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Escape from CAS

September 19, 2014 permalink

After most members of Lev Tahor fled to Guatemala, some were still being held in Ontario. On August 28 two teenaged Lev Tahor girls living in Spurgeon's Villa north of Chatham were discovered to be missing. The Chatham Daily News says that a week ago they fled to upstate New York where they were reunited with their father. Chatham children's aid will say nothing, the Chatham police report only that the girls are safe. It is unknown whether the girls are free to rejoin their community in Guatemala or whether Chatham CAS is trying to get them forcibly returned.

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Lev Tahor girls were under care of CKCS

Two teenage girls who are members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor have fled from foster care while under the care of the Chatham-Kent Children's Services.

Chatham-Kent police released a statement to The Chatham Daily News Friday that is it aware of the situation and that the girls are safe, but noted further information would have to come from CKCS, because it is their investigation.

Bonnie Wightman, CKCS senior director of service, said in written release that any child who is placed in the care of a children's aid society is generally done so through the Child and Family Services Act.

“The Act also mandates client confidentiality and privacy for any family that we are involved with so Chatham-Kent Children's Services is unable to provide you with any specifics concerning any children who may or may not be in our care,” Wightman said.

The Daily News has also tried to reach members of Lev Tahor.

According to media reports, the two girls, aged 15 and 17, fled to upstate New York last Friday where they were reunited with their father. They found refuge with an American lawyer and have been supported by Children's Services Niagara County.

Approximately 200 members of Lev Tahor arrived in Chatham-Kent last November after packing up the community in Ste. Agathe, Que., and leaving in the night after months of investigation by Quebec child protection authorities over allegations of neglect and child abuse.

QMI Agency reported in late August that about 60 members who had fled to Guatemala, were on the move again.

It was confirmed by CKCS that the last members of the group had left Spurgeon's Villa, the quiet rural enclave of duplexes north of Chatham, where they had been living.

“We went on a routine visit Thursday morning (Aug. 28) and discovered no one from Lev Tahor in any of the units they had rented,” said CKCS executive director Stephen Doig in a previous interview.

He noted their departure was unexpected, adding they left personal possessions and furniture behind.

Source: Chatham Daily News

girl running away

46-year-old Dead Baby Found

September 19, 2014 permalink

When Marion Coombs was nineteen years old she gave birth to a baby in Alberta. Just after the birth she was told her baby had died. 46 years later she was astonished to hear from her son, Andrew Allan. He had traced his mother after Alberta opened its adoption records. Marion was one more victim of the dead baby scam.

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N.L. mom reunited with Alberta son she thought was dead

Marion Coombs, Andrew Allan reunited after Alberta opens adoption records

CBC News Posted: Sep 16, 2014 8:19 AM NT Last Updated: Sep 16, 2014 2:38 PM NT

A Newfoundland woman has been reunited with the son she put up for adoption, 46 years after she was told he had died.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life," said Marion Coombs, who gave birth to a boy when she was 19 and living in Alberta.

Marion Coombs and Andrew Allan
Marion Coombs and Andrew Allan reunited after he found her through an adoption agency.
Submitted by Andrew Allan

Unable to provide the life for him that she wanted, she agreed to adoption — her pain compounded by the fact that soon after making her decision, hospital staff told her he had not survived.

"I used to think, 'if only I could have held him. If only I could have had a picture of him,' " Coombs told CBC News.

Her grief lingered for almost five decades — until Alberta opened up its adoption records, and she received a letter from Andrew Allan, who had gone searching for his mother.

Allan had a happy childhood, but had always felt something was missing.

"[I had been] wondering who I was, and not understanding and feeling like I was lost. I dreamt that someone was going to come and find me, that it was a mistake," he said in an interview.

Now 46 and engaged, Allan, who lives in St. Albert, had been eager to know his roots. His fiancée, Heidi-Ann Wild, encouraged him to do something about it.

"Heidi-Ann put me on to the adoption agency. We filled out some paper work and at that point decided we'll take it as it comes," he said.

Letter arrived out the blue

He found out about Coombs, who had moved to the small community of Heart's Desire, in eastern Newfoundland, a few years ago.

When Allan's letter arrived at her home — it had only been sent to her name, with no address other than the name of the town — Coombs was shocked.

Marion Coombs and Andrew Allan
Marion Coombs: 'For the first time in my life, I got to hold my son on my knee.'
Submitted by Andrew Allan

"I thought, 'Oh my God, somebody is playing such a cruel joke on me.' It was just mind-boggling. This can't be," she said.

Relieved to learn it was no prank, Coombs made contact with Allan. They were reunited in person on the Labour Day weekend, when her son came to her home.

"For the first time in my life, I got to hold my son on my knee," she said. "It was like a burden was lifted off me, and I could not let him go."

Another reunion planned

They speak each Thursday by phone, and plan another reunion later this fall, this time in Alberta.

Coombs said she marvels at the fact that she and her son had lived for years in the same province, and not that far away from each other.

"To think when I was in Alberta, he was maybe 10 kilometres away from me," she said. "We must have crossed paths hundreds of times."

Allan said the reunion was the moment of a lifetime.

"I felt like I was complete again, you know. I finally felt right," he said.

Coombs said she thinks back to her initial sorrow, of not having had the chance to hold her infant son and then being told that he had died.

"Sometimes I get angry [about] what happened," she said.

"But, I got to put all that in the past now and live for the future and live for my sons and grandchildren," she said. "Don't even look back. It's too painful. At least I got him now."

Source: CBC

Let Adoptees Die

September 19, 2014 permalink

Patricia Carter was adopted as an infant, now at age 48 she is a mother. Her oldest son Sheffield has had medical problems that she suspects are from her genetic heritage. Patricia herself is also a recent breast-cancer patient. The Canadian medical system refuses to give her certain tests without a family history. Batshaw Youth and Family Services has none of the required medical information about her parents. Patricia could find the required medical information if she could hire a detective to trace her birth parents, starting from their names. Batshaw has the names of both parents, but will not provide them. So Patricia and her children are left with inherited medical problems that that cannot treat or even find out about.

Link (mp3) to local copy of CBC Daybreak audio.

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Quebec's closed adoption laws challenged by B.C. woman

Patricia Carter, adopted in Montreal in 1966, says she has right to know her roots, medical history

Patricia Carter
Patricia Carter began looking for her biological parents when her oldest son was two years old, after he had a mysterious seizure. She wanted to know more about her medical history.
Courtesy of Patricia Carter

Patricia Carter has been searching for her birth parents for 20 years.

Born as Manon at Montreal's Catherine Booth maternity hospital on May 30, 1966, Carter was hospitalized for several months as an infant before being picked up by adoptive mother Reatha and father Allison and whisked away to Europe. She grew up with three adoptive older brothers and no knowledge of her pre-adoption life.

Patricia Carter family
Patricia Carter settled down in Nanaimo, B.C., with her husband and two sons. This photo is from a few years ago. Her eldest son, Sheffield, is now 24 years old.
Courtesy of Patricia Carter

She eventually moved to Nanaimo, B.C., and had her own family — a husband and two sons.

When her two-year-old son Sheffield had a mysterious seizure, Carter thought it would be good to know more about her medical history.

"I wasn’t exactly the healthiest child, either. I had various conditions and given the fact that a lot of conditions can be passed on to your children, I thought it was in the best interest of my family to track down what information I could," she told CBC's Daybreak.

Little did she know she would be embarking on a journey through Quebec’s closed adoption laws — a system a longtime adoption rights advocate called "archaic."

Sealed adoption records

Carter’s lack of medical history knowledge reared its head again more recently, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

She said she asked one of her oncologists for a genetic test to see if she carried a particular mutated gene. She told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty that knowing the result of that would have influenced her decision on treatment options.

However, medical protocol dictated that unless she could prove at least one immediate member of her biological family had the gene, they would not do the test.

She has since recovered but, she said, she always wonders about what could have been.

According to Quebec law, adoption services can provide adopted children with their medical history — if they have it.

In Carter’s case, Batshaw Youth and Family Services did not.

She found that out when she filled out a form and mailed it in along with a $450 fee to perform a search. Her social worker said there was a lot of information in her file she could never know under Quebec’s current adoption laws.

Carter, who is now 48, said she understands Quebec’s concerns over protecting the identity of people who gave their children up for adoption, even if she doesn’t agree with it.

"It’s a right to be able to know where you came from and who your family is," Carter said.

Times have changed, but Quebec has not

Caroline Fortin knows cases like Carter’s all too well.

She is the president and coordinator of non-profit adoption rights organization Mouvement Retrouvailles.

Quebec has archaic laws and we need to bring them up to date, Fortin said.

"Why hide this information from people who are 40, 50, 60 years old?" she asked. "It’s their right to know their deepest roots."

Fortin said Quebec is behind the times — not to mention other provinces — when it comes to unsealing adoption records. Societal conditions have changed dramatically, she said, and parents who gave their children up because of the pressures of religion, family and social acceptance may feel differently about being contacted now.

"It’s easier in Ontario, in British Columbia. Manitoba is working on changing the law. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia… So in Quebec, it’s very hard without the consent of the person and if the person you are looking for is dead, it’s not possible to have any information."

CBC Daybreak reached out to the justice ministry for some answers. A spokesperson sent back a statement saying that a new bill is in the works after a Parti Québécois-drafted bill died on the order paper when the government changed hands. "It would have revised how adoption records are accessed."

The justice ministry spokesperson said the new bill is expected to be presented at the National Assembly this fall.

Batshaw, for its part, sent a list of what information can be disclosed regarding Quebec adoptions. See the document embedded below.

Carter is cautiously optimistic about the justice ministry’s statement about changing the law this fall. She and Fortin said other provinces have unsealed adoption records without incident, and Quebec needs to follow suit.

"I would urge Quebec to do the right thing and open our records," Carter said.

Patricia Carter
Patricia Carter holds up a sign with all of her adoption information. She is searching for her biological family's medical history.
Patricia Carter/Facebook

Source: CBC

Kristen French Remembered

September 19, 2014 permalink

The Child Advocacy Centre Niagara has renamed itself the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara. Under its old name, it has been in these columns twice before, [1] [2]. Both times fixcas warned that the organization is a honeypot, luring children with a false promise of confidentiality into the family destruction system. A still earlier article from the Niagara Falls Review suggested that David Gill was affiliated with both Niagara Family and Children's Services (FACS) and the Child Advocacy Centre. Today's article says: "The centre streamlines Niagara child abuse investigations by bringing Niagara Regional Police detectives, Family and Children's Services workers and other agencies under one roof."

Canadians were appalled when schoolgirl Kristen Dawn French was murdered in 1992 by serial killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Placing her name on an institution that forcibly separates parents and children will make the name Kristen French reviled by large numbers of clients who have been drawn into the facility. This is not the way to honor the memory of an innocent girl.

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Kristen French honoured with centre renaming 19

Donna and Doug French
Donna and Doug French release balloons in memory of their daughter Kristen French Tuesday afternoon at the Kristen French Child Advoacy Centre Niagara. The centre was named after Kristen, who was murdered in 1992.

Donna French has to believe that, in her daughter's worse moments, there were pieces of her very core Kristen French never lost.

Her courage. Her dignity. Her faith.

And it is those qualities she hopes children who come to Niagara's only child advocacy centre will find within themselves in seeing Kristen French's name on the front lawn.

"What happened to Kristen was something so horrible it is beyond what any parent could even conceive of," French said Tuesday afternoon afternoon. "But she never lost her courage or her faith. And while it is a sad state of affairs that we even need an advocacy centre, it is important we have a place where children can feel safe and I hope this children will see Kristen and find strength."

The centre celebrated it's sixth anniversary Tuesday by renaming the centre the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre Niagara.

Kristen French was a 15-year-old Holy Cross Secondary School student when she was abducted by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka and killed in 1992.

Her father, Doug French and former Niagara Regional Police deputy chief Frank Parkhouse spear headed the initial fundraising drive to open the centre.

During a brief service to honor Kristen French and rename the centre, Parkhouse said Doug French used to sit as the chairman of the board of directors for the centre until his retirement.

"Even after he retired you still saw him coming to the centre to do some painting or check on how things were going," said Parkhouse.

The centre streamlines Niagara child abuse investigations by bringing Niagara Regional Police detectives, Family and Children's Services workers and other agencies under one roof. Child victims can tell their stories once or twice in a child-friendly environment, instead of doing interviews over and over again with various strangers.

The children who come to the centre are victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, Internet exploitation or are witnesses to violence.

Janet Hardy, the centre's executive director, said the centre has facilitated more than 1,700 interview with suspected abused children in its six years.

She said renaming the centre after Kristen French is about giving hope to the children who come there, but also serves as a reminder as to why the centre is necessary.

"There is a spectrum of child abuse, and Kristen was a victim of the most extreme form," she said. "Obviously, other children are abused, and it is still serious, but not as extreme. We think it is important for people to know just how bad it gets."

After the new sign on the front lawn of Forster Street centre was unveiled, Donna and Doug French joined family, friends and centre staff in releasing balloons in Kristen French's memory.

Source: St Catharines Standard

Arresting Parents Who Let Kids Play Outside

September 19, 2014 permalink

The Onion parodies arresting parents for letting their children play outside. But following the enclosed spoof are two real cases from Texas and Florida.

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Should Parents Who Let Kids Play Outside Unsupervised Be Arrested?

usa map

Yes, it’s completely irresponsible for parents to encourage their kids to be independent.
No, but maybe the police could abduct their kid for a couple days just to scare them straight.
Yes, if only for the look on the kids’ faces.
Absolutely not. I only support it when people get arrested for things that could never happen to me.
Yes, it’s much more responsible to leave your children unsupervised at home.
No way. When I was a kid, we played outside by ourselves and everyone except Brian came home just fine.
Of course. You can never have too many reasons to arrest people who can’t afford child care.

Source: The Onion


Child Services to Mom Who Did Nothing Wrong: 'Just Don't Let Your Kids Play Outside'

Kari Anne Roy
Kari Anne Roy

Children's book author Kari Anne Roy was recently visited by the Austin police and Child Protective Services for allowing her son Isaac, age 6, to do the unthinkable: Play outside, up her street, unsupervised.

He'd been out there for about 10 minutes when Roy's doorbell rang. She opened it to find her son —and a woman she didn't know. As Roy wrote on her blog HaikuMama last week, the mystery woman asked: "Is this your son?"

I nodded, still trying to figure out what was happening.

"He said this was his house. I brought him home." She was wearing dark glasses. I couldn't see her eyes, couldn't gauge her expression.

"You brought..."

"Yes. He was all the way down there, with no adult." She motioned to a park bench about 150 yards from my house. A bench that is visible from my front porch. A bench where he had been playing with my 8-year-old daughter, and where he decided to stay and play when she brought our dog home from the walk they'd gone on.

"You brought him home... from playing outside?" I continued to be baffled.

And then the woman smiled condescendingly, explained that he was OUTSIDE. And he was ALONE. And she was RETURNING HIM SAFELY. To stay INSIDE. With an ADULT. I thanked her for her concern, quickly shut the door and tried to figure out what just happened.

What happened? The usual. A busybody saw that rarest of sights—a child playing outside without a security detail—and wanted to teach his parents a lesson. Roy might not have given the incident a whole lot more thought except that shortly afterward, her doorbell rang again.

This time it was a policewoman. "She wanted to know if my son had been lost and how long he'd been gone," Roy told me by phone. She also took Roy's I.D. and the names of her kids.

That night Isaac cried when he went to bed and couldn't immediately fall asleep. "He thought someone was going to call the police because it was past bedtime and he was still awake."

free-range-kidsAs it turns out, he was almost right. About a week later, an investigator from Child Protective Services came to the house and interrogated each of Roy's three children separately, without their parents, about their upbringing.

"She asked my 12 year old if he had ever done drugs or alcohol. She asked my 8-year-old daughter if she had ever seen movies with people's private parts, so my daughter, who didn't know that things like that exist, does now," says Roy. "Thank you, CPS."

It was only last week, about a month after it all began, that the case was officially closed. That's when Roy felt safe enough to write about it. But safe is a relative term. In her last conversation with the CPS investigator, who actually seemed to be on her side, Roy asked, "What do I do now?"

Replied the investigator, "You just don't let them play outside."

There you have it. You are free to raise your children as you like, except if you want to actually give them a childhood. Fail to incarcerate your child and you could face incarceration yourself.

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and creator of the book and blog Free-Range Kids.

Source: Reason


On The Front Lines

VICTORY: Florida Officials Drop Prosecution of Mom Arrested, Handcuffed, Searched & Jailed for Allowing Her 7-Year-Old Son to Visit Playground Alone

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. —Florida officials have agreed not to pursue the prosecution of a Florida mother who was arrested and charged with child neglect for allowing her 7-year-old son to visit a neighborhood playground located a half mile from their house. In doing so, the state has effectively put an end to the criminal case against Nicole Gainey. Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, along with Miami-based criminal defense lawyer Brian H. Bieber, a partner at GrayRobinson, P.A., worked with state prosecutors to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution of the matter that resulted in the charges against Gainey being dropped. In addition to being charged with a third-degree criminal felony charge that carries with it a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in jail, Gainey was interrogated, arrested and handcuffed in front of her son, and transported to the local jail where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours.

“What this incident shows is that keeping young people safe and a parent’s ability to know what’s appropriate for their children are not mutually exclusive goals,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “All is not lost as long as there are government officials willing to work through issues in a reasonable manner, exhibiting compassion and common sense and recognizing that there are better ways to deal with concerns about child safety than criminalizing parents. When all is said and done, however, what we really need is for the government to stop acting as if it can do a better job of managing our lives than we can, and that holds true whether you’re talking about child rearing, health care or the surveillance state.”

Nicole Gainey, a resident of Port St. Lucie, Fla., was arrested on Saturday, July 26, 2014, after allowing her 7-year-old son Dominic to walk by himself from their house to a popular neighborhood playground located a half mile away. According to Gainey, Dominic normally rides his bike (which was out of commission that day due to a flat tire) to Sportsmans’ Park, which is located along the same stretch of road as a fire station, community pool, library, church and a daycare. Dominic also rides his bike along that same route when going to school, which is two miles away, without anyone raising any concerns. As usual, Dominic carried a cell phone with him in order to check in with his mom. According to the 7-year-old, someone asked him where his mom was when he was walking past the pool. Police officers were called, went to the park, questioned Dominic, and then drove him home in their car, without alerting his mother that there was a concern or that they had picked up her son. Upon arriving at Gainey’s home, officers questioned the single mother about her son’s whereabouts, without informing her that they had picked him up. The police then arrested Gainey, charged her with neglect, and took her to the local jail, where she was physically searched, fingerprinted, photographed and held for seven hours and then forced to pay almost $4000 in bond in order to return to her family. Gainey’s son was allowed to stay with her boyfriend in lieu of going to foster care.

In coming to Gainey’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys argued that parents have every right to make their own determinations about when their children are mature enough and responsible enough to be permitted to safely play outside by themselves, wait in the car by themselves or walk to a neighborhood park unsupervised. Affiliate attorneys Brian H. Bieber of GrayRobinson, P.A., and Robert A. McGlynn, Jr., P.A. assisted The Rutherford Institute in its defense of Gainey.

Source: Rutherford Institute

Don't Deal Drugs with Baby

September 19, 2014 permalink

Alberta police have separated a mother from her newborn boy after catching her in a drug deal. The article does not say whether she was buying or selling.

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Lethbridge woman arrested with newborn for allegedly selling cocaine

Police south of Calgary say they’ve arrested a woman dealing cocaine from her vehicle in the company of her newborn boy.

Staff Sgt. Rod Klassen of the Alberta Law Enforcement Team (ALERT) say cops were alarmed to see the 24-year-old Lethbridge woman trafficking crack and powdered cocaine in Claresholm on Tuesday and aborted their investigation to secure the infant’s safety.

The boy is less than a month old, he added.

“It was an investigation into drug trafficking, we observed the child being taken along and obviously, we couldn’t stand by and see that happen,” he said.

“It’s obviously disturbing ... the drug world can be extremely dangerous, anything can happen.”

Following the arrest in the town 110 km south of Calgary, provincial child welfare officials were consulted and the child was placed in the care of a member of the woman’s family, said Klassen.

When police swooped down, the woman was accompanied by a 17-year-old female suspect who they believe was also involved in drug trafficking.

ALERT says it seized 85 grams of individually-wrapped drugs worth $9,000, along with drug paraphernalia that included scales.

The woman, who’s not being named in order to protect the identity of her child, is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and possession of a controlled substance.

“We’re also pursuing a charge under the Drug Endangered Child Act,” said Klassen.

The woman was released Wednesday on bail conditions and is to appear in Lethbridge court Oct. 3.

Klassen said police had little choice but to prematurely end their investigation.

“We had to weigh that and we felt the child’s safety was more important than anything we could get from the future of the investigation,” he said.

The 17-year-old is charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, possession of a controlled substance and possession of proceeds of crime.

Source: Calgary Sun

Ontario Adoption Brush-off

September 18, 2014 permalink

Kayla

Name:
Kayla
Age:
8
Gender:
Female
ID#:
5526

Kayla is a little firecracker, and will amaze you with her enthusiasm for life.

Kayla is very playful and likes to have fun. She can spend all day outdoors riding her bike and spending time with her friends. Kayla is described as having a personality of “many hats”. She is very talkative, charming and humorous. Kayla loves to be the center of attention. She is very confident and comfortable speaking her mind.

Kayla also has a quieter side. She loves to sit down quietly reading and sometimes can be quite shy. She has an older sister Abby. Together they like to swim and do arts and crafts. Kayla looks forward to going out with her foster mom accompanying her on her errands. She looks forward to going to her local community centre and reading the many books in the library, while getting involved in the stories the books have to tell. Kayla loves to be read to at night.

Source: Adopt Ontario
(Available only with password)

Lori Niles-Hoffman tells of her frustration in trying to do a public service by adopting a child in Ontario. She tried adopting a young child, age 4, and an older child. In both cases she got the brush-off. In common with other frustrated adopters, she falsely attributes her failure to bureaucratic incompetence. For a full opinion on the adoption brush-off, refer the the article on prospective British adopter Claudia Connell. A similar frustration was in another British article by Judith Woods.

The two preceding links show that, contrary to the claim by Lori Niles, Britain is not a nirvana for adopters. The bill 42 mentioned in the article died in May when the last Ontario legislature was prorogued. The website AdoptOntario requires a password to look at the biographies of the children.

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Full Comment

Lori Niles: Want to adopt a child in Ontario? Good luck with the paperwork

October will mark two years since our decision to pursue adoption. How many of the 30,000 waiting children could have found families by now?

The Honourable Governor General David Johnston has declared an “adoption crisis” in Canada, with nearly 30,000 children waiting for permanent homes, approximately 8,000 of those children being in Ontario.

I heartily applaud any efforts to encourage adoption as a method to grow families, but the crisis is not about recruiting more adoptive parents. AdoptOntario, the provincial database of waiting children and parents, boasts 20,000 registered families, yet only a fraction of these ever adopt. The real adoption crisis is that a bloated and broken system is preventing the timely match of waiting families with children in need.

My husband and I started our adoption journey more than two years ago. Our story began with a phone call to our local Children’s Aid Society (CAS). Despite our willingness to adopt an older child, I was told that due to our cultural background and lack of parenting experience, we would not likely meet the unique needs of any child at CAS.

We decided to pay for a private homestudy with a licensed social worker. The process took just over a year and included classroom courses, dozens of interviews, criminal record checks, and plenty of bureaucracy. In February 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services deemed us “AdoptReady” and our homestudy valid for two years.

While pursuing international adoption, we also continued the process in Ontario. In May, 2014 we went to the Adoption Resource Exchange (ARE), a biannual forum where profiles of children from across the province are made available for viewing by potential families. It is a way for families to apply for children outside of their CAS regions, as families are normally restricted to registering only with their local CAS.

After reviewing many profiles, we sent an “Expression of Interest” form through AdoptOntario for two children we felt would be a good match. One was four years old and the other a young adolescent. After four months, we had not heard any news and I contacted each CAS.

My first inquiry about the younger child was passed from colleague to colleague, each claiming that the other was responsible for the file. After repeated follow-up calls, I uncovered that 14 families had expressed interest in this child, yet the file had not been touched for months. The longer a young child stays in foster care, the harder it is for healthy attachment to begin. Four months to a four-year-old is a long time.

My inquiry into the progress on the older child also came to a dead end. The Children’s Aid Society said they never received our Expression of Interest. I followed up with AdoptOntario, which verified that it indeed had been sent. I provided the email confirmation to the CAS workers, yet they insisted they had no record. Since there is no independent oversight of CAS, there was nothing further we could do. We hope this child was matched with a suitable family whose file didn’t fall down the rabbit hole.

Determined not to be discouraged, we approached our local CAS again, hoping our completed homestudy would help us. The homestudy was designed by the Ministry of Children and Youth services to be portable across public, private and international adoptions. Yet in my phone conversation with the CAS contact, I found out that our private homestudy would need to be updated with a series of CAS interviews, which could add another six months of waiting, and that intake meetings for parents happen only periodically.

We had just missed the May meeting, so now we are waiting for the October intake meeting. If all goes well, and we are accepted by our local CAS, it will be 15 months since we became AdoptReady. And that’s only when the potential matching process with children will start, which could take anything from months to years.

October will mark two years since our decision to pursue adoption. But adoption is not about us. It’s about putting children first. How much of our time waiting for bureaucracy to catch up could have been spent caring for a waiting child? How many thousands of other parents are in the same situation? How many of the 30,000 waiting children could have found families by now?

It would be nice to think that our anecdotal experience is an exception. But I write a blog chronicling our adoption journey, and hear from a lot of other frustrated waiting parents. It would be easy to lose faith just based on the number of people who have told me they have given up or are thinking about it.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Years ago, the adoption system in England was similarly inefficient and slow. Now the adoption approval process typically takes only six months. Likewise, there is oversight and accountability for adoption. Ontario is the only province in Canada where Children’s Aid Societies are not overseen by an ombudsman. This means no incentive to improve or answer for errors. New legislation, Bill 42, represents an attempt to grant this power, but it is stuck in the weeds at Queen’s Park.

It is time for Ontario to look across the pond for inspiration and best practices. In fact, Ontario identified many issues with the adoption system in a government report years ago but never acted on the recommendations.

The Governor General’s plea for more adoptive parents is well-intentioned and idealistic. In Ontario, though, success will not come from more prospective parents. Success will come only from a government that stops being afraid of changing the inefficient CAS system and starts acting on behalf of the waiting children. This would be truly putting children first.

Source: National Post

Adoption Subsidies for Rejected Children

September 17, 2014 permalink

In New York city several parents have kicked out their adopted teenagers while continuing to collect the adoption subsidy. In cases where the rejected child has entered foster care the city makes no attempt to collect child support from the adoptive parent. It just doubles up paying both the foster and adoptive parent.

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Discarded children still bring in subsidy checks for the adoptive parents who tossed them aside

Hundreds of adoptive parents in New York City who've sent their children to live elsewhere continue to get monthly government subsidies of up to $1,700 per child. They can continue receiving the checks until the child turns 21 years old.

Jahad Ritchens
Jahad Ritchens, 21, outside the Patterson Houses in the Bronx. Ritchens says his adoptive mother continued collecting subsidy payments intended for his care for more than five years.
Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News/Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News

They gave up on their “hard-to-place" adopted kids — but not on the government check intended for the discarded kids’ care.

Hundreds of adoptive parents across the five boroughs who've sent their children to live elsewhere are continuing to pull in monthly checks of up to $1,700 per child while the city, state and feds look the other way, the Daily News has learned.

Because of a confusing tangle of bureaucratic rules and a lack of city oversight, the parents can continue receiving the government subsidies for months, and even years, until the child turns 21.

"It's crazy," Jahad Ritchens, 21, said of the payments that had been going to his adoptive mom, Cequasia Ritchens, for almost six years after she kicked him out. "I'm living out here on the street and she's getting all this money. It's like I don't matter to no one."

It also means that taxpayers are often double-paying for the kids' care — first to the absentee parent, then anywhere from $29,000 to $123,000 a year per child for foster care.

"For the state and the city to do nothing ... is an abuse of the taxpayer, of the system, of the problem that subsidy was meant to address," said retired Brooklyn Family Court Judge Paul Grosvenor.

He now serves as a judicial hearing officer overseeing a special court to assist children in foster care who will never return to their parents. And he said he deals with "hundreds" of cases a year where adoptive parents keep the subsidy after letting their children go.

"In some instances, it's a windfall," Grosvenor said. "The parents place this child (in foster care). They have no intent of ever being involved with the child again — they're essentially walking away — but they're still receiving this monthly subsidy."

Using a combination of city, state and federal funds, the city Administration for Children's Services sent $294 million in checks last fiscal year to help cover parenting costs for 22,686 children, according to records obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request.

The agency told The News it does not know how many parents are receiving subsidies for children no longer in their care.

The subsidy was the result of an act of Congress in 1980 designed to encourage parents to adopt "hard-to-place" children from foster care.

Desinee Smith
Desinee Smith in the Brooklyn home where she was staying with her brother after she ran away from the upstate home where her adoptive mother had sent her to live.
Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News/Pearl Gabel/New York Daily News

Desinee Smith, 18, was one of those kids.

Children's Services removed her from her birth mother's custody when she was just two weeks old.

"My mom kept having kids and ACS kept taking them away," she said.

Her first foster mother died of cancer when she was 5. After spending two years with another relative, she was adopted by a woman named Tanika Quashie — the daughter of her late foster mother.

They moved from Staten Island to East New York, Brooklyn, in 2004, where Smith said she was miserable.

"I was bullied and tortured at school," she said, and went to live with her biological sister in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, when she was 9.

Quashie showed up several months later to bring her back.

"Tanika didn't want to give up the money," Smith said.

She lived with Quashie and her kids until she was 13, when Quashie sent her up to Syracuse to stay with another relative. Smith said Quashie sent the relative half of her subsidy check, and kept the other half for herself.

Smith said she had to fend for herself upstate. Her guardian wouldn't buy her clothes or food, or even take her to the doctor or dentist, and "I was doing things I shouldn't have been doing," she said.

"I ... beat up half the kids up there. I done everything in my power to get sent back to Brooklyn. My mind wasn't right," she said. "I was wild."

She ran away from Syracuse early last year, stayed for a while with her brother in Brooklyn, then enrolled in a federal Job Corps program in Delaware to earn her GED and build career skills.

Smith filed for welfare in June, because she said Quashie hasn't been sending her any money — even though the two have lived apart for five years.

Tanika Quashie
Desinee Smith's adoptive mother Tanika Quashie.

"Forget the wants. The needs — (Quashie's) not doing any of that," said her brother, Rodney Brown. "She hasn't been doing my sister right."

Smith said her adoptive mom gave her $600 four months ago but nothing since. Now the soft-spoken Smith — like hundreds of other discarded children in the city — has found herself in the heart-wrenching position of having to sue for child support from the parent who tossed her aside.

Unless Smith's child support lawsuit is successful, Quashie, who did not return requests for comment, could continue getting checks for another three years.

"I'm tired of it. She's not sending me any money. She's just keeping the whole check," she said.

Smith has to take legal action on her own, because the city won't do anything to fix the problem.

While other cities in the state, including Albany, will sue reneging parents to force them to turn over the child support, New York City tells children that they must navigate the complicated process on their own.

“(ACS) should be going after every adoptive parent for child support," court referee Tamara Schwartz told city lawyers at a hearing last December for an adopted child whose mother had returned her to foster care. "They go after parents (who receive) public assistance. They should be doing that for foster care."

It's unclear how many other children and young adults are in Smith's position.

Records show 5% of the 35,877 children adopted through the subsidized program between 1993 and 2003 were voluntarily sent to foster care. The rate of return for children adopted after 2003 is less than 2% — but that number will likely climb as these children reach their teenage years and become more difficult to care for. And the percentage does not take into account the untold number of children who are simply kicked out, or sent to live with friends or relatives, instead of back to the official foster care system.

Unless the adoptive parent voluntarily terminates their parental rights or sends a letter to Children's Services relinquishing the check, the parent will continue getting the monthly checks until the child turns 21.

The city could also move to terminate parental rights if the child has spent the last 15 of 22 months in foster care. But Judge Bryanne Hamill — who recently retired after serving as the inaugural hearing officer for a court dedicated to foster children — said the city never did this for teenagers, who are unlikely to get readopted.

hundreds are sent back

Hamill said she saw frequent abuse and waste in the system. One woman built a home in Florida with her subsidy check. Another adopted a 5-year-old boy with severe mental health issues and kept him in a residential treatment program — completely covered by Medicaid — for 10 years. When the treatment center recommended he be discharged into the mother's home, she refused and voluntarily placed him in foster care.

Hamill said the woman admitted in court that she had never paid for the boy's care. Still, the city did not terminate the subsidy, which she continued to receive until the child turned 21.

Hamill said she never saw a parent willingly terminate the subsidy.

"In most cases I saw," Hamill said, "the adoptive parent was giving nothing to the child. Nothing. Or sometimes they would maybe buy them a pair of shoes."

In the spring of 2012, Hamill met with the state Office of Children and Family Services to alert officials there to the problem.

Hamill said state officials asked her and other judges to start writing orders informing the city and state that an adopted child had been voluntarily placed in foster care so they could launch an investigation into each case. But when The News requested copies of the orders, both the state and city said they had no record of ever receiving them — even though Schwartz, the referee, told The News she continues to send the orders to this day.

Federal rules give states the power to end the subsidy if they determine adoptive parents are no longer providing financial support to their children. But a rep for the state said terminating the subsidy is the responsibility of the city, not the state.

And the city says the state and federal governments have advised the city against investigating these cases to determine if the parents are providing support — apparently to avoid frightening prospective parents away.

The amount of money the parents spend on the kids is up to them. A spokesman for ACS said federal rules prevent the city from setting a minimum of support that parents are obligated to provide.

That means a parent could spend just $1 a month on an adopted child and still collect the subsidy, according to Dawn Post, an attorney with the Children's Law Center, who has written extensively about what she terms "broken adoptions."

"I respect the right of adoptive families to have privacy from unwarranted government intrusion, but I care even more about the well-being of their children," Post said.

Jahad Ritchens said he hasn't lived steadily with his adoptive mother, Cequasia Ritchens, since he was 15, when he started bouncing around between the homes of friends and relatives, jail, and the streets.

But Cequasia continued to collect a monthly subsidy of $1,200 that she started getting when she legally adopted Jahad at age 9.

Jahad, who was removed from his birth mother's home just days after his fifth birthday, was bounced around between three different foster homes, and says he was abused in each one.

One "would beat us with wet rags and extension cords. She burned us with cigarettes," he said.

He said life with Cequasia, his aunt, was far from happy.

Cequasia Ritchens
Jahad Ritchens' adoptive mother Cequasia Ritchens.
TOMAS E. GASTON

"She never paid attention to me. I got jumped by other kids and she wouldn't do nothing. Her boyfriend hit me, too," he said, before getting too choked up to continue. "It wasn't a place for a human to live."

He admits he wasn't easy to raise. He was arrested over two dozen times in his teens.

"I was getting everything from the street," he said. "It made me feel powerful. You thought you were better than me, but I could bring you down to my level. All the pain I could muster, I brought down on other people."

He did time on Rikers Island, where, he said, "I became a beast."

He said Cequasia never visited him in lockup, and that in the years since he's been out of her care, she'd sometimes send him money, and sometimes not.

Cequasia told The News, "That's a lie. I've been giving him that money for years. It's his word against mine."

He tried to get the subsidy to Cequasia cut off, but a city social worker, in the presence of The News, told him in January that his adoptive mother would have to voluntarily give up the money.

"Legally, the city cannot stop that check," the social worker said.

Jahad sued Ritchens for support, and shortly before his 21st birthday in May, a city magistrate awarded him $1,617.50 for the last month remaining on the subsidy and two months of a 17% income deduction from Cequasia's salary, according to his lawyer.

Jahad said he hopes the money will turn his life around.

In other cases, the government is paying the adoptive parent a subsidy, while also paying foster homes or agencies to care for the same child at the same time.

Janiya Reid and her older brother Thomas had nowhere to go when their birth mother died in 1999. Janiya was 2; Thomas was 9. Placed in foster care, they were soon assigned to Elizabeth Hampton, a home health care aide.

One year later, Hampton adopted Janiya, but not Thomas. Hampton said the boy skipped school, got into fights, and wouldn't respect her rules. She decided to send him back to foster care, and the city stopped sending the monthly checks she had received for him as a foster parent.

As Janiya grew older, she started getting into trouble, too. "I tried to show those children love," Hampton said, "but they wouldn't let nobody in."

Hampton said Janiya stayed out all week, refusing to come back to their apartment in a Coney Island public housing development.

"I couldn't deal with it," said Hampton, who is now 59. "I lost my job running back and forth to get her out of trouble."

Janiya said Hampton was "rude, disrespectful, and verbally abusive."

Christian Robles, Jadine and Javon
Christian Robles, 26 (center), is legal guardian to his three teenaged siblings after they ran away from their adoptive mother, Sharlotte Sutton. Jadine, 16 (left), and Javon, 17, are pictured.
Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News

"It was like she didn't really care about me," Janiya said. "I think maybe she took me in for the money."

Hampton disputed that, saying that the money, while it helped, didn't cover the cost of raising Janiya.

In June 2012, Hampton sent Janiya to live with other relatives. But that didn't work out, either. The next year, Hampton voluntarily placed Janiya in foster care, which is legal in New York when parents feel they can no longer care for a child.

"She stayed with every family member and no one wanted to be bothered with her," said Hampton.

Meanwhile, Hampton continued to receive a monthly check of $821, half of which she sent to Janiya in foster care. The rest, she testified in court, she needed for rent.

"The adoptive mother shouldn't be receiving any subsidy at this time since the child is not in her care," said referee Schwartz, who presided over Janiya's case, at a hearing at the Manhattan Family Court last November.

City lawyers told Schwartz they had no power to cut off the monthly check to Hampton, a transcript shows.

That meant the city was now paying twice for her care, a frustrated Schwartz pointed out: one payment going to Hampton and another to a short-term stay facility in the East Village where the city had temporarily placed Janiya.

Under pressure from Schwartz, Hampton eventually agreed to send a notarized letter to the city stating that she would give up the subsidy.

The subsidy was terminated, a year and a half after Janiya had left her home. During that time, Hampton had collected around $14,000 from the city.

Sharlott Sutton
Sharlott Sutton, the adoptive mother of Christian Robles' three siblings.
Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News

When she went to turn in the letter to ACS, Hampton told The News, officials there said she didn't have to give up the subsidy if she didn't want to.

Janiya now lives an upstate foster care facility.

It's unclear exactly how many double-payment cases there are. The city keeps tabs on the number of adopted kids who are returned for placement — there were 2,050 between 1993 and 2011, the last year of available data — but said it doesn't know how many are unofficially shipped off to other homes or even living on the streets.

Some lawyers and adoptive parents contacted by The News said that the adoptive parents sometimes move into larger apartments with their kids because of the subsidy, and that terminating the payments outright might cause the parents financial duress.

But because the payments don't follow the children, it can also cause hardship for the people actually caring for the kids.

Christian Robles, 26, works nights as a security supervisor. During the day, Robles takes care of his three teenage siblings — ages 15, 16 and 17 — who share a three-bedroom apartment with him and two other relatives in the South Bronx. Money and space are tight.

The children have only been living with him since late December. That's when they ran away from their adoptive mother, Sharlott Sutton, who is also their cousin.

"It was Christmastime and I have a girlfriend, so I was already a little behind financially when they got here," Robles said. "But they needed food, MetroCards, beds, clothes, school supplies, a phone."

Sutton, who lives in Staten Island, didn't offer to help out, even though she receives a total monthly subsidy check of $2,300 for the three children, Robles said.

Robles, his three siblings, and Sutton met with a social worker in early January to discuss where the children should live. During the meeting, Sutton agreed to let the children live with Robles, who filed for legal guardianship — but ACS wouldn't transfer the subsidy over to him. "The adoption subsidy cannot be transferred to a guardian/custodian as long as the adoptive parents are living," an ACS employee wrote to his attorney.

In April, a judge allowed Robles to become the children's guardian. "This is another sad case of an adoption not working out," Michael Katz, the judge, told Robles at a court hearing. "But it seems to me you're trying to provide a good home."

Sutton didn't come to that hearing, or any of the three before it, said Robles' lawyer. Although Sutton did not terminate her parental rights, Robles said that under pressure, she started voluntarily sending him the subsidy checks in May. But she is not required to do so and could stop at any time.

Christian Robles
Christian Robles (right) wants to move his siblings to a bigger apartment where the family will have more room — and he doesn't want them to worry about finances.
Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News

Robles believes ACS failed his family by letting Sutton keep the subsidy. "This should be automatic," Robles said. "I shouldn't be jumping through these hoops."

Robles wants to move his siblings to a bigger apartment where the family will have more room. And he doesn't want them to worry about finances. "I don't want them asking me, 'Hey, are you getting the subsidy yet?'" Robles said. "Asking me if they can have an extra plate of food or if they should go shovel snow for money."

"That's what I'm here for," he added. "To take care of them."

Source: New York Daily News

Judge Fired

September 16, 2014 permalink

What action can get a judge removed from office?

  • Convicting an innocent man of a crime
  • Breaking up a well-functioning family
  • Confiscating the savings of an innocent family
  • Disclosing confidential information

The only correct answer is d. Arkansas judge Michael Maggio, writing under screen name geauxjudge, disclosed that actress Charlize Theron had adopted a baby. That got him off the bench.

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Judge Dismissed For Leaking Information About Charlize Theron Adoption

Charlize Theron
PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 07: Charlize Theron attends the Christian Dior Show as part of Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015 at Musee Rodin on July 7, 2014 in Paris, France.
Photo by Foc Kan/WireImage

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Sept 11 (Reuters) - An Arkansas state judge who acknowledged posting on the Internet confidential information regarding an adoption by actress Charlize Theron was removed from office on Thursday by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge Michael Maggio of Conway, Arkansas, admitted using a pseudonym to disclose information on the adoption, which apparently occurred in January 2012 and was handled by another judge in the same city.

The Academy Award Winning actress in May 2012 held several interviews where she said she was the proud mother a healthy boy named Jackson, who she adopted.

Adoption proceedings are sealed under Arkansas law.

"This court concludes that immediate removal is the just and proper sanction for the judge's conduct," the Supreme Court's order stated.

Maggio was suspended from all duties in March but allowed to retain his title and continue receiving his $140,000 annual salary pending further review by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline Commission.

But the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the commission's recommendation that Maggio be allowed to remain on suspension and be paid until his elected term ends in January.

It also barred him from holding any other judgeship in Arkansas.

Maggio had been the only announced candidate for a seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals but abandoned his campaign when his Internet postings were revealed.

Writing as "geauxjudge" on a sports website devoted to athletics at Louisiana State University, his alma mater, Maggio also offered advice on evading drunk driving citations and suggested sympathy for husbands caught in extramarital affairs. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: Huffington Post

From another source, here are some of the actual posts: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Source: Above the Law

Aiden to get Chemo

September 16, 2014 permalink

A family has been forced by CAS to submit to chemo therapy for their 18-month-old son. The family wanted to use hemp oil treatment instead. Earlier stories identified the parents as Marco Pedersen and Erica O'Laney. The boy is Aiden.

CAS has probably saved Aiden's life through this intervention. But the press never prints the more numerous stories of parents accused of medical neglect for refusing to administer psychotropic drugs to their children.

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Father denied say in son's cancer treatment after fighting chemo

Father doesn't want son's leukemia to be treated with chemotherapy

An Ottawa father has been denied a say in his 18-month-old son's leukemia treatment after he wanted to use hemp oil instead of chemotherapy.

"My fear is that his body is not going to take well to [chemotherapy], and he's only an 18-month little boy," the 23-year-old father told CBC News Monday.

"His body isn't even developed yet, so what happens if this chemo doesn't take well? That's why I was asking for the other ways first."

The man and his 20-year-old wife found out last week that their son has leukemia. The parents and their son can't be identified due to the provisions of the Child and Family Services Act.

Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario were quick to recommend chemotherapy, but the boy's parents were reluctant. CHEO eventually called the Children's Aid Society after the parents refused to consent to the chemo treatment.

Wife eventually did give consent

Robert Klaassen
Dr. Robert Klaassen, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, says cannabinoids are useful in supportive care, but not as an alternative to traditional cancer treatments.
CBC

The boy's father wants to use a hemp oil treatment instead. It's something he learned about from his father, who lived next to a man named Rick Simpson, who claims to make a hemp oil that cures cancer and other illnesses.

"If you'd seen what I [saw] in that room with those oncologists and social workers, threatening to steal their son and put him in care and force this treatment upon him without even looking at the science," the boy's grandfather said.

"This violation is not just on my son's rights, it's on every other parents' rights in this country. A parent has the right, and he had the right as a parent, to want a second opinion. That's only the most educated thing to do."

The boy's mother eventually authorized the chemotherapy treatment and the boy is receiving it.

Still, the boy's father said he plans to keep fighting for the right to seek alternative treatment.

Cannabinoids better for supportive, not alternative care, doctor says

Dr. Robert Klaassen, an expert in child blood diseases and cancers at CHEO, said chemotherapy is backed up by decades of research, and that it's important to begin treatment as soon as possible, especially with children.

He said cannibanoids can be helpful in supportive care, especially to fight nausea and help children gain weight, but are not an alternative to traditional treatment.

"I really don't know anything about the efficacy of hemp oil for cancer treatment. We know that we use a lot of cannabinoids for supportive care, and I prescribe it a lot for many of my patients to help them," Klaassen said.

"Quite frankly it's a godsend, so it's not like we shy away from it. But it's really there for supportive care, it's not there for treating the cancers themselves."

An earlier version of this story identified the family involved. Their names have been removed due to a provision of the Child and Family Services Act, which prevents the subjects of Children's Aid Society hearings from being identified.

Source: CBC

Secret Law is Not Law

September 16, 2014 permalink

Controversy over American enforcement of secret laws led the Electronic Frontier Foundation to unearth a United Nations covenant on the subject. Under international human rights law, secret “law” doesn’t even qualify as “law” at all.

[regarding the law of speech]

25. For the purposes of paragraph 3, a norm, to be characterized as a “law”, must be formulated with sufficient precision to enable an individual to regulate his or her conduct accordingly and it must be made accessible to the public. A law may not confer unfettered discretion for the restriction of freedom of expression on those charged with its execution. Laws must provide sufficient guidance to those charged with their execution to enable them to ascertain what sorts of expression are properly restricted and what sorts are not.

Source: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

What about child protection law? In Ontario, child protectors operate under authority of the Child and Family Services Act, a published law. So far so good. It is in Section 37 that the act defines a child in need of protection. These are the legal reasons to separate a child from his family. The wording contains vague phrases such as "there is a risk that the child is likely to suffer emotional harm" and "the child has been abandoned". Does abandonment mean dad running off with the secretary and failing to feed the child? Or just mom running into a store for five minutes while leaving her child in the car? After a few years of accumulated decisions, the public could examine cases to find out what courts actually decide. But the administration of that law is entirely secret. Social workers keep their records under lock and key, as do courthouses that store records of protection cases. At hearings, the public is excluded, and only rarely can a journalist view the process. The restriction on reporting the names of parties, a restriction extending even to the parties themselves, keeps child protection stories out of the media. In practice, secrecy prevents parents from knowing what actions they need to take to keep their children out of foster care, thereby disqualifying child protection as law: "Laws must provide sufficient guidance to those charged with their execution to enable them to ascertain what sorts of expression are properly restricted and what sorts are not."

Social Workers Abused and Attacked

September 16, 2014 permalink

In Great Britain social workers were subject to abuse or violence 20,254 times in one year, 55 times per day. A good measure of the amount of mayhem they cause.

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British social workers faced an estimated 20,500 incidents of abuse and violence in 2013/14

Figures gathered by Community Care show that the average council recorded 98 incidents of violence and abuse towards social workers and social care staff in 2013/14

fist
Photo: Vesa Moilanen/REX

Social workers and social care staff in British local authorities faced an estimated 20,000-plus incidents of violence and abuse in the line of work, figures gathered by Community Care reveal.

A Freedom of Information request answered by 131 councils in England, Scotland and Wales reveals that there were 12,880 recorded incidents of abuse and violence towards social services staff during 2013/14.

This equates to an average of 98 incidents per council, suggesting that there were 20,254 incidents recorded by all 206 English, Scottish and Welsh councils in 2013/14.

However, in line with Community Care’s requests for this data in previous years, the number of recorded incidents varies wildly between local authorities.

Some councils, including Wokingham and St Helens, recorded fewer than 10 incidents while others, including Leeds and Dorset, reported more than 300 cases of abuse and violence against their staff.

This is despite 85% of the 446 social work and social care staff surveyed earlier this year by Community Care said they had experienced violence or verbal abuse in their work during the past year, suggesting that the quality of monitoring of such events remains inconsistent across the country.

Despite this the findings suggest that the number of incidents being recorded by councils is declining.

In 2010/11 the figures collected by Community Care suggested that the average council recorded 148 incidents of violence or abuse towards social services staff but this fell to 135 in 2011/12 and 119 in 2012/13 and has now dipped to 98 in 2013/14.

Source: Community Care

angry dog

Most Valuable Player Accused

September 13, 2014 permalink

Minnesota Vikings football player Adrian Peterson has been indicted for child abuse after hitting his son with a switch. The incident occurred while the boy was visiting Peterson. The boy's mother, separated from Peterson, reported the abuse to police and child protectors.

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Adrian Peterson Indicted For Child Abuse, Will Not Play Sunday

September 12, 2014 6:05 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A warrant was issued Friday for the arrest of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after a grand jury in Texas indicted him for reckless or negligent injury to a child.

Peterson will not play in Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium against the New England Patriots. On Friday afternoon, the Vikings said Peterson had been deactivated. That’s different from a suspension, as Peterson will be still be paid as officials investigate.

Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said the star running back would travel to Texas Friday night to post bond as soon as it can be arranged.

Sports Radio 610 in Houston obtained a draft of the police report which says Peterson admitted that he did, in his words, “whoop” one of his children last May while the child was visiting him at his home near Houston.

The punishment happened after Peterson’s son pushed another of Peterson’s children off of a motorbike video game, the report says.

During a Skype session with his mom back in Minnesota, the 4-year-old boy asked if he could tell her something. According to the report, Peterson said, “Go ahead and tell her and show her what happened.”

The boy said he got a whooping with a switch — a wooden rod or tree branch used for punishment.

When the boy returned to his mother in Eden Prairie, Minn., she took him to a doctor.

The doctor told investigators that the boy had a number of lacerations on his thighs, along with bruise-like marks on his lower back and buttocks and cuts on his hand.

The police report says the doctor described some of the marks as open wounds and termed it “child abuse.” Another examiner agreed, calling the cuts “extensive.”

Photographs obtained from the Houston police report show pictures of the injuries.

Adrian Peterson's son
credit: Houston Police Department
Adrian Peterson's son
credit: Houston Police Department
Adrian Peterson's son
credit: Houston Police Department

Another picture shows Peterson demonstrating the kind of switch he used.

The police report also includes text messages between Peterson and the boy’s mother. First he texted to her: “You will be mad at me about his leg.” Later, he texted: “He got about five more pops than normal. He didn’t drop one tear! … He’s tough as nails.”

In further text messages, Peterson allegedly said, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.”

When investigators questioned Peterson, they say he told them he regarded it as a normal spanking and not excessive. He told investigators, “To be honest with you, I feel very confident with my actions because I know my intent,” and when asked if he would reconsider using switches in the future, said he would never “eliminate whooping my kids … because I know how being spanked has helped me in my life.”

A grand jury seated earlier this summer decided not to charge Peterson, but a second grand jury indicted him on Thursday.

On Friday, Peterson told WCCO-TV’s Mike Max that he didn’t think he’d face another indictment. The day’s developments caught him by surprise.

If Peterson is convicted, he could face up to two years in prison.

Peterson’s attorney issued this statement Friday afternoon:

“This indictment follows Adrian’s full cooperation with authorities who have been looking into this matter. Adrian is a loving father who used his judgment as a parent to discipline his son. He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced growing up in east Texas. Adrian has never hidden from what happened. He has cooperated fully with authorities and voluntarily testified before the grand jury for several hours. Adrian will address the charges with the same respect and responsiveness he has brought to this inquiry from its beginning. It is important to remember that Adrian never intended to harm his son and deeply regrets the unintentional injury.”

The NFL recently unveiled a domestic-violence policy, which stipulates a six-game suspension for a first offense but allows for steeper penalties if children are involved.

The indictment against Peterson comes on the heels of another story involving an NFL running back and serious allegations.

On Monday, the league indefinitely suspended Ravens running back Ray Rice after video was published showing the player punching his soon-to-be wife and knocking her out cold.

Source: WCCO-TV

Following his first pro season, in which he set an NFL record for most rushing yards in a single game (296), Peterson was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was then awarded the MVP award for his performance in the Pro Bowl and became only the fifth player in NFL history to have more than 3,000 yards through his first two seasons. In 2010, he became the fifth fastest player to run for 5,000 yards, doing so in his 51st game.

In 2012, Peterson became the sixth fastest player to reach 8,000 rushing yards, ending the season with 2,097 rushing yards, just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season all-time record. Peterson amassed 2,314 all-purpose yards from scrimmage in 2012, tying Marcus Allen for the eighth-highest total ever. For his efforts, he received the NFL MVP Award and the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award for the 2012 NFL season. Peterson also achieved the #1 spot on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2013. During the 2013 season, Peterson became the third fastest player to reach 10,000 rushing yards in NFL history.

Source: wikipedia

During a 1692 witch hunt in Salem Massachusetts dozens of people, mostly women, were accused. Nineteen died by hanging. The courts relied on spectral evidence, some of it provided by pre-teen girls. As the witch hunt progressed, the girls became emboldened to accuse higher-ups in the community, who then came under the same scrutiny. The witch hunt came to an end with an accusation against the wife of the governor, a lady of unquestioned integrity. That accusation was enough to shock the community back to its senses, and ignore the rantings of the girls.

With the accusation of Adrian Peterson the child protection witch hunt is advancing to a new level. Peterson is a high-performing public figure with many fans, fans drawn not from caring philanthropists but from macho dominators. The Peterson accusation, and more to come, could start the process in which the public at large begins to question the rantings of the social services system.

Addendum: Within a day there is a photo (jpg) on twitter favorable to Peterson. A fan dressed in a Peterson jersey wields a switch.

Source: twitter

The press is unanimous in condemning Peterson. But the Minnisota Vikings, responding to fans rather than the politically correct press, reinstated Peterson on September 15, even over the objections of Minnesota governor Mark Dayton.

Continuing Alberta Secrecy on Foster Deaths

September 13, 2014 permalink

Alberta recently revised its law mandating secrecy on deaths of foster children, and several names were published. But according to Alberta opposition member Rachel Notley, foster deaths will go back to being secret under provisions of the new law. Anyone (including a government minister) can apply for a secrecy order, and once granted it will muzzle press organs not party to the court action.

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Alberta kids who die in foster care will still be nameless, faceless: critics

Rachel Notley
Alberta NDP leadership candidate Rachel Notley
Photograph by: Larry Wong , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Most children who die in care will remain nameless and faceless because the Human Services ministry will quietly pursue publication bans under a complex new law, critics alleged Friday.

NDP leadership candidate Rachel Notley said the ministry’s new internal policy undermines the government’s promise to provide more transparency and accountability in the child welfare system.

“They promised they would be transparent about the deaths of children in care, but yesterday they took a major step backward,” Notley said in a statement. “Transparency has been lost.”

Earlier this year, Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar overturned Alberta’s draconian publication ban that prevented media from publishing the names and photos of children who died in provincial care, even if their families wanted their identities made public.

Under the new law, families and news outlets may identify children who have died in care using both a name and photograph, unless a judge grants a publication ban.

Before granting the ban, a judge must consider the deceased child’s wishes (if known) and the best interests of his or her living siblings, as well as the public interest.

Anyone — including the child’s biological family or the ministry — can apply for an ex-parte ban, which means there is no requirement to notify the media or others who might fight against a ban.

On Thursday, at a meeting of the standing committee on families and communities, assistant deputy minister Mark Hattori explained the ministry’s internal policy will require government to notify families, First Nations and the media — even though it’s not required by law.

Typically, he said that if a child is still in the care of his or her parents at the time of death, the province will leave it up to the parents to determine if there should be a publication ban.

However, if the child is in the care of the province — either in foster care, kinship care or in a group home — the province is more likely to apply for a publication ban, particularly when the deceased child has siblings, which is the case in roughly 62 per cent of deaths.

He said these bans would be “for the right reasons.”

“The bans, or the provision for the (ministry) to apply for a ban, would be the exception rather than the rule,” Hattori told the standing committee.

“The decision regarding any application is a matter for the court to make a decision on, and not for the director to independently put in place,” Hattori said.

“Our preliminary assessment of past cases using these considerations suggests that applications by the director will be rare.”

Source: Edmonton Journal

Social Worker Punched

September 13, 2014 permalink

While a social worker was removing her child, Tina Esquilin punched her.

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Monticello woman punched Child Protective Services worker in face, cops say

MONTICELLO — A Monticello woman was arrested and charged with assault, a felony, after punching a Child Protective Services worker in the face, police said.

Monticello police were assisting a female employee of the Sullivan County Child Protective Services Unit in removing a child from a home on Osborne Street on Tuesday, when Tina Esquilin, 26, arrived at the home and began arguing with the worker, police said. Esquilin then lunged across a room and punched the CPS worker in the face, police said.

Police immediately arrested Esquilin. She was arraigned in Monticello Village Court and sent to Sullivan County Jail on $1,000 bail.

Source: Middletown Times Herald-Record

Abusive Pregnancy

September 12, 2014 permalink

Fixcas has had many stories of parents who got in trouble with child protectors for failing to follow doctor's orders. A mother known only as YN is in trouble because she DID follow doctor's orders. She took prescription methadone during pregnancy. The state of New Jersey put her on its register of child abusers for harming her child during pregnancy.

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New Jersey mother fights for removal from abuse registry over prescribed methadone use during pregnancy

Woman in appeals after being found culpable of abuse and neglect of unborn baby despite being supervised by doctor

A mother in New Jersey is fighting to have her name removed from the child abuse register after she was found culpable of abuse and neglect of her unborn baby because she took methadone during pregnancy, even though the treatment was prescribed and supervised by a doctor.

The woman, identified only as YN in court documents, has protested the abuse finding to the New Jersey supreme court, the highest judicial panel in the state. On Monday the court’s six justices considered the legal arguments behind her censure.

YN’s case is being seen as the latest battleground in the growing trend towards penalizing women for the outcomes of their pregnancies. At most extreme, women in states such as Indiana and Mississippi have been charged with fetal murder after they lost their babies.

YN has not been criminally charged, and her case has been heard under the civil court system. But her presence on the child abuse register still has potentially devastating consequences, as it could prevent her finding a job and make it more difficult for her to care for her son.

After a full-term pregnancy, YN gave birth to a vigorous boy on 18 February 2011. But soon afterwards the baby, referred to as PAC, began displaying symptoms of methadone withdrawal and was diagnosed as having neonatal abstinence syndrome.

YN was struggling with addiction of opioid painkillers at the time she learned that she was pregnant, and was advised by a physician to undergo opioid substitution therapy by which she would switch to a closely-regulated dose of methadone. Such a course, known as methadone maintenance treatment or MMT has been described as the “gold standard” for pregnant women wrestling with painkiller addiction – an epidemic problem in the US.

Doctors have been advising pregnant women with addiction problems to use methadone since the early 1970s, as it is widely recognized to be less dangerous for the foetus than stopping all opioid consumption which can lead to “cold turkey” for the mother and severe withdrawal or even miscarriage for the unborn child. The World Health Organisation has called it “the most appropriate treatment”; the US federal government says MMT “is safe for the baby”; and even New Jersey’s own department of human services advocates methadone maintenance in such circumstances.

YN followed her doctor’s treatment plan for methadone for the final six weeks of her pregnancy. It is not unusual for babies to suffer withdrawal symptoms from the drug after birth, though PAC endured particularly severe neonatal abstinence syndrome and had to be given oral doses of morphine from which he was gradually weaned over a period of 39 days.

The mother was reported to New Jersey’s child protection agency which found she had committed abuse and neglect. In June last year, the state’s appeal court upheld the finding, ruling that the harm PAC suffered from withdrawal was enough in itself to justify putting YN on the child abuse register.

“The fact that [YN] obtained the methadone from a legal source does not preclude our consideration of the harm it caused to the newborn. Where there is evidence of actual impairment, it is immaterial whether the drugs taken were from a legal or illicit source,” the appeal court judges ruled.

A coalition of 76 groups and experts in child health, maternal and fetal rights and addiction treatment, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have joined to protest the appeal court ruling and YN’s censure for abuse and neglect. In a brief to the supreme court justices, the parties argue that the finding of abuse and neglect was “based upon myths, stereotypes and prejudices” and had failed to take on board “evidence-based research or scientific evidence” on the benefits of methadone treatment under proper medical supervision.

At the hearing on Monday, the supreme court justices restricted themselves to one specific legal question: could a pregnant woman be found culpable of abuse and neglect on the basis that the methadone she used under a drug treatment programme caused harm to the newborn child.

Clara Licata, a lawyer representing YN, told the court that her client had been advised “that she should not withdraw [from painkillers] abruptly on her own and the only reasonable course of action was to take methadone in a medical setting.”

Licata added: “There is a risk in second-guessing a woman’s decision during pregnancy. The fear is that people will look back over the pregnancy and question the mother’s reasonableness: did she sleep too much or too little? Did she exercise too much or too little?”

In its argument to the supreme court, the state of New Jersey argued that YN had a six-year history of drug use and had taken illegal street drugs for most of her pregnancy. It said it was right that YN was kept on the abuse register, given all the factors in the case, to safeguard her child.

Sara Ainsworth of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women told the Guardian that it was inappropriate for child protection agencies to intervene in cases where pregnant women with addiction problems had sought medical treatment. “If we are going to start policing pregnant women for their babies’ condition at birth then we are entering a very dangerous world – not only her medical decisions but all her decisions are subject to being labeled neglect or abuse.”

Source: Guardian (UK)

Riot Squad Grabs Sleeping Children

September 12, 2014 permalink

Australia's National Indigenous Television (NITV) has reconstructed a raid in which a family was awakened at gunpoint to have their children seized. The highly traumatized children taken on January 15 were returned to their family over five months later. Fixcas has a local copy (flv, 82 megabytes) of the video.

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Police in riot gear removing Aboriginal children at 'gunpoint'

EXCLUSIVE: Disturbing footage showing police in riot gear storming a home in NSW to forcibly remove indigenous children from their parents has been obtained by National Indigenous TV news.

The Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) and New South Wales police raided the home to remove multiple children from the one family. The children have now been returned to their parents.

The footage and images provided to NITV News show police dressed in riot gear enter a home at around 6.30am earlier this year.

The parents, who were asleep when the raid began, have told NITV News they awoke to find guns pointed at them and that they were then handcuffed by police as the children were forcibly removed in front of them.

It is alleged the children's aunt and grandfather were also handcuffed and detained by police during the raid.

New South Wales Police has confirmed the raid occurred but said no charges were laid.

The children were placed in temporary foster care, but are now back with their parents.

The New South Wales Greens are calling for answers as to why such heavy handed force was used in the removal of these children.

MLC David Shoebridge says the children remain traumatised and the process and its impact on the children needs to be investigated.

"(This is a) deeply troubling story of a family that's been woken soon after dawn," he said.

"[Police armed with] shields, helmets, assault rifles, the mother and father taken from their beds, shaken from their beds, handcuffed naked, children marched out at gunpoint."

A spokesperson for the Minister for Family and Community Services, Gabrielle Upton said the riot police were present for the protection of caseworkers.

“The Department of Family and Community Services has a very good working relationship with NSW police.

“NSW police provide critical protection in often very complex and difficult child protection matters.”

“Police only attend a child protection issue after a stringent risk assessment."

NSW police provided the following statement:

'About 6am on Wednesday 15 January 2014 police from Moree Local Area Command assisted Family and Community Services officers in the execution of a warrant issued by the local court.

'This was a local operation and did not involve specialist commands like the TOU. (tactical operations unit)

'Children aged between one and 13 who had been identified as being at risk were removed from a home ... by FACS.

'Police attended to prevent any breach of the peace or public order incident.

'One man was detained in handcuffs for a short period. No charges were laid.'

Source: SBS / NITV

Opening of the Courts

September 10, 2014 permalink

The Opening of the Courts took place yesterday in Toronto. In the past the schedule started with a two-hour church service, then a ceremony at the University Avenue courthouse. This year the church service was skipped. There is no way to know whether judges are pulling back from protesters or whether they recognize that their practices are ungodly. The transcript of a speech by chief justice Heather Forster Smith was posted online. In her words:

Our court has supported Family Rules initiatives to streamline and simplify family proceedings, particularly early financial disclosure

The protesters outside were not demanding court streamlining. They were objecting to the routine separation of parents and children by force of arms. Early financial disclosure is the process in which lawyers shamelessly probe the resources of the litigants to find out how much money there is to divvy up. Later in her remarks the judge noted the requirement for more security, without noticing any connection to judicial policies.

You can read the comments of Chris Carter on Facebook or watch Chris on video, with a local copy (mp4)

The remarks of judge Smith are enclosed.

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Opening of the Courts

Remarks of Chief Justice Heather Smith

Superior Court of Justice
Opening of the Courts
Toronto, September 9, 2014

Lieutenant Governor Onley, Chief Justices, Associate Chief Justices, judicial colleagues, Madam Attorney, representative of the federal Minister of Justice, Madam Treasurer, members of the Bar, distinguished guests and members of the public:

I extend a very warm welcome to everyone here, marking the beginning of a new court year. It is a pleasure at this Opening of the Courts to be on the dais with two pivotal figures in the Ontario justice system. They are at divergent points in their respective, inspiring, judicial careers. Justice Strathy is fresh to his new responsibilities as Chief Justice of Ontario, having already distinguished himself as a strong and respected trial and appellate judge. Nostalgically, Chief Justice Bonkalo will soon be completing her term on the Ontario Court of Justice, having been an effective advocate for continuous improvement of Ontario’s justice system. I want to extend my congratulations and very best wishes to both of them.

Before my annual update, I want to highlight the changes to our court’s own executive since last year. We are delighted to have welcomed four outstanding new members to RSJ Council:

  • Justice Michelle Fuerst, appointed RSJ for the Central East Region last October;
  • Justice Geoffrey Morawetz, appointed RSJ for the Toronto Region in December;
  • Justice George Czutrin, appointed Senior Family Judge of our Court in December; and
  • Justice Robbie Gordon, appointed RSJ for the Northeast Region in January of this year.

Judicial Vacancies

On a court as large as ours, we will always experience judicial vacancies. In the past, the federal Minister of Justice filled these vacancies in a timely manner. Regrettably, this year is quite different. Today we have 20 outstanding vacancies on our court that have been accumulating since October 2013. An additional 10 vacancies will arise by the end of this year – 9 of them family judges.

We advised the Minister almost one year ago about this significant number of looming family vacancies. If not filled promptly, we will have a total of 30 judicial vacancies by the end of 2014.

The seamless filling of judicial vacancies is critical to meeting our court’s obligation to Ontarians – children and families in particular. I urge the Minister of Justice to act with dispatch to fill our court’s outstanding vacancies. I also trust and expect that new appointees to the Family Court branch will have the family expertise and skills to step confidently into their new role.

Family Proceedings

In family proceedings, on very positive note, the Attorney General and I have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to fund per diem payments for Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs) at all existing DRO sites. Except in Toronto, the experienced family lawyers who serve as DROs have generously provided their valuable services to litigants pro bono. The Ministry expects to complete the new DRO empanelment process and begin payment to all DROs at these locations as of January 2015.

I sincerely thank you, Madam Attorney, and Senior Family Justice Czutrin, for supporting this essential program. And through you, Madam Treasurer, I thank every member of the bar who has served as a DRO during the pilot phase.

Child Prioritization and NAC Implementation

Next, we continue to meet our priority objective of improving processes and outcomes for families in crisis and children at risk. This initiative reinforces and implements the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters’ report and recommendations. Senior Family Justice Czutrin, in particular, has worked diligently to develop scheduling best practices for family cases, which we will implement for our 2015 court schedules. These best practices will ensure that every event in a family proceeding is timely, meaningful and moves the case forward. We will also complete our development of best practices for child protection proceedings.

Our court has supported Family Rules initiatives to streamline and simplify family proceedings, particularly early financial disclosure. We also undertook a multi-pronged approach to raise the profile of family law and child protection matters among our future lawyers. We reached out to law school deans to expand their family curricula and include a family clinical component. We collaborated with the Ontario Court of Justice and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) to expand the Walsh Family Law Moot to include a new negotiation moot for 2015. Both aspects of the moot are named for the Honourable George Walsh – a former judge of this court, and former “dean” of the family law Bar. We have committed our court to his philosophy of “resolution where possible; if not, timely adjudication”.

Civil Proceedings

Turning to civil matters, I am absolutely delighted to report that the first phase of the GTA Civil Justice Review, led by RSJ Morawetz, has yielded results that are nothing short of outstanding – particularly for Toronto. Last year’s unacceptable wait times for civil long motions and long trials are now “history”!

The proof is in the Toronto numbers: a year ago, the delay to a short civil motion was more than four months and the delay to a long civil motion was approximately 11 months. Justice Morawetz advises, and I am grateful and delighted to report, that both short and long civil motions are now available in a few short weeks. A year ago, the delay to certain long civil trials, such as a complex class action or commercial trial, was up to 22 months. Today, any long civil trial is available in six months or less.

When the Bar organizations spoke last year, we listened. RSJ Morawetz sought the Bar’s collaboration and the sound advice of his GTA judicial colleagues in tackling the core problems. New approaches were devised. New practice directions were developed to eliminate counterproductive booking practices and other inefficient procedures. Our real challenge for the coming year is to sustain these exceptional results – a goal that will be virtually impossible without a full judicial complement.

I extend my personal thanks to the organizations and individuals who joined our efforts and were open to change. Their meaningful participation is in the very best traditions of the Bar. I am confident that Phase Two of the Civil Justice Review, which includes a review of Masters’ proceedings, will identify strategies to create even greater efficiencies.

Additionally, this year Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco led a project to identify Rules of Civil Procedure that could be easily streamlined. This included amending the notice provisions and timelines to dismiss unprosecuted civil actions. These amendments were approved at the June Civil Rules Committee meeting.

Criminal Proceedings

The timeliness of our criminal proceedings continues to be monitored closely and managed astutely by each RSJ. Our judicial scheduling efforts are seriously hampered, however, by our large number of outstanding judicial vacancies and the critical lack of criminal jury courtrooms in key locations.

First Nations representation on juries and the larger issues identified by the Honourable Frank Iacobucci in his report remain a grave concern for our court. The Honourable Erv Stach is my representative on the Ministry’s committee tasked with implementing the report and recommendations. With the committee’s and others’ efforts, we hope we will turn the corner on this issue in the coming year.

Facilities

I remain tremendously proud of the quality and timeliness of the over 10,000 judgments and endorsements issued by our court each year. This achievement is to the resounding credit of the more than 300 dedicated judges who serve on this court.

While we celebrate this year’s hard work and success we must also confront a number of looming challenges. Here I speak of the court’s severely deficient facilities in the exploding communities west of Toronto. They lack the facilities required to discharge our court’s core functions – criminal jury courtrooms, jury assembly rooms, and settlement conference rooms.

There were agreed, approved and funded plans for an immediate short-term solution to the dire criminal facility shortages in Brampton, Barrie and Newmarket. The interim modular solutions for Barrie and Newmarket are already on site and almost complete. Inconceivably, the Ministry appears to have unilaterally abandoned the interim modular solution for Brampton. Instead, the Ministry is now considering a more permanent facility that will take years to deliver.

This startling change of plan can only result in continued and worsening delays for criminal jury trials. I have spoken with the Attorney General, personally, about the imperative to revive the original “immediate” Brampton modular solution. Promised three years ago, it was to have been delivered by now.

I also advised the Attorney General about the deplorable condition of the Milton courthouse and our clear need for new facilities there. We hope that the Attorney General and the Minister for Infrastructure Ontario will recognize this pressing priority and will deliver a timely solution to the untenable situation in Milton.

Court Security

The security of the public, staff, counsel and judges at our courthouses has weighed on everyone’s mind in the aftermath of the Brampton shooting. Our court’s Local Administrative Judges have worked to establish local court security committees at all 50 Superior Court locations across the province. Those committees are now established, have held meetings, and are developing the local court security plans required by the Police Services Act.

Like many court facilities throughout the province, Toronto has its own unique set of security issues. Chief of Police Bill Blair responded promptly to our concerns and some new security features are already in place in the Superior Court’s “Osgoode Precinct”. Others will be part of a pending holistic review.

Without doubt, we still have work to do! I assure you I will not compromise in meeting our shared objective to have timely and appropriate responses to any courthouse security issue.

Conclusion

Each year, challenges are resolved and new challenges present. The one constant is our court’s commitment to continuous improvement. Setting our priorities each year, and reflecting on our results at the Opening of the Courts, is an excellent exercise towards that goal. It also reenergizes and renews us to address the remaining very real challenges

Our court’s prime responsibility is to deliver meaningful, accessible and affordable justice. Today, we celebrate our successes. Tomorrow we will turn our minds to the challenges at hand.

This post is also available in: French

Source: Ontario Courts

Here are two pictures from the event. [1] [2].

Source: BrainSyntax

Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham

September 5, 2014 permalink

Last month Britain was scandalized by the release of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 - 2013, Alexis Jay OBE (pdf, 153 pages). Over a thousand minors purportedly in state care were victims of sexual exploitation. The story is too large to cover on fixcas, for a quick summary refer to wikipedia. An analysis by Christopher Booker is enclosed.

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Rotherham: the real scandal is much wider

There will be more tragedies unless politicians face the truth

Rotherham police
Some police seem to have become unquestioning accomplices of a cruel system
Photo: EPA

Barely credible though we have all found the avalanche of revelations about what had been going on in Rotherham for 16 years, they reflect only one part of what has become the most horrifying scandal in modern Britain. As was documented in Easy Meat, a report earlier this year from the Law and Freedom Foundation, similar tragedies have long been unfolding in towns and cities across the land, where, with the full connivance of social workers and the police, the criminal abuse of underage girls, many in state “care”, has been organised by largely Pakistani gangs of men on an industrial scale. It has then been systematically covered up by the very people who have allowed and even encouraged this to happen: council officials, police and politicians.

If this report is right in criticising how blame has too often in the past been ascribed just to “Asians”, it is itself too casual in blaming Islam or even Pakistanis in general. Part of the problem is that many of the culprits are of Pashtun tribal stock from Kashmir, regarded as “trouble” even by many Muslims and Pakistanis.

But this particular tragedy is only one of three different legs making up a very much larger scandal. This is how our politicians have allowed our entire “child protection” system to career off the rails. The second leg of this scandal can be seen in all those familiar horror stories in which some child, such as Baby P, has eventually met with an awful death, despite social workers, police and other agencies having long known of the child’s maltreatment without taking any action. How many times have we then seen some semi-whitewashing report, urging that “lessons must be learnt”, and leaving the dysfunctional system to carry on much as before?

Umar Razaq, Razwan Razaq, Mohsin Khan, Adil Hussain and Zafran Ramzan
Clockwise from top left: Umar Razaq , Razwan Razaq, Mohsin Khan, Adil Hussain and Zafran Ramzan, from Rotherham, found guilty in 2010 of a series of sexually related offences against underage girls

The third leg of this scandal, which I have long been writing about in this column, is how, rather than failing to intervene when necessary, the social workers, with full support from the police and the courts, are now also taking record numbers of children into state “care” for what too often appear to be inadequate or even blatantly fabricated reasons. This can be just as much a crime against humanity and a travesty of justice as what we’ve been learning about in Rotherham; not least because, as I hear in new cases every week, children unhappily removed from loving families are often subjected, while in “care”, to abuse that is much worse than anything alleged against their parents.

When, last week, I was asked by my editor “how can we hope to see this mess cleared up?”, I could only reply pessimistically that the whole culture of our “child protection” system has become so corrupted that it is hard to see how it can ever be returned to some semblance of decency and humanity. The “good” social workers of old have largely been driven out, to be replaced by heartless, jargon-spouting zealots who are the last people who should be involved in the life of any family. Few things have shocked me more than the way the police have become such unquestioning accomplices of this cruel system. There may be a glimmer of hope in the realisation by Lord Justice Munby, our top family court judge, that some start can be made on clearing out the Augean stables by exposing more of the work of those ultra-secretive courts to public scrutiny.

However, the ultimate responsibility for all this must lie with the politicians whose laws set up this system, but who have since turned their backs on how the system has made such a mockery of the high-minded intent that lay behind those laws.

Two years ago I reported on how Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, disclosed in the Commons something of the horrors that had been going on in his constituency, where social workers had encouraged the mass-rape of underage girls in “care”, on the grounds that it was merely their “life choice” to become prostitutes. Not one of the many MPs who spoke in that long debate, including two ministers, picked up on what he had said, as, one after another, they applauded a new government move to speed up the number of children being taken into “care”.

Until a great many more MPs are prepared to join Mr Danczuk and the admirable John Hemming in getting seriously engaged with this issue, this terrifying tragedy, in all its different manifestations, will continue.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Augean stables
Augean stables

Compulsory Bad Medicine

September 1, 2014 permalink

Ashya King was treated in England for brain cancer. When parents Brett and Naghemeh King were unsatisfied with radiation prescribed for their son, they requested proton beam treatment for Ashya. British doctors refused to provide the treatment and instead threatened the parents with a protection order banning them from contact with Ashya. The parents fled with Ashya to Spain. There they have been arrested and Ashya is being treated in a Spanish hospital.

Here is a local copy (mp4) of the family video mentioned in the article. Bias alert! The first half of the Guardian story tells only the social services viewpoint.

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Parents arrested as missing Ashya King found by police in Spain

Ashya sent to hospital after father posts video online complaining about NHS treatment for his son's brain tumour

Ashya King with his mother, Naghemeh
Ashya King with his mother, Naghemeh. The family were last seen on Thursday afternoon.
Photograph: M&Y News Agency

The international hunt for Ashya King, the missing five-year-old boy with a brain tumour, came to a dramatic end on Saturday night when his parents were arrested in Spain and their son was taken from them and sent to a local hospital for urgent medical treatment.

Brett and Naghemeh King, 45, were spotted in their Hyundai people carrier around 10pm by police in Velez Malaga, a town an hour to the east of Marbella. The couple, who were being held under an international arrest warrant on suspicion of neglect, had checked into a hostel about 14 miles away in Benajaraf on the Costa del Sol where they had left their six other children.

Ashya had been removed from Southampton general hospital by his parents against medical advice last week. He was last seen with the rest of his family on a ferry travelling from Portsmouth to Cherbourg on Thursday afternoon. At a press conference on Saturday night, the assistant chief constable of Hampshire, Chris Shead, said: "Just before 9pm UK time [Spanish police] found Ashya. They stopped the vehicle that we've been circulating the details of and in the vehicle was Ashya's parents and Ashya. We don't have many details as to Ashya's condition in this time but we do know he was showing no visible signs of distress."

Shead added that the parents had been arrested and taken to a police station. "There are no winners in this situation," he said. "This must be a very distressing time for Ashya's family. Thankfully we have found Ashya. Our number one aim has been to ensure he gets the welfare he needs. We've immediately contacted Southampton General Hospital to make sure they have the details of Ashya's medical team in Spain. Tomorrow morning we will be sending a team of police to Malaga and they will continue the investigation."

In a YouTube video posted by Ashya's eldest brother, Naveed, earlier in the night, Brett King spoke for 10 minutes explaining the couple's decision to take their son out of hospital and seek medical help abroad. He complained about the "trial and error" treatment Ashya had been receiving on the NHS and called for the hunt to be called off, saying the family had become "refugees almost" and asked that they be left in peace. Sitting on a bed with his son lying limply in his lap in a nappy and T-shirt, King, 51, said: "We've been labelled as kidnappers, putting [Ashya's] life at risk, neglect."

He then pointed to food supplements at the side of the bed, connected to Ashya by tubes. "There's been a lot of talk about this machine, as you see it's all plugged in. We've got loads of these feeds, we've got iron supplements and Calpol," he said. "As you can see there's nothing wrong with him, he's very happy actually, since we took him out of hospital he's been smiling a lot more."

Online comments to the video were overwhelmingly supportive of the Kings, with people asking police to treat them with "compassion and understanding".

King said in the video that Ashya's health deteriorated after initial successful treatment to remove his tumour and they argued with doctors over next steps. The Kings wanted a specific type of cancer treatment called proton beam treatment that is not available on the NHS. Brett King said: "We asked the NHS if we could please go to America, to Switzerland, or another country to get proton beam, because it's so much better for children with brain cancer. It zones in on the area, whereby normal radiation passes right through his head and comes out the other side and destroys everything in his head. They looked at me straight in the face and said with his cancer – which is called medulloblastoma – it would have no benefit whatsoever."

King said the hospital threatened to take out an emergency protection order that would have banned them from coming on to the ward. "After that I realised I can't speak to the oncologist at all, because if I actually ask anything or give any doubt I wasn't in full accord with them, they were going to get a protection order which meant in his deepest, darkest hour [we] wouldn't be there to look after him. That's such a cruel system.

"We decided to try and sort it out ourselves but now we're refugees almost. We can't do anything. The police are after us. The things we want to do to raise the money to pay for the proton beam, they've prevented it now. So my son is being treated and he's doing fine. We're very happy with his progress. We're not neglecting him. He has everything he had in hospital. Speak to the nurses, have they seen him move as much as this? I'm not coming back to England if I cannot give him the treatment I want."

On Saturday afternoon, Hampshire police said they had "positive information" that the Kings' car had been seen in Spain, where they own a villa in Marbella. Spanish police visited the villa but there had been no sign of the family, fuelling fears about Ashya's condition.

His last operation had been seven days ago. Police had warned that his battery-operated feeding system was likely to have expired and feared that his health would deteriorate rapidly unless he received medical care.

Appeals for help in finding Ashya had been made in Italian, French and Spanish. Interpol sent out a missing persons alert to each of its 190 member countries.

A family friend said earlier that Ashya's family had run away in desperation: "This is my mother's friend, she has run away in desperation because they cannot accept that there is nothing that can be done for their son and want to look for help abroad," Katie Fletcher wrote on Hampshire police's Facebook page.

"Please don't judge. They are a very sweet, loving family and I can only believe they are doing this because they want to help their son."

Naveed first posted a YouTube video on 23 July speaking about his sibling's illness. "Everyone is sending their love now," he said. "We love you so much and we want to see you very soon and I love you so much and can't wait to see you."

The Office of Public Information for Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, confirmed that Ashya's parents were followers of the religious movement.

A spokesman said there was "absolutely no indication" that the family's decision to remove their son from hospital was "motivated by any religious convictions".

Brett King's mother, Patricia, said her son was "the most caring and wonderful father you could ever have".

Legal experts said it was unlikely that the Kings had committed an offence by taking Ashya out of hospital. Professor Penney Lewis, of King's College London, said: "There has never been a case where parents have done something like this and they have been prosecuted."

Shead said the six-and-a-half-hour gap between Ashya being taken from hospital and police being called would be considered "further down the line".

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, which is in charge of Southampton general hospital, said Ashya was allowed to leave the ward under his parents' supervision and hospital staff raised the alarm when the length of his absence became a cause of concern.

Source: Guardian (UK)

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Ashya King: parents are more trustworthy than the state

Officialdom’s war on parental authority created this travesty of justice.

For the past week, the British public has watched in horror as the British state tore a dying child from his family. On Saturday, Brett and Naghmeh King were arrested for removing their son Ashya, who has a brain tumour, from Southampton General Hospital and fleeing abroad. Only today are the family set to be reunited. For decades, defenders of the legal framework around children have boasted of its abilities to manage a child’s ‘best interests’. Yet on Saturday afternoon, a five-year-old child with a brain tumour was removed from the only people with whom he is familiar and thrust into an alien environment while his parents were locked in prison. Whatever the eventual outcome of this case, we can say with certainty that no legal system which claims to be concerned with the ‘interests of the child’ should have allowed this to happen.

While the decision-making processes of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Hampshire police will no doubt be analysed in minute detail in the coming weeks, with statement after statement delivered to explain why certain decisions were made and who will be held accountable, it is important to remember that no one person or organisation can be held solely responsible. Rather, what happened was the logical climax of a series of trends in criminal and family law, which have disregarded the authority and autonomy of parents in favour of official intervention at any cost.

Yesterday, the CPS finally withdrew the European arrest warrants which had been issued for the Kings. It said in a statement that ‘the necessary element of wilful neglect to support a charge of child cruelty had not been made out’. While the CPS was discovering that its original case for the warrants was complete nonsense, the Kings had been arrested and detained in Spain and Ashya had been taken into protective custody. He had already been made a permanent ward of the court the day after he was taken from hospital, meaning, effectively, that his parents had already lost all of their rights to care for him.

All the facts will not be known for some time. However, on the basis of what has been released by the CPS so far, it is clear that assumptions were made throughout that the Kings were wilfully neglecting their child, notwithstanding that no direct evidence appears to exist to support these assumptions.

The Kings were sought under a warrant which alleged the offence of child cruelty under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. The offence is committed where a person over the age of 16 with the responsibility for a child under that age ‘wilfully… neglects’ that child. The act gives examples of neglect, including ‘where a parent… fails to provide adequate medical aid’.

A CPS lawyer, looking at the evidence provided by Hampshire police, would have had to resolve several issues. First, was there sufficient evidence to prosecute the offence of child cruelty? And secondly, was it in the public interest to pursue a prosecution? If the CPS decided that both of these tests had been passed, then it would have drafted an application for a warrant and submitted it to the magistrate. The magistrate would then decide whether to grant it.

According to the CPS’s own statement, the evidence used to obtain the warrant was ‘that [Ashya] required round-the-clock nursing care to manage his recovery, including to manage the feeding tube which was keeping him alive and hydrated’. It goes on to say that ‘it was evident that Mr and Mrs King did not have the necessary training to remove it’, which could have placed Ashya’s life in danger. It was also evident, according to the statement, that ‘the King family did not have any of the specialist nutrition that Ashya needed’, and that ‘the feeding tube required charge from a battery which was running out and for which the parents had not taken the power supply’.

This evidence was not enough on its own to seal the King’s fate. What was needed was a vital additional component, one which exposed the heart of this disastrous case and the rotten heart of contemporary law around children - namely, a powerful assumption on behalf of those enacting the law that the state knew what was best for Ashya over and above his parents. And it was this which carried forward a prosecution that most Britons seem to have looked upon as outrageous.

Right from the off, those involved in investigating this case assumed the worst about Ashya’s parents. They assumed that the Kings would take on the job of changing their son’s feeding tube without properly understanding how it was done; they assumed that the Kings fled the country with none of the specialist nutrition required for Ashya’s care; and they assumed that the Kings would have failed to find a means of charging the battery which powered Ashya’s feeding tube. In other words, it was assumed that they were out to neglect their child through their removal of him from the care of the state.

These assumptions have been shown to be resoundingly false. The Kings had ordered specialist nutrition for Ashya; they had managed to charge the feeding tube using a car battery; and they had no difficulties in changing his feeding tube. Further medical evidence revealed that the ‘risk to Ashya’s life was not as serious as had been originally thought’. In other words, the authorities assumed the worst, and the worst turned out to be wrong.

So who is to blame for the clumsy, dangerous and authoritarian assumptions which underlie the decision-making processes at work in this case? Of course, the CPS and the police bear much responsibility for failing to ask even the most basic questions about those they were prosecuting. But their assumptions were not born in a vacuum. This case is a snapshot of the current climate around child protection, in which it is too easily assumed that state care is better than parent care.

It was only two years ago that the then education secretary Michael Gove decried how ‘the rights of biological parents’ are allowing children to ‘endure a life of soiled nappies and scummy baths’. This he blamed on the state intervening ‘too late’. In 2011, the Family Justice Review, which went on to influence the drafting of the new Children’s and Families Act 2014, concluded that local authorities were too often ‘distrusted’ in their child-protection work and the courts should be ‘quicker’ to grant them parental control in place of parents. The act itself was said by the Department of Education to have as its ‘overriding goal’ the more efficient removal of children from ‘problem families’. It enshrined in law a 26-week limit to care proceedings, which led to children being forcefully adopted. There has, in recent years, been a clear trajectory towards overriding parents’ rights in favour of having children removed from homes more ‘efficiently’.

But it is not just the state which is gung-ho about the abolition of parents’ rights. The children’s charity Barnardo’s has consistently argued for a limit to care proceedings to ensure that ‘neglected’ children can be adopted quicker. The NSPCC launch campaign after campaign rallying behind state authority over the rights of parents. When Ashya’s parents struck out and asserted their own judgement over that of the state, they offended a core value at the heart of both government and the child-protection industry: that the state knows what’s best for kids. For the government, and those involved in advocating greater child protection, the rights of parents are often treated as mere legal obstacles to be overcome in the process of intervention.

What is needed following the Ashya King case is a fundamental shift in culture away from assuming the worst about parents. If anyone deserves the blame for what happened to the Kings, it is the interventionist politicians and child-advocacy groups, which consistently encourage state bodies to ignore the judgement of parents. We should stop assuming that any act of defiance against state intrusion in favour of parental judgement is an act of neglect. We should learn from the Kings’ example that often such defiance can demonstrate compassion, love and an unapologetic commitment to a child’s welfare.

Luke Gittos is law editor at spiked, a solicitor practising criminal law and convenor of the London Legal Salon.

Source: Spiked

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