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Long Arm of Quebec Reaches Ontario
December 12, 2013 permalink
The Lev Tahor group, which fled Quebec to save their children from seizure, is being legally pursued in Ontario. The children's aid society of Chatham-Kent is seeking custody of fourteen children on behalf of Quebec. The hearing, initially scheduled for December 11, has been postponed to December 23. The whereabouts of children is not mentioned, but they may still be with their parents.
In what psychological jargon calls projection, CAS is accusing Lev Tahor of:
Most of these abuses are widespread within the foster care system. Another accusation, home-schooling, may be one of the real reasons for the legal action. Public schools don't like to lose their provincial funding when students stay home.
In other news, the press is beginning to derogate Lev Tahor. The group amassed $6 million and left unpaid bills behind in Quebec.
Ontario Children’s Aid officials seek court order to seize kids from runaway Jewish group Lev Tahor
A court hearing is being held in Ontario on Wednesday to determine whether 14 children belonging to the ultra-orthodox Jewish group Lev Tahor can be taken into foster care.
MONTREAL—Ontario Children’s Aid authorities have launched a legal battle to seize custody of 14 child members of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor and send them into foster care in Quebec.
The move comes two weeks after a Quebec judge ruled the children, ranging in age from two months to 16 years, are at “serious risk of harm” if they continue living in the community. Ahead of that hearing, about 200 members of the sect fled to Chatham-Kent, Ont., claiming Ontario provided them the liberty to educate their children according to a strict interpretation of Judaism espoused by Lev Tahor’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.
A feeling of calm had washed over the community in recent days and senior members of the group had claimed good relations with local child-welfare authorities, saying they had made their own inquiries since Lev Tahor arrived last month and found no problems.
But at 7 p.m. Tuesday they learned that Ontario would not be the refuge it had imagined.
Along with 500 pages of court documents, two families in the group received a summons to appear in court Wednesday morning. Among the documents, was the revelation that Chatham-Kent Children’s Services had sought a warrant on Dec. 4 from a Justice of the Peace that would let them carry out a Quebec court order to place the children in foster care under the guidance of Quebec child-welfare authorities, where they would undergo psychological and physical testing.
The application for the warrant was rejected on Dec. 7. The brief court hearing Wednesday morning was an appeal of that decision. The case will be heard again on Dec. 23.
The stealth with which local child-welfare officials apparently hoped to move is telling, as is the lack of comment on the case Wednesday.
About 200 members of the group boarded three buses in the middle of the night Nov. 18 out of fear Quebec authorities would place the children in foster care. The families are now prevented by a court order from leaving the country and there is great anticipation and concern about what could happen next, particularly among those with ties or a past to Lev Tahor.
There is also obvious concern among Lev Tahor members who, in an about-face from previous encounters, refused to discuss their legal situation.
“There is zero information I can give you,” said Mayer Rosner, who is Lev Tahor’s top administrator. “It’s a court order that I have to respect strictly.”
The Quebec investigation into Lev Tahor allegedly turned up evidence of neglect, psychological abuse, poor nutrition and health problems. Denis Baraby, the director of youth protection at the Centre Jeunesse Laurentides has said they found unkempt houses where children slept on beds with urine-soaked sheets, surrounded by garbage, as well as cases of children being forcibly removed from their homes and made to live with other families. There was also poor dental hygiene, substandard health care and a home-schooling regime that didn’t meet provincial standards, Baraby has said.
Critics of the group say Helbrans is operating a religious cult that encourages child marriages, isolates members from their families and uses anti-psychotic medication and bogus psychiatric diagnoses to keep followers compliant.
But Lev Tahor’s legal defenders say the group’s reputation has been sullied by incorrect information.
“Everything that people are saying about them is not necessarily true,” said Armenia Teixeira, a family lawyer in Montreal. “I’ve been with them for a year-and-a-half now and they’re not bad people . . . . They are entitled to their beliefs and they are not putting their children in harm.”
Teixeira said she will file an appeal of a Quebec court ruling from Nov. 22 in which Justice Pierre Hamel claimed jurisdiction over the 14 children who were later ordered into foster care despite the fact they had moved to Ontario on Nov. 18.
Source: Toronto Star
Lev Tahor court case pushed back to Dec. 23
The court case involving the fundamentalist Jewish Lev Tahor sect is being delayed two weeks, until Dec. 23.
Then, a judge will hear a request from Quebec authorities to have 14 children removed from their families and placed in foster care due to child neglect.
Last month, about 200 members of the group left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts for Chatham, Ont., just hours before the families were due to appear in a Quebec court on child neglect charges.
Yesterday, the Chatham-Kent Children's Aid Society appealed a decision rejecting their request for permission to have the children removed.
December 11, 2013 permalink
Valerie Ferguson, age 13, has run away from a Niagara Falls group home. Police are asking for tips on her whereabouts, but keep in mind she may be better off where she is now.
Falls teen missing from group home
Valerie Ferguson, 13, ran away Tuesday
NIAGARA FALLS - Police are looking for the public's help in finding a 13-year-old girl who ran away from her group home on Tuesday.
Valerie Ferguson is described as standing 5 feet 9 inches and weighing about 163 pounds, with long blonde hair and hazel eyes. She has a hoop style piercing in her nose, and was last seen wearing a puffy blue winter coat.
Police say at this time her whereabouts are unknown and ask that anyone with information to call them at 905-688-4111, ext. 2200.
Source: Niagara This Week
December 11, 2013 permalink
Barbara Kay comments on California father Preston King. He wants to raise his son Wyatt, but his ex decided to give up the baby for adoption. The Adam Hendricks mentioned in the article is a pseudonym for Saskatchewan father Rick Fredrickson. Like King, he tried to get his son back after the mother surrendered him for adoption. Rick's efforts to regain Liam came to a premature end in August 2007 when he was killed by a drunk driver.
Barbara Kay: Yet more family law gender injustice
A year ago 19-year old Preston King was a light-hearted young Southern California man in love with his high school sweetheart. Her pregnancy changed their lives dramatically. But, even though the couple’s relationship deteriorated and they chose to live apart, King accepted approaching fatherhood with admirable commitment and indeed pleasure.
As the birth date approached, though, King was shocked to learn that the mother planned to give the baby up for adoption, whether or not he agreed to it. The adoptive couple had already been selected by the mother, and King was invited by an adoption agency – via text message – to meet them. King immediately petitioned the Orange County courthouse for paternity testing, and in the weeks leading to the birth, went to court several times to claim his paternal rights.
In spite of his best efforts, though, King was not allowed to sign a declaration affirming his fatherhood and was denied the right to paternal mention on the birth certificate. After King spent a mere 15 minutes alone with his baby, born September 7, the infant went home with his adoptive parents.
King continues to press for DNA testing and the right to parent his child.
According to a Facebook page created to tell his side of the story – the mother claims King was not an engaged father-to-be or supportive of her needs – Mr. King was both engaged and supportive. He maintains he attended medical appointments, bought maternity clothes, pampered his ex with spa treatments and excursions, and bought baby furniture, a layette and decorative accessories for the nursery.
Response to the story has been unequivocally sympathetic to King and highly critical of the state’s dismissive attitude to fathers his case represents. An online petition has been set up to push for a change in California’s laws to prevent more such “unethical” adoptions.
Observers of the family law system in Canada will be reminded of the quite similar 2007 case of Hendricks vs Swan in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon dad Adam Hendricks was in the same position as King. He was a willing father, whose girlfriend unilaterally adopted their baby out to well-off strangers. The judge decided that blood ties are only one factor in awarding custody, and could not trump others. Kinship was “a pivotal point” 50 years ago, the judge explained, but today the “best interests” of the child must be the paramount consideration.
What do these two cases tell us about the prevailing culture as filtered through the family law system? That mothers count in a child’s life and fathers don’t.
When a mother – who might be poor, shiftless, unemployed, or otherwise disadvantaged – chooses to keep her child, the state does not intervene, and in fact will support her, if the child’s father (biological or presumed) cannot be run to ground. In the case of mothers’ rights, biology always trumps all other considerations. And yet, if the mother doesn’t want the child, suddenly the “best interests” of the child pivot from kinship – i.e. a willing, loving father’s natural rights – to the seductions of a detached home, a big back yard and a pony for Christmas.
So, in King’s case, if the mother had wanted to keep the child, the court would have ordered him to pay child support without any proof that the child was his biologically. On the other hand, even though she doesn’t want to keep the child, he has no right to custody unless he can prove paternity – which he cannot do unless the adoptive parents consent to a DNA sample being taken. And even if he could prove it, he might still lose the child if the court decided it was in the child’s best interest to live with biological strangers offering a pony.
Coincident with the appearance of King’s story, on Dec. 8, Canadian MP Maurice Vellacott moved for leave to introduce Bill C-560, which would amend the Divorce Act to make equal parenting the custody default after separation. Across Canada and across party lines, 80% of Canadians support equal parenting as a default in the absence of abuse, with slightly more support among women than men.
As the Hendricks and King cases make clear, our misandric family law systems routinely assign more importance to mothers over fathers. Yet decades of research unequivocally prove that children want to love and be loved equally by both their parents. These travesties of gender injustice must end. Equal parenting is equal gender justice.
Source: National Post
December 7, 2013 permalink
When Washington state social workers came to seize five-month-old Jaxon Smith, parents Summer Smith and Kasey McKernan fled with the boy. Police have not found the boy or his parents, but have shown their determination by arresting eight other people.
8 arrested in connection to missing Vanc. baby
VANCOUVER – Police arrested eight people Thursday in connection with a Vancouver couple who ran away with their infant before he could be taken into county custody.
Five-month-old Jaxon Smith was being taken into custody by county child protective services on Nov. 27. when Jaxon’s mother, Summer Smith, 36, and father Kasey McKernan, 31, fled with the child.
According to police, McKernan assaulted a social worker, grabbed the boy and took off in a pickup truck driven by Smith.
Thursday evening police arrested seven people in connection to the case.
Ashlynd Delaplaine, 21; Eric L. Gross, 43; Russell Majerus, 25; Timothy Duke, 43; Michael Gloyd, 44; Ryan Bean, 27; and Richard W. Countryman, 33 were arrested based on police investigation, outstanding warrants and drug charges, police said.
Thursday afternoon, 33-year-old Michael Grant Fuller was arrested on charges of kidnapping and rendering criminal assistance in connection with the case. But police still had not found Jaxon or his parents.
The pickup was identified as a black 1996 Chevrolet S-10 with Washington license plate A11272U.
Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the child or his parents was asked to call police at 360-487-7399.
The mother and child were arrested December 7 and the father was arrested the next day.
Bill 88 Hearings
December 6, 2013 permalink
On December 4 the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills held hearings on bill 88. The deadline for scheduling an oral presentation was November 29, only a few days after the announcement. The quick schedule meant many interested parties did not find out before the deadline. The transcript of the presentations is not yet available online but observations by Vern Beck are enclosed.
Vernon Beck I attended the hearings at Queens Park yesterday on Bill 88. Court Watch submitted approximately 1 1/2" of documents to the Committee concerning the failure of CAS agencies to conduct business in an open and accountable manner. Jane Scharf, Pamela Palmer and Linda Plourd made excellent presentations. Near the closing, Archbishop Dorian Baxter made an oral presentation which stunned the committee and audience. Dorian caught the attention of everyone in the room when he made the closing statement that the passing of Bill 88 would open up a Pandora's box of problems and cause untold damage to children and families in Ontario. Many agree that passing of this Bill will be a big mistake for the Province of Ontario.
For those supporting the Bill, it seems that anyone who spoke in favor of Bill 88 was a person who would directly or indirectly financially benefit in some way from passing of the Bill. Bill 88 is literally a money grab by CAS agencies and those who provide professional services for CAS. As I have pointed out in my correspondence to the Premier, additional programs and funding can be put in place to support those persons above the age 16 without this funding being controlled by the CAS.
Overall, while it appeared that every effort was made to suppress those opposed to Bill 88, those who did manage to get their name on the list at the last minute did a great job getting the "no" side heard.
Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch
The next day Jane Scharf presented a petition opposing the bill to the constituency office of sponsor MPP Rod Jackson in Barrie. Later that same day Mr Jackson attended one of a scheduled series of meetings promoting the bill.
The event occurred at the Mapleview Community Church south of Barrie. The meeting was attended primarily by supporters of the bill. When visitors declared their opposition, Student Life Director Laura Fess tried to get them to leave the building. Mr Jackson spoke to the crowd, followed by other supporters. They did not answer questions.
The meeting was one of a cross-provincial series (in the expand block). We can expect to see a stream of favorable press reports from these presentations to carefully selected audiences.
Tour Dates and Locations
- November 14, 2013: Windsor
- December 5, 2013: Barrie
- December 17, 2013: Niagara
- February 6, 2014: Sudbury
- February 11, 2014: Kitchener and Waterloo
- February 11, 2014: London
- February 13, 2013: Ottawa
To Attend The Tour Or To Inquire About Having The Tour Visit Your Community Please Call 1-705-726-5538 or Email email@example.com For More Information
Nelson Mandela R.I.P.
December 6, 2013 permalink
Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5.
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children
— Nelson Mandela
The foregoing quote was found in the New York Times.
December 3, 2013 permalink
Michigan child protectors have seized baby Layla, age seven days, from mother Dalia Kenbar. The press has done the unusual and covered the first (shelter) hearing in court just five days after seizure. From the facts in the story, it looks like the typical intervention in a wholesome hard-working family that has fallen on hard times, hard times that CPS aggravates. Dalia and her three siblings lost their mother in 2009 while she was serving her country in Iraq. Dalia lost an older child to CPS in the past, her lack of cooperation then was one of the reasons CPS struck again. Additional justifications are Dalia's fight with her brother (no charges) and the standard messy home allegations. Link (mp4) to the video in the article.
Ann Arbor woman fights to get baby back that CPS removed the day before Thanksgiving
ANN ARBOR (WXYZ) - An Ann Arbor mother is fighting to get her infant daughter back after Child Protective Services forcibly removed the baby the day before Thanksgiving.
Dalia Kenbar was hiding in an upstairs bedroom when Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputies and CPS case workers removed 7-day-old Layla.
"I had never done anything to my kids or my newborn," Kenbar testified Monday during a preliminary examination.
A CPS case worker agreed that there has never been any sign that Kenbar abused her newborn or eight-year-old son.
The eight-year-old boy was removed in April after Kenbar was involved in a fight over a cell phone with her 17-year-old brother that left scratches on the teen.
At that time, CPS workers say the house was a cluttered mess and the electricity to the home had been shut off.
Dalia Kenbar, her teenage brother and a 25-year-old brother lost their mother in 2009. She was killed in Iraq while working for the United States as a translator when she stepped on a roadside bomb.
In April, Kenbar also revealed to case workers that she was bi-polar, but not taking her medication because she was pregnant.
During Monday's hearing, Nicholas Barilovich, an investigator for CPS, testified that he knew Kenbar had given birth to her daughter just before Thanksgiving after calling area hospitals.
Barilovich said he believed CPS needed to remove the baby with an emergency order because they didn't know if she was in a suitable living environment and what he called Kenbar's "lack of cooperation" in the case of her eight-year-old son who has remained in foster care since April. That case is still pending.
Barilovich conceded that no one investigated the conditions of Kenbar's new home before removing her nursing infant.
Kenbar testified that she is unable to find the baby's father and the friends she now lives with are "like family."
At the end of Monday's hearing, the court decided to leave Kenbar's baby in foster care so that CPS can look into whether her new home is a suitable environment, which is something Kenbar's attorney Allison Folmar says should have been done before the baby was "snatched" from Kenbar.
The next court date is set for December 17.
Cesarean Baby Snatching
November 30, 2013 permalink
Historian Richard K Stephens coined the term Cesarean kidnapping for a crime in which an aspiring mother attacks a pregnant woman to cut open her belly and steal the baby. Britian forcibly confined a pregnant Italian woman in a psychiatric hospital, then drugged her and cut out her baby for adoption without her knowledge or consent. Expand for an investigative report by Christopher Booker, news by Colin Freeman and commentary by John Hemming.
Italian news sources give the mother's name as Alessandra Pacchieri. She called her baby Amelia.
'Operate on this mother so that we can take her baby’
A mother was given a caesarean section while unconscious - then social services put her baby into care
Last summer a pregnant Italian mother flew to England for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted. Staying at an airport hotel, she had something of a panic attack when she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were with her mother back in Italy. She called the police, who arrived at her room when she was on the phone to her mother. The police asked to speak to the grandmother, who explained that her daughter was probably over-excited because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and hadn’t been taking her medication to calm her down.
The police told the mother that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”. On arrival, she was startled to see that it was a psychiatric hospital, and said she wanted to go back to her hotel. She was restrained by orderlies, sectioned under the Mental Health Act and told that she must stay in the hospital.
By now Essex social services were involved, and five weeks later she was told she could not have breakfast that day. When no explanation was forthcoming, she volubly protested. She was strapped down and forcibly sedated, and when she woke up hours later, found she was in a different hospital and that her baby had been removed by caesarean section while she was unconscious and taken into care by social workers. She was not allowed to see her baby daughter, and later learnt that a High Court judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, had given the social workers permission to arrange for the child to be delivered. In October, at a hearing before another judge, she was represented by lawyers assigned to her by the local authority and told she would be escorted back to Italy without her baby.
All this was such a shock to the mother that, back in Italy, she resumed taking her medication and embarked on a legal battle for the return of her daughter, which has by now involved lawyers in three countries, all of whom I have spoken to at length to establish the facts of this remarkable story. The High Court in Rome expressed outrage at what had been done to an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. But the judge there concluded that, since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her, was deemed to have no “capacity” to instruct lawyers because she had been sectioned, and had only been represented by solicitors assigned to her by the local authority.
In February, when the mother returned to Chelmsford to plead for the return of her daughter, the judge, I am told, admitted that, since resuming her medication, she seemed impressively articulate and a different person from the one he had seen earlier. But, because he could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future, he ruled that the child must be placed for adoption.
By now a new twist had entered the story. Supported by the mother, her American husband – from whom she is amicably separated, and who is the father of her eldest daughter – asked that the baby be sent to Los Angeles to live with his sister, herself a very capable mother, described by her US lawyer as “a rock”. British law is clear that wherever possible children should be adopted by members of their wider family. But in March, Essex social services ruled that this was unacceptable because, even though she was the aunt of the baby’s stepsister, the American woman had no “blood” tie to the baby. So, rather than allow the child to be looked after by her “kin”, she must be sent to live with complete strangers.
Since the adoption process is not yet complete, the mother has now, in a final attempt to get the British court’s ruling reversed, called in Brendan Fleming, the most formidable of the few British solicitors prepared to fight for parents whose children have been seized by social workers for seemingly no good reason. Also now involved is John Hemming MP, who has previously helped other foreign parents to win back their children from Britain’s “child protection” system, on the grounds that the UK courts have no jurisdiction over them. He describes this story, of the mother whose baby was forcibly delivered while she lay unconscious, as “extraordinary, unlike any other case I have come across, and one I hope to raise in Parliament”.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Woman has child taken from her womb by social services
Exclusive: Essex social services have obtained a court order against a woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and for her child to be taken from her womb by caesarean section
A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.
Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.
The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.
The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.
They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.
“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.
“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”
The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph today, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.
It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.
He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.
“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.
She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.
She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realised was a psychiatric facility.
She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.
The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.
In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.
The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.
Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.
They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.
Last night an expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.
She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.
An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Careful visiting the UK whilst pregnant. They just might take your baby for adoption.
This story in The Telegraph is a step beyond the normal abuses in the family courts (and court of protection). This was a pregnant mother visiting the UK for a training course lasting only two weeks. It ends up with her baby being taken through a forcible cesarian and then placed for adoption for the usual spurious reasons that are used.
Oddly enough last night I had another case of someone who was a foreign mother having her children taken for the system whilst she is deported. This is much like the case from which I highlighted a JR decision earlier this year. Mum was deported and the child kept.
The Italian case is one about which more will be heard. Also the one raised with me last night. The USA case is one which has had some attention.
In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court. The "best interests of the child" are "paramount" which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
I did speak to Michael Gove about this on Wednesday. I do not think that he has this as an objective. It is clearly an unintentional consequence of the government policy of the last 12 years or so. It is, however, a real consequence and has to be brought to an end.
Source: John Hemming blog
Addendum: John Hemming has more to say about deporting mothers while retaining their children in foster care. Britain is not alone here. Fixcas has encountered this practice in the US, Canada and Sweden.
Italian Mother Case: Bipolar UK issue statement in support of mother
The following is a statement by Bipolar UK:
Bipolar UK response to media reporting on forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child
The forced caesarean and continued separation of mother and child is, we believe, unprecedented.
It is sometimes the case that if someone is very ill they are unable to consent to a medical procedure which those caring for them consider is urgently needed. But officials should make every effort to consult with the family before decisions are taken, a procedure made more difficult in this case because the woman was only on a short stay from Italy. Moreover, if there were continuing concerns about the care of the child, one would have thought Italian social services would have been involved in determining what was best for the child.
Women with bipolar may become unwell during pregnancy and are at high risk of becoming ill following childbirth. The majority of women recover fully, they manage the impact of the illness through strategies involving medication, health care, therapy and self management and they are good mothers.
Notes for Editors
Bipolar – The Facts
Bipolar UK has a dedicated leaflet “Bipolar, pregnancy and childbirth” available to download at http://www.bipolaruk.org.uk/assets/uploads/documents/information_leaflets/bipolar_uk_bipolar_disorder_pregnancy_childbirth.pdf
Between 600,000 and 1.2 million individuals in the UK (1% to 2% of the population) have bipolar. The impact and devastation of bipolar are not about the sufferer alone. Including parents and partners for example, bipolar affects over three million people in the UK today.
Compared with other mental health illnesses that have a similar or lower impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe stigma.
It takes an average of 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis for bipolar in the UK. The 2012 survey by Royal College of Psychiatrists, Bipolar UK and Bipolar Scotland for the first Bipolar Awareness Day in 2012 suggested this could be as long as 13 years.
Please refer your readers to www.bipolaruk.org.uk or they can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org and 020 7931 6483.
Bipolar UK can provide case studies, interviews and comments from the charity and individuals affected by bipolar.
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Unsurprisingly there is a lot of media interest in this case. We do, however, need to remember that at the centre of this case is a mother and a baby (and the wider family including two siblings of the baby).
I will be driven as to what I say to the media about the case by the wishes of the mother concerned. I have been discussing that with her today. I have already had a short conversation with her on the telephone and we have agreed to speak further later today. However, I do not expect to be able to make any statement beyond this statement until after 5pm today or even later. I am on the train at the moment which makes it really difficult to have long phone calls.
In the mean time my team have been contacting the Italian Embassy to find out what their position is on this issue. In previous cases the Polish, Czech and Slovak embassies have all been very supportive of their citizens facing unjust proceedings in the family division in England and Wales. However, I do not know what the view of the Italian Embassy or the Italian authorities more generally will be.
When it comes to international public family law each country has a central authority. In the UK the central authority is the Official Solicitor. Italy also has a central authority. In the case of the Slovak grandmother last year the Slovak Central authority applied to intervene in the appeal on behalf of the Slovak Republic. It is, of course, open to the Italian Central Authority to do the same.
The case does highlight the rather selective approach that the Court of Protection has been taking to issuing public judgments. There are many judgments that can be found on the bailii website, but this case does not appear. There has to be an improvement so that proper accountability can occur of judicial processes.
In the mean time I have been referring to the case of the Cootes family. This family who had to leave the UK and go to Spain to keep their daughter are now back in the UK. I know they are willing to be interviewed about what happened with them. My office will give out the grandfather's phone number to any journalists who ask for it. One similarity between this case and that of the Italian mother is the local authority's resistance to the proposal that a baby should be cared within the wider family rather than placed for adoption.
In terms of the question as to how I will raise this in parliament. There are lots and lots and lots of ways of raising something in parliament. I will not decide precisely how to do this until after speak to the mother concerned.
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming
Response to statement from Judiciary:
"I welcome the transfer of the case from Chelmsford County Court to the High Court in front of the president of the family division. The appointment of the president of the family division was a very positive step and I am certain that any applications to him will be heard justly."
"I remain concerned that many decisions taken by the family courts are taken by the magistrates court (the family proceedings court) and are then appealed to the county court. This means that domestic proceedings can be exhausted without a case getting out of the area in which it is considered. This means that there is never any public judgment and the case in the UK has come to an end. All that people can then do is to take their case to Strasbourg."
Comment about failure of Essex to follow proper proceedings:
"The rules are straightforward when it comes to foreign nationals and care proceedings. The foreign country concerned should be contacted through their central authority (in Italy's case part of the Justice Ministry). This clearly did not happen and for this Essex County Council are clearly in the wrong."
Comment following Essex County Council's press release:
"Essex have not managed to explain why no-one in the wider extended family was competent to look after the baby when they were already looking after two of her siblings. Additionally Essex have not explained why this baby was in their control to get adopted when the mother always intended to return to Italy."
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Statement by John Hemming (includes comments from mother and italian judgment)
Report of Conversation with mother:
John Hemming said "I have spoken to the mother concerned who has been very badly treated by the authorities in England. She has said to me that she would like to thank all the British people who have sent messages of support."
"Now that we know that the case is still live and to be heard by Munby P it is clear that the case is sub judice. That limits the range of parliamentary proceedings that can be used. I have, therefore, tabled a Motion in parliament relating to the failures of Essex County Council in terms of Communication with Foreign Institutions. This should appear tomorrow.
Essex County Council's failure to follow international law
Under the Vienna convention article 36 and also under Brussels II Bis revised (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003) articles 15, 55 and 56 the Italian authorities should have been contacted about both the mother’s imprisonment and the care of the baby. However, they were not.
In 2011 Essex (in response to an FOI request) said they had no contact with High Commissions and Embassies. In 2010-11 they had 21 children who were foreign nationals who had become "looked after". This was as part of 138 who had become "looked after" in the previous 5 years. It is clear, therefore, that they were not following international law then and have not followed international law in this case."
The government are also at fault because they have refused to even try to keep track of which children in the care system are foreign nationals. This could be done easily in the SSDA903 return.
Comments on judgment:
I welcome the publication of the judgment on bailii. It is available here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/Misc/2013/20.html.
We still need answers.
We need answers from the Mental Health trust who need to explain why the mother was kept in England for 6 weeks prior to being given the C Section.
We need the publication of the judgment about the caesarean section from the court of protection.
We need an explanation of why no attempt was made to allow the father to participate in the court case. He may not be allowed to enter the UK for immigration reasons, but should have been allowed proper participation on the phone or via video link at least.
We also need an explanation from the local authority as to why when the grandmother is deemed capable of looking after two children she could not look after the third.
On the Italian proceedings
"More details are coming out about the proceedings in the Italian courts. It is clear that Essex has misrepresented the court hearings in Italy. The court of first instance ruled itself not competent to rule in the matter and referred it to the tribunal in Rome who in October 2013 declared that it “cannot recognise the ruling of the English court because it is contrary to Italian and international norms of public order”.
Italian: "non poter riconoscere il provvedimento della Corte inglese perchè contrario alle norme italiane e internazionali di ordine pubblico".
Source: John Hemming blog
Italian Mother: Letter from Italian Human Rights Court Group to John Hemming MP
The UFTDU are similar to Liberty.
Source: John Hemming blog
Deported women forced to leave babies in UK is 'increasing problem'
MP makes claim after a pregnant woman, from Italy, was sectioned under the mental health act in UK and had her baby removed by caesarean section
Pregnant women who have been deported but are forced to leave their babies in Britain is becoming an ‘increasing problem’, an influential MP has said, after it emerged that an Italian national was forced into a caesarean section by social workers.
The Italian woman, who was made to leave her baby in Britain, had travelled to the country for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted when she was sectioned under the mental health act and told she must stay in hospital.
Essex social services then obtained a High Court order against the woman, allowing her to be forcibly sedated and the child to be taken from her womb.
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley and chairman of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters, said there were many other instances of children taken from mothers in Britain, who are then deported.
He referred to the case of a mother whose child, now five-years-old, was born in Sweden, but was taken into the care of a local authority in Britain after her mother was involved in an incident at Heathrow airport.
The child was placed in a foster home in September 2012 and continued to live there until an appeal court ruled British authorities did not have jurisdiction over the child.
Mr Hemming said: “It’s a very big problem that has been swept under the carpet. Partly because it is so awful, people want to turn a blind eye to it.”
"In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court.
“The 'best interests of the child' are 'paramount' which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
“The Italian case is one about which more will be heard.”
Mr Hemming said local authorties were often under pressure to make quick decisions about foster placements and adoptions.
Earlier this year, Education Secretary Michael Gove, launched a drive to increase the number of children adopted. It came after official figures showed almost half of all councils were failing to meet basic targets for placing children with adoptive parents.
He added: "The problem's been going on for a long time but it’s become an increasing problem because of some of the changes brought in by the current government.”
When the police arrived at the Italian mother's hotel room last summer, they told her that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”.
The officers had spoken to the woman’s mother on the phone, who explained that she was upset she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were staying with her in Italy.
The grandmother said she was probably stressed because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and had not been taking her medication.
However, instead of taking the woman to hospital, officers delivered her to a psychiatric unit, where she was restrained and sectioned.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still being looking after by social services, who are refusing to give her back to her mother. The woman has launched a legal battle to return her daughter.
In what has turned into an international legal row, lawyers for the woman have publicly questioned why her family in Italy were not consulted beforehand and why social services insisted on keeping the child in Britain despite an offer from a family friend in America to care for her.
Under British law, a child should be adopted by members of their wider family wherever possible but social services ruled an aunt of the baby’s stepsister, an American resident, could not look after her because there was no “blood tie”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, described the case as “the stuff of nightmares”.
She said: "Please God there's more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency.
A spokesman for Essex county council said the local authority could not comment on ongoing cases.
Source: Telegraph (UK)
Addendum: The international notariety of this case caused judge Mostyn to release two court orders and the transcript of a hearing. IN THE MATTER OF: Re: AA (pdf).
Demonstrating that social workers are out of touch with reality, Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, defends every act of the social services system in Alessandra's case.
How 'forced' caesarean case became a story about social work
The hostile media outburst was characterised by speculation and half-truths, with little focus on the complexities of the case
"Torment of the woman who had baby taken from womb" said one typical headline, as Essex social workers were pilloried by the media for apparently forcing an Italian mother to have a caesarean section. This should not come as a surprise – we have become accustomed to being "damned if we do, damned if we don't".
Yet the truth, as it gradually emerged last week, was very different. Media hostility has made social work wary of explaining what it does and why, so Essex council and the courts should be applauded for stepping in quickly to give a public and factual account of their decisions.
The Essex story, with its mental health, child protection, adoption and indeed international dimensions, gave vent to an extraordinary media outburst about "unaccountable and out of control" professionals riding roughshod over a mother's human rights. Much of this was characterised by speculation, half truths, and a breathtaking lack of sensitivity to the needs of a very small child who was rendered invisible.
Three professional practice issues stand out from this case: privacy, decision-making timescales and parental mental illness. Social workers were portrayed as undermining human rights via recourse to "secret" courts, when in fact the caesarean application to the court of protection was an obstetrician-led decision made on health grounds by Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS trust. All the professionals involved, including social workers, quite rightly sought to protect the privacy of both parent and child in making what were difficult and no doubt emotionally wrenching decisions.
The caesarean section made this case unusual, if not unique, but in other respects the decisions taken were nothing out of the ordinary. It is clear that social workers and other professionals made a measured and evidence-based appraisal of the child's interests, the mother's health, and whether a kinship placement in another country was feasible.
Importantly too, despite press portrayals of precipitous professionals, decisions about the child's future were within normal timeframes and entirely consistent with good practice. The baby was born in late August 2012 but it was in early February 2013 that the county court granted a care order and gave the local authority leave to place the child for adoption, thereby meeting the 26-week standard for care proceedings.
Social workers were accused by the media of not talking to the mother's Italian family when seeking a placement for the child. In fact, they did. The international dimension to social work decision-making is an increasingly important feature of the work, which may involve working effectively with counterparts in other countries and travelling abroad to assess kinship carers. Importantly, many such carers go on to give excellent permanent care for English-born children.
Zoe Williams, in a generally thoughtful piece in the Guardian, took less issue with the caesarean section decision and more with the adoption decision which she suggested "should truly worry us". She is of course right to point out that having mental health problems should never be equated with parental incapacity.
But we also have to recognise that a small number of parents with mental health problems do struggle to look after their children sufficiently well. It is in these situations that social workers, and other professionals, have to carefully weigh up the risks and take the hard decisions. The published court judgments suggest that great care was taken in making these decisions and remind us of the imperative that mental health and children's services work in partnership. This can be tough and demanding, especially when there is conflict; when this sadly happens then it is the interests of children that must be uppermost.
So a story which started out about social work "precipitousness" and "disregard for human rights" became, after a febrile media week, a story about the intellectually and emotionally demanding nature of social work. To that extent, we must hope that the story ultimately contributed to a more nuanced public understanding of the challenges facing social workers every day.
Annie Hudson is chief executive of the College of Social Work
Source: Guardian (UK)
Shotgun Divorce in Niagara
November 30, 2013 permalink
A mother with sons ages 7 and 5 and a daughter age 3 tells of her shotgun divorce. She does not know the whereabouts of her husband because she has been forbidden contact for over a year.
AnnaBelle Tea I am new to this group I have been involved with fcas Niagara I am terrified, I lost my children once back in Jan and I got them back in March they want another 6 months involvement, my lawyer that I had says give them what they want it's easier that way, how this all came about was an Innocent of two summers ago my husband was going through some hard times, he never hit me or our children, however in Oct of that same year, I was upstairs getting my sons stuff together for school my sons where fighting when I came down my one was was in a chair I did not see anything it wasn't until we got to school when my son informed a teacher that daddy had hit him with a slipper, since then I haven't seen my husband for a year now I am not sure where he is right now as I am not to have contact with him, he is innocent however fcas thinks he is a monster and an abuser I was told after this innocent happened that if I didn't turn against my husband the worker would have taken the children away that day, I still have nightmares over it even tho my children are back I am still missing that special person in my life what can he do to clear his name, any help at all. I feel that I have betrayed my husband and my son feels guilty I keep telling him he has done nothing wrong, I am trying to stay strong but some days it's harder than others, my son sees a councilor at his school to help him cope as he has some incidents at school when he is home he is fine and happy. I am competently lost scared and confused my husband has court some time in Jan. I feel this is my fault some how I am seeing a councilor too to help me deal with all this. I am just not sure what I can do. The kids miss daddy dearly. When ever I tell people I always think that they must think I am crazy I just want this nightmare to end!
AnnaBelle Tea see the problem is I am not 100% sure if he did hit my son or if my son just said that I wasn't in the room at that time, no body is listening to me at the FCAS as they feel I was abused as well witch again is NOT true. Also there was NO warrant at the time he was arrested. Plus when the police came to the house there was NO warrant for when they did a so called such in finding a slipper. I am just lost I am NOT getting any where with FCAS do to the fact they feel I am minimizing everything! I am just so lost and confused and sadly I do not have anything to record with and also on another note the court wants my son to testify against his father, but I told them no that he has been through enough and he is just getting back to normal, but I do thank you Chris for taking the time to answer me, I just wish I knew where to go and who to go to to get my husband cleared.
Source: Stop the CAS ..., AnnaBelle Tea
Hard Lemonade Judge Sued
November 30, 2013 permalink
In April 2008 father Christopher Ratte attended a Detroit Tigers game where he bought his seven-year-old son Leo a bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade. He did not know that it contained alcohol. A security guard noticed and had the boy sent to a hospital. There Michigan child protective services seized the boy on authority of an order signed by judge Judy A Hartsfield. She had signed a number of orders in blank with instructions to child protectors to fill in the names and date as the need arose. Lawyers for the Ratte family have successfully argued that this turned Hartsfield from a judge into an administrator, waiving her judicial immunity. Link to earlier story. Two years ago, the same community was found to be signing judicial child removal orders with a rubber stamp.
Family can sue in child removal case involving Mike's Hard Lemonade, judge rules
An Ann Arbor family can proceed with a lawsuit against a judge who placed their 7-year-old son in foster care after his father mistakenly gave him Mike’s Hard Lemonade at a Detroit Tigers game, a federal judge ruled today.
According to the lawsuit, Wayne County Family Court Judge Judy A. Hartsfield took the boy away from his parents without determining that the child was in danger, but rather had a practice of providing presigned child-removal orders for the on-duty desk clerk to be filled out after hours based on police allegations.
In allowing the case to proceed, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn ruled that if the allegations are true, the practice of presigning orders violated the parent and child’s fundamental right to family integrity and the “clearly established” rights of parents to a notice and a hearing before the removal of their child, barring an emergency situation.
Cohn also ruled that Hartsfield is not entitled to judicial immunity because in presigning the orders, she was acting as an administrator, not a judge.
The lawsuit stems from an April 2008 incident in which 7-year-old Leo Ratté attended a Detroit Tigers game with his father, Christopher Ratté. Ratte said he accidentally purchased what he thought was lemonade from a stand advertising “Mike’s Lemonade,” and, not knowing that it contained alcohol, gave it to his son. A security guard saw the boy with the beverage and contacted police.
Leo was removed from the home and released into his mother’s custody several days after the incident.
Source: Detroit Free Press
Brittle Doctor's Opinion
November 30, 2013 permalink
Doctor Alain Sirard of Montreal's Ste-Justine Hospital has reported several patients to Quebec’s youth protection services as victims of child abuse. Many have turned out to not be child abuse at all. Sofia Manocchio was found to have several bone fractures in her arm. The problem turned out to be brittle bone disease.
Parents say they were unfairly accused of abuse at Ste-Justine
Youth protection called in case of brittle bone disease
Several families say that some Ste-Justine Hospital doctors unjustifiably reported them to Quebec’s youth protection services.
Geneviève Berthiaume’s daughter, Sofia, was four months old when she went to the Ste-Justine ER with a broken arm last fall.
Her x-rays revealed more than 20 fractures in her arm. According to normal operating procedures, the hospital notified youth protection services.
Except that Sofia was in the process of being tested for a host of illnesses because her arms hadn’t unfolded since birth. Still, Berthiaume says, Sofia’s doctor, Alain Sirard, pursued a theory that the girl was suffering from shaken baby syndrome.
Sofia’s father, Marcello Manocchio, says Sirard made some surprising comments.
“I’m Italian. So he mentioned to me that normally, all Italians slap their children,” he says. “It’s a total lack of ethics on the part of the doctor.”
Sirard submitted his diagnosis to youth protection services: abuse.
Investigating child abuse at Ste-Justine
The College of Physicians and the hospital have both received multiple complaints about Sirard, whose job it is to identify cases of child abuse.
Jean-Yves Frappier, head of Ste-Justine’s Social Pediatric department, says the hospital has to take every precaution in cases of suspected abuse.
“Our role is to protect the child above all, and that’s what the law asks of us. We are forced to report,” Frappier says.
But several parents with children who were seen by Sirard at Ste-Justine’s socio-legal clinic say he didn’t listen to their explanations of their children’s injuries.
“My dad went on the Internet to try to find out more,” Berthiaume says. “We learned that brittle bone disease is often misdiagnosed as abuse.”
Some time after their ordeal at Ste-Justine, Sofia’s tests came in. She was diagnosed with a form of brittle bone disease.
Her story is one of several in which doctors at Ste-Justine made allegations of abuse despite the absence of risk factors and against the advice of other experts.
Lawyer Katia Leontieff finds this worrisome.
“When a system is not able to be challenged, to be questioned, for me, that’s a system that is dangerous,” Leontieff says.
Families Flee to Ontario
November 30, 2013 permalink
About two hundred members of the Jewish sect, or cult, Lev Tahor recently fled Quebec and settled near Chatham Ontario to avoid seizure of their children. A Quebec judge has ordered 14 of the children to be placed in foster care. This episode may become known as out of the frying pan into the fire.
Canadian court orders Haredi cult's children be put in foster care
Fourteen children belonging to Lev Tahor to undergo medical exams and receive psychological support.
A Quebec youth court has ordered 14 children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish cult Lev Tahor be placed temporarily in foster care, undergo medical examinations and receive psychological support, CBC News reported Wednesday.
The court also ordered that the children's parents hand in their passports, CBC said, amid reports that the sect was planning to flee Quebec.
The court order was prompted by a request filed by Quebec's youth protection services that the children be removed from their families and put in foster homes, CBC said.
Authorities alleged that the 14 children from two families in Lev Tahor, a Haredi sect that was classified a cult by an Israeli NGO specializing in cults, were living in dirty houses littered with garbage and that the children, who were home-schooled, were unable to do basic math and many could neither speak French nor English, CBC News reported.
The group Lev Tahor, or "Pure Heart", with its 200 members of which more than 130 are children, left their homes in Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec, early last week, reportedly out of fear that welfare authorities would take their children. It was suspected that their fears arose after a dispute with Quebec education authorities over the contents of the children's homeschool education.
The group was planning to make its home in Chatham-Kent, a southwestern Ontario town of 108,000, Canadian media reported over the weekend. Many of the families have already leased homes in the community, the Toronto Star reported.
The evidence about the cult, headed by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, a newly religious Israeli who left Israel with a group of followers in 1990, began to accumulate over the past 18 months, following a feature in Haaretz’s weekend supplement.
During this time, families of community members filed complaints with the police of child abuse and misuse of psychiatric drugs to control cult members, as well as the kidnapping of children from their families in Israel and the forced marriages of 14-year-old girls with adult men.
On Tuesday the Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child held a hearing on Lev Tahor, and families of the cult members as well as MKs slammed the State Prosecutor’s Office for dragging its feet in the case.
Police and prosecutors say that since early last year they have been examining complaints and testimonies about Lev Tahor, made up mostly of those filed by Israelis, but that there are legal obstacles to any action being taken in Canada.
Teen Girl Seized by London CAS
November 30, 2013 permalink
A London Ontario family filmed the apprehension of their daughter Kristen on November 7. She had spent time in a Kitchener group home, and the family story suggests that she had recently run away from her father to be with her mother. On the day of the incident she was just two months short of the age of CAS freedom, sixteen years. She objected strenuously to her forced abduction. The video London Children's Aid Society attempting to apprehend is on YouTube or a local copy (mp4).
The policeman tries to persuade her with the false claim that resisting will make it harder for her to later rejoin her family. Fixcas has never encountered a case in which a judge cited passivity of the foster child during apprehension as a justification for reunification. It is more likely that a social worker will claim that absence of objection by the child showed a lack of family cohesion.
The mother posting the video is Jen Bernell. She can be found on Facebook and YouTube. Jen has posted the full family story Kids Hurt By London CAS A TRUE STORY! on YouTube The audio quality is poor. Four children recount years of bad experiences with CAS and family courts.
CAS Clogs London Courts
November 30, 2013 permalink
In London Ontario the volume of CAS cases is large enough to block the courts for months.
Family law cases flood court system in London
If you’re fighting over a divorce, child support or property in London’s courts, better settle in.
Hundreds of family law cases in the court system are suddenly in limbo for the next six months, until a backlog of more than 70 child welfare cases is cleared up.
The order to make Children’s Aid Society (CAS) cases a priority came from the top, the court’s regional senior justice, after the trial list swelled to more than 100 CAS files.
Since the blitz began, that number has been whittled down to just more than 70 — but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Another 200 family law cases, unrelated to the CAS, are waiting in the wings.
Why there’s such a glut of child-welfare cases is complex. It’s partly because of the growing cases tied to economic troubles. One case that gobbled 154 days of trial time and the work of six lawyers, could also be a factor.
One veteran family law lawyer says the system is “completely overwhelmed,” needing ways to siphon off cases and relieve pressure on the courts.
“We are not triaging cases,” said lawyer Alf Mamo. “There are cases that could be diverted out of the court system and we’re having trials that are going on for days on end that could be resolved in one or two days without sacrificing fairness.”
As child-welfare caseloads rise, the number of applications the CAS takes to court also go up, said Jill Scrutton-Fulford, senior counsel for the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex.
Only a small percentage of the agency’s caseload winds up in court, including cases where children are removed from their families to become wards of the state or be up for adoption.
In her 25 years working with such cases, Scrutton-Fulford said, “it’s the first time I’ve seen a blitz like this.”
Unlike most of Ontario, London has a so-called ‘unified’ family court in which Superior Court judges handle all aspects of the cases.
In most of Ontario, that workload is split between provincial and federal judges.
In London, however, there only four full-time family court judges — too few, said family lawyer Toenie Hersch, to complete all the work.
Guidelines say child-welfare cases should take no longer than 120 days to complete, but that rule of thumb is rarely, if ever, followed.
Lawyers say it’s not enough time for families to get the support they need — from counselling, to drug treatment and anger management — to stay together. Nor is it long enough to get through the court process.
“It is humanly impossible in the majority of cases to comply with these timelines,” said Hersch.
“This rule is unrealistic in 95% of cases in my view,” he said.
Hersch said less than a dozen lawyers in London will do CAS cases, almost always left to legal aid and involving at-risk families.
The highest-priority cases in the blitz are trials before a child can be removed from their parents.
Those cases, Hersch said, are so serious they’re “akin to the death penalty,” consuming a lot of time and energy.
Not only are they long, but the trial time in such cases has to be balanced with the interests of the child in foster care.
Mamo said more innovative solutions, such as dispute resolution or early case conferences, are needed to reduce the family law trial list.
While he said he understands why CAS cases have priority, “we should not ignore the fact there are other children” who need access to the court for things like child support and parental custody and access, he said.
The trial list has been moving faster since the judicial order came down this month, with some cases settled at the courtroom door or early in trial, Scrutton-Fulford said. Still, she noted, more cases come to the CAS daily.
“I think it’s just a matter of numbers climbing over time,” she said of the backlog.
CAS COURT CASELOAD
- 70 trials are on the trial list.
- 30 to 40 are Crown ward cases.
- To be cleared by May 30, when other family law cases can be scheduled.
OTHER COURT DELAYS
- Civil trials in London are being scheduled into 2015.
- Criminal cases are being scheduled as late as a year from now.
Source: London Free Press
November 29, 2013 permalink
Illinois mother Pam Harris has been compelled to join a union because she is caring for her disabled adult son. She is appealing to the US Supreme Court to get out of the union. See her on Illinois Policy or our local copy (mp4).
November 27, 2013 permalink
The latest CAS palace is under construction in Woodstock.
New CAS building expected to be completed by the end of January
The brand new Children’s Aid Society of Oxford building is expected to wrap up construction by the end of January, with staff preparing to move in by early spring.
The new building will have three storeys totaling 10,972 square metres (36,000 square feet) plus a lower level for storage, a mechanical room, staff and youth room, and a large multipurpose room.
The new construction will replace the former building on Light Street, where cramped staff are doubled up in offices and there is virtually no room for storage.
“We’ve outgrown this building, it inhibits our ability to provide programming and services because we are so tight for space,” said executive director Bruce Burbank. “In 2006 the board looked at the future, that we’ve outgrown our space and realized we needed a long-term viable solution.”
In 2000, changes to the law saw the rapid expansion of services due to legislation that meant the CAS had “to intervene more effectively in situations of child neglect and domestic violence.”
By 2006 staffing increases resulted in a building too small for services that included child welfare, the Family Violence Counselling program, the partner response program, child witness, court support and the Open Door program.
In 2009, 35 staff moved to a temporary location on Dundas Street.
The site, which was the home of a former car dealership, was purchased due to its desirable downtown location, which Burbank has stressed will ensure "the needs of children and families in need will remain visible.
“At one point we put an offer on the bingo hall, we decided that wasn’t the best location,” Burbank said. “It’s not readily accessible for a lot of our clients. So when this property became available we seized on it.”
He added that the central location highlights that “we have children in need in our community.”
“Suddenly people are realizing we exist,” he said. “Before we’ve been tucked away behind the courthouse.”
The new building, built with hard construction costs of $10.5 million, will consolidate staff currently working at three separate locations in Woodstock.
The lease is up on the Dundas St. building the CAS has been leasing for the last five years.
Earlier this year the Oxford CAS was subject to a 2% decrease in their budget over a course of three years, which worked out to a $1.5-million cut from a $16.4 million budget.
But Burbank stressed that decrease will not affect construction.
The land for the new building was purchased with funds from the sale of the Light Street building to the County of Oxford with owns the land, and the mortgage payments will become part of their operating budgets.
The government funding formula allocates funding for infrastructure and building occupancy separate from direct service costs.
“Our building costs will not adversely affect our service costs,” he said.
The new building is designed to be highly energy efficient with curtain walls on both it’s front and back and a living wall, or a wall comprised of plants and a integrated watering system, on the inside.
“That’s a nice feature, funded by donations,” Burbank said.
Funding and building of the new facility has not been without its challenges.
Despite being identified as a high-priority project, the CAS eventually had to finance their expansion project through TD Canada trust after two unsuccessful applications for government grants.
In September 2010, the society had to go through an Ontario municipal board hearing to receive the rezoning and bylaw amendments it needed to locate on the land.
In June 2011, the CAS had to overcome another challenge when they had to retain MMMC architects to take over the project from Murphy and Murphy Architects, who were unable to complete the project.
Construction began in August 2012 but was delayed for three months after the discovery of ground water meant the building had to undergo a redesign.
Source: Woodstock Sentinel Review
Skeletons in the Alberta Closet
November 25, 2013 permalink
An investigation by the Edmonton Journal shows that the death rate of Alberta foster children is a lot higher than shown in official reports available heretofore. The foster death toll over 14 years stepped up from 56 to 145. Either one is a lot higher than the deaths reported in the press as collected by fixcas. Expressed charitably, the provincial reports previously understated the deaths in foster care. Expressed candidly, Alberta child protectors have continued the tradition of lying about the foster death rate. Owing to the length of this series, it is on its own page, Fatal Care.
Addendum: Alberta's parliamentary opposition is asking for an emergency debate on the foster deaths. In a lame excuse, Human Services minister Dave Hancock explains that the 89 unreported dead foster children were omitted because they died of natural causes.
Wildrose Seeks Emergency Debate On 145 Alberta Foster-Child Deaths
EDMONTON - Alberta's Human Services minister, reacting to reports the government kept under wraps the deaths of 89 foster children, said those cases weren't published because the children died of natural causes or by accidents.
"There was no attempt to hide (the numbers)," Dave Hancock told the legislature during question period Monday.
"The numbers that weren't published were those children who died tragically of natural causes."
Both Hancock and Premier Alison Redford also stressed that the province must publicly report all child deaths and has created a new independent children's advocate to look into the deaths of all kids in government care.
"We did that because I worked in the family justice system and I worked in child welfare, and I am a concerned Albertan just as every other Albertan is," said Redford.
The remarks follow an investigation by the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald newspapers that found 145 children have died in government care since 1999.
The government has only publicized 56 deaths over that period.
The report lists youngsters who have died by hanging, malnutrition, hypothermia, head trauma, drowning, disease, fire, and stabbing.
They have overdosed, been asphyxiated, died in car crashes or because of sudden infant death syndrome.
A third of the children died as infants and another third were teenagers. Most were aboriginals.
The report also found that those in the system struggle with secrecy, bureaucracy and privacy rules that don't even allow parents to publicly identify their dead children.
It found the government also lacks a mechanism to track recommendations made from death investigations to improve foster child safety.
NDP critic Rachel Notley told the house that while Redford created a new Child and Youth Advocate last year to explore the deaths of foster children, the rules triggering an investigation have narrowed in order to lessen the number of investigations.
"Having a death reported to you is not the same as doing an investigation about how that death happened and how it can be stopped," said Notley.
"The fact of the matter is the Children's Advocate has done two reports so far. It's just not good enough."
All three opposition parties asked Speaker Gene Zwozdesky to grant an emergency debate on the issue, saying they need to get to the bottom of why the deaths were not reported and to make sure the children currently in care are being treated well.
Zwozdesky rejected the debate, noting that while it is a critically important issue, there were already 42 questions and answers on the topic during question period alone, not to mention member statements on the topic.
The newspaper report was the result of a four-year legal battle between the newspapers and the province, which declined to release the information until ordered to do so by Alberta's privacy commissioner.
Hancock told the house that they fought the release of the information to protect the privacy of the individuals involved and to prevent collateral harm to people connected to those in foster care.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith called for a public inquiry into the deaths and the state of the system. That was rejected by the government.
"It's not another inquiry we need," said Hancock.
"We've actually had the inquiries, and now we're implementing the results of those inquiries."
Hancock said the deaths of children in care are not only reviewed by the Children's Advocate, but also by a quality assurance council, and the medical examiner.
"It's not one investigation. It's three," said Hancock.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman said he fears the death numbers are only the tip of a much larger problem.
"If the number of deaths of children in care is this grossly under-reported, then the number of children seriously injured while in government care is very likely under-reported as well," said Sherman.
Source: Huffington Post
Alberta's Human Services Minister minister Dave Hancock wants an investigation of the province's foster care system. Of course, he wants the investigation to be under his control. A news article is enclosed, followed by the opinion of mother Velvet Martin, who had a daughter die of neglect in Alberta foster care.
Alberta to review how it investigates, reports foster child deaths
EDMONTON - Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said a public review of the foster care system will include how the deaths of foster children are investigated and reported.
“I’ll push for a full, open discussion among the people in the system and others – so parents can give us their views on it,” said Hancock. “This is not an easy question; this is a very important question.”
He said everyone in the system wants to make sure they’re doing everything they can to keep kids safe.
“Over the past few days, a number of our community partners and staff have been in touch with my department to share their concerns about the negative image of frontline staff, caregivers and the child intervention system as a whole that is being portrayed as a result of the stories in the media and the discussions that are happening.”
On Monday, a joint investigative series on foster care deaths in Alberta by the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald was published. The series took more than four years to research and complete.
The investigation found 145 children have died in government care since 1999. The government has only publicized 56 deaths over that period.
“I’ve been receiving many, many emails and letters from foster parents and kinship care parents who are really affected by this media that’s been happening regarding the deaths of children in care,” said Katherine Jones of the Alberta Foster Parent Association, who was also part of Wednesday’s news conference.
“We all are aware that children die in care. It is heartbreaking for everybody when that happens,” she said. “We also understand that there are things in the child welfare system that need to be improved on and we have seen a lot of work being done in that area.”
“The people that work in this field are dedicated – committed – to keeping children safe and to improving the lives of the children and families that we serve,” added Bruce Armson, with the Alberta Association of Services for Children and Families. “Unfortunately, that seems to have been overlooked at this time.”
“It’s not like the situation that you’ve seen now is news, to be honest,” said Hancock. “People who’ve worked in the system know that they’re dealing with… children in very difficult situations, they’re dealing with children who are medically fragile and come from tragic circumstances. People know that children die and that they die in care.”
Hancock went on to say the media coverage of the child intervention system has portrayed it “as one of despair,” but that it is also about hope.
“We need to say, ‘yes, we can always do better,’ and we need to say, ‘yes, there are tragedies’ because we are dealing with a very difficult and tragic population, but we also need to say ‘there’s hope.’ There’s a lot of good things happening, and there are a lot of good people doing it.”
Hancock reiterated his plan to form a roundtable with stakeholders, opposition members, and experts in children and youth services in the new year. That roundtable, he said, will come up with recommendations.
He also committed to reviewing Alberta’s Child Death Review system and the publication ban.
“What is the right balance of information to make sure we learn from every tragedy, we make sure families are treated properly and respectfully, and we protect the rights of all the others involved in the process?”
Opposition members insist only a full public inquiry will get to the bottom of what went wrong.
NDP Human Services critic Rachel Notley said she will ask members of the standing committee on legislative officers to support an NDP motion to give the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate further and immediate resources to investigate the deaths or serious injury of all children receiving government care.
The committee meets Friday.
Source: Global News
Mother of foster child says roundtable discussion just a runaround ploy
Amid the public furor over successive Alberta government’s failure to report the deaths of eighty-nine children in care deaths over the last fourteen years, a mother of a former foster child is speaking out, almost seven years to the day her daughter died of so-called “natural causes”.
But the 2012 fatality inquiry report into the death of Velvet Martin’s daughter Samantha also found she was severely malnourished, weighing just 51 pounds at the age of 12, suffered numerous unexplained fractures and bruises, and rarely saw a doctor while in foster care.
During the inquiry, Martin says her own legal battle to get legal aid representation for her daughter was fought by taxpayer-funded lawyers representing the Redford government.
“The ministry had a team of lawyers, the foster placement had their own renowned lawyer, and Samantha had no one but me to be her voice,” Martin says.
“And there’s something definitely, definitely wrong when the person who’s the subject of a public fatality inquiry, that we are supposed to learn from, has no legal representation.”
Meanwhile, Martin says she’s concerned the roundtable discussion proposed by Human Services minister Dave Hancock for January, is another case of the government hoping the public will have lost interest in the story by then.
“Are we waiting until January just so we can perhaps forget that a 145 children died? Maybe we’ll just go away? That’s not happening, sorry,” Martin says.
“If the ministry truly cares, they’re going to do it now, act now.”
Martin accused Hancock of being the latest in a line of children services ministers who claimed the foster care system works, and is getting better.
Source: CHED 630