls still remain unanswered. When did this stop becoming "In the best interest of the children" as they so often said. All this has done is brought irreparable harm to my family. All I can hope is that someone will read this who can make Caitlin's wish of having her Daddy back come true.