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Ombudsman's Power Extended
Children's Aid Excluded
March 6, 2014 permalink
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne has announced plans to expand the ombudsman's powers to handle complaints about municipalities, universities and school boards. The most complained-about agencies, children's aid societies, will remain outside of his jurisdiction. Instead, the legislation will hand that responsibility over the the provincial child advocate, an office that has been ineffective so far. Our guess is that the government will allow bill 42 (   ) to die.
The case of Chris York, posted earlier today, shows how ineffective oversight is when fragmented among separate fiefdoms.
A news report and an announcement from ombudsman André Marin are enclosed.
Ontario ombudsman to be given powers to investigate school boards, municipalities
TORONTO -- Ontario will take a "huge leap' with proposed legislation to expand the powers of the ombudsman to provide oversight of municipalities, universities and school boards, Ombudsman Andre Marin said Thursday.
Those three sectors get over $30 billion a year in direct provincial funding with virtually no oversight on how they spend it, said Marin.
"It's going to allow Queen's Park to follow the money," he said. "The oversight of municipalities will include all the different boards within the cities, for example the police services board, so it's going to be a huge leap in jurisdiction."
Marin said his office has had to turn away about 2,000 complaints a year because it had no jurisdiction over those areas, leaving people with virtually nowhere to turn.
The bill would also give Ontario's children's advocate new powers to deal with complaints about children's aid societies, and create a new patient ombudsman for hospitals, long-term care homes and community care access centres.
Marin, who has long pushed for the authority to investigate the so-called MUSH sector -- municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals -- said he didn't think a separate patient Ombudsman was the right way to go. He wanted his office to handle those duties.
"We'll call it the MUS sector, because we lost the H," quipped Marin. "The patient ombudsman unfortunately reports to the bowels of the bureaucracy, not to the minister, not to the legislative assembly." As an independent officer of the legislature, Marin reports directly to the legislative assembly.
However, Marin did welcome the fact the government is moving to give patients with complaints about the health-care sector somewhere to turn.
"At long last, Ontario is poised to rectify the accident of history that left millions of citizens with nowhere to complain about the public bodies that touched their lives most closely," he said.
Government Services Minister John Milloy said the Liberals decided it would be best not to give the ombudsman additional powers to provide oversight for hospitals, long-term care homes and children in custody of the state.
"There was a feeling that a sector-specific ombudsperson who could look into that whole range of issues, who would have the expertise to look into health-care issues was the way to go," he said. "The same with the children's aid societies, to give it to an officer of parliament, the child advocate."
Premier Kathleen Wynne said the bill would also force MPPs to post their expenses online and give government the power to impose caps on salaries of public sector executives, including hospital CEOs and officials at Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation and the LCBO.
"I came into this office, just over a year ago, saying I was going to do government differently, that we were going to open up and be more transparent, and that is what we're doing," she said.
There's no details yet on what sort of salary caps the Liberals would impose, but Wynne said it would be done on a sector by sector basis, with differing limits on total compensation packages.
"This legislation will pave the way for those hard caps to be put in place," she said.
The Opposition said the Liberals had 10 years to be open and transparent, but instead tried to cover up their decisions to cancel two gas plants prior to the 2011 election at a cost of $1.1 billion, and have no credibility on accountability.
"This is the most corrupt government possibly in the history of Ontario," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. "If you actually want transparency and accountability in government, then change the government."
Wynne rejected accusations the bill was simply crass political opportunism because the Liberals know it stands little chance of being approved before a vote on the spring budget, which could trigger a provincial election.
"I can't predict what the outcome of the introduction of the budget is going to be, but I expect that there should be all-party support for this," she said. "The politics of election or not, that is a separate issue from doing government in a way that is accountable to the people of Ontario."
Another measure in the bill, which Wynne said would be introduced in a few weeks, would clarify the rules for keeping government documents so they aren't destroyed in an attempt to avoid freedom of information requests.
Police are currently investigating the deletion of emails by officials in former premier Dalton McGuinty's office related to the Liberals' $1.1 billion decision to cancel two gas plants prior to the 2011 election. There is also another police investigation into financial irregularities at the province's Ornge air ambulance service.
Newsroom / Press Releases / 2014 /
Ontario Ombudsman oversight to be expanded to MUSH sector Marin welcomes historic move to provide scrutiny of municipalities, school boards, hospitals and more
(TORONTO – March 6, 2014) Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today welcomed the provincial government’s announcement that it will extend his office’s mandate into the “MUSH sector” – the vast, provincially-funded broader public sector comprising municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals, as well as long-term care homes, children’s aid societies and police.
The changes will allow citizens to complain about government-funded organizations that have historically been immune to the Ombudsman’s independent scrutiny.
The bill would empower the Ombudsman to investigate public complaints about municipalities, universities and school boards. It also creates a new Patient Ombudsman for complaints about hospitals and long-term care homes, and gives the existing Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth the power to investigate children’s aid societies.
“At long last, Ontario is poised to rectify the accident of history that left millions of citizens with nowhere to complain about the public bodies that touched their lives most closely,” Mr. Marin said. “If this bill passes, it will finally open the MUSH sector to the same kind of independent investigative scrutiny given to every other aspect of the provincial government.”
Because the Ombudsman reports not to government but to the Legislative Assembly as a whole, the change is an assurance of greater transparency for all MPPs and the public, Mr. Marin stressed. “The Ombudsman and other officers of the Legislature serve as checks and balances on government, ensuring that it – in all its complexity – is functioning efficiently and with the confidence of its citizens,” he said. “Ensuring the MUSH sector is subject to the same checks and balances is simply good for democracy, period.”
Ontario’s first Ombudsman, Arthur Maloney, called for the MUSH sector to be subject to his office’s scrutiny in a report published in March 1979, and his successors have reiterated this position. Since Mr. Marin’s appointment in 2005, his office has received than 20,000 complaints about MUSH sector bodies, even though the public is aware that they can’t be investigated.
These have included concerns about corruption in municipal government, mistreatment of patients in hospitals and long-term care homes, school board policies on bullying, deaths of children in CAS care, and unfairness to university students. Wherever possible, Ombudsman staff refer complainants to other appropriate authorities.
The new legislation comes in the wake of years of public demonstrations, rallies and calls to expand Ombudsman oversight to all or part of the MUSH sector. Since 2005, there have been more than 130 petitions and 15 private member’s bills tabled in the legislature to this effect, supported by members of all parties.
Ontario is the last province in Canada to open its MUSH sector to Ombudsman oversight. All other provinces have moved to extend the jurisdiction of their ombudsmen to hospitals, long-term care and child protection.
“If these measures are implemented, Ontario will go from being dead last in Canada to one of the leaders in MUSH sector scrutiny,” said Mr. Marin, whose office was consulted in the final stages of drafting the bill. “I look forward to seeing this bill come before the Legislature. It is a strong step toward a more democratic, accountable and open Ontario.”
The Ontario Ombudsman’s office handles about 20,000 public complaints per year, has 80 staff and a budget of just over $11 million. It resolves individual complaints quickly wherever possible and also investigates broad systemic issues affecting large numbers of people. The Ombudsman’s recommendations are not binding, but have been overwhelmingly accepted by government. Ombudsman investigations since 2005 have sparked widespread reforms, including better screening of newborn babies, improved security for lottery players, more transparent property tax assessment, more compensation for crime victims and fairer drug funding policies.
Source: Ombudsman Ontario
Family Safety in North Cyprus
March 6, 2014 permalink
North Cyprus, a territory created by Turkish military intervention in 1974, is recognized only by Turkey. Consequently, it has no extradition treaties with other countries and provides a refuge for parents to raise their children when menaced by child protection agencies. The case of parents Yunus Chhatbar and Safiya Reheman is enclosed.
Couple fled as they feared son would be taken away
A young couple fled abroad fearing social workers were trying to take their son away and put him up for adoption, a court has heard.
Yunus Chhatbar and Safiya Reheman flew to Northern Cyprus last October as they feared Leicester City Council officials wanted to take away their son, Abdurrahman, now nine months old.
After they left their home in Northfields, the couple were at the centre of an international alert with their names and photos placed on the missing persons' section of the Interpol website.
A hearing of the Family Division of the High Court in London, called for by the city council, took place on Friday.
At the hearing, Mr Chhatbar, 29, told the judge via videolink that they had bought a "one-way ticket" to Northern Cyprus, which has broken away from Cyprus and has no extradition treaty with Britain.
The couple renew their 90-day visitors' visas by going to the border with Cyprus and getting their papers stamped without leaving the safety of Northern Cyprus. They can carry on doing this indefinitely, they say.
Social workers argue that Abdurrahman, known as Momo, must be returned to the UK, where he is still "habitually resident" because of his parents' social and family links.
The judge, Mr Justice Mostyn, said the couple, who met two years ago, could be breaking the law by refusing to bring their child back.
Financial adviser Mr Chhatbar and travel agent Miss Reheman, 19, fled after a relative made an allegation to social services that Mr Chhatbar had a violent past.
It is a claim the couple vigorously deny.
Speaking from Northern Cyprus, Miss Reheman said: "The social workers said that if I stayed with Yunus they would take our newborn son into care and get him adopted in less than four months.
"I was scared they would take Momo so we decided to make the move to Northern Cyprus.
"A few days later, the social services found out we had gone. They went to the family court and were granted orders to recover Momo, and make him a ward of court without our knowledge.
"It means the state officially became his 'parents' and we were being treated like our own baby's abductors.
"We were horrified when we found out our son's picture was plastered all over the Interpol website alongside criminals, terrorists and murderers who are on the run.
"We have been forced to live like fugitives, but we cannot let them take our son."
Mr Chhatbar said: "We want to settle here so Momo is safe with us forever."
Another hearing is scheduled for April.
Source: Leicester Mercury
Two-pronged CAS Assault
March 6, 2014 permalink
When falling behind in its legal struggle with Chris York's family, CAS decided on a two part coordinated operation. While his wife was visiting CAS, she was forcibly detained. Simultaneously another CAS party, with a police escort, planned to enter the family home while both parents were gone. The plan went awry only because CAS unexpectedly found Chris at home. His full report is enclosed.
This case shows the limitations of the current oversight system. Chris York cannot complain to the police, they only refer him to children's aid. Children's aid will not give relief, they planned and carried out this nefarious scheme. The child advocate cannot look into it, because no children were touched. The provincial ombudsman is the only one who could look into the whole operation, but he is forbidden to look at CAS cases.
Chris York UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:
So the CAS has now resorted to desperation. They came to my home today trying to pull a fast one. They knew my wife was at the CAS office for a visit with the grand child and thought (THOUGHT THAT IS) that I was not home. Police staked out my home watching for us to leave and at 11 am when they thought the coast was clear they swooped down on my home trying to get inside. They got a surprise when I answered the door. They were not expecting me to be home as they said oh we thought you were at work. They clearly know nothing about me. They demanded entry and told me if I did not comply the CFSA allowed them to force entry to get in my home. I recorded all of this of course. I asked if they were there to apprehend they stated no but they came with 2 cops and 2 workers of course we all know what they were here for. Once they stated no I told them to leave they refused stating again the CFSA gives them the authority to force entry to inspect my home which I know it does not. Due to back and neck problems I was told if I did not comply they were going to force entry past me and I had three young children here at the time. I was forced to comply with police entry out of fear of injury and traumatizing of my children. I caught it all on video. CAS still did not enter only the one officer did by force without a warrant stating they do not need one. They did not do any welfare check and only searched my home for locks on doors against my will. What I did not know that was also taking place at this time is the CAS was forcibly confining my wife at their office by locking her in a room with no windows and not allowing her out until they left my home. We tried to report this crime also and police refuse to investigate it stating that our complaint is about a service by the CAS and that we must file a complaint to them. Forcible confinement is not a service that CAS provides and in fact is a criminal act. Complaints have been made to the OIPRD and the lawyer is aware as he was called while they were here and he is furious. Motions to the court are coming as well as a civil suit. Evidence is now being stored off site to ensure its security. Criminal charges are going to be pending and lawsuits are coming.
Clearly they are desperate and know they have nothing going into the care and custody hearing for the grand daughter and apprehending my children will be their only chance at beating me in court. Apprehending my kids would show valid reason why the grand daughter cant be placed in our care.
I'm still not backing down I still will not bend and make no mistake I'm mad as hell and I am FIGHTING BACK HARDER THEN EVER BEFORE
Source: Facebook, Stop the CAS ...
March 6, 2014 permalink
Toddler Faith Murray has been suspended from daycare in Ottawa for smuggling in a cheese sandwich. The daycare management fears cheese could kill.
Daycare suspends 2-year-old over cheese sandwich
OTTAWA -- A daycare near Ottawa is taking a zero-tolerance hardline on food allergies.
On Monday, the Centre de l'enfant aux 4 Vente daycare in Barrhaven suspended two-year old Faith Murray for three days for bringing a processed cheese sandwich in a sealed ziplock bag onto the property.
The daycare, which looks after 148 children aged 18 months to 12 years has a strict no-food-from-outside policy due to the number of children with food allergies it looks after.
Penalties range from a three-day suspension for dairy to immediate termination for anything containing nuts.
Daycare director Deb Ducharme says she understands the consequences are difficult on parents but has to hold the line because some of the children have life-threatening sensitivities.
"We need to ensure their well-being and safety. Most parents are comfortable with our rules because it creates a safe environment for their children," she said.
The toddler's father, Randy Murray, is considering pulling Faith and her older brother Michael out of the daycare and putting his freelance graphic artist career on hold so he can care for them.
Foster Loan Shark
March 5, 2014 permalink
When British foster mom Sandra Lowe needed more money she resorted to loan sharking. She kept the money flowing with regular threats against her clients. No word on how she treated the foster kids.
Foster carer who led a double life as a loan shark has been jailed
Sandra Lowe, 51, was sentenced to three years behind bars after being found guilty of 16 illegal money lending charges
A foster mum who doubled as a loan shark raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds has been jailed.
Sandra Lowe, 51, known as ‘Dawn’, took out bank loans and credit cards to run the illegal money lending business over a seven year period from 2005.
A court heard she did not set interest rates and kept no records, instead asking for regular weekly repayments with her victims often having no idea how much they owed.
One, who is estimated to have borrowed around £70,000 from Lowe, had paid more than £145,000 back when the business was rumbled in 2012.
A judge said she would have kept them paying ‘almost indefinitely’ had she not been arrested.
The court heard she sent a text message to one victim saying: “I ain’t going to be 160 quid down this week, sort it out and don’t force me to do something I don’t want to.”
She also ran an unregistered catalogue business, where she would buy household goods and sell them on for a ‘commission’, Simon Mortimer, prosecuting said.
The court was told that the exact scale of the business was uncertain but between June 2006 and June 2012 around £300,000 passed through her bank accounts.
Lowe, of Arnott Crescent, Hulme, denied being all charges, but was last month found guilty of 16 counts of running a consumer credit business without a licence by a jury.
She was cleared of one charge of blackmail.
Her barrister said she had not lived an ‘extravagent' lifestyle as a result of the business, living in a modest house and driving a modest car.
Patrick Harris, defending, also said she had also done charity work and transformed a number of youngsters lives through her fostering.
He said: “There are a significant number of children she has fostered, who have gone on to lead extremely productive lives - obtaining university degrees and employment.”
However, she was sentenced to three years behind bars.
Judge Martin Rudland told her: “You exploited those who were vulnerable and you targeted those who you quickly began to value as the most profitable.
“This took place over a length period of time and became a way of life for you.
“You were not averse to applying pressure in the form of threats to your victims.”
Source: Manchester Evening News
March 5, 2014 permalink
When a fire-alarm went off in her school, fourteen-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz was in the swimming pool. She did not have time to get dressed before she was sent outdoors to a temperature of -5°F and wind chill of -25°F (-21°/-32°C). Weather that cold is life-threatening to a person nearly naked. Teachers refused to take the girl to a warm place, such as the inside a car or a neighboring school, because it was contrary to regulations. She shivered for ten minutes before a teacher let her into her car.
It is common sense that saving a life takes precedence over following rules. The actions of school staff show that there is a deficit of common sense among professionals who take responsibility for children.
Teen: Teachers Made Me Stand Outside In Wet Bathing Suit, Barefoot
She Says She Got Frostbite After Standing Outside For 10 Minutes During A Fire Alarm.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A ninth-grader says she has frostbite after standing outside for 10 minutes in a wet bathing suit during a fire alarm.
It happened around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Como Park High School in St. Paul. Fourteen-year-old Kayona Hagen-Tietz says she was in the school’s pool when the fire alarm went off.
While other students had gotten out earlier and were able to put on dry clothes, Hagen-Tietz said she was rushed out with just her towel.
On Wednesday morning, the temperature was 5 below, and the wind chill was 25 below.
“So the alarm went off, and I thought it was like just a drill, like: Do I have to go outside?” Hagen-Tietz said. “And then he was like no, we usually don’t have fake ones in the winter.”
Hagen-Tietz says she and the another student were rushed out by the teacher. Her classmate had clothes by the pool, hers were in her locker. So she grabber her towel and went outside.
“As soon as they’d seen her outside in her swimsuit, soaking wet and barefoot, they should have done something,” said Eva Tietz, Hagen-Tietz’s mother.
A teacher eventually gave Hagen-Tietz a jacket, and one of her friends gave her a sweatshirt to wrap around her feet.
But due to school policy, she wasn’t allowed to sit in a faculty-member’s car.
“We kind of huddled up and made a circle around me, and the other kids who were cold,” Hagen-Tietz said.
Eventually, a teacher did get permission to allow Hagen-Tietz and her classmate to sit inside her car.
But by that time Hagen-Tietz had already stood barefoot and wet for 10 minutes in some of the coldest conditions of the year.
Hagen-Tietz mom then picked her up and took her to the doctor, who determined she has frostbite on her feet.
“If I had a fire and brought my children out in that condition, you know, I’m sure I would be charged in some way or another if I didn’t instantly bring them into a neighbor’s house or someplace else,” Tietz said. “The ultimate goal is to keep them safe and protect your children, and, in this instance, they did a really poor job.”
In a statement, St. Paul Public School officials said they continue to work with the St. Paul Fire Marshal to regularly review these procedures, including cold weather modifications, and they will make any changes based on their recommendations.
Hagen-Tietz said the first half of her pool class is water aerobics, and the last half is free time. She said some of the kids cut out of free time early to get dressed. Hagen-Tietz stayed in the pool to use the diving board, because it only takes her about 10 minutes to get dressed.
Home Births on the Rise
March 4, 2014 permalink
According the the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, home births are increasing. The proportion of out-of-hospital births decreased throughout the twentieth century, reaching a minimum in 2004. Since then it has increased, led by increasing numbers of white mothers.
The report classifies home birth by ethnicity and risk factors, but does not mention any reasons for the choice of home vs hospital. One factor is that babies born at home are less likely to get immediately snatched by social workers.
Indian Outsmarts White Man
March 2, 2014 permalink
For aboriginals multi-generational hassles with children's aid are commonplace. As part of her family's half-century struggle, Frontenac children's aid referred mother Donna Lynn Neil for a parenting capacity assessment. by psychologist Dr Robert C Rowe of Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston. The mother turned the tables on the doctor by questioning him. The result was that CAS gave up on the assessment, as shown in an exchange of three letters (pdf). The mother's final warning is to avoid assessments by Dr Robert Rowe. Expand to see her comments.
"Been dealing with CAS so long and so hard, that I have PTSD. Then to top it off, that stupid worker called me and asked if I would keep the case open on a voluntary basis until the beginning of April...well, you know what I told her to do! Anyways, here are the letters.
The first one is from Dr. Rowe's office. When I was told that I was to go for this assessment, I went down that day and "interviewed" him. I asked him how much experience he had....his reply: "I'm qualified to do this assessment". then I asked him who was paying for it: "The court". Who pays the court for it: "I choose not to answer". I then told him I was of Aboriginal ancestry and live a very Aboriginal lifestyle, and I wanted to know his view on a few things. I asked him what his opinion is on Sage: "It's used for cooking. What does he think of the sweat lodge as a tool for healing: "It serves no beneficial purpose". I told him I work with a lot of animal parts and materials in my business: "Having dead animal parts around is a sign of mental illness, and should be investigated further". At this point, I informed him that he wasn't the right assessor for me, and that I would prefer someone who was more aboriginal friendly. He told me, and I quote "Whatever, I'm still qualified to do this assessment".
I then went home, called CAS, told the worker that I am still agreeable to the assessment, however, they would have to bring in someone who was culturally aware when it comes to Aboriginal Lifestyle and culture. As the worker has been here a number of times, she knows exactly how we live. She even included a picture of my son in complete regalia in the court papers, which the judge favourably commented on, said it was a great picture. The worker went and spoke to her supervisor, called me back, and said that they were not in a financial position to bring in another assessor, and that they had decided that the assessment was no longer necessary. Keep in mind here that my son had only been out of the house for two days, and had been living at home for two years under CAS supervision. I think they just do this to me because I fight them at every turn and help out other parents.
Ok, so the three papers I'm enclosing....The first one is from Dr. Rowe's office. It contains the court file number on it, which is important. When I was in court on February 20th, and it was at approx. 10:27 am, the CAS lawyer asked that the court reverse the order for the assessment. She stated that after consulting with Dr. Rowe, he felt that he could not continue with the assessment because I was Aboriginal and The Society no longer felt the assessment was necessary.
The other two letters are from my son's OCL Lawyer and the CAS Lawyer. I think the only information that needs to be blacked out is anything to do with my son. I would leave the court number. I really hope this helps other parents.
Chris, I've been dealing with these morons for over thirty years, and my mom has been dealing with them since 1957. No sense getting older if you can't get wiser. That was a good one, the best one was how I got my son back from them in the first place. That was a direct result of recording and sending a transcript with a copy of the recording to CAS. Caught them with their pants down, proved their was no protection concerns, and had him back in my custody.
Hopefully, with these letters, a lot of people can exclude having their assessment done by this doctor. Another family who had an assessment done by him were told they were drunken Indians based on the fact that the father admitted to experimenting with alcohol when he was a teenager. If he can be excluded from assessing me based on cultural insensitivity, then it should work for others. I'm curious if this would also work for other ethnicity's, and for other assessors. I know one lawyer, XXXX XXXXXX, (name suppressed at author's request) is using my information to try and have an assessment done by this doctor excluded. There was a previous assessment done in that case by another assessor, and it was positive, so, CAS goes and forces the family into another one with this yoyo, and it came back not so good. I'll let you know how it turns out."
Source: private communication
Foster Parent Accused (Maybe)
March 2, 2014 permalink
Shawn Gartlan, president of the Woodville Minor Hockey Association, has been charged with possession of child pornography. The item appears here only because of a reader comment:
Alexandra Stuart • February 7, 2014
Shawn Gartlan is a foster parent with CAS ward children placed with him. The news is not mentioning that. CAS has not shut him down.
Since anyone can post a reader comment, this cannot be regarded as definite news, and child pornography can be anything from innocent pictures (breastfeeding, tot in the bathtub) to highly perverse images.
WOODVILLE - The president of the Woodville Minor Hockey Association faces child pornography charges after police executed a search warrant at a Woodville home and business Wednesday.
City of Kawartha Lakes OPP, along the OPP’s child sexual exploitation unit and the technical unit, seized three computers that police say contained images of child sexual abuse.
Shawn Gartlan, 50, was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography and two counts of making child pornography available.
He is to appear in a Lindsay court Thursday.
He is listed as the 2013-14 president of the Woodville Minor Hockey Association and has been an executive in past years.
Woodville is northwest of Lindsay.
Source: Peterborough Examiner
Alberta to End Secret Child Deaths
March 1, 2014 permalink
In an editorial published this Wednesday Alberta newspapers urged Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar to repeal the ban on publishing information about children who die in foster care, including their names. Today minister Bhullar publishes his own opinion in which he promised to grant the request.
We note the long tradition of higher-ups in the social services system making a public statement while doing the opposite in private. The law may not be amended at all, or an amendment may be enacted allowing publication but with onerous exceptions that can hardly ever be met. Or, as we all hope, the minister may keep his word and allow the world to know who dies in foster care and how.
Editorial: An open letter to Minister Bhullar
We urge Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar to amend Alberta legislation to give grieving families the right to speak the name of their children in care, or show their photos, in public.
Earlier this month, Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar invited us to the Alberta legislature to discuss the province’s publication ban regarding children in care. During this discussion, he asked for our input on this legislation, what might be done to amend it, and why. Here is our reply.
We thank you for asking for our thoughts on the province’s ban on publishing the identities of children in care.
Following our joint Fatal Care investigation last fall, you took over one of the government’s most complex and challenging portfolios, and we applaud your efforts to date in lifting some of the veil of secrecy within the system.
We believe that the government has a right and a responsibility to protect the children in its care.
We respect in principle existing laws such as those regarding young offenders. But we also believe that Albertans deserve a more accountable, more transparent child death-review system.
As the spring session nears, we urge your government to lift its publication ban on children who have died in care, or who have died following prior contact with the ministry.
Our current legislation does not allow grieving families to speak their child’s name in public, or show their photos. They must fight the government in court for that right.
Our child advocate is also bound by this law, resorting to death reviews with pseudonyms, initials, carefully obscured facts. An Alberta judge has called it “dehumanizing.”
We urge you to amend this legislation so that — as in the majority of provinces of this nation — anyone who suffers the loss of a child has the right to make the public aware of what has happened.
Why is this so important?
Because Alberta’s children should not be dying faceless and nameless.
Because it counters the groundless stigma and shame unfairly cast upon those within our child-welfare system.
Because — most critically — publication bans shroud the truth, and shelter the system from public scrutiny. Society must learn from its mistakes, and do all it can to prevent future deaths.
The law was supposed to be there to protect children in care, but for children who have died, that protection only stifles caregivers, families and authorities, and ultimately hampers investigations.
We urge you to restore to those children the only power they have left: Their stories.
Respectfully, the editorial boards of the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald
Source: Edmonton Journal
Opinion: Minister vows to lift ban on naming children who die in care
Empowering those who matter most
EDMONTON - Earlier this week, the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald published an open letter to me detailing their concerns with, and hopes for, the province’s laws that govern what information can be shared about the tragic deaths of children under the care of Alberta Human Services.
The editorials noted that Alberta’s current legislation “does not allow grieving families to speak their child’s name in public, or show their photos.” The papers’ editorial staff called on me to lift the publication ban on children who have died in care or who have died following prior contact with the ministry.
As I have said publicly, I believe we must empower those who are closest to these children to speak or not to speak; it is their right as human beings. If we don’t have the right to speak up about justice as human beings then we have taken away too much.
Therefore, in order to increase greater transparency and restore the rights of children and those closest to them, I will introduce legislation to amend the publication ban.
I believe it is a basic right of each and every one of us to express grief publicly. At the same time, however, families and the children themselves should be able to protect privacy in a period of tremendous sadness. This decision is not one for the government to make, it is one for them to make in the best interests of the child.
Almost immediately after Premier Redford appointed me Minister of Human Services, I made the decision to share all of the data on the deaths of children over the past 14 years. I have made it a priority to investigate and improve the level and quality of information available to experts and the public on children who have passed away while under the care of the province or who have had prior contact with Human Services. I believe that we need to honour each child, learn from each and every one of them and by doing so we will develop a culture of continuous improvement.
As Minister, I am committed to driving real change.
We launched a five-point plan in early January to enhance information sharing, address the root causes that bring children into care, and support collaborative research to improve services to children and their families.
As part of that plan, the government brought experts, policy-makers, aboriginal representatives and those with lived experience in the system together at a roundtable. Over two days, we discussed how to best investigate and review the death of a child and how to strike a balance between transparency and privacy.
My goal is to create a system that is accountable and transparent with a foundation of continuous improvement, not fear. Families should feel comfortable to reach out to the system for help and they should know that there are supports available to them; they are not in this alone.
It is sometimes easy to forget that the child intervention system is a system of human beings working with other human beings in extremely difficult situations. I want staff to be able to work without fear so they can make the best decisions possible when dealing with what are often heart-wrenching situations.
We have made progress, but our journey has just begun.
We have a duty to always make our system better and we have a duty to ensure that every child has the opportunity to live their greatness.
Greatness is not limited for those living in ideal situations. The children involved in our system have the right to experience and live their greatness. That is my focus; that is my goal and that is my hope.
We are all in this together.
Manmeet S. Bhullar is the Alberta minister of human services
Source: Edmonton Journal
Lev Tahor Rally
February 25, 2014 permalink
The scheduled rally in support of Lev Tahor took place today in Chatham. Two news articles are enclosed.
Lev Tahor Rally Shows Support
A rally in support of Lev Tahor members’ basic human rights drew a small but dedicated crowd this afternoon in Chatham
Organizer Dave Formosa says the rally is separate from the ongoing legal battle. “Of course their culture and beliefs are different from ours so we’re just trying to get everybody to support differences within everybody.”
A superior court justice will hear the appeal regarding the future of more than a dozen Lev Tahor children March 5th.
Source: Blackburn Radio Inc
Jewish group humbled by rally, which included area residents
By Vicki Gough, Chatham Daily News, Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:34:53 EST PM
About 40 people passionate about human rights braved freezing cold winds to wave signs at passing motorists on Grand Avenue West in Chatham Tuesday afternoon.
Their aim was to draw public attention to the treatment of a Jewish group who recently settled in the area.
Rally organizer, Dave Formosa, said he arranged the event through a Facebook group after learning that members of the orthodox Lev Tahor community were being shunned and even spat on.
"I haven't picked a side. Whether allegations (of Quebec child-welfare authorities) are proven innocent or guilty, everyone is entitled to human rights," Formosa said during the peace rally.
About 200 members of Lev Tahor, whose name means "pure heart" in Hebrew fled their homes in Quebec in the middle of a November night amidst allegations — not proven in court — of child abuse and neglect.
The story made national headlines, and has sparked debate in communities across the country, including Sarnia-Lambton.
Community leaders have said they left Quebec in search of a better place to raise their children according to their own religious beliefs.
An Ontario judge ruled 13 children named in a court order be sent back to Quebec.
Lisa Smith travelled from Corunna to join the rally.
"Just because people look different, dress differently, is no reason to turn your back on them," she said.
The 47-year-old plans to marry a Jamaican next year.
"I see it (being shunned in public)a lot," Smith said. "I'm told, 'Oh, you're one of them.'"
Rally member Nathan Koning, 31, said he sympathized with the Jewish group.
"Everyone should have the freedom to live their beliefs," Koning said.
"There is too much hatred in this world already," Koning's wife Alicja Trozynska, 27, chimed in.
The couple held signs with their 17-month-old son Jonathan to show their support of Lev Tahor.
"I actually argued with a guy to know the facts when he called them pedophiles," Koning said.
"If I had to be in their shoes and knew my children were going to be taken away, I would drop everything and run too," he added.
Clifford Quenneville, 66, and Susan Peltier, 61, of Calvary Community Church in Tilbury held an Israeli flag to show their support.
"We're here to build relationships," Quenneville said.
Retta Cadotte, 32, of Chatham, called the Lev Tahor "a complicated story."
"The parents clearly love their children ... they haven't been given a chance to prove themselves," Cadotte said.
Formosa said he visited the Lev Tahor community, north of Chatham, on several occasions over the last month and was always received with a warm welcome.
"I've spent 18 to 20 hours with them and saw kids running around happy," Formosa said.
"If we've influenced just one person today, a difference has been made."
Lev Tahor spokesperson Uriel Goldman told QMI Agency that his community was humbled by the rally.
"We thanked them and hopefully people realize ... the issues here are human rights and religious rights," Goldman said.
While the rally continued, lawyers for the 13 children and local child-welfare agencies were in Chatham court to set a March 5 date to hear legal arguments for and against sending the children into care in Quebec.
Source: Sarnia Observer
Kopyto to Speak
February 25, 2014 permalink
Legal gadfly Harry Kopyto will be speaking about criminal issues concerning children this Saturday. The event will take place in Newmarket, expand for details.
Criminalization of children – Harry Kopyto to address the public in Newmarket about criminal issues concerning children
This Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 6pm, Harry Kopyto will deliver a lecture in Newmarket to an audience of concerned parents and children.
The Canadian Maltese Charitable Service Trust is hosting a public event where Harry Kopyto will speak about the grave conditions children are facing in a society that is increasingly criminalizing them, according to a number of organizations such as A Voice For Men, Canada Court Watch and National Coalition for Men. Children, usually boys, are facing difficulties at school where children as young as 5 are criminalized for normal behaviour, according to Dean Esmay, operational manager of A Voice For Men.
Vernon Beck of Canada Court Watch has been documenting numerous abuses against children over a 20 year period and says it has been getting worse year by year. Dr. Miles Groth, Professor of psychology at Wagner College in New York, says, “The most important thing is public awareness, especially about how boys are treated in school. I see them when they have gotten to college, and more and more are withdrawn and distant.”
Harry Kopyto will dilate on the serious conditions facing the public, particularly boys, who are criminalized at a very young age. Recently, a boy, barely 12 years old was charged criminally for non criminal behaviour at Notre Dame Catholic School in Newmarket. In Colorado Springs, 6 year old Hunter Yelton was suspended from school for kissing his girlfriend’s hand. The action was noted as sexual harassment on Hunter’s school record.
Kopyto delivered his first speech at the age of ten. He began advocating for the rights of his fellow students in High School. Kopyto’s legal career spans 40 years advocating for the rights of his fellow man, adhering according to his admirers to strict morals and principals. Harry remains steadfast in his life long ambition to advocate and fight for the underdog, the weak, the oppressed, the old, children, the disabled, the minority, the underprivileged, the poor and anyone who was subject to discrimination in any and every way..
Royal Canadian Legion - Branch 426 at 707 Srigley St, Newmarket, ON L3Y 1X4 – Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 6pm
Source: A Voice for Men
Grandview Training School for Girls
February 25, 2014 permalink
The Grandview Training School for Girls opened in 1932, and was formally known as the Ontario Training School for Girls - Galt. It was located at what is now Cambridge, Ontario.
At any one time Grandview housed approximately 120 girls with 30~35 girls in Churchill House, a secure facility. By the terms of the governing legislation (repealed in 1982) the girls' parents lost their parental rights through the wardship process.
In 2002 Fred Kaufman produced an independent report Searching For Justice — An Independent Review of Nova Scotia’s Response to Reports of Institutional Abuse. Chapter 16 looked at other provinces and included a summary of Grandview. It is included in the expand block. Another brief source is wikipedia. Laura Sky has a documentary Until Someone Listens about Grandview. The trailer is on YouTube or a local copy (mp4).
On November 16, 1999 Ontario MPP Jim Flaherty apologized in the Ontario legislature:
With unanimous consent, Mr. Flaherty moved,
That this House, on behalf of Ontario and pursuant to the 1994 agreement reached with the Grandview Survivors Support Group, apologizes and expresses sincere regret for the harm caused by the physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the Ontario Training School for Girls - Galt, also known as Grandview, in Cambridge, Ontario between the 1930s to 1970s; and
That this House acknowledges that the abuse suffered by the students at Grandview, who bear no responsibility for the abuse they suffered, caused lifelong physical and emotional pain, distress and trauma to the women themselves and to their families and community and that such abuse of children is deplorable and intolerable.
Source: Ontario hansard
Through freedom of information Chris Carter has obtained a copy of the settlement between the Grandview Survivors Support Group and the Government Of Ontario (pdf), ratified on June 30, 1994. Much of the document relates to processes. The penultimate page lists the abuses suffered by the residents:
The settlement discloses that the women were eligible for cash settlements ranging from $3,000 to $60,000. The material does not disclose how many women received the various levels of compensation, but Mr Kaufman's report says that Ontario allocated $16,400,000 for all forms of compensation.
2. ONTARIO - GRANDVIEW TRAINING SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
The Government of Ontario operated a training facility for adolescent girls in Galt (now part of Cambridge) from 1932 to 1976. Originally known as the Ontario Training School for Girls - Galt, the facility was renamed the Grandview Training School for Girls in 1967. It housed girls between the ages of 12 and 18. Under the Ontario Training Schools Act, the girls became wards of the Province and the parents of the girls relinquished their rights as guardians. The institution housed an average of 120 girls annually, with approximately one-quarter of them in a secure facility known as Churchill House. While some girls had committed minor crimes such as shoplifting, many were sent to the school because they had been pronounced “unmanageable” under the Juvenile Delinquents Act for reasons such as truancy, the use of drugs or alcohol, or “sexual immorality.” Many of the young women sent to Grandview had been physically, sexually or emotionally abused by family members; some were orphans, and some were from very poor homes whose families were unable to care for them.
A number of students at the school were abused during their residency there. The most significant period of abuse occurred in the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. The school was closed in 1976 after an investigation into the abuse. Residents alleged that they had been subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of guards and other staff. Some of the allegations had been made contemporaneous to the abuse, but had not resulted in any legal proceedings at the time.
The abuse came to public light in 1991, when two women who were being treated by the same psychologist told him of very similar experiences of abuse that occurred at Grandview. The psychologist was shocked by the details, introduced the two women to each other and said that he would support them if they went public with their stories. The women subsequently made appearances on television, asking others who had been at Grandview to contact the police or the provincial Government. In the summer of 1991, the Waterloo Regional Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police began a joint investigation into claims of physical and sexual abuse at the school.
In December 1992, a Victim Witness Program site was established in Kitchener, Ontario, with the express purpose of dealing with Grandview. Some women retained lawyers and initiated civil suits. At the same time, a small group of women formed the Grandview Survivor’s Support Group (“GSSG”) to investigate options for seeking compensation on a collective basis. They also hired legal counsel (whose services were ultimately paid for by the Ontario Government). The group later expanded to include more than 300 women.
The Province decided to pursue, through mediation, an out-of-court strategy to settle Grandview claims. In May 1993, negotiations began between the Government and the GSSG. Over the next 10 months the executive of the GSSG and the group’s legal counsel held extensive meetings with counsel from the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Government’s Grandview Project Manager in an attempt to draft a compensation agreement. The Government provided funding during the negotiations for a crisis line dedicated to Grandview survivors and for continued participation in the discussions by the GSSG executive.
In early 1994, a Draft Agreement was formulated by the Government and the GSSG executive and put to a vote by the members of the GSSG. Over 127 women participated in the vote, and the Agreement was ratified by over 80%. After Government approval, the program was announced in June 1994.
The Agreement allowed all former residents of Grandview to apply for specified benefits and financial compensation from the Government through an alternative dispute resolution process rather than individually pursuing civil suits. It was a group agreement, but it permitted individual women to choose whether or not to participate in the program. Individuals were required to obtain independent legal advice (for which the Government provided $1,000 per applicant) before electing to seek compensation under the Agreement. Those who elected to do so had to provide a complete release of any claim they might have had against the Government of Ontario for damages arising out of their mistreatment at Grandview. Participation in the Agreement, however, did not restrict the individual’s rights to bring criminal charges or civil claims against individual perpetrators of abuse.
An application cut-off date was set for January 2, 1996. Applications received after that date were not automatically rejected, but were considered on a case by case basis.
The purpose of the Agreement was outlined in its Overview:
The purpose of this Agreement is to engage in a process to afford any eligible person real opportunities to heal and to introduce real hope for a better future ... [It] is designed to address the consequences of “abuse” and “mistreatment” as those terms are defined, of those who were actually resident at Grandview ... It is an objective of the various components of this Agreement to facilitate a path of healing and recognition of self-fulfilment for its beneficiaries. It is hoped that the coordination of the various components, will, as an integrated whole, produce a more accountable and effective response for survivors of institutionalized and sexual abuse.
- (a) Details of the Compensation Package
The Agreement provided for three different types of benefits: general benefits (intended to benefit society as a whole), group benefits (for all former residents of the institution), and individual benefits (for those who claimed specific incidents of abuse). An Eligibility and Implementation Committee (“EIC”) was established as an advisory body to oversee and superintend the implementation of the benefits package. This committee was composed of two GSSG-appointed members, one Government-appointed member and a chair jointly appointed by the Government and the GSSG. The Agreement also provided funding for the GSSG to enable it to continue to offer support to its members through meetings, outreach and a newsletter.
- General Benefits
General benefits were not necessarily confined to benefits to former residents of Grandview. They were defined in the Agreement as “programs, actions or commitments that the Government may undertake or foster and which may provide benefits to survivors of sexual, physical and institutionalized abuse generally.”
The Agreement included specific provisions for legislative and research initiatives.
The main legislative initiative outlined in the Agreement was a bill to amend various provincial laws to extend or eliminate limitation periods for commencing civil proceedings in relation to sexual abuse. The Government also reviewed its hiring, training and abuse-reporting practices for programs involving youth in institutional settings or under state supervision.
Three research initiatives were contemplated in the Agreement. First, there was a proposal to evaluate the effect and effectiveness of the Agreement itself. This work was later conducted by Deborah Leach. Results of her study are referred to in the applicable contexts below. Second, a recommendation was made to conduct research to better understand the dynamics of the consequences of abuse and to determine when and how to provide effective intervention. In this regard, the Government supported the production of a video and a booklet entitled “Until Someone Listens.” Third, every applicant was given the choice to tell of her experiences at Grandview and have her history recorded.
The idea of establishing a Healing Centre was also discussed but not acted upon. Instead, some money was put aside for a needs assessment. However, these funds eventually went back to the Government’s general revenue fund.
- Group Benefits
Group benefits consisted of a dedicated crisis line, money for the removal of self-inflicted tattoos and scars, and a general acknowledgement by the Government recognizing the efforts of the GSSG to bring to the attention of provincial authorities the allegations of abuse and to develop a non court-based process to assist the victims. The crisis line and money for the removal of tattoos and scars were available to all former residents of Grandview. Individuals applying to have a self-inflicted tattoo removed were required to swear a statement declaring when they attended Grandview and that the tattoo was inflicted during that time.
The crisis line which was established by the Government of Ontario during the negotiations leading up to the Agreement was continued pursuant to the terms of the Agreement. Again, it was available to any former resident of Grandview without proof that she had been subjected to conduct at the school that could have caused or contributed to her crisis. The crisis line existed for four years and was closed March 31, 1997. Ms. Leach reported that a large majority of the women who accessed the service felt it made a positive difference in their lives. However, some felt that the counsellors were not always sufficiently knowledgeable about institutional abuse or Grandview.
The Government allocated $120,000 for a tattoo removal fund and $50,000 for a scar reduction fund. Fifty-two women had used this benefit as of December 1996, the latest date for which information was available. Ms. Leach found that the impact of tattoo removal was significant in improving self-esteem and the ability to live in the present.
The general acknowledgement referred to above was read out in the provincial legislature by the Attorney General, the Honourable Jim Flaherty, on November 17, 1999. It included an apology to all the Grandview survivors.
- Individual Benefits
A number of individual benefits, including direct financial compensation, were available to former residents of Grandview whose assertions of abuse were accepted. Individuals had to apply for these benefits. Their applications were reviewed by an adjudicator who determined whether the claimant was in fact the victim of abuse and/or mistreatment (as defined in the Agreement) which caused injury or harm and, if so, what financial award was appropriate. An applicant whose claim was validated was also entitled to apply for a variety of additional non-financial benefits that were purchased by the Government from existing service providers on a case-by-case basis. The total Government expenditure on awards and benefits was $16,400,000. The various available benefits are described below.
Successful claimants were entitled to a financial award for pain and suffering as a result of abuse and/or mistreatment. “Abuse” and “mistreatment” were defined as follows:
1.1 ABUSE means an injury as a result of the commission of a criminal act or act of gross misconduct by a guard or other official at Grandview or in some circumstances by another ward and includes physical and sexual assault or sexual exploitation. It is acknowledged that sexual abuse includes arbitrary or exploitative internal examinations for which no reasonable medical justification existed and which resulted in demonstrable harm.
Act of abuse is the act that causes injury.
1.2 MISTREATMENT means an injury as a result of a pattern of conduct that was “cruel” and for which no reasonable justification could exist (arbitrary) and includes conduct that was non physical but had as a design the depersonalization and demoralization of the person with the consequent loss in self esteem, and may involve discipline measures unauthorized by any superior authority. This is conduct that is plainly contrary to the policies and procedures governing conduct at Grandview and the purpose of the governing legislation. Proof must establish a pattern of conduct directed towards the individual personally and errors of judgement will not be sufficient. This conduct may include taunts, intimidation, insults, abusive language, the withholding of emotional supports, deprivation of paternal visits, threats of isolation, and psychologically cruel discipline or measures which were not officially permitted in the management and control of the residents of the facility.
The general environment of Grandview, the discipline and regulation of the conduct of the wards in accordance with policies and procedures established for the governance and management of the institution cannot constitute mistreatment.
The act of mistreatment is the act or acts that cause the injury.
In order to qualify for a financial award, an applicant had to demonstrate injury or harm which justified compensation beyond a nominal damages award. The range of available awards was from $3,000 to $60,000. The precise amount conferred upon an applicant depended on the nature, severity and impact of the abuse and/or mistreatment. In determining the amount, the adjudicators were directed to use a prescribed matrix as a guide. This matrix set out the minimum and maximum award ranges for various categories of misconduct, and also itemized the type of evidence expected as proof. The adjudicators had the discretion to fix the award within the range prescribed. The matrix is reproduced in full below.
ACTS ALLEGED HARM/INJURY EVIDENCE/PROOF AWARD RANGE Repeated serious sexual abuse (sexual intercourse anal/oral) & physical beating and threats. Continued harm resulting in serious dysfunction. Adjudicator applies standards set out in Agreement. Possible: Medical/ psychological/therapist/ police reports/direct evidence of victim if credible/witnesses/ documentary- conviction of perpetrator. $40,000.00 - $60,000. Physical abuse involving hospitalization with broken bones or serious internal injuries. Harm sufficient to justify award must be demonstrated. Adjudicator applies standards set out in the Agreement. Same as above $20,000.00 - 40,000.00 “mid range” Isolated act of sexual intercourse/oral or anal sex or masturbation with threats or abuse of position of trust. Harm sufficient to justify award must be demonstrated. Adjudicator applies standards set out in the Agreement. Same as above $20,000.00 - $40,000.00 “mid range” No physical interference- forms of “mistreatment” i.e. cruel conduct that was prolonged and persistent. Confinement in segregation alone will not attract an award. Segregation may be justified in accordance with administrative authority. Abusive segregation cannot be. Long term detrimental impact - conduct must not have been lawful or condoned. The nature of the harm will determine once proof of the acts are accepted whether a minimal recovery or a higher award. Same as above $3000.00 on proof of acts of abuse or mistreatment. $10,000.00 - $20,000.00 where serious harm found by the adjudicator.
The Government of Ontario was responsible for 100% of the financial award. The average award conferred was a little under $40,000. In general, financial benefits were awarded for physical and sexual abuse and mistreatment. In certain cases, psychological abuse and mistreatment were compensated, but few awards were granted as a result of psychological abuse only.
Ms. Leach’s study found that the vast majority of recipients thought the financial award helped them make a positive change in their lives. Most importantly, it contributed to a sense of validation, gave them some security and independence, improved their ability to take better care of their children and other important people in their lives, and helped them plan for their future with more skills. For a small number of recipients, the award caused difficulties in such matters as money management and demands from others for assistance.
In addition to any direct financial award, an adjudicator was also able to direct the Government to pay service providers additional sums up to $10,000 to cover exceptional medical or dental costs related to the consequences of the abuse and/or mistreatment where no insurance coverage was available.
The Government had established an interim therapy protocol to provide counselling and therapy, pending completion of the Agreement. Former wards were then entitled to apply under the Agreement for access to longer-term counselling and therapy. In order to qualify for such services, the applicant had to submit an application for individual benefits within six months of the ratification date of the Agreement. The application had to be accompanied by a treatment plan prepared by a therapist experienced in treating cases of abuse, and the therapist had to support the claimant’s position that her experiences at Grandview likely caused or contributed to her present circumstances and that counselling was required. Alternatively, an applicant could request an assessment by a Government-approved counsellor.
All applications for counselling were reviewed by the Eligibility and Implementation Committee. Interim counselling services remained in effect pending the review. If a majority of the members of the EIC was satisfied that the requested counselling was appropriate, such services of a value not exceeding $5,000 for a period of one year could be approved. This could occur in advance of validation of the claim, but was subject to confirmation by the adjudicator. Provision was also made for additional funding in appropriate situations. Disputes between the EIC and the applicant (or her treating therapist) were to be resolved by designated independent experts.
In exceptional circumstances, applicants could also obtain up to $5,000 in funding for short- term residential treatment programs. Appropriate evidence of need was required, as well as evidence of the unavailability of alternative private or public funding. Applicants could access individual counselling services following completion of the residential program.
The vast majority of women interviewed by Ms. Leach indicated that the therapy and counselling benefit made a significant difference to them. It helped them with improving their self- esteem, going through the Agreement process, coping with their tragedy, and moving on in life. At the same time, many women were concerned about the limits to the funding. Many were unaware of the limits, and said they would have used the funding differently if they had been aware. Some recommended that the cap on this benefit be eliminated.
The Agreement provided for access to educational or vocational training or upgrading. The Government agreed to pay the “basic costs” of education or vocation programs approved by the EIC. Basic costs were defined to include tuition, books, course materials, a transportation allowance and, where need was established, child care and computer costs. The Government also agreed to pay for psycho-educational assessments to assist applicants in determining a suitable program of study or training. The only conditions of the benefit were that the applicant attend all classes, fulfill all course requirements and successfully complete the course of study. Ms. Leach reported that many applicants thought this benefit was extremely important, especially since education was something stolen from them at Grandview.
Successful applicants could obtain free debt counselling and debt consolidation and budget assistance. Ms. Leach reported that the reactions of those who availed themselves of this benefit were mixed, some finding it helpful and others finding it shameful.
A contingency fund of $3,000 per validated claim was set up. It was intended to cover expenses for the following matters not covered, or not covered sufficiently, by other benefits: medical and dental needs, child care and travel expenses incurred in relation to attending counselling sessions, books and other materials required for a course of study or therapy, and fees for attending workshops. Applications for specific expenses had to be submitted to and approved by the EIC, and need had to be established. Multiple applications could be submitted, but the money had to be used within two years of the date the Agreement was ratified. This was the most widely-used benefit. Most applicants used it for medical or dental purposes. All said it made at least some positive difference in their lives.
Finally, the Agreement provided that each successful claimant was entitled to receive an individual acknowledgement from the Government of the abuse or mistreatment, recognizing that each of the women was harmed and there could be no justification for the abuse. Delivery of these acknowledgements was delayed until the completion of all related criminal proceedings.
Reproduced below is a chart prepared by Goldie Shea for the Law Commission of Canada detailing the number of applicants who took advantage of the various available benefits as of October 1999.
Grandview - Usage of Benefits BENEFIT NUMBER OF WOMEN WHO HAVE USED BENEFITS PERCENTAGE OF WOMEN WHO HAVE USED BENEFITS Therapy/counselling 123 91.8 Tattoo/Scar Removal 52 38.8 Contingency Fund 132 98.5 Educational/Vocational Assistance 46 34.3 Financial/Budget counselling 6 4.5 Total number of women who used at least one of the Agreement benefits 134 100
- (b) The Process
As stated in the Report of the Grandview Adjudicators, the adjudication process had multiple goals. First, it was a forum for the review and assessment of evidence relating to validation of claims and the assessment of damages. To this extent, the hearings were similar to other, more traditional, legal proceedings where judges review exhibits, listen to evidence, and make findings of fact based on legal standards and principles, including the onus of proof. Second, the Grandview hearings were intended to offer the applicants an opportunity to describe their experiences in their own words to someone with authority. Adjudication was to empower the survivors of institutional abuse to define the wrong that was done to them, to explain the repercussions on their lives, to demand accountability and the restitution of their dignity, and to claim official recognition of the injustice.
The procedure for validation of a claim was as follows. Applicants were restricted to former residents of Grandview or its predecessor, the Ontario School for Girls. Each applicant was required to complete an application outlining the abuse and consequent injuries she allegedly suffered. This had to be accompanied by a sworn statement as to the truth of the information given in the application, a statement releasing the Government from any further liability, and a declaration of having received independent legal advice. The application could also be accompanied by supporting documentation gathered by the applicant.
Two investigators appointed by the Government reviewed the information and determined if and when the applicant had been a resident at Grandview. They also reviewed the Crown ward files of the applicants to determine whether there was evidence of corroboration, inconsistency or other information relevant to the application. The application and all related documentation were then submitted to an independent adjudicator for review, assessment and validation.
The adjudicators were all female professionals in the law jointly chosen by the GSSG and the Government. Six in total were appointed. As a group, they had expertise in human rights, feminist legal theory, tort law, criminal law, family law, constitutional law, property law, access to justice, health law, aboriginal legal rights, minority language rights and adjudication within administrative tribunals. Feedback from the applicants suggested that it was very important that the adjudicators were female, with many indicating that they would have been uncomfortable discussing the intimate details of their claims with a man. In addition, the fact that one of the adjudicators was a native woman who could appreciate the unique experiences of aboriginal claimants was noted as being very important.
Each applicant was entitled to an oral hearing before an adjudicator. The hearing was held in private and no transcript was maintained. The Government, the applicant and the GSSG were all parties to the proceeding and entitled to submit information to the adjudicator. The Government was entitled to attend the hearings and make representations, although no adverse inferences were to be drawn from the fact that the Government chose not to do so. The applicant was entitled to be represented by counsel. In practice, most hearings occurred without lawyers present.
The burden of proving the claim was on the applicant on a standard of a balance of probabilities. The applicant had to satisfy the adjudicator that the conduct complained of occurred, was not minor, and the injury sustained was substantial and prolonged. The decision of the adjudicator was final and not subject to appeal or other form of judicial review.
Hearings were held in various locations across the country. Efforts were made to select a venue that would accommodate the particular applicant’s needs, and to provide as comfortable a setting as possible. As a result, hearings were sometimes held in an applicant’s home or in an institution where an applicant was detained.
The hearings were designed to be informal and non-confrontational. Applicants were advised at the start how the hearing would proceed, and were given the opportunity to ask any questions they might have. Applicants were also informed that any notes taken during the proceeding would be private and confidential, and destroyed after a decision was rendered.
Applicants were asked at the outset to promise to tell the truth. The adjudicator then asked to hear about the applicant’s experiences at Grandview, and any impact those experiences may have had. The adjudicators sought to give each applicant the chance to tell her own story. Follow-up questions were then asked to clarify confusing points and ensure that all the relevant issues were canvassed. Applicants were always given the opportunity to explain apparent inconsistencies.
According to section 4.2.5 of the Grandview Agreement, in assessing a claim, the adjudicator was obliged to consider the following:
- How long was the claimant in residence?
- What was the age of the applicant?
- Were complaints made and if so when?
- By whom were the acts committed? What was the relationship of the claimant to the person?
- What was the frequency of the abuse and mistreatment? Was it an isolated act or a series of acts?
- What was the nature and severity of the abuse and mistreatment?
- What was the impact on the claimant? What was/is the consequence of the abuse? What treatment has been received for the injuries identified?
- Were criminal charges laid; was there a conviction; was conduct criminal in nature? (It is understood that many of the hearings may be concluded before the on-going criminal investigations are concluded, and accordingly, no adverse inference should be made with respect to beneficiaries whose alleged perpetrators have not yet been charged or convicted. Furthermore, neither the laying of criminal charges nor a conviction are preconditions for certification and relief under this agreement.)
- Was the claimant a resident of Churchill House?
As suggested above, the types of material reviewed by the adjudicators included the following:
- the applicant’s written application outlining the abuse which she alleged that she experienced and describing the injuries suffered;
- the applicant’s sworn statement as to the truth of her application;
- a certificate demonstrating that the applicant received independent legal advice regarding her options;
- a statement releasing the Government from further liability, signed by the applicant;
- documentation from the applicant’s Crown ward file relevant to her claim, such as medical and dental records, reports of discipline, reports from the staff regarding the applicant’s behaviour and progress (collected and compiled by the investigator);
- transcripts from interviews conducted with the applicant by police officers investigating criminal charges, if any existed; and
- supporting documentation, such as therapists’ reports or other medical reports submitted by the applicant.
In practice, the primary focus of the fact finding exercise rested upon the oral evidence given by the applicant herself. The adjudicator assessed the applicant’s credibility by observing her demeanour and considering the content of her evidence and any previous statements she had made on the issues. The adjudicators found that the Crown ward files sometimes provided useful information, but were concerned that these records were primarily compiled by the staff of the institution, and therefore might have been coloured by self-interest. As such, they did not always represent reliable accounts of what transpired. Supporting written materials submitted by the applicant (usually reports of therapists, psychiatrists and other medical personnel) were also of some use, but these documents were created long after the applicant’s time at Grandview, and thus were not always cogent evidence about what actually happened to the applicant at the school.
Once an application had been validated, the applicant received a decision prepared by the adjudicator. The Agreement stated that the reasons for the decisions were confidential and were not to be published by the parties. At the outset, the four original adjudicators deliberated as a group to establish a template that would be used to structure the reasons for the decisions. This template was developed after consultation with counsel from the Ministry of the Attorney General and counsel for the GSSG. The actual decisions generally conformed to the template, but adjudicators departed from the standard format where particular cases so warranted. Most decisions were, therefore, uniform in structure, but unique in their description of the facts proven in the individual case.
The decisions included both a narrative account of the incidents of abuse and a description of the consequences of the abuse – the harm or injury experienced by the applicant and the effect of the abuse on her life. At the outset, the adjudicators agreed that the account of the incidents should be quite detailed so as to capture the extent and range of abuse and mistreatment that occurred at Grandview, using the applicant’s own words to the greatest extent possible. In this way, each decision would create a detailed historical record of what transpired at the training school. By contrast, references in the decision to the detrimental effect of the abuse on the applicant’s lives were deliberately left brief to avoid freezing the applicant’s life in relation to the damage done, or labelling an applicant in stereotypical terminology. These practices were adopted in light of the goal of the Agreement to make the process one in which healing could take place.
The reasons for the decision were written primarily for the applicant, not for the other parties to the proceeding or as a precedent for other cases. The narrative was designed to recount what the adjudicator concluded had been proven on a balance of probabilities. In addition, the narrative sometimes mentioned an incident which was not compensable, but was a source of pain and frustration for the applicant. The decision thereby sought to provide justification for the adjudicator’s findings and also served as a record of the applicant’s perspective of wrongs suffered. Feedback from the applicants after receiving their decisions suggested that this aspect of the decisions was very important to them.
Although adjudicators sat individually, each decision was informally reviewed by a second adjudicator before release. Two adjudicators were responsible for reviewing each other’s decisions for a defined period of time, with the pairs being changed every few months to ensure overall consistency. The review adjudicator made suggestions regarding changes to the draft decision, but the final determination remained with the adjudicator assigned to the case. Where a particular decision required special or difficult interpretation of the Agreement, drafts were circulated to all adjudicators for comment. The goal of this review process was consistency in the quantum of compensation and the interpretation of the language of the Agreement. In addition, it provided adjudicators with much wider knowledge and exposure to evidence being adduced during the hearings. Adjudicators also held group meetings regularly to review the procedures being used in the hearings and the decisions being rendered. The adjudicators found these meetings extremely useful and recommended that they be incorporated as an on-going and integral part of adjudicators’ workload in future adjudicative processes.
In the end, 329 claims were resolved within two-and-a-half years. Most were validated. The adjudicators determined, on a balance of probabilities, that some former residents had been sexually, physically and/or psychologically abused and mistreated at Grandview. They also determined that the abusive treatment contributed to serious, prolonged and substantial harm.
In their Report on the process, the adjudicators suggested that the Agreement process allowed them to make reliable findings of fact, and that it may be preferable to evaluate evidence of institutional abuse without requiring all the elements of the adversarial model of litigation. In her evaluation, Ms. Leach found that applicants also viewed the adjudication process positively. In particular, they liked that the process offered the opportunity, in a relatively safe context, for women to tell their stories and have their experiences acknowledged. One notable area cited for improvement related to the use of more understandable (i.e., less legalistic and complex) literature for use by applicants to assess their rights and access benefits.
Source: Searching For Justice — An Independent Review of Nova Scotia’s Response to Reports of Institutional Abuse
False Flag Rally
February 25, 2014 permalink
In Vermont two-year-old Dezirae Sheldon is dead, her step father Dennis Duby is accused of killing her last Friday. A rally ensued. In the words of the news report: "Dozens of parents and concerned citizens gathered outside the office of the Vermont Department for Children and Families in Rutland Monday."
From following rallies for four years ( 2010 2011 2012 2013 ) fixcas can report with confidence that parents do not rally for more social workers to intervene in their lives. The rally participants in Vermont must be composed of those who earn a living from intervention, and want more authority to do so.
Protest targets DCF in case of slain child
RUTLAND, Vt. -
Dozens of parents and concerned citizens gathered outside the office of the Vermont Department for Children and Families in Rutland Monday. They want answers from the child protection agency after two-year-old Dezirae Sheldon was allegedly murdered by her stepfather, 31-year-old Dennis Duby.
"The signs were there. Pay attention to them. This little one could have been alive," said Lindsay Miller, who took part in the protest.
Those signs include a child abuse investigation last year into Dezirae's mother -- Sandra Eastman. In July she was convicted of breaking the baby's leg and then waiting at least a week to seek medical care. A full body scan revealed older injuries too. Eastman never went to prison for the crime. Instead she was placed on probation. Family members tell WCAX News that 2.5 months later, she got her daughter back. A decision they say that cost the toddler her life.
"I just opened the door and I look at Dezirae and her whole face was bruised. And I looked at Sandy and said what happened? And she said Dennis dropped her into the pack and play. And I said that's not from a pack and play fall. Her whole face is bruised," said Michelle Brown, a family friend.
Brown claims they begged the court and DCF to terminate Eastman's parental rights, but say their allegations of abuse were ignored. "I said she's going to kill her... She is going to die. I said I'm never going to see her again. I know it. I knew it in my heart this was going to happen. But nobody listened," said Lisa Eastman, Dezirae's aunt.
DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone invited Dezirae's family inside to speak with him privately. "I want to meet face-to-face with the family members. I want to listen to them. I want to share with them that my very full intent is to make sure that a very thorough review is done of this," he said.
Yacovone cannot publicly discuss the details of the case but says he's deeply sorry for the family's pain."I don't think there's any way that I can properly convey the sorrow I feel," he said.
The commissioner says DCF gets about 16,000 calls alleging child abuse every year. Ultimately, custody is decided by a judge, after input from DCF caseworkers and the state's attorney's office. "It's important for Vermonters to know there is a checks and balance. This is not individual state employees making a decision about what's right or what's wrong.There's an extensive review process to make sure," Yacovone said.
A review process Dezirae's family says failed. In their minds, Eastman is just as guilty as the man accused of squeezing the toddler's head until it cracked. "She covered for him this whole time. She's just as guilty as he is. She had every right to protect her baby and she didn't do it," Michelle Brown said.
Dezirae is not the first child Eastman has lost custody of. In 2008 -- she spent 5 months behind bars -- for molesting a 15 year-old boy -- and getting pregnant with his child. She's not allowed to have contact with the child. And her family tells us -- she has a one months old daughter -- who is also in state custody.
It's still unclear why Dezirae Sheldon was returned to her mother when she doesn't have custody of her other kids. DCF officials say they can't talk about the case and Police say their investigation is still ongoing. It's even difficult to verify how many children Eastman and Duby have and their custody arraignments. Family court tells WCAX News it does not release records involving juveniles, even if they have died.
Source: WCAX-TV Burlington
Upscale Baby Snatched
February 25, 2014 permalink
In Britain Wendy Ticker and her daughter Charlotte lost their four-year-old grandson/son. This upscale family had a five-bedroom house, a career as a management accountant, two BMWs, a Mercedes and three acres of land filled with a menagerie of animals. The lad loved running around the grounds, feeding the ducks and chickens and helping granny walk her German Shepherd whenever he visited. One day the boy reported "willy sore" (pain in his penis). When doctors could not find a cause, they suggested child abuse. The police refused to lay charges, but social workers stepped in and took the boy. He was placed for adoption.
Did social workers take this middle class family's adored child to meet adoption targets? Four-year-old boy was torn from loving mother at hospital even though no one had hurt him
- Management Consultant Wendy Tricker insists her family are victims
- Daughter Charlotte, 21, watched as her four-year-old son was taken away
- She took her child to a GP after he complained he was 'sore'
- Doctors questioned whether injury was natural or inflicted deliberately
- Police say there was no crime, but parents were told to go home without him
You could be forgiven for thinking Wendy Tricker has the perfect life. A five-bedroom house in Shropshire; a good career as a management accountant; a supportive and successful husband; two BMWs, a Mercedes and three acres of land filled with a menagerie of animals.
It’s a lifestyle their little grandson adored; running around the grounds, feeding the ducks and chickens, helping Granny walk her beloved eight-year-old German Shepherd, Rupert, whenever he visited.
But the four-year-old boy hasn’t been to see her for nearly 18 months. And Wendy hasn’t seen him at all since last May. Nor has her daughter Charlotte, 21, the youngster’s mother.
There’s been no family rift. Instead, the Trickers insist they are the victims of a social services department hell-bent on taking a child away from his perfectly safe, loving home.
And, short of a miracle tomorrow — when the young boy’s adoption case will be finally rubber-stamped by the courts — those social services will be successful.
It’s impossible to overstate the heartache wreaked on this respectable family. ‘It mostly hits me in supermarkets,’ says Wendy, 52. ‘Charlotte and I were walking down the aisle of one recently and saw a display of nappies. We just held each other, and cried and cried.
‘Once, Charlotte saw a pushchair from behind, with a child’s foot sticking out. It was the same shoe as his. She raced round to see. But, of course, it wasn’t him. I’ve done the same. You find yourself staring at children. But he could be anywhere.’
Wendy is among a growing number of grandparents who maintain their families are being taken from them for the most insubstantial of reasons.
Last month, this paper reported on the case of Graham and Gail Curlew, from Sheringham, Norfolk, whose grandchildren were removed from them with no reason ever given.
Then there were Lee and Katrina Parker, from Colchester, Essex, who very nearly lost their grand-daughter simply because social services thought their family, with seven children, was too large.
It is hard to think of a worse wrong the state could sanction. And yet, partly because of the ongoing privacy of the family courts, the outcry doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.
Maybe it’s because most of us simply don’t believe it could happen to us; that only dysfunctional, neglectful families have children who are taken into care.
It’s obvious when I meet them that Wendy and Charlotte Tricker are both capable, hard-working and loving. And as Wendy warns: ‘We loved him so much and cared for him so well. It’s proof that if it can happen to us, it really can happen to absolutely anyone.
Distraught, he begged: 'Don't go Mummy, don't go'
‘How many more grandparents like me have to lose their beloved grandchildren before someone stands up to the family courts?’
Their problems began in 2007 when Wendy, who was divorced from Charlotte’s father, remarried and moved the family from Norfolk to Shropshire.
Charlotte, then 14, started at a new school. However, she was soon targeted by a 31-year-old man who police and social services suspected of being a paedophile. He and Charlotte began a relationship without her parents’ knowledge and she fell pregnant soon after turning 16.
‘Of course, I was disappointed,’ says Wendy. ‘I wanted her to have a career first and children later, when she was in a settled relationship.
‘As she was barely two weeks into the pregnancy when I found out, I admit that, yes, we did talk about abortion, but Charlotte was very committed to having the baby.’
Besides, Shropshire Social Services, who were involved because of their fears about the father, insisted Charlotte had ‘a human right’ to have her baby. How ironic, given what later happened.
Charlotte was provided with a flat and benefits by the state, and Wendy and her husband furnished it for her.
In February 2010, just short of her 17th birthday, Charlotte went into labour. Wendy was her birthing partner. ‘I will remember it till the day I die. The moment I saw my grandson, it changed everything — I was elated beyond words.’
In the weeks that followed, Charlotte proved to be a good mother, making ends meet and keeping her adored and thriving son clean and well-fed.
'I would give my life to hold him one more time'
A year later, having split from the boy’s father during her pregnancy, Charlotte met a new boyfriend. Nearly ten years older and a bit of a drifter, he was far from the partner Wendy had dreamed of for her daughter — but he adored Charlotte. He regularly showered her with flowers and was devoted to her son, and the three were happy together. All seemed calm.
Then came the events of September 19, 2012. Wendy and her husband were in Madeira to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Charlotte’s boyfriend and her son were having a bath together, as they often did, while Charlotte caught up with bills and paperwork in the next room. The toddler had recently started potty training, so after his bath he was allowed to play naked from the waist down.
It was then he went up to his mother and said: ‘Mummy, willy sore.’ Charlotte examined him and noticed some discolouration and swelling. After texting her mum for advice, she decided to see if it was better the next day.
It wasn’t. Fatefully, Wendy suggested Charlotte take him to her GP — advice she says she will regret giving till her dying day.
Despite examining the boy, the doctor was baffled and so sent the family to the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
Several junior doctors looked at the child, and all were puzzled. Eventually, a consultant paediatrician examined him. In his notes, he put forward two hypotheses: that the penis was swollen due to a naturally occurring condition, or that it could have been caused by a wound deliberately inflicted. Both comments were accompanied by question marks. In other words, he didn’t know either.
Police were called to the hospital, where they interviewed Charlotte, her partner and the paediatrician. There was, they said, no case to answer: as far as the police were concerned, no crime had been committed.
The hospital decided to keep her son in overnight, so Charlotte and her boyfriend slept in chairs near his bed. The next day, however, they were told to go home without him.
'How do you say goodbye to someone you love? You can’t. It’s like murder'
They were distressed beyond measure, says Wendy, and Charlotte ‘went berserk’ with worry and anger.
When they arrived home, the couple started a desperate hunt for clues, photographing anything in the flat on which the boy could have hurt himself.
But knowing they had done nothing wrong, they reassured themselves that the matter would be cleared up within days.
Instead, to their shock, they were told there would be a hearing at Telford County Court on September 25 to decide what action to take.
Wendy and her husband found an expert in family law to represent Charlotte and her partner.
It was only after a meeting with him that they discovered what a serious predicament they were in. When they asked if they’d be able to take the little boy home, the solicitor replied: ‘I don’t think so.’
‘We were in shock,’ Wendy explains. ‘If you are innocent, you assume everything will be all right. I believed in British justice. Even at this stage we all thought it was just a matter of time before he would be home.’
At the hearing, it was decided that the boy would be placed with foster parents, who turned out to be older than his grandparents. Charlotte was allowed just an hour-and-a-half of supervised contact, eventually with her mother in attendance, twice a week.
‘He was distraught,’ says Wendy. ‘Every time he saw Charlotte, he ran to her, threw his arms around her and said: “Don’t go, Mummy; don’t go!”
‘Putting him in the car and seeing him sobbing as he waved goodbye was awful every time. And Charlotte wasn’t allowed to tell him that the separation was involuntary, so what was going through his little mind? I dread to think of the long-term effects.’
Charlotte launched her own legal battle but when her solicitor suggested she blame her boyfriend for the injury as it was her best chance of recovering her son, she refused point blank — after all, he hadn’t done anything.
Eventually, though, despite believing in his innocence, she ended the relationship and broke off all contact with him in a bid to get her son back. The endless stress took a toll on Charlotte’s health: her weight plummeted from ten to just six-and-a-half stone — dangerous for her 5ft 9in height — and she stopped sleeping.
A further court date for February 2013 was set and the family held their breath, praying that their beloved boy would be returned to them.
‘Because we all knew no one had hurt him, we had every confidence the expert witnesses would exonerate the family,’ says Wendy. ‘Sooner or later, everyone would see sense.’
Despite their hopes, the boy was taken away from them, even though no definitive medical diagnosis had been made of his condition and its cause.
Then, on May 17 last year, another court ratified his adoption.
The next day, Charlotte received an official letter saying her contact with her son was at an end. She would have to say goodbye to her little boy for ever on May 24, 2013.
‘How do you say goodbye to someone you love?’ asks Wendy, sobbing so much she can barely speak. ‘You can’t. It’s like murder.
‘As we left him, I told him that Charlotte was his mummy. I said: “Never forget that: she’s your real, your only mummy.”
‘And then [the social worker] lied to him: they told him he just needed to go to the toilet . . . but instead they took him away for ever.
‘What happened next is a bit of a blur. We were screaming, hysterical with grief. I told a social worker: “If you hadn’t lied in court, this would never have happened.” We were beside ourselves.
The foster mother even asked us for some mementos, his first rattle for example. It was as though they wanted to take everything — it was sick.’
In October 2013, Wendy went to court herself to request contact with her grandson. Social Services opposed her application, saying she was unstable and citing her grief-stricken reaction as her grandson was torn from their arms. The court found against her.
Tomorrow, the adoption will be final. After that, no court in the land can give him back to his family. ‘One day,’ Wendy says, ‘we hope that he will go on the internet, read stories about us, and learn that we fought tooth and nail for him, and we love him to bits. Perhaps his adoptive family will read our story, know we love him, and be kind and take pity on us.’
They cling desperately to the last straw of hope: that the adoptive parents may allow some meagre contact.
‘They decided to take him from us the moment we set foot in the hospital,’ Charlotte says. ‘They didn’t want me to be a good mum: they wanted adoption. Lovely children are in demand for adoption. He’s been so loved, he’ll be easy to love. If he’d really been abused, he’d be difficult, and who wants “damaged goods”?’
The government target is to increase adoptions of children in care. Children who go back to their parents — or to loving grandparents — do not meet the target. Thus, in 1995 the number of children under five adopted in England was a mere 560, while children under five whose care ceased (a term that includes those who go back to live with their families) was double this.
By 2012, the number whose care ceased was much the same, while adoptions had more than quadrupled: of these a staggering 1,100 were ominously described as ‘consent dispensed with’.
‘The obsession with adoption is splitting up many families merely because of government diktat,’ says John Hemming MP, chairman of Families for Justice which fights for those who suffer at the courts’ hands.
‘I expect in years to come the then government will apologise to the children for what has been done to them today. What matters now, however, is to change the system so the needs of children come to the fore rather than government policy.
‘In particular, the system ignores grandparents. For children to be taken into care is often a traumatic step, whereas staying with grandparents is normal life and a far better option than foster care. However, grandparents, uncles and aunts have no right to be heard by the court.’
Wendy agrees: ‘The impact this has had on my grandson will never heal. Any physical trauma he suffered was gone within days. Losing his birth family will haunt him for ever.
‘And that’s not even thinking of the rest of us. I’ll be 65 before I see him again [when he turns 18 and is allowed to search for his biological family], if I ever do. He gave my 82-year-old mother reason to go on living after she suffered a stroke. Yesterday, she pointed at his toy in her house — she won’t let us remove it — and the tears were streaming down her face. She will never see him again.’
And what of Charlotte, who’s been warned by her barrister that if she has any other children, they will be taken into care, too?
‘If I could just hold him one more time,’ she says, ‘I think I would give my life.’
We gave Shropshire Social Services the right to reply but they said they could not comment on the case.
Source: Daily Mail
Disappearing Court Comments
February 24, 2014 permalink
When Jennifer Demers was in Pembroke Ontario family court on August 26, 2013 judge Robert G Selkirk made a short comment during auguments which demonstrated judicial bias. She ordered a transcript to get a record of his remarks, but when it arrived on January 7, 2014 the prejudical remark was absent. On ordering an audio recording of the hearing, she found that the remark was also missing from the audio. If Mrs Demers is to be believed, the court is altering both the recording and the transcript before letting them out of the courthouse.
Born in the CAS
February 22, 2014 permalink
In this easy case for CAS, baby Skyler became a ward of Dufferin CAS because her teenaged mother was also their ward. Prospects of this baby growing up with the love of a mother are nil. The mother tells her story on Facebook, enclosed.
Ivy Melissa Looking for support in my court room March 5th in Orangeville Ontario, They say I can't see my daughter unless I get assessed, I went to the Hospital in Kitchener Waterloo and they said NO MEDICATION WILL HELP ANY SITUATION I HAVE BEEN SUFFERING FROM A LARGE AMOUNT OF TRAUMA AND ONLY NEED COUNSELING, DCAFS in Orangeville Ontario have put me through a large amount of trauma and I need as many people possible in support of me and my baby girl Skyler, I am fighting for custody and children's services has only proven to me that THEY are unsafe and have uncontrollable lies against me, WITHOUT being assessed in a ''Psychiatric Ward'' children's services put me on a Drug called PROZAC- many are familiar with the name, the worker who took my case says I was a very angry person and that could lead to emotional and physical harm to my 6 month baby.... BULLSHIT! its because of that medication they ILLEGALLY MADE ME TAKE! I attended a grouphome in Orangeville and took off from there to go to any other place I felt safe, I was arrested on many occasions for leaving this home, and even though I told police they were emotionally abusing the girls in the home along with many other types of abuse, they sent me back so I could leave again the next day, I've never been involved with police on any terms other then when I went in to the care of that grouphome.
Please Help Support Me. I AM sixteen years of age and I was Pregnant when I was fifteen years of age, and had my daughter three days after my sixteenth birthday, I never in my life thought I was able to have a child, so I put every single small and big effort in to making her the way she is today, Skyler was a month premature and left the Hospital 2 days after birth, if I was just a teenager who didn't care, I would not have made that little girl so beautiful and healthy. She deserves to have a Mommy, and I AM THAT MOM! NOBODY CAN LOVE HER AS MUCH AS I DO!
Please help me in March as I believe nothing should matter but FAMILY.
Thank You — Melissa Lane
Source: Facebook, Canada Court Watch
Saskatchewan Foster Death
February 21, 2014 permalink
Two enclosed articles tell the story of a Saskatchewan parents relieved of their children by social services. In an effort to be fair, the reporter devoted half of the story to the parents, the other half to boilerplate assurances from Natalie Huber, executive director of child and family services for the Ministry of Social Services. Example: "Huber said reunifying families is their goal at Social Services." Huber also pointed to an signed agreement with the family, the kind of agreement that was not the voluntary act of the parents, as the rest of the story makes clear.
The second article continues with the news that one of the children seized, Ritchie McKenzie Black, age 10 months, has died in foster care.
Women upset about treatment of children in foster care
Although the foster care system is in place to protect children, one mother feels she has been treated unfairly.
Janelle McKenzie, a mother of four, feels her two children were unfairly taken from her after a caseworker visit that happened about seven months ago.
Even though she has had problems with substance abuse in the past, McKenzie said her addiction was not a problem when the caseworker made a visit to her home.
“My regular case worker had a backup worker come to check up on the kids,” McKenzie said. “I said to her, ‘My kids are napping, I’m on the methadone. When my kids nap, I nap with them.’ I said, ‘You are cutting in on my naptime -- can you please leave and come back a different time?’”
The caseworker told McKenzie the visit would only take a couple minutes, which turned into close to 15 minutes. Since she was tired when the caseworker was visiting, she started to nod off a bit.
“I’m not going to deny my methadone wasn’t too high because it was too high,” McKenzie said.
Her doctor was monitoring her methadone, taking her dose down each week by five millilitres.
After the visit, the caseworker came back half an hour later to take McKenzie’s children, who were three years old and three months old at the time.
“They said, ‘Don’t give us a hard time because if you do the cops will be involved,’” she said.
“I said, ‘OK, I want you to write down my kids have Pampers, milk, groceries, my house is clean. I made sure the worker wrote that all down before she took my children (so they knew my children) had everything they needed and more.”
Since her children were being well taken care of, McKenzie is unsure why foster care chose to take them away.
“I should have talked to my regular worker -- I don’t know why the back-up worker took my kids,” McKenzie said. “The nurses were having thoughts that the baby wasn’t being fed properly and being neglected.”
McKenzie said their claims were false, as she was making sure her baby, Richie, had enough milk.
“We were getting free milk for the baby because I am HIV-positive,” McKenzie said. “I get free milk for my baby for a year until he gets on homo milk. There was no reason I wouldn’t strive to feed my baby.”
According to McKenzie, the caseworker told her drugs had nothing to do with why her children were taken away. Rather they were removed because her methadone dose was too high and the baby lost a pound.
“He lost a pound in foster care and nothing happened to them,” she said. “He lost a pound in the hospital. Right there, that can tell you I wasn’t neglecting my son.
“Even our methadone co-ordinator, she was so upset,” McKenzie added. “She said, ‘I don’t know why they took your kids, you were doing so good. Your randoms are so clean.’”
Natalie Huber, executive director of child and family services for the Ministry of Social Services, said the ministry is required to tell parents why their children have been taken away.
“We are required by law to inform the parent and if we found a child in need of protection and the child is coming into care, we would serve them with an apprehension notice,” Huber said. “Wherever possible we will be engaging with families in signing a section nine agreement, which is a voluntary agreement for children to come into care.
“The family signs that agreement with us. It is basically an agreement saying we will provide care and support for the child while we work on the plan with the family to reunify the child back home,” she added. “We work closely with the parents and they are notified when a child comes into care.”
After the children were taken away, McKenzie admits she and the children’s father both fell into a deep depression and started using more drugs, but while she had her children she was only using the doctor-prescribed amount of methadone.
Not only did they lose their children, but since they were living in a low rental housing unit, the family also lost their home and belongings.
According to Huber, children will only be removed from a home if the child is at risk.
“If we receive a concern from any of the general public and it is related to neglect due to addictions or the parent’s inability to care for the child due to addictions, then we would hear that concern and conduct an investigation,” Huber said.
“If we receive a report around a concern someone might have around a person’s drinking or drug use, something that is related to addictions, we would look at the impact that their addiction is having on the child.
“For example if it is due to their drinking is causing them to neglect the child or treat the child in a way they shouldn’t be treated so they are placed in situations they are unsafe, those are things we would be looking at,” she added. “Our primary concern is around the safety of children.”
Usually, they try to keep the children at home and work with the parents if they do not feel the children are in danger.
“We do have a number of concerns that will come to our attention where families are involved with drugs or alcohol and in most circumstances we would go out, we would meet with the family, try to understand what the concerns are, but again what we are assessing is a level of safety and the risk to the child,” Huber said.
“Where we can keep the child safely at home and provide interventions, treatment supports for mom and dad, we will try it at every cost that we can to keep the child at home safely. When we can’t assure the child’s safety is when we will bring them into care however.”
Since her children were put into foster care, McKenzie feels they have been more neglected and not treated well by the foster family.
“The foster parents took in my baby (to the hospital) at six months old,” McKenzie said. “When they took him in, he was fighting for his life. He was fighting just to breathe … They didn’t know if he was going to get any better, that is how sick he was.”
McKenzie and the children’s father were not informed the baby was in the hospital until he had to be transferred to Saskatoon three days later, which upset them both.
“When we arrived, my baby was hooked up to so many machines,” McKenzie said. “He had to have help breathing, tags on his chest, intravenous on head, arm and ankle.”
The parents were told Richie had pneumonia at first, but after about a month in the hospital, they decided to do an MRI after he had a 45-minute seizure.
“The doctor came and talked to us,” McKenzie said. “He said he had bleeding between the brain and skull.”
Richie had been in the hospital for about a month and a half.
“By the time they did the MRI it was like a bruise almost healed,” McKenzie said. “I asked them if they could find the time frame it happened and they said it happened a month and a half ago. I said ‘OK, he was in foster care then right?’ And the doctor said right.”
Although she would have loved to stay with her child, McKenzie was forced to leave him to be picked up by the foster parents.
All the nurses were impressed with her care and concern for her child while she was at the hospital, McKenzie said.
“I got support letters from the nurses and they said, ‘Wow you are so good with him. We never thought he was going to get better and since you have been here he has gotten so much better.’”
Since then, during one of her visits with her children her three-year-old showed up with a bruise about the size of the palm of a hand on his butt that was a very dark purple.
“We asked them what happened to his butt, why is the bruise so big and they said he fell on a baseboard,” McKenzie said. “How can a baseboard doing that much damage? It was almost the size of your palm.”
Other incidents have been noted as well. McKenzie said the baby has had terrible diaper rash and his bum isn’t kept clean and the three-year-old recently had a cut above his eye.
McKenzie doesn’t understand why the foster family is not being disciplined for her children being injured under their care.
“Nothing happened to them,” she said. “My children are still in that foster home.”
She has told the social workers that she wants her children out of that foster home. Social Services said they would look into it.
Huber said foster parents are required to report any serious injury of a child in their care to the ministry.
“They are required to notify us immediately and as for policy, we complete an assessment to determine the cause of injury, whether or not the child is safe and ensure if medical treatment is already received or if they need to receive, we would work closely with the foster parents in that regard,” Huber said.
“If the concerns are such that we have concerns about the quality of care in the foster home or that we are concerned about the child’s safety in that foster home, we may make a decision to move the child pending an investigation.”
The investigation would depend on a number of factors, including interviews with the foster parents, others with information about the foster home and interviews with the children in their care.
“If police are involved, it may require involvement with them as well,” Huber said. “It is really dependent on a number of factors. We try to complete the investigation within a 30-day timeframe.”
Huber said reunifying families is their goal at Social Services.
“What we like to focus on is the safe return of the child home if they do have to come into care,” Huber said. “The ministry works closely with parents. Certainly we are working very closely with parents when the plan is to reunify the child back home.
“When the case plan is to return the child back home, we would certainly be taking into consideration the parents’ wishes around the care plans for the child and we would take into consideration their requests but our decisions are based on the best interests of the child,” she added. “Obviously if the child is connected with the caregiver and they are doing well in the home, they are placed close to their school, those are considerations to make sure the child is in a situation where they are not disrupted.”
Although McKenzie wants her children removed from the foster home, she is currently working on getting them back.
“We are going to get our children back right away,” McKenzie said. “All we have to do is outpatient treatment at Addictions Services. I don’t understand why we have to do this outpatient treatment when it has nothing to do with drugs why our children were taken away. I don’t understand why we have to do these steps if it has nothing to do with drugs.”
In terms of parents with concerns about foster homes, Huber said they try to work with the parents.
“We will try to work closely with parents to address what their concerns are and take it into consideration,” Huber said. “Our primary focus is on the actions or inactions of the parent and how it contributes to any kind of maltreatment, abuse or neglect of the child.
“We deal with so many various concerns and reports that come to our attention, so our ultimate responsibility to try to assess safety and risk based on the parent’s ability, capacity and willingness to create a safe, quality or caring environment for the child.”
Source: Prince Albert Daily Herald
Family devastated after child’s death in foster care
Last week, Janelle McKenzie, a mother who had her two young children taken away from her and put in foster care, was concerned for her children’s safety and health while in the foster care system.
Over the weekend, the McKenzie and her family were told their 10-month old baby died in foster care.
The news came as a shock to the family, who spent time with the baby last Wednesday.
“I had all of my children together on Wednesday and he was really beautiful,” McKenzie said. “He was such a nice baby and didn’t hardly ever cry.”
When McKenzie spoke to the Daily Herald last week, she said she didn’t know why her kids were taken away about six to seven months ago, since they were healthy, happy and in a good home.
“They took my baby away because he lost a pound and my methadone was too high,” McKenzie said. “My methadone co-ordinator knew that all I needed was time. I didn’t deny my methadone was too high because it was.”
She said her addiction was under control, so it didn’t make sense why her foster care case worker would decide to take her children away.
Since her children were taken away, life has been rough for McKenzie and her partner Winston Black.
“We went from having everything one day to having nothing the next day,” McKenzie said. “It was really hard to accept.”
She also felt her children were not being properly taken care of in the foster home, after the baby had to be admitted to the hospital at six months old.
“He was in the hospital for a month and a half,” McKenzie said. “When he was in the hospital, they did an MRI and it showed he had bleeding between the brain and the skull.”
When she told Social Services she didn’t want her children in that home anymore, they told her they would see what they could do.
On Saturday, McKenzie received a call that her baby was once again in the hospital.
“This time, his lungs kept filling up with blood,” McKenzie said. “The doctor said his lungs were filling up so fast he couldn’t breathe. It kept getting worse.”
“I want to know where all the blood came from,” Black added.
The family wants answers and they are waiting for the results of an autopsy to tell them what killed their baby.
“I don’t understand why he is gone -- he was such a happy baby,” McKenzie said, trying to hold back tears. “I don’t understand. I just want my baby back. I just want him back.”
“I just miss him so much and I don’t want him to be gone,” she added. “I really think if he would have been home with us, he wouldn’t be gone today.”
Although McKenzie was on methadone when she was pregnant with the baby, studies have shown the drug is considered safe for pregnant women, so that should not have had an effect on the baby’s health.
McKenzie believes the foster home where her children were was too crowded and said they had several young children, other adults and some animals at the house.
“That would be a lot for two people,” she said. “How much time do you have?”
Since the baby’s death, McKenzie and Black have had their three-year-old boy with them.
“He keeps asking where his brother is,” McKenzie said. “I don’t know how to tell him. They were so close.”
When a child dies in foster care, the Ministry of Social Services said, an internal review process will take place.
“Upon notification that the child has died in foster care, we actually begin our review process,” said Natalie Huber, the executive director of child and family services for the Ministry of Social Services. “We have an internal review process here. We have a team of quality assurance analysts who go out and conduct a child death review on the circumstances that led to a child’s death and the services that were provided to the child leading up to their death.”
It is a very comprehensive review, Huber said, and the biological parents of the child are immediately notified.
“We also refer to, wherever possible, advise the family in person to offer our condolences and whatever supports we can to the family,” Huber said. “It might be some counselling supports, supports in the community that might be available as well. We make sure we try to engage with families as soon as possible or immediately following the notification of death.”
During the review process, Social Services would meet with the foster parents, biological parents, the child’s case worker and other individuals who have worked with either the foster family or biological family.
“It is really looking at the circumstances that lead to the child’s death and the circumstances that we were providing to both the family and the child during their time of involvement with the Ministry of Social Services,” Huber said. “The purpose of our review is really to determine if there is any concerns around the services we were providing and if there are some learnings we can take away from the very tragic event to help improve our services going forward.
“We do that very comprehensive review that includes findings and recommendations that inform our ministry in a broader sense, around changes to perhaps our policy, could be changes to informed training or just changes overall to our practice,” Huber said. “We would assess the circumstances that lead to child’s death.”
Outside of the review, Huber said, they would want to immediately understand the circumstances that lead to the child’s death.
“If there were concerns related to the care that the child was provided then a formal investigation may be required of the foster home and the children -- could be the sibling or other children -- in the home could be removed from the home to conduct that investigation or finalization of that investigation,” Huber said.
Since Social Services also want to know why a child in care has died, an autopsy is ordered and performed by the Chief Coroner’s office.
“That is done by an independent office and the chief medical examiner would conduct an autopsy and determine the cause of death and notify the ministry,” Huber said. “That is part of review process is to gather any information coming from the chief medical examiner following their review. They do a review more medical in nature just to determine the cause of death.”
In cases where there are concerns of a criminal nature, the police will also become involved.
“They may be conducting an investigation and information may be coming to us as well that would be complied and pulled into our review process as well,” Huber said.
Unless there were concerns around the care children are receiving in a foster home, other children in that home will remain there.
“Each case is really assessed based on the individual circumstances but we wouldn’t typically just remove a sibling group from the home due to that particular incident occurring,” Huber said.
Social Services also offers support to both the foster family and the biological family when a child dies in care.
“We would want to work with the foster parents and ensure we are providing them with the necessary supports,” Huber said. “We would want to make sure if they need some time to grieve or respite or babysitting services to allow them to attend to their own personal needs, we would want to provide for that as well.
“At the same time as we are supporting the biological family and providing the necessary supports there at the same time we are working really closely with the foster families to support them and provide whatever they might need to work through and to support them through this very difficult situation,” she added.
McKenzie is glad she had visits with her baby, but wishes things would have turned out differently.
“It was so beautiful to have my children together for that last day,” she said. “If I knew that was going to be the last day I would have done things so much differently.”
Source: Prince Albert Daily Herald
February 21, 2014 permalink
An Arizona social worker investigating clients selling heroin encountered a cop entrapping addicts buying heroin. The cop arrested the social worker, Leyla Sadikovic.
Arizona CPS worker accused of heroin purchase
A state Child Protective Services worker was arrested Thursday evening on suspicion of buying drugs from undercover detectives, Phoenix police said.
Leyla Sadikovic, 35, bought $200 worth of heroin while driving in a government-issued vehicle, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said.
Sadikovic reportedly told investigators she did the drug buy as a part of her job with CPS to investigate her clients.
The Phoenix Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Bureau had received a tip earlier that day that Sadikovic was soliciting a client to obtain narcotic drugs.
Police said Sadikovic made many attempts throughout Thursday to get a hold of drugs.
Sadikovic was booked into jail on a count of attempted possession of a narcotic drug, Crump said.
The internal affairs division of Child Protective Services is working with Phoenix Police in the investigation.
Source: Arizona Republic
LEYLA SADIKOVIC : #T055620
Date Of Booking: 02/21/2014
- BLONDE OR STRAWBERRY
- In Custody For:
- NARCOTIC DRUG-POSSESS/USE
Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (mugshots expire in three days)
Contempt for Dad's Efforts to Save Daughter
February 19, 2014 permalink
Teenager Justina Pelletier was seized from her parents one year ago after Boston Children's Hospital decided she suffered not from mitochondrial disease but child abuse. After a year of protection from her parents, the formerly active girl is paralyzed from the waist down. The deterioration has driven father Lou Pelletier to breach a gag order in a desperate effort to save his daughter. He is now charged with contempt. If Massachusetts DCF get its way Lou will be behind bars soon and his daughter will continue to decline.
Justina's cause has its own Facebook page, Free Justina Pelletier From Boston Children's Hospital! and donation site.
Beck Begs Listeners to Help Family of 15-Year-Old at the Center of Boston Children’s Controversy Before She ‘Wastes Away and Dies’
Glenn Beck on Tuesday implored his listeners to speak up over the case of Justina Pelletier, a 15-year-old who has been at the center of a fierce battle between her parents, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I have been in this fight before, with Terri Schiavo,” Beck said. “That one we lost. We might lose Justina.”
For those not familiar with the case, a little more than one year ago, Justina’s parents lost custody after disagreeing with a Boston Children’s Hospital diagnosis that their daughter had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric condition. They believed she had mitochondrial disease, a condition she had been receiving treatment for by doctors at Tufts Medical Center.
The parents were accused of “over-medicalizing” their daughter, and are now restricted to 20-minute, monitored phone calls and weekly visits with their child at a DCF facility.
But while Justina’s condition would have presumably improved once she was removed from the care of her “over-medicalizing” parents, Lou Pelletier, the girl’s father, said her condition is rapidly worsening.
Breaking a court-imposed gag-order to speak with TheBlaze, Lou said his daughter was ice skating in February of last year, and she now has “no strength below the hips, [and] minimal strength above the hips.” He said she has been “tortured, physically and mentally, for over a year” and nothing has been done to stop it.
“The head games that have been played on Justina are worse than any Stephen King novel,” he claimed on Glenn Beck’s radio program Tuesday, adding that he fears his daughter is “dying.”
Lou explained that his daughter has colon issues because of mitochondrial disease, and doctors at Tufts performed surgery to insert a colostomy tube to be able to flush out her system.
Now, he claimed, “going for days or weeks at a time … [they will] not do the flush.” Rather, he added, they make Justina “sit on the toilet” for “hours,” saying it is “all in her head.”
“Why does your other daughter live with you if you’re so bad?” Beck asked, noting Lou has another daughter with mitochondrial disease. “If this is something that’s really sick, why haven’t they taken your other daughter?”
“And two others and a 93 year old mother-in-law,” Lou added, throwing up his hands.
Lou said that since Justina was moved to a “psychiatric residential facility in Framingham, Massachusetts” roughly one month ago, she is not getting any of the care she needs.
“The first time we saw her … it was 18 degrees out,” he recalled. “We met her outside the DCF facility … Her hair was soaking wet. She was shaking, scared. The next two weeks, either her hair was greasy as anything, along with the gum lines, along with you name it…”
“Remember, she’s in a wheelchair,” he added. “No strength below the hips, minimal strength above the hips, and … she’s getting no to minimal assistance. They are not [a medical facility]. They don’t want to deal with this.”
After his wife filed a complaint, Lou added, Justina’s hair was “blow dried,” but the girl said “under her breath” that the staff was “not happy” they had been asked to do it.
Lou said the authorities now want to move Justina to a farm called the “Shared Living Collaborative” on the New Hampshire border of Massachusetts.
“America, listen to me,” Beck said, his voice fraught with emotion. “Hear me carefully. This is not about his daughter. If you don’t treat his daughter like your daughter, we’re all toast.”
Beck said “they would’ve had to put [him] in handcuffs” if the same thing happened to him, and that the Pelletier family should bring Boston Children’s and the state of Massachusetts “to its knees” if Justina is returned to their custody and she is determined to have mitochondrial disease at the end of all this.
But Beck said he fears the issue is being swept under the rug, since that would be the most convenient solution for the state.
“If the problem just ‘goes away,’ whether it be it to a farm, where nobody thinks about it anymore, or God forbid, she just wastes away and dies, then we’re past this and we don’t ever have to admit anything,” Beck said. “And I think that’s what’s happening. And that can’t happen.”
He urged listeners to go to www.freejustina.com if they wish to help the family financially.
Contempt Charges Filed Against Dad Who Defied Gag Order to Tell Daughter’s Heartbreaking Story
Editor’s Note: Lou Pelletier confirmed the charges during an interview with Glenn Beck. You can read that update at the bottom of this story.
The Massachusetts Department of Children & Families filed for Lou Pelletier — the father of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier who is the center of a controversy and legal battle involving custody, parents’ rights and two medical diagnoses — to be held in contempt of court, a family source told TheBlaze.
When Pelletier spoke with TheBlaze this week about Justina and the controversy regarding her diagnosis that led custody to be taken away from her parents for the last year, he broke a gag order issued by a Massachusetts judge.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous fearing further legal repercussions, said Tuesday the state’s DCF filed that Pelletier be held in contempt of court for breaking the order, using stories on TheBlaze and one that appeared last week in the New York Daily News as evidence.
Pelletier admitted to TheBlaze earlier this week that he wasn’t sure if his speaking out would help his family or hurt it.
“Should I even be doing what I’m doing today?” Lou told TheBlaze Monday. “You’re scared. If I do this, is it going to make it worse for Justina? Is it going to make it better?”
“I need to save my daughter. It’s not this court house. It’s not the state of Massachusetts,” he said at another point in our interview. “If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”
The injunction preventing the Pelletiers from talking publicly about their daughter in the context of the case was issued on Nov. 7, 2013, according to WTIC-TV. The gag order was issued after the media investigation by WTIC’s Beau Berman.
Going against a gag order, if found in contempt of a court order, could be considered either civil or criminal. Civil contempt of court would involve a failure to obey a court order. Criminal contempt of court is often issued as punishment to prevent future acts of contempt.
Penalties for being found in contempt of court, depending on the type, range from being required to pay the legal fees to paying a fine to jail time.
Jim Ianiri, an attorney in the Boston area who has been involved in custody battles over medical issues since the 1990s but who is not involved in this case, shared his legal expertise with TheBlaze about this situation.
“The court is going to determine whether or not to hold [a person] in contempt of court, and then impose the appropriate penalties, if you will, on that,” Ianiri explained.
A party files a motion to find someone in contempt of court. Then a judge would have to grant the motion, or allow motion, and then find someone in contempt of court or not in contempt of court, Ianiri continued.
“What they’re looking for is a contempt order. An order finding [someone] is in contempt could result in a fine,” he said.
Ianiri also speculated that in this case it would be civil contempt of court, as he thought criminal “is a little more extreme.”
The Pelletiers lost custody, at least temporarily, of Justina to DCF on Feb. 14, 2013. After taking her to Boston Children’s Hospital a few days prior when she had the flu, they say doctors at the hospital wanted to change her treatment regimen. Those physicians believed Justina had somatoform disorder, a psychological disorder that said the symptoms she experienced were all in her head. The Pelletiers, however, disagreed and believed she should continue treatment for mitochondrial disease, a disease she was diagnosed with and had been treated for by doctors at Tufts Medical Center.
When the Pelletiers went to Boston Children’s Hospital on Valentine’s Day 2013 to have their daughter discharged and taken to Tufts, they were served with a 51A form instead — one that accused them of medical abuse. Essentially, they were accused of treating their daughter medically in a way that she didn’t need.
Since that day, the Pelletiers have had limited communication with their daughter and faced numerous court hearings as it is still being decided what will happen with regard to her custody and treatment. The next court date for this case is on Monday, Feb. 24.
TheBlaze reached out to the Suffolk County Family and Probate Court to confirm the filing and were told to contact juvenile court in this case instead. The Suffolk County Juvenile Court Division told TheBlaze it could neither confirm nor deny a contempt of court filing at the time because records within the division are confidential because they involve children.
TheBlaze also sought comment from the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families for comment but did not hear back at the time of this posting.
Update: Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, called into the Glenn Beck Radio Program Wednesday morning and confirmed that DCF has filed contempt of court charges against him.
Pelletier said he doesn’t yet know if the contempt of court will be civil or criminal nor does he know of a special court hearing set for this case yet.
On the show, Pelletier pointed out that in April DCF and Boston Children’s Hospital were aware that a Massachusetts newspaper was working on a story involving Justina’s case but noted that it wasn’t until seven months later after WTIC in Connecticut investigated that the gag order was imposed.
“Those are the things that just make you shake your head among so many other things,” Pelletier said, questioning why a gag order was not imposed earlier then.
Pelletier, who called TheBlaze later Wednesday morning, said the filing from DCF was six pages long. It cited three news articles as violations of Pelletier breaking the gag order. Two of these articles he said didn’t speak with him directly at the time but were sourcing other media outlets about what he said.
“Our attorney said it’s not a surprise,” Pelleteir said. “He’s going to prepare a motion to lift the gag order.”
When asked if he regrets talking with the media, Pelletier said, “we’re all in” at this point.
While Pelletier said his deciding to speak out was a “double-edged sword,” Beck asked if anything good has come out of his telling the family’s story so far.
“People have been flooding us with donations,” Pelletier said, noting it would help his family in what he likened to the “ultimate David and Goliath” story. “Many, many thanks to everybody that has contributed.”
“The biggest thing is, as I said yesterday, there are people with the power to stop this now,” Pelletier said later. “The governor of both states, the attorney generals, the DCF commissioners all have the power, executive authority, to stop this.”
A Massachusetts DCF spokesperson said in an email to TheBlaze Wednesday morning that it doesn’t provide comment or information about children in its custody. The spokesperson also pointed out that the court-issued gag order prohibited any parties involved from discussing the case or the situation surrounding it.
Massachusetts DCF wants to place Justina in foster care and continue gagging her father.
Parents of Justina Pelletier upset after learning teenager will now be sent to DCF foster care, advocat says
Justina Pelletier’s mother collapsed and her father shouted in anger today after learning at a Boston courthouse that the Department of Children and Families wants to place their teenage daughter in foster care on Boston’s North Shore, according to a minister who represents the family.
The parents were also upset because they were told a gag order preventing them from talking to the media remains in place, said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian Defense Coalition, a group that is helping the family.
Linda Pelletier fainted in the corridor outside the Boston Juvenile Court and was taken away on a stretcher to a local hospital. Her husband, Lou Pelletier, occasionally erupted into angry shouts. Reporters were restricted from the fourth floor of the Brooke Courthouse, where a hearing on Justina’s case was held, but could see the Pelletiers from a fifth-floor balcony across the courthouse atrium.
Mahoney said the parents were reacting after emerging from the closed-door hearing, which had lasted about two hours.
Mahoney said late this afternoon that Linda Pelletier had recovered fairly well from her fainting episode, and was expected to be released from Massachusetts General Hospital sometime later today. Mahoney was spending the afternoon with the Pelletier family, who are from West Hartford, Conn.
Justina has been caught in the middle of a high-profile medical dispute and child custody battle involving two major Boston hospitals, the state’s child protection agency, and the Pelletiers, who want to bring their daughter home.
The Globe profiled the Pelletiers and the issues raised by the case in a two-part series.
One issue before the judge in today’s hearing was whether Lou Pelletier should be held in contempt of court for violating a gag order. The teen’s father has recently given media interviews in which he expressed frustration with the quality of care his daughter is getting while in DCF custody, care that he has asserted has been nearly fatal for her.
The Pelletiers’ primary attorney declined comment, citing the gag order.
Mahoney said the parents were deeply upset after being told Justina Pelletier would be sent into foster care, and away from a Framingham residential facility where she has been living for the past month.
Mahoney said he was working to help the Pelletiers win back custody of Justina.
Prior to the Framingham placement, Justina spent about a year in the locked psychiatric ward at Boston Children's Hospital despite the objections of her parents and in conflict with a diagnosis from Tufts Medical Center doctors that the teen suffered from mitochondrial disorder, the Globe has reported.
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a conservative nonprofit legal group, said he now represents the Pelletiers in their effort to end the gag order imposed by the judge. He said the DCF was given two days to tell the judge whether they oppose allowing Staver to enter the case.
Officials at MitoAction, a nonprofit group raising awareness about mitochondrial disease, a rare condition, released a statement saying they had heard that a Boston judge had ordered the teenager to go into a “non-medical” facility in Merrimac.
It remained unclear just what the judge proposed at the hearing. However, typically a teenager like Justina, if viewed as medically stable, might go to a private foster home while also being required to attend some nearby day treatment and educational program.
Source: Boston Globe
February 18, 2014 permalink
When British social workers coveted the baby of mother with a long social services history, they brought their case to court in the form of testimony and a written report by Dr Celest van Rooyen. She recommended taking the baby to ensure its safety. Dr van Rooyen never met the mother, she relied on documents and a phone call with social worker. The court cut and pasted her observations into its findings. The mother, identified only as EL, was never heard, directly or indirectly. The facts came to light after an appellate judge ordered baby NL reunited with his mother.
Britain is not the only place with lazy judges. A Michigan court let clerks rubber stamp the judge's signature. In another, the judge signed blank forms, instructing social workers to fill in the names and dates as needed.
The Daily Mail report is enclosed, the appellate court decision is Re NL (A child)
'It must never happen again': Appeal judge slams 'cut and paste' decision in family court which led to social workers taking baby from parents unjustly
- Judges and social workers have been conspiring to remove children unjustly from their parents, scathing High Court ruling said today
- Condemned family court judges for 'clandestine arrangement' in which they rubber-stamped the demands of social workers without fair hearing
Judges and social workers have been conspiring to remove children unjustly from their parents, a scathing High Court ruling said today.
It condemned family court judges for a ‘clandestine arrangement’ which meant that they simply rubber-stamped the demands of social workers without giving a fair hearing to the pleas of parents.
Rulings by family judges were ‘cut and pasted’ from recommendations emailed to the court by social workers, the High Court found.
The secret dealings between council officials and local judges were revealed in a High Court appeal in which Mrs Justice Pauffley ordered that a mother be re-united with her baby.
The baby was taken by social workers following a court case described by Mrs Justice Pauffley as ‘profoundly alarming’.
The High Court judge warned that ‘the practices I have described are not confined to this area but are widespread across the country'.
She said of the case, which involved judges at an unnamed family court and social workers employed by an unnamed council: ‘It is difficult to view the justices as having been independent and impartial if, as happened here, they simply adopted the local authority’s analysis of what their findings and reasons might comprise.
‘Just because there may be tacit acceptance on the part of many professionals within the family justice system that the practice which operated here exists, that does not mean it is right.
‘It is patently wrong, must stop at once and never happen again.’
The order to end collusion between judges and social workers was endorsed yesterday by the most senior family judge, President of the Family Division Sir James Munby.
In a circular to lawyers, Sir James warned all judges and lawyers to ‘carefully consider’ the case and added that Mrs Justice Pauffley ‘had to deal with circumstances which I hope will never recur.’ The scandal over secret deals between judges and social workers is the latest upheaval in a year of growing controversy over the family courts, the closely-associated Court of Protection, and the way the public has been routinely prevented from knowing what goes on in them.
Last year the Daily Mail revealed that a judge at the Court of Protection had sent a woman to jail in secret after she refused to stop trying to remove her father from a care home where she believed his life was in danger. All information about the imprisonment of Wanda Maddocks was banned from publication until the Mail investigated the case.
In December the Court of Protection was discovered to have ordered behind closed doors that a pregnant Italian woman must undergo a compulsory caesarean operation. The mother, Alessandra Pacchieri, was later told by a family court judge, again in secret, that her baby would be taken for adoption in Essex.
The secrecy surrounding the two court systems is now being loosened on the instructions of Sir James, who has acted to prevent both clandestine imprisonment and the removal of children from foreign mothers by British judges.
The exposure of private arrangements between family judges and social workers was exposed following an appeal by a mother whose child was taken into care.
The 32-year-old mother, a longstanding drug and drink abuser with a history of domestic violence, had had seven previous children. Six are living with their two fathers and one is in the process of being adopted. When she became pregnant again, she was given a place in a unit run by a specialist family drugs and alcohol service.
Mrs Justice Pauffley said it was ‘plain’ that social workers took a decision in advance to remove her baby, who was born in October last year. They cited the mother’s bleak history.
Family judges first heard the case on 1 November. They were presented with an expert report on the mother, commissioned by social workers and prepared by chartered clinical psychologist Dr Celest Van Rooyen. The psychologist, who also gave ‘very strong and powerful’ evidence in person, said the baby was at risk of harm.
The judges declared that ‘the immediate risk of harm is such that his safety requires the continuing removal from his mother’s care. It is proportionate and in his best interests.’ At a second hearing a week later, the same judges said the baby should stay with foster parents because ‘he needs to form an attachment with his primary carers.’ Mrs Justice Pauffley criticised the handling of the case in blunt and uncompromising language.
She said the Van Rooyen report on the mother had been researched and written in a day and the psychologist had spoken neither to the mother nor the medical and psychological experts with whom she and the baby were living. Instead, Dr Van Rooyen had relied on documents and a phone call to a social worker.
Mrs Justice Pauffley said: ‘It surprises and alarms me that Dr Van Rooyen was asked, and was prepared, to provide a report during the course of a single working day, a terrifyingly tight timeframe, and on the basis of papers supplemented by a telephone conversation with a local authority professional who had never met the mother.
‘I struggle to understand how Dr Van Rooyen’s apparently firm opinions, adverse to the mother, could have been formed given the complete absence of any kind of discussion with her.’ The High court judge said the family court judges had not written their own ‘findings of fact and reasons’ - their ruling in the case. The entire document had instead been emailed to them by lawyers for the local council before the 1 November hearing.
A near-identical document was drawn up by the judges after the second hearing. Mrs Justice Pauffley said this was ‘the result, almost certainly of cutting and pasting.’ Mrs Justice Pauffley said this practice ‘has become the norm’ in local family courts.
She said she was ‘profoundly alarmed’ at the practice, which was widespread.
‘There was, apparently, an established but largely clandestine arrangement between the local authority and the court which, to my mind, has considerable repercussions for justice.’ Mrs Justice Pauffley added: ‘In public law proceedings the local authority is the applicant. It is not and should never be seen as the decision maker. That is the role of the court.
‘There is no room for confusion. Justice must be upheld. There is no scope for dilution of that fundamental concept.’
John Hemming, the Lib Dem MP who has campaigned against secrecy in the family courts, said: ‘I am pleased that the senior judges are acting to stop stitch ups and “clandestine” fixing of decisions in the lower courts.
‘What really matters, however, is getting independent evidence into the process rather than the opinion of local authority employees who are instructed in what to say by their management, who are instructed by government as to what outcomes they want.’
Source: Daily Mail