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Financial Chaos at Chatham-Kent Children's Services

July 18, 2014 permalink

Last year Mike Stephens resigned as executive director of Chatham-Kent Children's Services. Rose Whyte-Bray has used a freedom of information request to provide fixcas with a ministry review completed earlier in the month of Mr Stephens' resignation.

Staff identified that there were, at times, challenges in putting into practice the principle of collaboration with some families. They spoke of the increased presence of Canada Court Watch in the community, and noted that this has prompted some families to "push back" making a more intrusive approach to service delivery necessary at times.

The document is Expenditure Management Review of Chatham-Kent Children's Services, by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services dated August 2013. We have it as a photocopy (pdf) or a web page. According to the press, it is the product of a ministry review conducted in the spring of 2013 of records from April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2013.

The review team consisted of professionals from the ministry. No parents or former foster children were part of the team. Richard Wexler says that audits of child protection agencies rarely go beyond the filing cabinet. This review was close to that pattern, though it did include interviews with senior staff. Front-line workers, parents and children were not approached.

The report is positive about the board of directors, "including representation from the police force, the judiciary, school boards/education, business, foster parents, health care and other community services." Most of the directors receive pay from tax funds, the members from business are an afterthought. The judiciary member is most likely a judge. Approval from a judge is required for most CAS interventions in the life of a family. Does this judge disclose his board membership when hearing a case?

The report says:

The Board receives regular service and financial data reports from management, and Board members report that they have good access to data and information to inform their decision-making. However, what remained unclear was whether members received appropriate and relevant information to allow them to assess the effectiveness of management in running the organization and meeting strategic goals.

This is bureaucratic speak for "management keeps the board in the dark". The report goes on to say, in more bureaucratese, that the board does not do a good job of overseeing management.

The audit that did not go beyond the filing cabinet found lots of problems even there. When the review team announced a sample of files, CAS staff worked all weekend to clean up those files for the investigators. The records were routinely out of compliance with provincial child protection standards.

Under Service Delivery Challenges the report comments on delays caused by litigation, a large number of cases. It is the CAS policy to hold cases at investigation pending resolution of the court case. This policy is contrary to child protection standards, which require investigations to be completed within 30 to 60 days.

Under Financial Review the report found a long list of areas where financial controls were inadequate. While the agency was subjected to ministry-imposed budget cuts, staff salaries continued to increase. Signatures on documents for travel expenses were there as a requirement, not as a control. Expenditures for roofing HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning), snow removal, volunteer drivers and mortgage payments all were subject to criticism for improper controls. When CAS provides multiple services to a family, rules require that family to be counted once. but the report found CKCS was counting the same family repeatedly.

The guarded wording of the report suggests that executive director Mike Stephens could have benefited personally from travel expense over-imbursement, duplicate payments for travel expenses and a retirement stipend (█████) paid several years before his expected retirement. The amount was redacted from the report, but appeared in the press as $32,000.

The Chatham Voice reported on the financial chaos at CKCS. The Chatham Daily News reported on a directive to CKCS from Joanne Brown, Regional Program Manager, South West Region Ministry of Children and Youth Services. That letter is at the end our our copy of the report linked above. Expand for four newspaper articles.

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Boss’ salary goes up as jobs go down

The local children’s aid service is seeing its budget head south while its top manager’s salary has gone north.

The Chatham-Kent Children’s Services (CKCS) budget is being reduced 2% per for the next five years, resulting in layoffs this fiscal year for 12 staff members, according to CKCS CEO Mike Stephens, whose own salary jumped more than $32,000 from 2010-2012.

For 2013-2014, the agency will receive in excess of $21.2 million in funding for child protection from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, down from last year’s budget of $21.6 million. According to ministry officials in Toronto, the CKCS also required a one-time funding bail out last year of $406,738 to cover an in-year shortfall for child protection.

In comparison, Stephens’ salary increased by 22% in two years to $179,488, as reported in the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, also known as the sunshine list, which requires publicly funded agencies to report any salaries over $100,000. Stephens is joined by eight other CKCS managers on the list, however those salary increases in the same period were no more than 9%. In fact, two managers’ salaries – manager of legal services and director of corporate services, were cut by approximately $4,000.

According to ministry senior media relations and issues co-ordinator Courtney Battistone, 85% of the CKCS budget comes from the province, and the board of directors sets executive salaries and compensation independent of the province.

CKCS board chair Monica Bacic, when asked for an explanation of Stephens’ salary increase, was tight-lipped on the matter.

“Further to our discussion this morning with regard to the salary of our CEO, the information was provided to the public as required by the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act. Anything beyond that is considered personal information and there is no further comment,” Bacic said in a text message.

This information comes on the heels of a press release from Bacic on Aug. 29 announcing the sudden retirement of Stephens after 13 years with CKCS. While his retirement is effective Oct. 11 of this year, Stephens’ autoreply on his e-mail indicates he will be on holiday until his retirement date.

Bacic, in the release, said the board will begin searching for his replacement immediately and will be announcing an interim CEO shortly.

According to the ministry, officials “routinely conduct on-site reviews of children’s aid societies to better understand cost drivers and opportunities for efficiencies.” This year, the CKCS was one of the agencies chosen for an expenditure management review, and as a result of the findings in the review, the ministry:

  • Shared the findings with the board of directors;
  • issued a set of service and financial directives to the society;
  • is working with the board to identify areas of improvement, including financial accountability; and
  • hired a consultant to help CKCS enhance its service delivery model.

The details of the directives are not being made public.

The CKCS, according to Stephens, has approximately 300 staff, of which about 125 are child protection workers.

Source: Chatham Voice


C-K Children’s Services CEO receives retirement allowance during pay freeze

The outgoing Chatham-Kent Children’s Services CEO is leaving with a retiring allowance paid to him while the province had restraint measures in place freezing management salaries.

According to a memo widely distributed to CKCS staff on March 24, 2012, CEO Mike Stephens advised staff his Ontario Public Sector Salary Disclosure figure, also known as the sunshine club, would be higher than the previous year, despite the provisions of Bill 16.

The province enacted Bill 16 in 2010 to freeze public sector and broader public sector employee management salaries for two years to try and deal with the provincial debt load.

During that two-year period from 2010-2012, Stephen’s salary increased more than $32,000, according to the list.

“In my employment contract, I have agreed to be available for 12 months following my retirement to act as a mentor and advisor for whomever the board chooses to replace me with,” Stephens stated in the memo. “In exchange for that service, the board has agreed to pay me a retirement stipend. This is not an uncommon practice.”

In the memo, Stephens explained why he received the cash before his actual retirement.

“Last fiscal year, the agency had a surplus and the board elected to pay me a portion of those retirement stipend dollars, thus reducing our fiscal liability in the year I actually retire just in case we are back to a deficit or break even in that year,” he stated.

Stephens said in the memo he checked with a third party lawyer and the agency auditor to make sure the move was “ethical and legal” and went ahead with the payment. He added the stipend was to be put on his T4 slip as a retirement allowance but was instead reported as income, thus showing up in the public salary disclosure.

He also said in his memo that if he were to leave the agency because of any reason other than retirement, he had to return the funds.

According to Section 24 of Bill 16, the 0% increase came into effect March 24, 2010 and was in force until March 31, 2012. Subsection 12 indicates that Bill 16 “prevails over any provision of a compensation plan and, if there is a conflict between this Act and a compensation plan, the compensation plan is inoperative to the extent of the conflict.”

When asked about Stephen’s salary, Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) spokesperson Gloria Bacci-Puhl said the CKCS is a not-for-profit organization with an independent board of directors.

“Each children’s aid society is responsible for staffing decisions, including executive management compensation. The ministry does not negotiate executive compensation rates for broader public service providers.”

Board chair Monica Bacic did not want to comment on the memo, saying that Stephens’s employment contract was a private matter between him and the board.

Several attempts to reach Stephens for comment were unsuccessful.

Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls said he could not comment on the board’s rationale regarding Stephen’s salary but he believes accountability is important, especially for the government and the agencies it funds.

“We are about accountability and we should hold government to a higher level of accountability,” he said. “When people know they are being held accountable, they operate at a higher level. That’s why I was happy to support Bill 42 at second reading.”

Bill 42, The Ombudsman Amendment Act (children’s aid societies), was introduced in April of this year, the seventh time opposition parties have tried to get legislation in place that would allow the Ombudsman to deal with complaints against children’s aid societies in Ontario. The Bill did not pass second reading.

Ontario is the only province to not have Ombudsman oversight of children’s aid societies, and according to the office of the Ombudsman website, 2,541 complaints against children’s aid agencies were received in 2012 – complaints the office has no authority to investigate.

Ontario is also the only province in Canada that has volunteer boards of directors running the agencies, instead of the province.

“Locally, CKCS has good, caring, compassionate staff and the caseloads get the care and attention they deserve,” Nicholls said.

He said he is getting weekly reports on the situation at the CKCS after a MCYS review found several issues of non-compliance with the Child and Family Services Act and Broader Public Sector directives related to that Act, and will be keeping on top of it.

Source: Chatham Voice


Province issues order to Chatham-Kent Children's Services to fine tune the way it operates

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services has ordered the Chatham-Kent Children's Services to fine tune the way it operates, including how management and staff document child protection cases, are repaid for expenses and obtain public services.

The Chatham Daily News has received copies of correspondence from the provincial ministry to CKCS dated May 27 and Aug. 16, 2013, in which several directives for change were ordered.

"The consultant began on-site work on behalf of the ministry on Aug. 28, 2013 and continues to provide enhanced oversight and monitoring of society operations and records," Courtney Battistone, spokesperson for MCYS told The Daily News.

The directives resulted from a ministry review in the spring of CKCS data from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2013.

In the May correspondence, signed by a regional program manager, the ministry issued five directives under section 20.1 of the Child and Family Services Act.

"There directives have been issued to support the society to meet legislative and regulatory requirements related to child protection standards and services to children eligible for or in receipt of child protection services," Joanne Brown stated in the correspondence.

Brown further directed CKCS to submit weekly written reports to a ministry regional office program supervisor to advise the status of compliance with the directives.

Among the orders, the CKCS is directed to confirm policy and procedures are developed and implemented that "ensures all child protection documentation includes the child protection worker's plan and schedule to see child(ren) and family members face-to-face when providing services on an ongoing basis."

The CKCS must also ensure protection plans are reviewed regularly by a supervisor and comply with Child Protection Standards in Ontario (as of February 2007) for direct contact with families in their home once per month or more frequent visits in cases with high or very high risk ratings.

The ministry ordered written confirmation that all child protection workers and supervisors review the entire protection standards and supervisors receive clinical supervision training from an Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies' approved trainer within 90 days.

The ministry also directed the CKCS to work co-operatively with a provincial representative tasked to assess the organization's compliance with the directives through on-site meetings with staff and file reviews.

Seven additional directives added in August include orders to comply with the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act.

Specific compliance to the Broader Public Sector Expenses Directive, Broader Public Sector Perquisites Directive and the Broader Public Sector Procurement Directive, in delivering child welfare services are also cited in the August directive.

The CKCS is ordered to revise its expenses rules related to travel, meals and hospitality, plus institute a control process and provide documentation the new policies are taught to staff, approved by its board of directors and posted on the child welfare organization's public website.

The board is further directed to recover overpayments in expenses paid to staff.

As of press time Thursday, The Daily News was still waiting for comment from the board of directors requested on Wednesday.

However, Battistone confirmed the ministry directed the CKCS to look into the issue and determine overpayments.

"We can confirm that CKCS has demonstrated to the ministry that they are in compliance with all directives issued on May 27, 2013 and the 30-day directives issued on Aug. 16, 2013," Battistone added.

As part of its regular business and accountability relationship, the ministry reviews service and financial data for all 46 children's aid societies across the province on a quarterly basis.

In addition, the ministry routinely conducts on-site reviews of children's aid societies to better understand cost drivers and identify opportunities for efficiencies.

In 2012-13, the ministry committed to expenditure management reviews of selected children's aid societies, one of which was CKCS.

Source: Chatham Daily News


CKCS board president calls organization's recent performance unacceptable

Monica Bacic
Monica Bacic, CKCS board president

The board of directors of the Chatham-Kent Children's Services wants answers.

Many questions concerning the operation of the CKCS have surfaced following a Ministry of Children's and Youth Services investigation.

"The board is concerned that it took a ministry investigation to bring these matters to our attention," Monica Bacic, CKCS board president told The Chatham Daily News.

"They should have been caught internally, and the board should have been informed," Bacic added.

The MCYS issued 12 directives in May and August following an audit of the organization's records between April 1, 2010 and Mar. 31, 2013.

The directives included how management and staff document child protection cases, are repaid for expenses and obtain public services.

Bacic said the ministry review identified $5,800 in overpayments to 13 people related to travel, meals and hospitality.

"We will share complete information when we have that, but in the meantime we have already begun to recover overpayments .... and will recover funds by payroll deduction if necessary," Bacic said.

The board has until Oct. 14 to satisfy the ministry the overpayments have been collected.

Bacic said the expenses relating to travel, meals and hospitality were paid without original receipts submitted.

"The receipts were lost or photocopied," she said.

A ministry spokesperson told The Daily News last week, CKCS is meeting its directives set out to support its legislative and regulatory requirements.

"The ministry review and these directives have been a healthy wake-up call," Bacic said.

"Everyone in the organization has a responsibility to ensure that they learn from this and improve accordingly," she added.

Bacic said the society utilized several checks and balances to process expense claims and it was not the responsibility of any one person.

"The ministry's concerns were broad based ... policies have been clarified and revised (and) staff training will be completed over the next three weeks," Bacic said.

The Daily News has also learned Bonnie Wightman, senior director of service, is acting CEO while Mike Stephens is on vacation until his official retirement on Oct. 11.

Wightman is also approved as a local director for the purposes of the Children and Family Services Act and has been instrumental in these capacities many times over the past years.

The board has also struck a recruitment committee to seek an interim executive director for the agency.

"New leadership provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen the organization," Bacic said.

The board president is hoping all staff will look beyond the directives and focus on their core mandate, "to ensure they are protecting children to the very best of their ability."

A spokesperson for the MCYS said the ministry reviews service and financial data for all 46 children's aid societies across Ontario on a quarterly basis.

In 2012-2013, the ministry committed to expenditure management reviews of selected societies, one of which was CKCS, Courtney Battistone said.

Source: Chatham Daily News

Foster/Adoptive Child Burned to Death near Barrie

July 16, 2014 permalink

Ten-year-old Tyrese Sutherland was found burned to death near Barrie Ontario on July 4. He was recently adopted by his long-term foster parents. Tyrese's adoptive brother and foster/adoptive father also died in a suspected murder/suicide. Two articles from the Toronto Star are enclosed.

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Three bodies found in burned car near Barrie confirmed as Mississauga father and sons

Samuel Masih and his two young sons were found dead in a burned-out car near Barrie, autopsy results proved.

Samuel Masih, Tyrese Sutherland and Santosh
A Facebook collage shows Samuel Masih, 36, and his two sons, Tyrese Sutherland, 10 and Santosh, 4. Their bodies were found in a burnt-out car on a rural road east of Barrie early Friday morning.
FACEBOOK

For days the family of a Mississauga father and his two young sons waited for word of their whereabouts. For days they followed the news of a grisly find in a burned-out car near Barrie.

On Wednesday, police confirmed the connection they had deeply feared: The three bodies found in the wreckage are those of Samuel Masih, 36, and sons Tyrese Sutherland, 10, and Santosh, 4.

The charred remains were discovered early Friday morning on a dead-end country road a few hundred metres from a drive-in movie theatre northeast of Barrie.

The Ontario Provincial Police are not looking for suspects in the deaths.

“We’re satisfied that the person responsible for the other two deaths perished in the vehicle as well,” said Sgt. Peter Leon of the OPP.

“With respect to cause of death, that’s something the OPP normally doesn’t speak to,” Leon said. “We won’t be in a position to speak to that due to the ongoing nature of our investigation.”

Autopsies on the remains began Tuesday morning, but the release of the coroner’s findings was delayed until late Wednesday afternoon due to difficulty identifying the badly burned remains.

On Tuesday afternoon, OPP investigators were knocking on doors interviewing neighbours about the family’s history in the area and their recent behaviour, according to one resident who spoke with the police.

Several Mississauga neighbours told the Star the couple had been experiencing marital problems and were preparing for a divorce.

By Tuesday evening, family members and friends were arriving at a West Toronto home, bringing condolences and plates of food. Neither family nor friends at the home would speak with the Star about Masih or the two boys.

Police released only the name of the deceased father Wednesday. The names of the children were confirmed through neighbours and family friends.

Masih and his two sons were reported missing around 1:30 a.m. Friday. His wife, Brintha Shanmugalingam, told police she had last heard from him at 4 p.m. on Thursday, when he said he was taking the boys to a movie.

The burning vehicle was discovered on Holick Rd. around 5:40 a.m. Friday, just a few hundred metres from a drive-in move theatre. A passing motorist noticed the fire.

Police at the scene said the vehicle had been so thoroughly engulfed by the flames that they could not identify the make or model.

The family has lived on Riel Dr. in Mississauga for about five years, neighbours said. Shanmugalingam’s mother lived with them. They previously lived near the village of Trout Creek, about 50 km south of North Bay, on a property Masih still owns and has rented out for the past few years.

While living in Trout Creek, the couple adopted Tyrese, their eldest son. A man who lived next to them, Gary Toogood, said they periodically took in children in need of care. He described Masih as soft-spoken, stable and close to his family.

“I know that he was involved in social work, at least that was my understanding,” Toogood told the Star. “I know that they took care of the occasional child that was sort of neglected.”

“From what I knew of the man, he was a kind, gentle soul.”

On Shanmugalingam’s Facebook account, since taken down, there were photo collages of the family. One showed a trip to a Universal Studios theme park, with the children in facepaint and posing with Dr. Seuss mascots. Another showed a birthday party, with Tyrese cutting the cake for his younger brother.

A classmate of Tyrese at the nearby Bishop Scalabrini Catholic School said Tyrese had recently complained his parents were getting a divorce and he would have to choose which parent to live with.

Ghufran Ahmed remembered his neighbours across the street as a “very regular” family who mostly kept to themselves — not uncommon in a neighbourhood where “everyone is in their own shell,” he said.

“You’d never say that something was out of place with them,” Ahmed said.

Rev. Shahid Kamal is the pastor at the Evangelical Asian Church Toronto, a church Masih had regularly attended when he first moved to Mississauga.

“He was a good man, a nice man, and all this — had a smile on his face,” Kamal told the Star. “When he was attending the church he was very regular and even he was setting up the sound system and these different activities.”

Kamal said the church will host funeral services for the three family members once the arrangements are made.

In one of Ahmed’s last memories of Masih, the father was fixing his son’s basketball hoop after it was damaged in this winter’s ice storm. Other times, Masih would be cutting the lawn while the children rode their bikes in the driveway.

The OPP are still asking for the public’s assistance in their investigation.

“We are appealing to the public, asking them if anybody observed any activity that may be out of nature, out of place, on either July 3 or 4, to certainly give the OPP a call,” Leon said, referring to the car found on Holick Rd.

Source: Toronto Star


Boy in burned-out car had been adopted months before

Samuel Masih vigil
Candles, flowers and messages were placed at the home of Samuel Masih in Mississauga last week for a vigil in honour of his two sons, whose bodies were found with his in a burned-out car near Barrie.
Laura Armstrong / Toronto Star Order this photo

Tyrese Sutherland lived as a foster child for years before finally finding a permanent family of his own.

His adoption by foster parents Samuel Masih and Brintha Shanmugalingam was finalized just this spring, the Star has learned. On July 4, he was found dead in a burned-out car on a country road near Barrie, with the charred remains of his adoptive father and 4-year-old brother Santosh.

The Ontario Provincial Police are keeping the cause of death secret, but said they are “satisfied that the person responsible for the other two deaths perished in the vehicle as well.” The investigation is ongoing.

Sutherland had lived with the family for years as a foster child, but the private foster care agency that placed him said its visits ended in March, when his adoption was finalized by the Peel Children’s Aid Society.

His death will trigger a review process with the Chief Coroner’s Office that kicks in whenever a child dies within a year of having contact with a children’s aid society.

Cheryl Mahyr, coroner’s office spokesperson, couldn’t speak to this specific case, but said that typically, “the death investigations of children who were in care take a long time to conclude.” In such cases, the coroner’s office has three weeks to call for an internal CAS review, which can take up to 90 days. After that, the coroner can consider an inquest.

The Peel CAS, which has jurisdiction for the Mississauga home where Tyrese lived, would not discuss either Tyrese or Masih.

“We could never confirm whether a child was adopted,” spokesperson Lucie Baistrocchi said. Several friends and neighbours of the family have told the Star about the adoption.

Pat Convery, executive director of the Adoption Council of Ontario, had no information about Tyrese, but said she can’t recall a case where a death happened so quickly after placement.

“Everybody, I’m sure, is looking at this,” she said. “They’re looking for anything missed. Is there something that should have been seen before this child was placed for adoption?”

Convery said that, based on what she’s seen before, if Tyrese had died while in foster care the case would be almost guaranteed to trigger an inquest. “But even if he’s been with the family (for years), you want a review,” she said. “The field would want it, the adoption field. You want to know what happened.”

Tyrese began his foster care with Masih and Shanmugalingam while they were living in Trout Creek, a village 50 kilometres south of North Bay. They had purchased a house there in 2006.

“I did meet both (Masih) and his wife when they were first thinking about starting to be foster parents,” said Bob Connor, executive director of Connor Homes, the foster agency. “We thought they would make excellent foster parents, and they were.”

Connor said his agency uses the same foster-home assessment program that each CAS in the province does, and that supervisors check in with families weekly by phone and monthly in person.

After he heard Masih and the boys had been found dead, Connor said he reviewed the meeting notes his staff took with the family until the foster care situation ended. “There was nothing remarkable in them,” he said.

The couple had even flown Tyrese to Australia in the past year at their own expense so he could see a specialist about his eczema.

Peel police have said they hadn’t been called to the house prior to the missing persons report.

In the days after Masih and the boys were reported missing, several neighbours told the Star there had been recent marital problems. A classmate said Tyrese had talked of having to choose which parent he was going to live with.

Connor said the news of the deaths hit him hard. “It’s anger, it’s hurt, frustration,” he said. “You think of all the times that people were in the home … they’re checking out to see how things are and whether plans are being followed through with. And to ensure that people are safe.

“And then out of the blue, really, something happens which is unpredictable, unthought of, unheard of. It’s indescribable.”

Source: Toronto Star

Hamilton Meeting

July 14, 2014 permalink

Alfredine Linda Plourde has scheduled a meeting in Hamilton on Thursday July 17. Gordon Carruthers will be guest speaker.

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Alfredine Linda Plourde

Hello Friends:

A meeting has been scheduled for Monday, July21, 2014 at the Pavilion Food Court at 7:00 p.m. Your attendance, your input and advice are vital to the success of protecting our children under the Child Protective Services.

As the founder of Protecting Canadian Children, I ask for your participation in our meeting, and to offer your input regarding a positive outcome for the welfare and protection of children under the system. Please bring a friend!

Our special guest speaker will be Gordon Carruthers from Jarvis, Ontario, who has generously assisted us this summer with the promotion of E-bike ticket sales.

Date: Thursday July 17, 2014
Time: 7:pm
Location: Pavilion Food Court
1275 Barton St.E,
Hamilton, Ontario

I am looking forward of meeting with you all.

Thank you for the support

Alfredine (Linda) Plourde

Source: Facebook

Best Way to Keep Your Child - Emigrate

July 13, 2014 permalink

The Daily Mirror has a brief portrait of Ian Josephs, a financially independent Briton who has helped dozens of mothers escape from child protectors by fleeing abroad.

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Millionaire helping pregnant women flee UK to avoid babies taken into care

Ian Josephs has spent over £30,000 helping 200 to avoid having their newborns taken away by social services

Ian Josephs
Help: Ian Joseph
Caroline Waterston

A multi-millionaire is helping pregnant women whose babies are deemed at risk to flee the UK.

Ian Josephs has spent over £30,000 helping 200 to avoid having their newborns taken away by social services.

He pays for their fares to a new life and offers them free legal advice, even paying for lawyers in some cases.

Around 50 have fled to Ireland on his money while another 150 went to France, Spain and Italy.

Forced adoption opponent Mr Josephs, who runs a language business and has a law degree, has defended his decision to fund their escape, despite many already having children in care.

He said: “Social services have moved away from giving families support and are now too quick to take children away.

“I know what I do is controversial. People ask how I know the people I’ve helped don’t go on to do something wicked, but my reply is that even killers are entitled to lawyers.

“These woman are entitled to a fair chance to keep their children if they have not been convicted of any crime of cruelty and aren’t on drink or drugs.”

Is it right to help pregnant mums flee UK to avoid babies taken into care?

The dad of seven set up a website and receives “around a thousand” calls a year from mothers.

Britain is the only EU country allowing forced adoption. Last year, 1,860 children were adopted without parental consent.

Mr Josephs, 82, features in an ITV ­documentary on Tuesday. He is shown advising a woman called Mary with previous mental health issues who has two children in care and is expecting another.

Mary, who now raises her child in France, said: “The social services here are helpful and supportive, the opposite of the UK.”

Mr Josephs says he ploughs through piles of documents before agreeing to help.

He said: “Adoption shouldn’t go ahead if a mother is begging to get her child back. They should be given a fair chance.

“Social services used to only take children away if a parent was convicted of cruelty. Now social workers are feared and hated.

But one GP who works with social ­services said: “People think they are right to help a mother but they do not have all the background to a case.

The documentary, which shows secret filming of social workers and police taking a child away, also features retired Court of Protection Judge, Sir Mark Hedley who claims there is “increased pressure” on social workers to intervene because of cases like Baby P.

Source: Daily Mirror

Freedom for Children's Aid Information

July 11, 2014 permalink

Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian wants to add children's aid societies to the agencies covered by freedom of information legislation. In her annual report for 2013 released on June 17 there is just one paragraph on children's aid on page 12:

Children’s Aid Societies

In my 2004, 2009, and 2012 Annual Reports I recommended that Children’s Aid Societies, which provide services for some of our most vulnerable citizens – children and youth in government care, be brought under FIPPA. I am disheartened by the complete lack of action to ensure transparency and accountability by these organizations that received significant public funding. As part of the modernization of the Acts, I call on the government to finally address this glaring omission and ensure that Children’s Aid Societies are added to the list of institutions covered.

A news report is enclosed, here is a local copy of her report Freedon & Liberty (pdf).

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Cavoukian says access to information legislation must be modernized

Ann Cavoukian
Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian.
supplied photo

Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner says it is “imperative” that the government undertake a comprehensive review of the legislation surrounding access to information in order to “modernize it” and bring it it line with the realities of the 21st century.

In her annual report released on Tuesday morning at Queen’s Park, Dr. Ann Cavoukian says that improvements in technology and data collection have made both the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) outdated and in need of an update.

“When the Acts were originally being debated, legislators could not have envisioned the vast opportunities and challenges that have arisen through the explosive growth of the internet, the web, and now, the world of big data,” Cavoukian writes. “As a result, they no longer reflect the realities of access to information and the protection of privacy by public institutions in the information age.”

The FIPPA and MFIPPA both outline the process for obtaining government records and dictate what types of documents the public has right to access and what information can be withheld.

In her report, Cavoukian says the government must revise the acts to include stronger enforcement powers and penalties for non-compliance, stronger reporting requirements as well as new systems and incentives for the proactive disclosure of information.

“Let’s push the data out and not wait for people to go hunting for it through Freedom of Information requests,” Cavoukian told reporters at Queen’s Park.

More consequences for poor record keeping

Over the last year there have been several organizations that have been taken to task by various watchdogs for poor record keeping.

Most recently, City of Toronto Auditor-General Jeffrey Griffiths released a scathing report accusing the board of the Sony Centre of awarding renovation contracts without competition and keeping insufficient records of those contracts.

In her report, Cavoukian said the expectations for record keeping “must be raised” if the government is to remain transparent and accountable.

“My office and our freedom of information legislation can only serve the public effectively if appropriate records are kept and key decisions are fully documented,” Cavoukian writes. “The challenge we face is that there are currently no consequences for poor records management practices or the wilful destruction of records, and I feel that this must be changed.”

Cavoukian says in order to improve record keeping government employees should be legislated to document business-related activates and key decisions, and every institution subject to FIPPA or MFIPPA must put in place “reasonable measures” to retain records that are subject to or may be subject to an access to information request.

Cavoukian also says that the province must make it an offence under FIPPA and MFIPPA to destroy or alter any records that are subject to or may be subject to an access to information request.

Other highlights of the report:

  • A record 55,760 Freedom of Information requests were filed in 2013, up six per cent from the year before.
  • Almost 55 per cent (29,937) were filed by members of the public and not journalists.
  • The Toronto Police Service received more requests than any other municipal institution with 5,246.
  • The Ministry of the Environment received more requests than any other provincial institution with 7,434.
  • The City of Toronto received 2,790 requests while the City of Brampton was second with 1,432.
  • Provincial ministries, agencies and institutions had a 86.5 per cent 30-day compliance rate with requests while municipal governments had a 77.2 per cent 30-day compliance rate.

Read the annual report from Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner

Source: CP24
Thanks to Chris Carter for finding this item.

Judge Cannot Repair Family

July 11, 2014 permalink

Christopher Booker reports on the fate of the Musa family. After they were stripped of their six children, the parents were both sentenced to seven years in jail. The family is now beyond repair because mother Gloria Musa has been injured by other inmates. The name Musa can be published because of a recent court decision. The judge was severely critical of the actions of Haringey council, but admitted he was powerless to correct their past misconduct. Booker commented on the Musa case before: [1].

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Judge slams Haringey council over my most shocking family case ever

Haringey went 'behind my back', says Mr Justice Holman over forced break-up of family

Family and Youth Court
Mr Justic Holman condemned Haringey for having deceitfully broken both procedures and the law
Photo: Alamy

Of all the scores of cases I have followed over the past five years where families have been torn apart by social workers and the courts, one has stood out as more shocking and harrowing than any. From 2010 on, when five children were removed from a Nigerian couple, Mr and Mrs Musa, and then a sixth was violently wrested from Mrs Musa’s arms by six police and three social workers when she was lying helpless on a hospital bed breastfeeding the baby to which she had just given birth, I wrote about this case in heavily redacted form more than any other (a seventh child was later also taken from her at birth). I can only now name both Haringey council (of “Baby P” fame) and the Musas, thanks to three very remarkable recent High Court judgments by Mr Justice Holman, which he ordered to be published on the Bailii court website, specifically allowing both the council and the parents to be identified.

Holman only came into this case at the end of a four-year long saga that had already been before more than half a dozen other High Court judges. What he had to decide was whether, as an earlier judge had ruled they must be, the five older children, now in different foster homes, should be allowed to maintain contact with the two youngest (who have been sent for adoption and whom Haringey wishes to be given new names). Holman discovered, first, that Haringey had secretly and blatantly disobeyed that earlier ruling, by last year breaking off the children’s contact for several months until, in December, they were allowed to meet for a final “goodbye session”.

Holman repeatedly expressed his astonishment that the council had knowingly broken a court order in this way. But he was then even more astonished to discover that Haringey had managed to get the court website to remove the very judgment he had ordered to be published. In his own words, Haringey had, “gone completely behind my back”, to persuade “Bailii to remove from the public website” the judgment that he had “deliberately placed” there, “pursuant to the practice direction of the President of the Family Division” (Lord Justice Munby, who has been valiantly striving to open up the family courts to “the glare of publicity”).

Again and again in his forensically argued judgments, Holman condemned Haringey for having deceitfully broken both procedures and the law, expressing his “grave concern” at what the council had been doing. While he very reluctantly concluded that, following that illegal “goodbye session”, it was probably not practical to undo the damage, he ended one judgment by saying, “On that incredibly melancholy note, and with the utmost despair on my part, I draw the present hearing to a close.”

But Holman was careful to say that he was not familiar with all the earlier stages of this case, although he knew that it has been widely referred to on the internet and has aroused huge public concern in Nigeria. Had he in fact known all of what Haringey and the courts have done to this family since 2010, he would have been utterly appalled. Right from the start, the children were initially removed from their parents on allegations so implausible that the council eventually had to drop them and come up with new ones, quite different. After many more tragic twists and turns to the story, the parents ended up, following a very odd criminal trial, being given long prison sentences,

The children who, in the early days, were constantly pleading to be allowed to come home, have, for four years, been kept unhappily in foster care, where they are now condemned to remain. Mrs Musa, whom I knew as a smartly dressed, capable and obviously devoted mother, has been reduced by her beatings in prison to a physical wreck.

If, one day, the full story of the fate of this family can be told, it will be seen as a truly major scandal. Haringey’s bid to have Holman’s judgment suppressed was only the latest instance of an official cover-up that has so far been terrifyingly successful. Last Thursday, by another, very different judge, the council was finally given almost everything over those poor children’s future it had asked for.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Superjeffrey

July 9, 2014 permalink

Over a decade after he was starved to death by his CAS appointed foster parents, Jeffrey Baldwin is back in the news. DC Entertainment has refused a request to put Superman, one of Jeffrey's heroes, on his memorial.

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Jeffrey Baldwin Memorial: DC Entertainment Says No To Superman Logo

Superman logo

TORONTO - DC Entertainment is refusing to allow the Superman logo to adorn a memorial statue of a Toronto boy who loved the superhero during his short life before his grandparents starved him to death.

A coroner's inquest last winter into the death of five-year-old Jeffrey Baldwin caught the attention of an Ottawa man, who was moved by Jeffrey's plight and wanted to pay tribute to the boy.

Todd Boyce raised money for a statue of Jeffrey and recruited Ontario artist Ruth Abernethy — known for a Glenn Gould bronze statue on a bench on Front Street in Toronto and a bronze of Oscar Peterson outside the National Arts Centre in Ottawa — to design it.

Boyce wanted to see Jeffrey depicted in a Superman costume, harkening back to inquest testimony from Jeffrey's father.

Before his teenage parents lost custody of Jeffrey to his maternal grandparents the little boy was very energetic and loved the superhero, Richard Baldwin testified.

"He wanted to fly," Baldwin said. "He tried jumping off the chair. We had to make him stop. He dressed up (as Superman) for Halloween one year…He was so excited. I have that picture at home hanging on my wall. He was our little man of steel."

But DC Entertainment — home to the comic book superhero — will not grant Boyce permission to use the Superman logo on the statue.

"It was important for me because I really felt I wanted to capture the photograph of Jeffrey wearing his Superman costume and have it as close to that as possible," Boyce said.

"Basically they didn't want to have the character of Superman associated with child abuse. They weren't comfortable with that."

Boyce said he was angry and emotional when he first learned of their refusal, but after subsequent conversations with people at the company and their lawyers, he softened his stance.

"(I) realized that the most important thing is to have a fitting monument for Jeffrey, that it's about him," Boyce said. "To be fair to DC I don't think they wanted to say no. I think they gave it serious thought."

DC Entertainment would not comment.

Boyce said the design will be changed to have a "J" on the chest rather than the "S" of the Superman logo. The model of the statue is complete — except for the letter change — and is just now waiting for it to be cast in bronze. Boyce is hoping for a September unveiling and dedication.

One of Jeffrey's sisters has chosen a poem to be engraved on a bench that will be part of the memorial, Boyce said. It begins with the line "I wish heaven had a phone so I could hear your voice again."

She requested a Hot Wheels car also be incorporated and Boyce said the foundry will bronze a little car and mount it above the poem.

Jeffrey wasted away to the weight of a baby, locked in his cold, urine- and feces-stained bedroom in the Toronto home of his grandmother, his Catholic Children's Aid Society-approved guardian.

He died on Nov. 30, 2002, weeks shy of his sixth birthday, and during the coroner's inquest that concluded earlier this year, Jeffrey's plight caught the attention of Boyce, a father of four and government IT worker. He raised money for the project online.

Jeffrey's grandparents — who were convicted of second-degree murder in 2006 — had custody of Jeffrey and his three siblings. Two of them were treated relatively well, the inquest heard, but one of his sisters was subjected to the same conditions. The difference between Jeffrey and his sister was that she was allowed to go to school — the daily snack she received there likely saved her life, the inquest heard.

Source: Huffington Post

Note: On July 9 DC Entertainment changed its position, and will permit the Superman memorial.

Both Sides of Mouth

July 8, 2014 permalink

While the province of Alberta, through its minister Manmeet Bhullar, proclaims openness regarding deaths in provincial care, the concealment of foster deaths continues. A recent report says that thirty nine vulnerable children, including eight foster children, died in 2013-14, but gives no details. Since there are no names, the press cannot follow up with its own investigation.

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Province releases few details about two dozen vulnerable children who died in 2013-14

Minister says information will be posted online

EDMONTON - The province revealed Monday that two dozen vulnerable children died and 10 more were seriously injured in 2013-14, but the annual report reveals almost no information about how or why they died.

The yearly report, published by Human Services, says the manner of death has yet to be determined in 17 cases of children who died after having come to the attention of the ministry.

Of the remaining seven cases, one was ruled a suicide, one was accidental, four were due to medical causes and one was undetermined — the term typically applied to babies who died while sleeping.

Of those who died, eight were in foster care, 13 were in parental care and three were over 18 and receiving services.

The ministry provided no further details about the deaths.

Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said his ministry is in the process of collecting and publishing consolidated information about the deaths and injuries online, where it can be updated more frequently.

“Between the Child and Youth Advocate, the Medical Examiner, the department and the Quality Assurance Council, my expectation is that every death will be looked at, reviewed, and there will be findings out of each one,” Bhullar said.

“Right now you can get bits and pieces of information in a wide range of places,” he said, so he plans to publish the raw data, findings, recommendations and government responses in one place online.

“All of this information should be in one spot, and it should happen on a timely basis — not just annually,” he said.

In the annual report released Monday, the ministry also revealed 10 children known to the ministry were seriously injured in 2013-14.

Six of those children were in foster care: One was injured in a vehicle collision, one attempted suicide, two were stabbed in the community, one was assaulted by a caregiver and one was accidentally burned.

Three of the children were in parental care when they were injured: Two were injured in suspected assaults, and one suffered medical neglect.

The annual report comes seven months after the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald published the six-part Fatal Care series, which detailed in part the government’s dramatic under-reporting of deaths in care over the past decade.

Source: Edmonton Journal

both sides of mouth
Minister Bhullar announcing policy

Foster Father Guilty

July 3, 2014 permalink

Former Cameron Ontario foster father Richard Fildey has been convicted of several crimes against one of his wards. Earlier article mentioning Fildey.

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Former foster father convicted

PICTON - A former Children's Aid foster parent in Prince Edward County has been convicted of sex crimes against a foster child.

Richard Fildey, 46, of Cameron, Ont. was found guilty of sexual assault, touching a person under the age of 16 for sexual purpose and sexual exploitation by Justice Wolf Tausendfreund in Picton court Thursday.

Charges laid against Fildey in 2012 stem from incidents involving an 8-year-old foster girl that occurred in Bloomfield from 2003 to 2004.

Tausendfreund is scheduled to sentence Fildey in Belleville court on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Prince Edward OPP Const. Kim Guthrie said back in November 2012 those charged – Fildey and three others – are no longer foster parents and charges stem from their time serving the Children's Aid Society of Prince Edward.

The historical cases involve three female complainants and allegations of sexual assault and child pornography dating back more than a decade.

Source: Belleville Intelligencer

Mom Adopts HIV Child
Family Seized

July 1, 2014 permalink

Buddy Cook died on March 22, 2013. He had been adopted by Angel and David Cook after abuse by his real parents, distant relatives of Mr Cook. The abuse included infection with HIV. A Texas social worker failed to check Buddy's medical records and instead accused the parents of causing the death through malnutrition. They seized the other adopted child and six natural children from the family, placing them in foster care for a year. A news article from the time of the seizure is enclosed. The story spread around the world as that of neglectful parents starving one of their children.

Recent testimony before the Texas Sunset Commission gives the Cook family side of the story. It is on YouTube with a local copy (mp4). Though Mrs Cook has nine brothers and sisters, the social worker lied under oath to say that there was no extended family. The children were placed in foster care for 377 days with strangers. When returned, three of them were victims of sexual abuse. Two of the children joined in testifying that they never suffered abuse by their parents, only in foster care. The family spent $126,000 during the year to get their children returned.

John Shafer has posted many more videos of testimony of parents before the same Texas commission.

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Affidavit: Cleburne boy, 4, appeared malnourished at time of death

A 4-year-old Cleburne boy appeared to be "skin and bones" when he was found dead at home last week, and his adoptive parents had failed to seek medical attention, according to court documents released Thursday.

Buddy Cook appears to have died from dehydration and malnutrition, although a final ruling is pending further tests, according to a petition and affidavits filed by Child Protective Services investigators seeking the removal of Buddy’s seven siblings from their home.

The children are in foster care as the investigation continues.

The documents paint a horrific picture of Buddy’s life prior to his adoption and outline emotional and behavorial issues that he had reportedly been experiencing since.

CPS investigators accused Buddy’s adoptive parents, Angel and David Cook, of endangering the physical or emotional well-being of their children, who are from 1 to 12 years old.

"Based on the children’s statements, their vulnerability and the parents’ inablity to provide an explanation for the condition that Buddy Cook was found in, it is the department’s recommendation that if these children were allowed to live in the home with their parents ... they would be placed in eminent harm," the document reads.

But a family friend who sometimes cares for the children told investigators that they always appeared healthy and appropriately clean.

The friend said that she had seen Angel Cook tape gloves onto Buddy’s hands to prevent him from hurting himself and that Buddy had to be placed in a high chair for up to three hours before he would eat.

Buddy’s siblings gave varying accounts about their home life, according to the documents. Two reported being bathed just once a week.

Some said they were never denied food as punishment, while another said he and Buddy were sent to bed without dinner and were spanked with a belt if they left their room without permission.

The affidavit notes that the Cooks’ home was clean and had ample food.

Buddy was pronounced dead at his home in the 500 block of Odell Street about 11:20 a.m. March 22. A CPS investigator wrote that his eyes and cheeks were sunken and that he was emaciated."

She saw bruises on his wrists and marks on his face and legs, the affidavit says.

An autopsy, however, determined that Buddy had food and water in his stomach and that his bowel was full, "all indicating intake of food and water."

The autopsy also found that he had no fractures, nor external injuries indicative of abuse, and that the injuries to his face were consistent with a fall.

Buddy weighed 31 pounds, about six pounds below the average weight for a child his age.

His adoptive parents told investigators that he was the product of an incestuous relationship and that he had been sexually abused by his biological mother and several men.

The Cooks said that they took in Buddy and his sister and that the adoption was finalized eight or nine months ago.

Buddy came to them with serious problems, they said.

He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, reactive attachment disorder and a sexually transmitted disease. He banged his head on things, sat in the corner rocking back and forth, and picked at the walls, or his own skin.

Usually, the Cooks said, they had to feed him with a spoon to get him to eat.

CPS has no record of previous contact with the Cook family in Texas. The documents say there is a "significant history" regarding Buddy and his sister out of Oklahoma, where they lived with their biological parents.

Officials are seeking records from Oklahoma and New Mexico, where Buddy had also lived before moving in with the Cooks.

Medical records from Cook Children’s Medical Center indicate that Buddy received an extensive examination in April 2011, "which reveal a child that had severe behavioral issues relating to abuse and neglect by his biological parents," the documents state.

David Cook told investigators that Buddy recently had begun refusing to eat or drink but ate his own feces. His parents were feeding him Ensure because he was losing weight.

The couple discussed taking Buddy to the doctor or the hospital for another evaluation, the documents say.

"Mr. Cook expressed he was concerned about Buddy’s weight, yet could not provide any answer as to why Buddy was not taken to the doctor or hospital regarding his weigh loss," the affidavit states.

Angel Cook told CPS that on the night before he death, Buddy threw up before and after dinner but had no fever. She said she put him to bed early after he said he was tired.

The next day, she heard him moan twice in his room and found him with his eyes open but not focused, prompting her to call 911.

An 11-year-old sibling told investigators he "heard a lot of noises coming from Buddy’s bedroom like groans and banging and that the groaning only lasted 45 seconds," the affidavit states.

"He stated Buddy was probably banging because he couldn’t breathe."

The brother said that when he and his mother went to check on Buddy, they found him not breathing.

Angel Cook told the investigator that she had intended to take Buddy to the doctor on the day he died.

She said she had not taken him earlier because she was waiting for him to get over his stomach bug.

When Buddy Cook had last seen a doctor is unclear.

Angel Cook said she had last taken the boy in June, when he received shots and it was noted that he was underweight.

CPS is still accessing Buddy’s complete medical records. The affidavit notes the boy was seen by his doctor in September 2011 for a follow-up visit regarding his behavior and speech.

At that time, he weighed 32 pounds.

"We’re still investigating," said Marissa Gonzales, a CPS spokeswoman. "We’re taking everything we’re told and we’re double-checking to see if it’s accurate. Hopefully, that’s going to give us a picture of what was going on with this family."

Source: Ft Worth Star-Telegram

Shhh... Scottish Children Abducted

June 30, 2014 permalink

Christopher Booker reports on a child abduction in Scotland. At least, he does as far as legally permitted, which is not much. The case has come to court, meaning a full report may be possible soon.

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A disturbing case of child removal that you can’t read about

One of the most bizarre examples of over-reacting social workers imaginable in Scotland has finally come to court - but now I can't report any further details

lady justice
Social workers used an 'emergency protection order' to remove the children from their family
Photo: Geoff Pugh

Circulating the internet has been a harrowing, two-hour recording of a Scottish family waiting for social workers and police to arrive to take two small children into care. Mostly we hear the father trying to talk calmly and reassuringly to his sons, who are chatting cheerily about how they want “to go to the beach”, although they all know what is going to happen. Finally, the social workers enter, saying they have an “emergency protection order” to remove the children, because of their “concern” that the family might leave the country. The children are heard crying as they are carried away. The father breaks down, sobbing and angry, although he manages to tell the police, still there, sounding sheepish, that he “appreciates” them for being “nice”.

The odd thing about this story is that, until last week, it had for years been widely reported in Scotland as one of the most bizarre examples of over-reacting social workers imaginable. Even now there is no allegation that the parents had harmed their children in any way. The local community is said to be outraged at what has happened. Yet now the case has finally come to court, neither I nor anyone else can report any further details of the story, for fear that the children might be identified.

Experienced observers who have been following this, including John Hemming MP, are confident that, if the proceedings turn out as they hope and suspect, this will indeed be a story worth reporting in full. But the time is not yet.

Source: Telegraph (UK)

Ombudsman Report

June 25, 2014 permalink

Ontario ombudsman André Marin has delivered his annual report (pdf). Two sections copied below discuss the MUSH sector and children's aid. The essay titled Making MUSH History is a favorable report on legislative efforts to expand his authority, though that legislation died when the legislature was dissolved for an election. Later in the report under Children's Aid Societies there is a breakdown of the kinds of problems that led to 536 complaints the ombudsman has no authority to investigate.

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Making MUSH History

For the past nine years, I have vigorously advocated for modernization of my Office’s mandate to include the MUSH sector – municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals and long-term care homes, children’s aid societies and police. Combined, these organizations receive more than $50 billion in provincial funding each year, and have a significant impact on the lives of Ontario’s citizens, literally from birth to death. Yet they are not subject to the same robust scrutiny that applies to provincial bodies within my jurisdiction – which include all ministries, agencies, boards, commissions, corporations and tribunals.

My predecessors, starting with the first Ombudsman, Arthur Maloney (1975-1979), all called for expansion of the Ombudsman’s authority to various MUSH bodies. Since 2005, momentum for change has progressively gained traction. More than 130 petitions, signed by thousands of Ontarians, have been tabled in the Legislature to this effect, and MPPs have introduced 18 private member’s bills seeking changes to my jurisdiction to include MUSH bodies. And in recent years, both Premier Kathleen Wynne and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, along with other provincial leaders, have assured me that they supported renovation of my mandate in principle.

But this year marked the first time in nearly 40 years that the government of Ontario has actually put pen to paper to extend Ombudsman oversight. On March 6, 2014, Premier Wynne made the historic announcement that the government would table legislation aimed at strengthening accountability and increasing transparency, including extending the Ontario Ombudsman’s oversight to municipalities, publicly funded universities and school boards. This was followed on March 24, 2014, by introduction of Bill 179, the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014.

In addition to expanding the authority of my Office over the M, U and S in MUSH, Bill 179 proposed the creation of a Patient Ombudsman to address concerns relating to hospitals and long-term care homes – and that office would, in turn, come under my investigative authority. As for children’s aid societies, the bill proposed to give the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth new investigative powers and the ability to address matters relating to children and youth involved in the child protection system.

In the spirit of co-operation and respect that characterizes the relationship between my Office and government administrators, I was consulted and provided with an opportunity to express my views as Bill 179 was drafted. I noted that, as I have long argued in my reports, I believe the organizations most urgently in need of my Office’s oversight are hospitals, long-term care homes and children’s aid societies. These are areas that every other parliamentary ombudsman in the country has been given the power to oversee, and that affect citizens who are among our most vulnerable. (Indeed, they are the areas that the previous premier told me he would prefer to target first.) That said, however, I appreciated that the bill proposed to open the entire MUSH sector to more oversight than ever before. It is the prerogative of our elected officials to make broad public policy decisions on behalf of Ontarians, and as an officer of the Legislature, I respect those decisions.

The dissolution of the Legislative Assembly on May 2, 2014, of course, killed Bill 179 along with others on the order paper. Still, this important legislative effort was not in vain. It reflected a commitment to increasing accountability in the MUSH sector, an area where Ontario lags behind the rest of Canada. Whatever happens next, support for these measures has been legitimized and imprinted on the provincial consciousness. Our Office stands ready to help the thousands of Ontarians who have complained to us about MUSH organizations. In 2013-2014, we had to turn away a record 3,400 such complaints, a 34% increase over the previous year.

As you know, the proposed legislation [Bill 179] would expand the mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office into entirely new areas. I note, with gratitude, that you and your staff provided a number of constructive comments that went into the drafting of the proposed legislation and were instrumental in refining and improving the bill....

I firmly believe that this proposed legislation is extremely important, and represents a historic opportunity to improve accountability and transparency in Ontario – and, simultaneously, expand the mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office. I am completely convinced that Ontario, and Ontarians, will be better off for having this initiative move forward.

Letter from Premier Kathleen Wynne, March 25, 2014


CHILDREN’S AID SOCIETIES

In 2013-2014, the Ombudsman received 536 complaints and inquiries about children’s aid societies (CASs) across Ontario. We heard from youth in care, former Crown wards, parents, grandparents and foster parents. Concerns were raised about delayed, inadequate and biased investigations, problematic child apprehensions, failure to respond to complaints, poor communication, and denial of access to children in care.

We also received nine complaints about the Child and Family Services Review Board, some expressing dissatisfaction with its restricted jurisdiction. Although the board oversees CASs, its narrow mandate allows it to consider only procedural concerns about children’s aid societies filed by individuals actually “seeking or receiving services” from them. It is also limited to granting procedural remedies, such as ordering that a CAS respond or provide reasons.

Bill 179 would not have given the Ontario Ombudsman authority over CASs. However, it would have expanded the authority of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth – an Officer of the Legislature like the Ombudsman – to include investigating and reporting on concerns about CASs.

Source: Ombudsman Ontario Annual Report 2013-2014

No Insurance for Foster Families

June 20, 2014 permalink

A Montreal foster family has lost their home insurance because they have more than two foster children. Insurers have figured out that foster children are a greater risk than real children. After the story hit the press, Wawanesa Insurance apologized to the family, but only extended their insurance for 60 days.

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Montreal mother denied home insurance over 5 foster children

Wawanesa Insurance says it only insures homes with up to 2 foster children

Wawanesa letter
A Montreal family with five foster children received this letter from Wawanesa Insurance stating their home insurance will be terminated on July 11.
CBC

A Montreal mother says she is shocked and outraged that after insuring her home with Wawanesa Insurance for 10 years, the company will cancel her coverage because she has more than two foster children.

“I was floored. I couldn’t believe that a company could actually cancel your policy because you have foster children.”

The woman, whom CBC News has agreed not to name in order to protect the identity of her five foster children, received a letter from Wawanesa informing her that her home insurance will be terminated next month.

“Due to the risk of aggravating circumstances, we find ourselves under the obligation to cancel your house insurance to respect our underwriting norms,” the letter from Wawanesa read.

The letter came after the family got a call from the company to update her file.

“They asked, ‘Do you have anybody in the house living with you who is not part of your immediate family?’ So I said I have foster children … and this is what I get for it,” she said.

The woman said she has been taking in foster children for years, and in the 10 years she’s been a client with Wawanesa she was never aware of its policy.

Underwriting rules 'clear'

A representative from Wawanesa would not comment on this specific case, but told CBC News its rules are clear.

"Wawanesa Insurance, like every other insurance [company], we all have underwriting rules. These rules determine what we insure and what we don't. Our underwriting rule for households which house foster children is that we insure homes with two or less foster children," said Thierry Gamelin, marketing manager at Wawanesa.

The family, which must now find another company to insure their home by July 11, calls it discriminatory.

“We’ve never, ever put a claim in to Wawanesa at all. This is the first time I’ve heard of any discrimination for foster kids. There are families out there that are trying to help other children have a stable life and not be labelled, and here the insurance company is labelling us for having foster children, and cancelling our insurance for it,” she said.

The Quebec Federation of Foster Families, which places foster children with families, said it has heard of this situation occurring before, but not often.

"The insurance companies can set the rules they want. If they assume more than two [foster children] are riskier, it is their choice," said the federation's vice-president Robert Pagé.

The Insurance Board of Canada told CBC News that it can help families find the insurance coverage that is right for them.

Source: CBC


Wawanesa apologizes to Montreal foster family for cancelling home insurance

Insurance company says letter it mailed to foster family 'fell short' of its standards

Wawanesa Insurance has apologized to the Montreal foster family whose home policy was terminated for having more than two foster children, but has only offered a two-month extension to their policy while they seek other coverage.

The apology comes one day after CBC News broke the story about a foster mother from LaSalle, whom we have agreed not to name in order to protect the identity of her five foster children.

The company does not provide home insurance to families with more than two foster children.

The foster family got a letter earlier this week from Wawanesa informing them that their home insurance policy would be terminated next month.

"Our priority is the well-being of our clients, and the letter did not meet our standards. It was not representative of what we do normally. We have to be respectful, and this letter fell short,” Claude Auclair, the company’s Quebec vice-president, told CBC News.

Auclair said the family’s case is rare, but the company takes the matter seriously.

“We are taking steps to resolve the issue to make sure their needs are met,” he said.

60 extra days

The Montreal foster mother said the company’s apology does not resolve the issue.

“It was an insult because it still doesn’t rectify what they’ve done.… They never even called us to advise us that they’re cancelling our policy — they just sent the letter in the mail. So it was a shock, and giving us a phone call today to apologize for what’s been happening — it’s a slap in the face.”

She said the company told her it will extend her home insurance policy by two months — giving the family an extra 60 days to find a new insurer.

“They said they will look into it — if there is anything they can do — but they still didn’t offer to keep us on as a client. They just offered to extend it because they cannot accommodate us with having foster children in our home,” she said.

The family says the Quebec Federation of Foster Families referred them to another insurance company and they are awaiting a quote.

Source: CBC

unruly children

Same-Sex Adoption Forces Abortion

June 20, 2014 permalink

For readers who don't see the connection between same-sex marriage and child protection, a British mother has had three children taken away, for adoption by a same-sex couple. The mother, pregnant again with twins, has scheduled an abortion.

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Family's anguish as they face THIRD forced adoption

A mum forced to give up her two kids for adoption by a gay couple wept last night as she told how her third baby has been offered to the same men.

And the desperate 29-year-old has booked an abortion tomorrow after finding she is now pregnant with twins who she's convinced will also be taken into care.

Sarah, whose real name we can't use for legal reasons, admits she has fought a long battle against heroin addiction.

But she said: "All I ever wanted to be is a good mum.

"I made a mess of it first time around but when my son was born last July I was in a stable relationship with his dad, had my own council house and was drug-free.

"After the birth I was allowed to care for him in hospital and I truly thought all was going well.

"But after four days they took him away - and in January they told me they were ending contact and he'd be freed for adoption. I was devastated."

She added: "I couldn't believe it when I learnt he's being offered to the same couple who got my two other children.

All wanted "Yes, I can see the benefit of keeping brothers and sisters together but I didn't have children to provide another couple with a readymade family." Three years ago The People told how Sarah's parents had cared for her first two kids Josh and Chloe - not their real names - who were five and four at the time.

good devastated Sarah admitted she couldn't cope but her mum Susan and dad Peter fought for custody of them.

Despite winning court cases against Edinburgh City Council, social workers kept appealing.

And as the legal bills spiralled Peter and Susan gave in.

The couple claim they were told if they objected to the youngsters being adopted by a gay couple they'd never see them again.

The council later apologised for its handling of the case.

But by then their beloved grandchildren were with new parents and both had new names.

The couple insist they are not homophobic but believe family ties should be more important.

Dad-of-seven Peter, 62, said: "It is no exaggeration to say the social workers and their intrusion into our family has ruined our lives.

"The children were at the centre of the family - we adored them and we miss them every day.

"I often go up to bed hours after my wife expecting to find her asleep and she's lying in bed crying. The pain just doesn't go away."

He added: "To learn this was happening to our daughter again was devastating because she is a changed person.

"She is more stable, had got herself off drugs and we had no fears this time she was ready to be a proper mum and would always put her baby first.

"It seems vindictive when she'd done all that was asked of her to not even give her a chance, with support and safeguards in place. We are all heartbroken again.

"We should be sitting around the table together on birthdays and at Christmas enjoying the company of our grandchildren, yet we're strangers to them.

"Instead they're lighting up the lives of another family who have no blood ties to them and who could not have had children without them being taken away from their real family.

"Our daughter should have been given a chance."

Sarah said when she found she was pregnant with her third child she moved from Edinburgh to Merseyside specifically to get away from the social workers who had removed her other kids.

She claimed she got off heroin by having a course of methadone and was drug-free two months before the baby was born in July.

Sarah said social workers in Sefton, near Liverpool, initially gave her hope she would be allowed to keep the baby.

But she said everything changed after a meeting in May involving social workers from Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Council says although it took no part in decision-making, two of its staff attended the meeting and handed over a file about Sarah.

From that point, she said, it was clear she had no chance of keeping the tot.

Sarah sobbed: "I recognise I've made mistakes and deserve to be under a watchful eye.

"Social workers could watch me 24 hours a day if they liked until they were satisfied I was doing everything right and putting my baby first.

"But I'm not even being given a chance.

"I think they want to teach me a lesson.

"I was critical of what they did with my two oldest children and the price I'm paying is I'll never be allowed to be a mother."

Sarah went on: "At first, social workers said my mum and dad would have contact with the older two probably twice a year and I'd be able to send cards and presents at birthdays and Christmas.

"But they have never provided me with news or photos as agreed and the contact promised to my parents has never materialised.

"Cards I sent signed 'Mum' were returned to me.

"I was told the adoptive parents were angry with me for making my case public."

She added: "They have shown themselves to be cold and indifferent to me and to my family and unaware of the pain losing my older children has caused us, so why should I be happy to send another child to their care?" Asked about her new pregnancy, Sarah said: "I know people will criticise me but it wasn't planned.

"And I wasn't even two months pregnant when I was told there was no chance I'd be allowed to keep the twins.

"I'm very much against abortion and I hate myself for getting into this situation.

"But I fear for my health if I carry them for nine months, give birth to them and then have to hand over two children.

"I'm dreading the abortion but if there's no hope I intend to do it, though whether I can go through with it when I get there I'm not certain.

"But I know the longer I leave it the harder it will be."

Her desperate move is backed by her parents.

Susan, 49, said: "As a family we're against abortion but we'll support our daughter whatever she decides.

"I'll cry my eyes out if I get a call saying she's gone through with it but I can understand why she doesn't want to carry the babies only to have to hand them over. You bond with your children even before they come out of the womb, so to go through pregnancy and birth and then not have the baby in your arms at the end of it is like a death."

Sefton Council said they can't comment on Sarah's case before a court hearing on April 27 when a judge is due to decide if her third child should be adopted. Social workers took the tot away soon after he was born.

Sarah said: "Having already lost two children I couldn't have felt worse if I'd been walking to the electric chair."

But to start with she and the baby's father were allowed to see him five times a week.

Sarah said: "I hoped they'd see I could be a good mum and would give me a chance.

"It hurt like hell to know someone else was tucking him in at night and comforting him when he cried and needed changing."

She said the five-day-a-week contact was cut to three in October, two in November and was scrapped in December after traffic jams made her four and a half minutes late one day.

She said: "I'm totally ashamed but I was so down I bought some heroin to escape the pain.

"Next day I realised how wrong it was and asked my GP to be put back on methadone.

"I'm on a small quantity each day - about a tenth of what some addicts have - and I intend to reduce it until I'm off it."

Sarah claimed she was told she could say goodbye to the tot at a final contact last Tuesday - but it was cancelled at the last minute and is due to be rearranged before the court hearing.

"I feel my chances of being a mum are slipping away."

The Catholic Church in Scotland last night repeated its stand against gay adoptions.

Spokesman Peter Kearney said: "Deliberately depriving children of a mother or a father, which same-sex adoption does, completely ignores the welfare of the children concerned.

"Growing international evidence casts serious doubts on such arrangements and it's to be hoped social work departments will acquaint themselves with this evidence and revise their procedures urgently.

"The best interest of children are served when they are cared for by a married mother and father - either their own or adoptive."

What do you think?

Source: Mirror (UK)

Justina Goes Home

June 18, 2014 permalink

A judge has ordered Justina Pelletier out of state care and back to her family. The judge was the same one who condemned her to permanent wardship three months ago. The enormous publicity for Justina may have contributed to changing official attitudes.

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Elated teen says ‘I’m so excited’ to be heading home

Justina Pelletier
Justina Pelletier is seen after hearing that she will be returned to her parents’ custody.
Patrick Mahoney

Connecticut teenager Justina Pelletier spent 16 months and two birthdays in state custody as the central but largely off-stage player in an explosive drama involving parents’ rights and the controversial new field of medical child abuse. Now she is going home.

On Wednesday, the 16-year-old girl is expected to return to her parents’ custody and the family’s home in West Hartford, Conn., following a ruling by the same Massachusetts juvenile court judge who originally removed her from her parents’ care.

“I’m so happy. I’m so excited, oh, my gosh,” Justina said in an interview. “It’s such big news.”

In a two-page order issued Tuesday, Judge Joseph Johnston dismissed the child-protection case against Justina’s parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier, arguing that they and others had shown “credible evidence that circumstances have changed” since his decision to place Justina in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. He also wrote that in the month since Justina was moved to a residential facility in Thompson, Conn., her parents “have been cooperative and engaged in services,” including individual therapy for Justina and family therapy.

It was a remarkable change in tone from the judge’s ruling just three months earlier, when he determined the parents were unfit and awarded permanent custody to the state. At that time, he blasted the Pelletiers for behavior he contended was erratic and had doomed numerous attempts at compromise.

But that March ruling also seemed to spark intensified actions by Governor Deval Patrick’s top health official, John Polanowicz, to intervene in the highly contentious case that pivoted on dueling diagnoses from doctors at two of Boston’s top hospitals and attracted extensive national and even international attention.

Although her expected return will not be official until Wednesday, Justina, who has been using a wheelchair to get around since her admission to Boston Children’s Hospital in February 2013, was allowed to leave the residential facility Tuesday for what turned into a spontaneous celebration at the Outback Steakhouse in Auburn, Mass. By phone, in between bites of her hot fudge sundae, she said she could not believe she would finally be returning home for good. Asked how she plans to spend her first full day back home, she said she wants to play with her dogs, go in the family’s pool, and visit friends. She said she also wants to do something she has rarely been allowed to do during the last year spent in institutionalized care. “I want to sleep in,” she said.

Justina was out shopping with her mother Tuesday afternoon, without state supervision, as part of the increasingly expanded freedom her parents have been receiving over the past month, during her stay at the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence.

Linda Pelletier said she screamed with joy when she heard the judge had decided to send her daughter home. “Unbelievable,” she said. “It’s been such a long journey.”

At least for now, Justina’s parents will be free of government oversight in the care of their daughter. The child protection agency in Connecticut, which last summer opened a medical child abuse case related to the family and later substantiated the claim, has indicated it will not be stepping into the case.

Gary Kleeblatt, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, said that investigation “will be closed” Wednesday when Justina returns home and is officially out of Massachusetts custody. He has said his agency did little on the case because Massachusetts was already providing services and addressing Justina’s various issues.

“We wish the family and Justina the very best,” he said, “and we stand ready to be of assistance if called upon.”

In 2011, Connecticut DCF had investigated an allegation of medical neglect made by members of Justina’s medical team, but dismissed it a few weeks later. In his March ruling, Johnston had rebuked Connecticut child protection officials for failing to get more involved in overseeing the case, which involved a child in their state.

Justina’s story, documented in a two-part Globe series in December , has been unusual from the start. She exhibited a perplexing set of symptoms that divided specialists at two top Boston hospitals, and she was the focus of a child custody dispute straddling two states.

By the start of this year, the controversy saw a surprising collection of organizations taking up her cause. They included groups representing conservative Christians, online hacking activists, critics of psychotropic drug use, and advocates of greater awareness of hard-to-diagnose disorders.

As detailed in the Globe series, Justina’s mother rushed her to Boston Children’s Hospital in February 2013, complaining that her daughter was suffering from severe symptoms of mitochondrial disease. That is a group of rare genetic disorders affecting how cells produce energy, often causing problems with the gut, brain, muscles, and heart.

Dr. Mark Korson, chief of metabolism at Tufts, had been treating Justina for that disease for more than a year and had sent her to Children’s only because her Tufts gastroenterologist had recently moved there. The teen, who six weeks earlier had performed in an ice show, was barely able to walk and had virtually stopped eating by the time she showed up by ambulance at the Children’s emergency department on that snowy morning in February.

But within three days, the team at Children’s disputed that mitochondrial disease was the primary cause of her symptoms and began to suspect that her parents were blocking psychiatric care the doctors believed Justina badly needed. The clinicians at Children’s concluded that the girl suffered primarily from somatoform disorder, in which symptoms are real but there is no underlying physical cause. The parents complained that the Children’s team was dramatically changing Justina’s course of treatment without Korson’s involvement or even an examination by the gastroenterologist they had come to see.

When the parents said they wanted to discharge Justina from Children’s and take her to see Korson at Tufts, the hospital reported its suspicions of medical child abuse to the state. That relatively new term describes parents or other caregivers seeking unnecessary or potentially harmful medical interventions for children.

That prompted the state’s child protection agency to take emergency custody on Valentine’s Day 2013, a decision validated the next day by Johnston, the juvenile court judge.

The battle over Justina’s future was one of a handful of recent cases documented by the Globe that involved Children’s and a disputed diagnosis that led to parents losing custody or being threatened with that extreme step. These conflicts, which typically involved controversial diagnoses on the medical frontier, have exposed the consequences of the ongoing failure of the Massachusetts DCF to upgrade its medical expertise. The agency, many observers have argued, is simply not equipped to properly referee such cases.

More than seven years after recommendations from the Legislature and outside specialists that the child welfare agency hire a physician medical director to provide expertise in complex medical cases, DCF has yet to do that.

A spokeswoman for DCF said the agency does plan to enhance its medical team, which has traditionally consisted of a handful of nurses, by adding a new position called a director of integrated health services. But spokeswoman Cayenne Isaksen acknowledged that position would not have to be filled by a physician. In addition, she said, “the department is in the process of establishing an expert panel of doctors from a variety of disciplines who can provide additional support and consultation in difficult cases.”

Other children’s hospitals have found that the best approach for wading through the difficult waters of suspected medical child abuse is to convene a wide-ranging summit involving all the child’s key providers, including teachers and counselors, before making allegations to the state. That did not happen at Children’s Hospital in this case. Korson, Justina’s key specialist at Tufts, was not invited to participate in a meeting on the case at Children’s until well after that hospital had made its abuse allegations and after Children’s had moved Justina into its locked psychiatric ward.

Hospital spokesman Rob Graham said the parents’ actions prevented that from happening. “Boston Children’s standard of care in complex cases is to hold a summit that includes all the involved disciplines at Boston Children’s and external providers if available in person and by phone,” Graham said. “In this case, that work was underway, but the family escalated the situation making the initial summit impossible. Subsequently, Boston Children’s conducted extensive and ongoing communication and coordination with physicians across the Hospital and with external providers.”

Given its high profile intensity, the Justina case has caused ripples beyond the hospitals involved.

Alice Newton, a pediatrician who serves as medical director of the Child Protection Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, previously served in that same position at Boston Children’s Hospital when the Justina case originally exploded there. She said MGH, which is continually refining its processes, has recently decided to add an extra step in its process before reporting suspicions of medical child abuse to the state.

After Mass. General’s child protection team has gathered information but before it reports its concerns to the state child welfare agency, that hospital will convene a “medical child abuse team.”

That team will consist of hospital representatives from various specialties and disciplines knowledgeable about the terrain, but who have not been involved in the case in question. She said this new formal step in the process, which MGH has not yet had occasion to employ, will provide a mechanism for additional review and vetting before escalation with the state occurs. “We understand the potential impact of reporting suspected medical child abuse to the state,” she said.

The judge and Boston Children’s were hardly the only parties to criticize Linda and Lou Pelletier for their behavior during the ordeal. But even their critics had a hard time showing any marked improvement in Justina’s physical condition during her long time out of her parents’ custody.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to see that this little girl will be able to go home,” said Philip Moran, the lawyer for Justina’s parents. “Hopefully, we’ll see major progress because this is what she really needs.”

Source: Boston Globe

snoppy happy

Foster Non-Citizen

June 17, 2014 permalink

Deepan Budlakoti was born in Canada and raised at least partly in foster care. Now that he has been convicted of a crime, immigration lawyers have scrutinized his past and found a loophole in his citizenship. His parents worked for foreign diplomats near the time of his birth, and during Budlakoti's childhood no documents were filed to perfect his citizenship. Children's aid never bothers with details like this. So Budlakoti is being deported from Canada, yet no other country will admit him.

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‘I can’t be stateless’: Born-in-Canada criminal fighting deportation after Ottawa decides citizenship not valid

Deepan Budlakoti

Deepan Budlakoti - a Canadian born of Indian parents who is under threat of deportation to India because of a drug offence - was on Parliament Hill Wednesday with lawyers and supporters pleading his case against deportation.

Nearly 25 years after he was born in Ottawa, a convicted drug and gun dealer named Deepan Budlakoti will be in Federal Court Monday, asking for a declaration he is Canadian, in a uniquely complicated case that will test the Conservative government’s hard-line approach to protecting the value of Canadian citizenship.

At issue is the status of his parents, who are now citizens, but came to Canada as domestic staff of the High Commissioner of India. The children of foreign diplomatic staff are the only exception to the rule that anyone born in Canada is a Canadian citizen. There is dispute over when their employment ended — either a few months before Deepan’s birth, or a few months after.

Raised in Ottawa, for a time as a ward of the state, Mr. Budlakoti has twice been issued a Canadian passport declaring him a Canadian, and the question of his citizenship might never have arisen, except for his criminal convictions for break and enter, illegal transfer of a hunting rifle and intent to traffic in cocaine.

That triggered an examination of his file, after which the government took the position his parents were diplomatic staff when he was born, his passports were issued in error, and Mr. Budlakoti — who has now served his sentence and parole — is not Canadian. As a result, he was found criminally inadmissible to Canada, and faced a deportation order to India, which refused to accept him.

“He is effectively stateless, and whether he was rendered stateless by Canada, or whether he’s just stateless by virtue of some mishap or loophole or something, the fact is he is stateless, and Canada has added insult to injury by, through the course of his life, telling him ‘No, you’re not stateless. You’re a Canadian,’” said his lawyer, Yavar Hameed. To deny he is Canadian is to “exile him into oblivion.”

As his application to Federal Court says, he is not at liberty to travel within Canada or abroad, and “finds himself in a state of indefinite detention. … As a stateless person, [Mr. Budlakoti] lives in a highly precarious situation; he is in legal limbo, at the mercy of the [government of Canada].”

“This convicted criminal has never been a Canadian citizen. He should not have chosen a life of crime if he did not want to be deported from Canada,” said Alexis Pavlich, spokesperson for Chris Alexander, the Citizenship and Immigration Minister.

“Mr. Budlakoti is being removed from Canada for ‘serious criminality.’ He served significant jail time [three years] for trafficking both weapons and drugs. Even though Mr. Budlakoti was born in Canada, he is not a citizen due to the 1977 Citizenship Act which amended the rule to exclude all children of foreign-born diplomats born in Canada from Canadian citizenship unless one of the parents was a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. No application for citizenship has ever been made by him or on his behalf.”

Canada is a signatory to a 1961 international convention that imposes a duty to reduce statelessness.

Asking a court to declare Mr. Budlakoti’s citizenship “is an exceptional remedy because this is an exceptional case,” Mr. Hameed said. “It’s exceptional because Deepan was born in Canada, lived his entire life in Canada, and was assured on multiple occasions by the government of Canada that he was a Canadian citizen. … If there was an issue or a problem, the onus was clearly on the Canadian government to have done its due diligence, to determine whether or not there’s some exception to the rule or whether they have their records straight.”

To argue today, more than two decades later, that Canada made a mistake by issuing the passports is “very prejudicial and unfair,” said Mr. Hameed. “Now, with a finding of criminal inadmissibility, it basically bars him from taking the normal steps that he would have taken, or could have taken, to become a citizen earlier on.”

In an interview, Mr. Budlakoti described the case as a bureaucratic foul-up and a violation of international law, but he said he is “100%” confident he will not be deported.

Deepan Budlakoti
Julie Oliver/Ottawa Citizen

“They can’t deport me to a country I’ve never been to. I’m stateless in Canada,” said Mr. Budlakoti. “If I lose, the government has to give me some kind of status. I can’t be stateless in Canada. That’s what it comes down to. Either give me back my citizenship, or rectify the fact that I’m stateless in Canada, caused by the government. There’s no possible way to be deported.”

He said he thinks his case is a politically motivated “tester case to see what they can pull off.”

Mr. Hameed said it is consistent with the government’s approach to citizenship as a “tenuous thing” that can be taken away from undeserving people.

His team managed to track down the former High Commissioner in India, who swore an affidavit backing Mr. Budlakoti’s position — that his parents were domestic staff of the High Commissioner until June 1989, after which they began working for an Ottawa doctor, Harsha Dehejia, in Nepean.

Deepan was born in October 1989, and his statement of birth lists the home of Mr. Dehejia. The government of Canada said it has a diplomatic note from India declaring that his parents’ employment ended in December 1989, which it only revealed after Mr. Budlakoti made this application to Federal Court.

Source: National Post

No Kids at Wedding

June 17, 2014 permalink

When Jennifer and Joh met they each had children of their own. Their relationship produced one more child, now three years old. On June 21 the couple will be cementing their family by getting married. Guess who will not be coming to the wedding? London-Middlesex CAS has control of the children and is determined not to allow them to attend. The story of the ordeal in Jennifer's words is enclosed. In three emails to CAS and three replies CAS refused to acknowledge the issue. While Jennifer asked about getting her children to the wedding, social worker Steve Didham answered about a planned parenting capacity assessment.

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Jen Mcmurray

My son's father and I are getting married on June 21st and I have just about had enough with London & Middlesex Children's Aid Society. Specifically Steve Didham and Kevin Graham. Ignoring myself and my son's father's request to have our children participate in our wedding.

These two workers have known about our wedding since March 2014. I have emails dating back to that time. I have requests to have my three children in care all ages 3 years, 5 years and 14 years attend and participate in our wedding because in the eyes of our religion we are not married without the children participating and attending as we are a family first and foremost as well. Sections 65, 103 and 85 of the CFSA give my family the right to not only religious freedoms and choices but the abilities for my children to attend scheduled important family events such as weddings funerals births naming ceremonies any such ceremony that is deemed a religious ceremony that the children share with their parents. The Society must accommodate the family and provide the children to the parents for such an event. It's the childrens' right and they know this!!

CAS knows my wedding is centered around my children and they waited until the very last minute and began refusing to allow my children to attend and participate in my wedding even after being told daily that my wedding is NOT LEGAL in the eyes of my religion without all the children there, even though daily they have been emailed and told who will be attending the wedding, even though they have been told that in our religion the wedding is centered around the children and that they all have roles and it's too late to change anything now and we can't even if we wanted to because again our marriage would not be legal religiously and that's important. I can attach copies of those emails proving this as well.......

Steve Didham the CAS worker involved told me on April 29th 2014, and you will see this in the collection of six emails I attach to this post where I emailed asking about my wedding, and he responded only wanting to discuss a PCA and nothing more. However finally answered me and said the following: "I am confidant we can work something out". I was to give him one week to do that. However June 2nd 2014 to April 29th 2014 thats a lot longer then a week isn't it everyone!!!!! Cause finally only June 2nd my lawyer receives a letter and this is of course after he spends weeks bugging them about my wedding too and in their letter CAS refuses to allow my two youngest children the right to attend my wedding, my 14 year old the right to attend the religious aspect of our wedding ceremony nor any of the children the abilities to prepare for this wedding as requested.

We have presented a very reasonable plan offering that the foster parents and even on call CAS workers can attend everywhere we are with the children and no one leaves their sight with the children. I was very descriptive about where when and how for every part of that day and as soon as everything was done then they can leave with the children but they are still refusing being very vengeful and vindictive so I will NOT BE IGNORED!! CAS WILL NOT RUIN MY WEDDING!! ONE WAY OR ANOTHER ALL MY CHILDREN WILL BE THERE. SO HERE IS THE FIRST SET OF SIX EMAILS BETWEEN ME AND THE CAS WORKER STEVE DIDHAM AND DURING THIS ENTIRE PROCESS HIS SUPERVISOR HAS REFUSED TO GET BACK TO ME!!

Yes I'll also be filing court papers and complaints with the college and the CFSRB and you know the funny thing I have sent a bunch of emails in the last week telling them "hey wouldn't it be better if my time was spent cooperating with you instead of fighting with you? But I guess it seems that they just want a fight.......... THATS NOT MY FAULT NOW IS IT!!


THE EMAILS:

1: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 8:11:57 PM

Hi Jennifer:

Dr. Milton Blake is now ready to resume the parental capacity assessment and needs to meet with you. He needs to meet with you over the course of 2 full days, starting at 9AM, at the London CAS office. The dates he has available are May 9, 12, 14 and 16 – May 12 and 14 are the best dates for him. Please confirm which days work for you of the dates I have provided so he can have his meetings with you. Again, they will start at 9AM and be for the entire day for each of the 2 days you will be meeting with him.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience. Thank you,

Steve


2: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 4:27 PM

That still doesn't answer why I was emailing you I emailed you about you doing your job & my children being at an IMPORTANT FAMILY EVENT WHICH IS MY WEDDING ON JUNE 21ST AGAIN ARRANGEMENTS ARE IN PLACE FOR KATHY ROBERTS TO CARE FOR & SUPERVISE THE CHILDREN THAT DAY I OFFERED A FEW REASONABLE OPTIONS FOR THIS TO WORK SO THEY COULD ATTEND & PARTICIPATE

As for your appointments I'll run this by my lawyer first because I'm not comfortable sitting at the CAS office for two full days alone like this especially with out support who says it specifically has to happen at the CAS office anyway what about a neutral location.


3: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 8:30:33 PM

I will reply to your earlier email when I have time to respond appropriately. The PCA is urgent Jen so yes, consult with your lawyer and let me know.

Steve


4: Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 4:44 PM

Well Steve seeing my children & planning my wedding & tying up these legal things with Joh that we really should have done a few years ago is just as important. Phoenix deserves to have his mom & dad married, Leaylani deserved to grow up knowing that the step father that's help raise her isn't going anywhere and Donovan deserves to continue to grow up knowing that his best friend and step dad won't bail out on him either & btw I guess Joh needs to be part of that PCA too!! He will be my husband after all he has been involved with the kids he is Phoenix's father he named Phoenix not me!! So this other stuff is just as important. I have a reasonable plan for my children to attend our wedding. Feel free to contact Kathy Roberts to confirm the details that I've given you. It's an important family event the children are expected to be part of it & Kathy needs them one Saturday in May to take them shopping for wedding clothing this is a fair & reasonable plan!!


5: Sent: Tue, Apr 29, 2014 9:10:58 PM

I promise to get back to you about this Jen, and I am confident we can work something out. I will need some time before I can respond with what we feel is an appropriate plan – please give me a week for your request to be worked out. I am also working on getting your access resumed too – which is not easy since you know that your refusal to comply with access meant you were removed from the program. I am working very hard to try and get access for you resumed as early as next week - - I will confirm what access will be as soon as I know that plan as well.

Thank you for your patience on these matters; I look forward to hearing back from you about dates to meet with Dr. Blake once you have reviewed the request with your lawyer.

Steve


6: Sent:Tue Apr 29 17:27:08 2014

For the record I did not refuse to see my children it was the society that has not set up proper access for me to see my children again the option for access. I am offering is that Kathy Roberts supervises me with my children or you can put a worker in my home to supervise me with my children. After two years it's time to move this forward as well. Joh has the right to be involved. I suggest you get used to this idea quickly and work with us. We're willing to work with you. I'll give you the week but again I want to be clear Joh and I are very serious about doing this together.


Another wonderful example of CAS dodging their responsibilities to families!! This really has to stop & I refuse to let them get away with it not this time!!!

Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch

Jail for Hugging

June 14, 2014 permalink

Christopher Booker comments on the harsh treatment of parents to enforce separation from their children. Booker was able to print the name of grandmother Kathleen Danby after the Daily Mail (enclosed article) published the story of her secret sentencing. Booker goes on to reveal the conditions in those supervised visitation centres where social workers forbid discussion of anything that really matters. One case reported by Booker resembles the disappearance of Howard Kober after disclosing sexual abuse. Booker's article makes reference to Wanda Maddocks and and an unnamed mother jailed for doing the legally right thing.

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The mothers jailed after waving to their children in the street

It's a mystery why judges and social workers think they have the legal authority to act in such an inhuman way

lady justice
Virtually nothing the children want to discuss is allowed, including why they are in “care”, what is to happen to them, or how they are being treated
Photo: GEOFF PUGH

By Christopher Booker, 8:04PM BST 14 Jun 2014

Many will have been amazed by the story of Kathleen Danby, the 72-year-old grandmother given a three-month prison sentence after police produced CCTV footage showing her and her 18-year-old granddaughter running to embrace in a pub car park. The granny, who lives in Orkney, had travelled down to Derby to meet her beloved young relation in defiance of a 2007 court order, which has allowed them only to have “supervised contact” by telephone once a month.

The girl, said to have a mental age of nine, is so unhappy in “care” that, according to Mrs Danby, she has run away 175 times. She was forbidden to see her father after he was jailed for roughly restraining her from “running into a busy road when she was having a temper tantrum”. He has twice since been in prison, once for waving at his daughter when he saw her in a passing taxi on her way to school.

Martin Cardinal, the Court of Protection judge who sentenced Mrs Danby, said: “I am sure this grandmother needs restraint.” It was Judge Cardinal who made news last year when it was revealed that he had secretly jailed Wanda Maddocks – for removing her 80-year-old father from a care home where he had been placed by social workers, and where he was being so ill-treated that she feared for his life.

Of all the disturbing features of our “care” system, one of the most chilling is the draconian restrictions it imposes on contact between children and loving parents or grandparents who have not harmed them in any way. If they are allowed to meet at all, it is usually in a grim council “contact centre”, where every word is noted by a “contact supervisor”, watching for any breach of the rules, which can stop the “contact” dead.

I have seen several of the contracts that family members must sign before being allowed these contact sessions. One is 23 clauses long. These severely limit or forbid any show of affection by either side. Conversation must be limited only to “everyday matters”, such as how the children are doing at school.

Virtually nothing the bewildered children want to discuss is allowed. Totally prohibited is any reference to why they are in “care”, what is to happen to them, or how they are being treated (in one case, where a distressed 11-year-old girl told her parents that she was being sexually abused by a member of the foster carer’s family, her parents never saw her again).

No reference can be made to the courts, social workers or any other “professional” involved in the case. Particularly forbidden is any “whispering”. Where foreign children are in care, they and their parents are forbidden to use the language they speak at home. When a Lithuanian grandfather recently flew to London to see his grandson, he was merely allowed one five-minute video exchange on Skype, using the only three words of English he knew: “I love you”.

Where no contact is allowed at all, the punishments for breaches can be astonishingly severe. I know of half a dozen cases where mothers were jailed simply for waving at their children when seeing them by chance in the street.

I recently reported on a mother, still in prison, after her desperately unhappy 13-year-old daughter had run away from a care home where she was being physically ill-treated. The mother had rung the police, but was careful to have no direct contact with her daughter, until the police begged her to go and calm the girl down in her brother’s house, where she was screaming and sobbing. For this, the social workers persuaded a judge to jail her for six months.

The real mystery is why the courts and social workers think they have the legal authority to act in this utterly inhuman way. If any lawyer can tell me precisely which law allows them thus to trample on one of the deepest and most natural of human instincts, I would be very grateful.

Source: Telegraph (UK)


Secret court jails gran who hugged her granddaughter: Pensioner sentenced to three months after disobeying order she should not see the teenager

  • Kathleen Danby, 72, jailed for three months by secretive Court of Protection
  • She had been banned from contacting girl, 18, who has learning difficulties
  • Was told she could speak to her once a month, but met her at railway exhibit
  • Also shown on CCTV hugging the teenager outside a pub
  • Judge Martin Cardinal said the CCTV showed Mrs Danby was in contempt
  • Grandmother refuses to attend court, and says she will not go to prison

A grandmother has been sentenced to three months in prison after she was filmed giving her granddaughter a hug.

Kathleen Danby, 72, was jailed by the secretive Court of Protection, which decided she had disobeyed its order that she should not see the teenager.

Under a draconian judgment kept secret from the public, Mrs Danby had been banned from making contact with the girl, who is 18 but has learning difficulties.

Kathleen Danby
Ban: Kathleen Danby, 72, has been sentenced to three months in prison after she was filmed giving her granddaughter a hug after disobeying an order she should not see the 18-year-old

She was told she could only speak to her on the phone once a month at a set time, with social workers listening in. Mrs Danby was ordered back to court when social workers heard that she had met the girl at a model railway exhibition. Police also presented CCTV footage of her hugging her granddaughter outside a pub.

Mrs Danby was not at the hearing in Birmingham in April to give her version of events but Judge Martin Cardinal said the CCTV showed she was in contempt. He ordered that she be jailed for three months and issued a warrant for her arrest.

However Mrs Danby, who lives in Orkney, said yesterday that no police officers had arrived to execute the warrant. ‘I haven’t been jailed simply because I refused to go down there to court,’ she said, adding that she would refuse to go to prison simply for making contact with her granddaughter.

‘She is 18 and can decide for herself what she wants to do, she is being denied her human rights,’ Mrs Danby said. ‘She has the educational standards of somebody half her age, and behaves like a much younger child, but she is completely lucid in what she wants.’

Mrs Danby said the girl was moved into care in Derbyshire in 2007, when she was 11, a year after being removed from her father in Orkney. He was banned from seeing her after he was convicted for ill-treatment for restraining her from running into a busy road while she was having a temper tantrum, Mrs Danby said.

She said it was a ‘spurious excuse’, adding: ‘Social services completely cut off contact which was of course cruel to her in the extreme.’ The girl’s father has been jailed twice for trying to contact her – once for waving at her taxi as she travelled to school – she said.

The teenager was in the care home against her will and had run away 175 times, Mrs Danby said.

Judge Cardinal is the judge who sent Wanda Maddocks to jail in secret for trying to free her 80-year-old father from a care home where she feared his life was at risk.

Judge Cardinal jailed Miss Maddocks without publishing her name or making any details of her contempt public. She served six weeks in jail. The case came to light more than six months later and led to new rules so that no one may ever again be imprisoned without their name being published.

In Mrs Danby’s case, Judge Cardinal said that the teenager, named only as B, finds it hard to control her anger, has self-harmed and frequently runs away. Social workers believe her distress increases when she is contacted by her father or grandmother, he said.

Derbyshire County Council said Mrs Danby broke the injunction banning contact by meeting her granddaughter at 5.27pm on February 28 outside the pub next to the care home.

How police detailed the 'crime'

Four days earlier, the teenager escaped from her minder and took a circuitous route to the town of Chapel-en-le-Frith. Judge Cardinal said the girl knew that for the last three years her grandmother has attended a model railway show there in February. She told a care worker that her grandmother had come from Scotland to see her.

‘I am sure this grandmother needs restraint,’ he said.

Last night lawyers were debating whether, by failing to give any information about why Mrs Danby is banned from seeing her granddaughter, Judge Cardinal had met the full requirements brought in after the Maddocks case.

Source: Daily Mail

Ontario Election

June 13, 2014 permalink

In yesterday's Ontario election the Liberal party got a majority, 59 of the 107 seats. The PCs and NDP got 27 and 21 seats.

In the last legislature, the NDP was pushing for ombudsman oversight of children's aid, the Liberals opposed and the PC gave tepid support. The new party lineup means there will be no meaningful oversight of CAS for the next four years.

In individual races, Rosario Marchese, who introduced oversight legislation in 2010 and 2011, lost his seat. Monique Taylor, who introduced similar legislation in 2013, was reelected. CAS opponent Rob Ferguson running as a Libertarian in Brant got 374 votes out of 52,088 cast.

Death to Truant Parents

June 12, 2014 permalink

When Eileen DiNino's children skipped school the state of Pennsylvania knew how to protect them. A judge put her in jail for two days for failure to pay truancy fines. She died half way through her sentence, leaving seven orphans. Even the sentencing judge is criticizing the use of criminal law for truants.

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Mother Of 7 Jailed For Kids Truancy Fines Found Dead In Cell

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania mother of seven died in a jail cell where she was serving a two-day sentence for her children's absence from school, drawing complaints from the judge that sent her there about a broken system that punishes impoverished parents.

Eileen DiNino, 55, of Reading, was found dead in a jail cell Saturday, halfway through a 48-hour sentence that would have erased about $2,000 in fines and court costs. The debt had accrued since 1999, and involved several of her seven children, most recently her boys at a vocational high school.

"Did something happen? Was she scared to death?" said District Judge Dean R. Patton, who reluctantly sent DiNino to the Berks County jail Friday after she failed to pay the debt for four years.

He described her as "a lost soul," and questioned Pennsylvanian laws that criminalize such lapses as truancy or failing to pay a trash bill.

"This lady didn't need to be there," Patton said. "We don't do debtors prisons anymore. That went out 100 years ago."

Her death is not suspicious, but the cause has not yet been determined, police said.

More than 1,600 people have been jailed in Berks County alone — two-thirds of them women — over truancy fines since 2000, the Reading Eagle reported Wednesday. Reading, the county seat, is about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

"What you see is kind of a slice of inner-city life," said lawyer Richard Guida, who handled truancy cases, including DiNino's, as a Reading School District solicitor for more than a decade. "The people home taking care of the children are mothers. Many times, they're overwhelmed, and some of these kids are no angels."

Language barriers can also be an issue for letters and phone calls between the parents and school, given that the vast majority of the city and school population is Hispanic, he said.

The truancy fines themselves might be $75 or less. However, the debt can add up over court costs and fees. DiNino's court file shows a laundry list of court fees for one case alone: $8 for a "judicial computer project"; $60 for Berks County constables; $10 for postage. And she had been cited dozens of times over the years.

"The woman didn't have any money," said Diana L. Sealy, whose son married DiNino's daughter. "Years ago, I tried helping her out. She had all these kids."

Patton said he has lost sleep over her death. At the same time, he acknowledged that a short jail stint can sometimes "break the habit" of parents who'd rather party into the night than take their children to school the next day. The county started a program a few years ago that gives families 30 to 60 days to keep daily logs of each class and assignment. He estimated that the district truancy rate had dropped more than 30 percent.

DiNino did not work or appear to have much help with four children still at home, according to Patton. She frequently skipped hearings, or arrived without requested documents.

"She cared about her kids, but her kids ruled the roost," Patton said. "She was just accepting what was coming, and (would) let the cards fall where they may."

Although she was often unkempt, she came to court clean and neat to surrender Friday, he said. She had on clean sweatpants, had combed her hair, and had tape holding her glasses together.

"She was a different person. She was cleaned up, smiling," Patton said. "I think she realized, when this is done, the weight was off her shoulders."

Prison Warden Janine Quigley referred the newspaper's call to Berks County Commissioner Kevin R. Barnhardt, chairman of the county prison board.

"This woman died in prison, away from her family," Barnhardt told the Reading Eagle. "And for what?"

Source: Huffington Post

Deducting Foster Children

June 12, 2014 permalink

Philadelphia social worker Gebah Kamara and three others sold identity information on foster children so taxpayers could falsely claim them as dependents.

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Six charged with stealing identities of foster children

A former social worker and three employees of a residential care facility for the disabled have been charged with selling the identities of children in their care to help others cheat on their taxes - a scheme U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger described Thursday as "truly despicable."

Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing Gebah Kamara, 46, a Liberian national living in Sharon Hill, of stealing personal information from several foster children he encountered while working for Catholic Social Services, the charitable wing of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Also charged were Musa Turay, 41; Ibrahim Kamara, 48; Foday Mansaray, 38; three employees of Villanova-based Devereux Foundation, a charity that runs residential centers for patients with developmental disabilities. The three also held jobs at Medmans Financial Services, a Southwest Philadelphia tax preparation firm.

IRS investigators say that company's owner, Mohamed Mansaray, paid Gebah Kamara and the others for the stolen Social Security numbers and other information and then charged his clients $800 to claim the children as fraudulent dependents on their tax returns.

In addition to Mansaray and the three who worked for Devereux, two other employees of Medmans were also charged with counts of conspiracy, tax fraud and identity theft.

Momolu Sirleaf, owner of a separate tax-preparation service in Darby, also faces charges for a similar scheme involving the identification information involving foster children.

In all, prosecutors claim their purported fraud bilked the government out of at least $6 million in unpaid taxes between 2008 and 2013. Five of the eight defendants were arrested Thursday and made initial appearances in federal court in Philadelphia. All were released on bond after surrendering passports from West African nations such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Few had attorneys. Gebah Kamara and his lawyer, James Polyak, declined to comment about the case.

Representatives from Catholic Social Services did not return calls for comment Thursday. Gebah Kamara left the agency in 2011 for reasons unrelated to his arrest, Polyak said.

It remained unclear whether Devereux, whose spokeswoman also did not return calls, still employed Turay, Mansaray and Ibrahim Kamara.

The two Kamaras are not closely related.

If convicted, each of the eight defendants face possible decades-long prison terms.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Addendum: Another case of the same crime by a different participant.

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Darby tax preparer charged with stealing foster kids' identities

A DARBY tax preparer has been charged with stealing the identities of foster children to falsely use their information on tax returns for his own benefit, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.

Momolu Sirleaf, 34, of Wycombe Avenue, owned and operated I.E.S. Tax Services, of Darby.

According to the indictment:

Sirleaf obtained the names and Social Security numbers of kids in the foster-care system. He used their information to falsely add them as dependents on some of his clients' returns "to generate fraudulent refunds, some in excess of $8,000." He charged clients an extra fee of up to about $800 to falsely include these dependents on the tax returns.

He allegedly did this on returns filed from 2010 to 2012 for the previous tax years.

Sirleaf was arrested yesterday and was in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice for his initial appearance.

He told Rice that he is now unemployed, and was appointed a lawyer. He will be arraigned next Thursday.

Sirleaf declined to speak to a reporter.

He was indicted last month and charged with aiding in the preparation of false income-tax returns, fraud and identity theft.

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and Special Agent-in-Charge Akeia Conner of the IRS' Criminal Investigation Division had harsh words for Sirleaf and for the defendants in the unrelated Medmans Financial Services case announced yesterday.

"The allegations in these indictments depict a disturbing practice of exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our community," Memeger said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it is not unusual for criminals to injure victims through identity fraud and cheat the government of its tax revenue through tax fraud.

"But the conduct in these cases, in which the fraud schemes involved stealing identity information from disabled children and children in foster care, is truly despicable, and those who are responsible must be brought to justice," Memeger said.

Conner added in the statement: "Individuals who commit refund fraud and identity theft of this magnitude deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. [Yesterday's] arrests should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct."

Source: Philadelphia Daily News

child tax deduction

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