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Child Welfare System was benign outlet for children

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Help Fight Child Protection's picture
on Sat, 04/07/2012 - 08:29

For the Naysayers
I must interject because at one time, I too, thought as those in the public yet unaffected... I believed that the Child Welfare System was benign outlet for children who had been truly abused.
Contrary to misconception, it is not strictly abusive situations that are being followed. Loving families too, are being subjected to oppressive practice which can - and does - often result in harmful outcomes. Furthermore, parents and children traumatized by events, are expected to remain silent... Legislated Publication Bans deter individuals from being able to share the details of their case openly. While these restrictions were naturally geared to act as a means of protection of identity to support the child and family, these measures are unfortunately now detracting from accountability. We are missing key opportunities to learn from erroneous practice leading to tragic outcomes, including fatalities. Silence has evolved into a mechanism to preserve integrity of the System, instead of innocent lives. Without a vehicle in place to disclose tragic events, Society remains largely unaware of the vast array of benign circumstances that lead solid families to require involvement in the Child Welfare System. Loving families unfairly blemished by ill-conceived reflection, "Surely, you must have done something" (to warrant intrusion?)
Similar mindset occurs with representatives of the Ministry too. I attended a session in which families seeking to foster/adopt were guided by a presenter who informed that many of the children in the Child Welfare System are the offspring of “prostitutes” and “drug addicts”. I was deeply disturbed to listen to the biased, inaccurate commentary being fed to unsuspecting potential parents.
Advocating on behalf of many who have found themselves amongst the statistics, including myself, I feel that I have a responsibility to educate and try to remove some of the myth and stigma attached. As a white, middle-class professional; the public typically does not envision me as a recipient of Child Welfare Services. I work in rehabilitation for Family-Centred Care Practice. I am a mother to 5 children (including a daughter now deceased.) I serve as online Administration for a rare medical condition and I have also provided services to the Ministry who approached my family asking us to care for 2 children with disability until reunification with their family could transpire.
Oft times, persons who actually comprise the System fall under an umbrella which ought never occur: Children receiving services under Children's Aid Societies with special needs. Loving families are forced beneath discriminatory and archaic practice to relinquish custody or coerced into out of home arrangements for high needs children in order to gain access to necessary medical supports. Sound like something out of the dark ages? I assure you, it is not and the practice continues in present day. My only daughter, Samantha, was one of the children who government representatives opted not to fund in-home. While institutions for persons with developmental diversity are no longer ethically acceptable, forcing families to relinquish loved ones into government medical foster establishments - or – resorting to incarceration has become the present day version of the same practice. Instead of funding natural families, we continue to conceal children with special needs in out of home foster placements; a practice both detrimental to family and to child.
Though studies demonstrate that it is more cost-effective and safe to provide in-home care to families, resistance is met. In Ontario, 83% of children who are recipients of Child Intervention Services, are those with special needs. In Alberta, the figure is 70% with similar statistics following across the Country. Instead of allocating resources to families directly, Governments have resorted to requests of guardianship relinquishment and out of home placements of children with extraordinary needs.
Similar methodology of targeting transpires within the Native community; bearing outrageous statistical evidence of removal from natural families. In the realm of Child Welfare, a predetermination of failure in the role of parenting exists towards single parents, those who have grown up in the System now having children of their own; grandparents raising their children's children, low-income families and persons with limited access to education. What seems sadly obvious is the fact that Social Welfare is meant to bolster families in crisis, not further berate and destroy. Siblings are torn apart, mothers separated in hospital from newborns, fathers distanced from offspring, and children are left to bear the disservice growing up with loss of identity in both culture and sense of belonging. Abuse within the System is well-established by studies and understandably leads to angry young adults without the skills or fundamentals to function effectively in Society.
What became blatantly obvious to those of us discussing Policy with Authorities, is the fact that well-written outlines exclude Penalty for negligence. No where in Legislation is there written deterrent for employees who fail duty; which can and has culminated in loss of lives. The key element is non-existence of Legislation sanctioning breach of practice. If we are to deter poor outcome stemming from negligence of duty, consequences must follow. Compliance of Law must be adhered to by individuals beyond the public sector and be inclusive of employees of the Ministry.
A great number of individuals, including those in positions of Authority, are largely unaware – some, simply unwilling to listen – of deficits and make a conscientious effort to avert oppressive and dangerous practice. We have become numb as a society to tragedies. We keep trying to over-correct instead of returning to core values which involve honour of Family-Centred Care Practice. A concept which is not only ethically correct, but financially viable.
Samantha’s Law creates distinction between loving families of children with disabilities from individuals who require services under the Child Intervention Model. Previous archaic stance found children with developmental delay and medical needs, like my daughter, Samantha, referred to Child & Youth Services where they were directed into foster care, much like institutional care. Families must not be forced to relinquish custody, nor out of home placement, in effort to gain access to government funding for required medical supports and services.
SAMANTHA'S LAW: Amendment to the Alberta FSCD (Family Support for Children with Disabilities) Act was made retroactive to December 2006 stems from Samantha Martin's passing on December 3, 2006 and is defined in Section 2-3, Manual Amendments: Policy and Procedures in Family Centred Supports and Services


My story is but one of countless that needs to be told in order to prevent repeat, to educate and develop a broader sense of who is served by Child & Youth Services.
Velvet Martin