Kevin Libin: Readers detail rarely-seen ugly side of child-protection agencies

Kevin Libin/National Post
June 16, 2009

My in-depth look at the tremendous power and frequent unaccountability of Canada’s child welfare agencies has touched a nerve, and inspired an outpouring of response from parents, teachers and social workers across the country, many of them recounting the most harrowing experiences with what they describe as abusive, incompetent, arrogant and unaccountable child welfare authorities.

The piece even elicited a quick Twitter response from the Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin, who, as the official public watchdog of the province, has long worked to pull the Children’s Aid Societies into the universe of his investigative power, to help improve that accountability. His tweeted response to the story: “CAS has long used your money to ward off oversight. Don’t forget, you and I fund this network of agencies.” And about oversight, he said: “They oppose it vigorously, tho they need it badly.”

Of course, there are undoubtedly many, many child welfare workers and agencies that do excellent, responsible work.
Here, however, are some clips of just a few of the reports from readers that detail a much uglier, rarely seen side of child-protection agencies (the law requires that all names be concealed).
"Thank goodness someone finally did a piece on the most monstrous institution in existence today."

My husband and I both hold university degrees. We have one child. We were married and prepared before bringing him into the world. We care for his every need and already have money put aside for him for college. We-like every other parent have bought him every device necessary for his health and well being, baby monitors, special bottles etc.

My husband and I disagree on things and we bicker a lot so we decided to go in for counseling to strengthen our marriage. We brought our 3 year old with us. The new, inexperienced counselor decided to ask the baby "if mommy and daddy fight in the house" the child's answer was "yes" although it could have been yes to anything. "Does your mother communicate with aliens?, or do you have lunch with Spiderman?”

The counselor called CAS and they became part of our lives . . .
The woman who came in seemed bossy and started telling me what to do, how I should run my life. . . .To make a very long story short...the social worker threatened to "apprehend" my child because my husband and I did not want to conform to her demand for a six-month separation period between us because she felt that "the child was in "potential for risk" of emotional abuse. All I could think of was "doesn't everyone in the world face the potential for risk?" What the hell does that mean? We could not believe this was happening. With all those truly bad parents out there WE were now facing court with CAS . . .We were over powered, we felt helpless, there was no agency more powerful that we could call on for help. We ended up going to court with the CAS and were forcibly divided. We used our son's college money to pay for the lawyer. My husband and I fell into a deep depression. I asked my boss if I could go part time, because the stress was killing me. It deeply affected all of my family, and my close friends too. It was scary that this was a Canadian institution; it felt like we were living in a dystopian universe, with no personal freedoms.

Please government of Canada REIN in the powers of the CAS it is long overdue!

***

I did thirty years of child protection work without screwing up . . . About caseload size. There is a lot of myth about this. I have handled caseloads of thirty and more without a problem. It is largely a matter of focus . . .What really matters is demand for work and the amount of work actually done. I have evaluated numerous caseloads and I have found that some caseloads grew and grew simply because the workers were not accomplishing anything. . . .A supervisor once asked me to evaluate a caseload for him because he was too busy to do it himself and a staff member had just left. I closed 35 of the 40 cases, because there was no need to keep them open.

Since retiring twenty years ago I have done a lot of advocacy work and I have built up a shocking dossier of abuse by social workers, who were fully aided and abetted by their superiors at every level. Nobody seems to care about it. Politicians are scared to touch them.

***

I applaud you for the time and effort it has taken you to write the article. Three families (including myself) , from here in Calgary, have experienced these types of abuses from social services. My MLA got me my children back. I was attending school, and had to withdraw due to my children being apprehended. My children also had no beds in foster care and were told not to complain, or they would be separated. When they did complain, I was told by the caseworker that the children were lying. 2 days later, after contacting my MLA, the foster parents had to buy my children beds.

My girlfriend's children have been gone for a year now, no abuse: a domestic dispute, and no evidence. The other family is being constantly threatened to have their children apprehended [for doing things] including feeding their children Kraft Dinner.

***

I applaud you for the well-constructed article about the state of [child protection] in Ontario; the immense immunity & powers of agency workers . . .

I have an amazing tale to tell about my own experiences with CAS, having lost custody of 3 children nearly 9 years ago after a violent marriage & entrusting their care to in-laws, for a personal reprieve, who couldn't be bothered & voluntarily relinquished them to authorities. As a result I've been engaged in nearly 9 years of litigation, left self-represented on a 2009 Court application, after being frozen out of Legal Aid....I could write volumes & pray that some day the madness will stop. I am truly the epitome of what your article says, about the situation with poverty, lack of supports & resources to leave the abusive marriage . . . the children were UNTOUCHED, but being intimidated, coerced & manipulated by the CAS worker, in my "then" naiveté, into signing " voluntary care agreements" etc., only solidifying my family's demise, whilst my universe was falling apart, hoping to regain custody of my children to face an interminable DECADE of battles within battles just for the privilege of maybe seeing my kids; always under the overhead of "we owe no duty of care to you” . . .

***

It was only this past fall that I was telling a wonderful man who was adopted through the Toronto Catholic CAS about the disaster that this agency still is. [This] man was adopted into a family that should not have been able to raise hamsters let alone children . . .

I told him about the long list of horror stories still happening including Jeffrey Baldwin. The Ontario audit that disclosed CAS mangers were jetting around the countryside with money allotted for children—this with a list of dead children that seems to grow yearly. The rash of lawsuits against them, and the fact that it remains a cesspool of secrecy, corruption and lies.

What bothers me the most is not just what these agencies have got away with in the past, no, it is that they are still doing the same thing. They are no more accountable now than they were 66 years ago when this man had the misfortune of being in their clutches.

Congratulations Mr. Libin on such a good article. Having been through CAS in foster care and adopted via them, I can assure you the anger I have towards them is huge. I've written to no avail requesting oversight of them for years . . .it is a disgrace that the Ombudsman is not being allowed to help in sorting out this festering disaster.

***

I just want to say thank you for standing up and doing this article about the CAS, very few have the guts to do so.

I am one of those parents who are still after 5 yrs fighting to get 3 of my children back from those baby stealers . . .I went to the CAS for help for someone to look after my children while I attended cancer treatment only to be [told] by the male worker . . . If I didn’t do what he wanted he would take my children, in the end I didn’t and he did. He falsified reports and affidavits to the court and shortly after was transferred across the province to cover it up we believe. It didn’t even go to a trial as legal aid had run out after 17 months . .. so I took the deal they offered under duress and took the 2 children they offered to me, leaving my other 3 to be beaten, abused and mentally/emotionally terrorized by these people. I live with the guilt of leaving my children in that situation every day of my life and I haven’t stopped fighting to get my 3 boys back . . .

I am supposed to have access to the other 3 children but am always denied it by the CAS office involved . . . My 3 children are alone and, as in your article are being drugged on things, like Seroquel to control them because they want to come home. The things they have done to my children I would never dream of . . . the child abusers are minding the children with no one overseeing their actions and that has to stop before anymore families are destroyed.

***

I commend you on taking this issue to the public. No one disputes the need for intervention to assist families and children in need. However in many areas a culture of impunity and corruption now dominates the closed, secret system of lawyers, judges and social workers who administer "protection". Child [protection] is now a multi billion dollar business on Canada, and the pursuit of power and profit has placed the interests of the "system" before the interest of families and children . . .

I am a direct witness to corruption and abuse in the Quebec care system (DPJ) and can provide documentation and corroboration of serious corruption and abuse at all levels of the system . . . bold lies, prevarication, false testimony, perjury and collusion in the court room . . .

***

For many years here in Ontario the Children's Aid has shown to be one of the most corrupt corporations and it is not getting any better. In Oshawa, a priest sued them and won however it cost him over $300,000 to finally have a judge charge the CAS with corruption and lying on documents. You know what they did? They moved the worker from Oshawa to London Ontario even after she was charged with crimes against him.

I wish to thank you for telling the truth as no one seems to be doing anything about this and it has got to the point where a parent can't parent anymore in Ontario and all it takes is a phone call to turn a parents life upside down. I emailed your story to all the MP's and MPP's in Oshawa but I know it won't make a difference.

***

Sadly your article missed a very critical issue completely, what happens when the parent calls them for help!? I did, under the guidance and recommendation of Youthdale (a centre my defiant and aggressive son was an in-patient [at] 2 years ago) when I reached out to them for help, when his rages escalated and our living conditions were untenable . . . what had ended up happening is my now 15 year old son has been living the life of Riley at a home I REFUSED to permit he go, and is calling all the shots! I have not seen or heard my childs' voice for nearly nine months now.

I merely did what Youthdale said I had to do to get the process in place to have my son put in residential treatment. Instead, my child declared he wanted no treatment of any sort and to go live hundreds of miles away . . .CAS all these months . . .continues to say "we can't make him do what he doesn't want to do” . . . I've been told I am to “just get used to life without him.” Clearly most of these social workers are not actually parents.!!!

***

I just read your article on Children's Aid Societies. I could not agree more with what you described there . . .

The sad thing is that it might be that without this monstrous system,
there might be some abuses, but probably less than the amount of
abuses at the hands of social workers or other kids in province's
care. I am also sure that as abusers of children and pedophiles
congregate where kids are, similarly a certain kind of people would
pursue such careers.

I am not in the least surprised that Canadians react to such
injustices by decreasing the amount of children they have to the point
that Canada must import hundred of thousands of new immigrants (who
don't know about these abuses) to pay the pension bill.
The Children's Aid societies try to impose the Marxian view that
children should be taken from their parents and being raised by the
state.

Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront where it deserves
to be. Congratulation to you and NP for this great article!!!

***

Great story . . . Recently I was interrogated by a CAS worker in Woodstock Ontario who entered my home without warrant. That social worker came as a result of a supposed "anonymous" call. She claimed that the caller stated that I smoked Marijuana in my home and they were "concerned" about my disabled sons' behaviour. She stated that the prime reason for the interrogation was because my AUTISTIC son acted erratic (I would think that if he acted "normal" at any point I would have a heart attack!) . . . She said that she spent time in university and that she could "detect" a faint odour of marijuana in my home. We stated that was ridiculous. . . I was [once given an] award from Premier Dalton McGuinty for providing an exemplary role as a parent of a disabled person .

This organization should be looked at. They are non-accountable to the taxpayer, and routinely abuse whatever limited powers they have.
Generally the people that are abused by them, are unable to defend themselves and through the usage of voluntary agreements are forced to participate in drug testing, parenting classes, and other "state" approved programs that are intended to do nothing for families but everything for the alleviation of the "states' guilt".

***

I just read your article in the National Post. I want to thank you for writing this article. My life, my family life and everything I had been working for all my life is now almost destroyed because of the CAS. I haven't been able to be with my kids for the last 2 weeks and CAS hasn’t talked with me at all. They only have a small piece of the story and based on that I have now so many problems. I'm really afraid even writing this email because of the consequences, they have so much power.

***

What a great story . . .CAS is so corrupt . . . As an advocate in Ontario I have seen 1000s of cases and read all information on the cases. From police officer who were former crown wards to doctor being threatened to favor CAS and being over-paid to do it. The most common thing I see is discrimination. Why have the charter when a parent loses their child because they are legally blind or in a wheelchair? Julian Fantino said it best in 2001 "we can find a missing car in 24 hours but a missing child maybe never found, that’s child protection in Ontario.” But, great story. Families affected by cas/cfsa need more stories like this one to tell the truth.

***

I read your above article recently, and my wife and I couldn't agree more. The CAS is a spun out institution where the presumption of guilt reigns.

My wife and I have a 16-month-old daughter who is in an expensive daycare in Markham. My wife received a call about bruising on our daughter's legs (thick of thigh area) on a Wed. We explained how it happened, given she is super mobile and had a fall while 'investigating' our walk in shower—I was standing right beside her.

A week and 2 days later, as the bruising was subsiding, but darker, the daycare called me to advise the CAS was contacted and coming to check our daughter . . .

We are two professionals that are great parents. We wouldn't harm anything, much less our pride and joy. We were appalled at the lack of judgment of the daycare as well as the audacity of the CAS. And yes, 'apprehension' was mentioned through the process . . .

I'm filing complaints against the daycare and the CAS because of this ordeal . . . The experience was only mildly short of a death in the immediate family in terms of stress, pain and emotional turmoil. It was the worst day of my life, short of my father's recent passing . . .

Thank you for highlighting the CAS' completely ill-founded and distorted evolution.

****

A friend of mine is a lawyer with CAS in Kingston. Awhile ago, I, as a joke, I suggested that with the current laws and attitudes towards smoking that they would soon be taking children away from parents who smoked. She completely missed my satire and said something like, "Well, we have to consider everything in the welfare of the children."

0

FSCD to have separate legislation from that of child protection

Particularly, my Advocacy is aimed at the prevention of families of Children with Disabilities from being grouped amongst individuals who may require protection. No clear division exists in many instances and this has created a large chasm of unnecessary separation of families.

In effort to access Government services and funding for loved ones with medical and developmental needs, natural, loving families have been faced with unconscionable 'choice' which includes surrendering guardianship and out of home foster placement in order to achieve help.

Fortunately, I was able to effect an Amendment in Legislation in the Province of Alberta. One small step forward that I hope will be instrumental in creating protocol for Legislation Provincially and Nationally.

Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act (FSCD) of Alberta, Canada

Section 2-3, Manual Amendments: Policy and Procedures in Family Centred Supports and Services, Effective December 2006.

The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services.

http://www.child.alberta.ca/home/527.cfm

- Velvet Martin

"I was able to effect an

"I was able to effect an Amendment in Legislation in the Province of Alberta."

Wow 400 of us are trying the same to make sure kids are not abused in care... amazing how you got results and all we got are dead friends and government labeled us public enemy #1

If families had support... and a system to ask for help from and not be in fear of, the need for child protection would drastically decrease. The above comment shows the government is just useless..... But hey as long as your "group" is okay right? Sorry you were being grouped with us stolen and abused kids.

overreaching their scope

A friend of mine is a lawyer with CAS in Kingston. Awhile ago, I, as a joke, I suggested that with the current laws and attitudes towards smoking that they would soon be taking children away from parents who smoked. She completely missed my satire and said something like, "Well, we have to consider everything in the welfare of the children."

I think apart from the obvious self-interest and corruption of the organizations involved in foster care and child protection, it's the attitude displayed in the above quote, that is making child protective services the misbehaving organization that it is. Just like the upcoming DSM V will be able to assign a disorder to every person on the face of this earth, so will the inquisitive look of a social worker see some dysfunction in every family they will visit. As a result there so easily is something wrong with a family that needs intervention, not realizing the intervention itself is harmful. Even interfering with a family creates tension. People will fear the removal of children and those tensions will have its effect on children. Removal itself is harming children by definition and placement in foster families is often worse for children than living with their own family. It seems as if many social workers don't understand the consequences of their own actions. They see a dysfunction or believe to see one, but don't see the limitations of their own work. Child Protective Services are not there to protect children from every potential problem in their family life, they are there to protect children whose family life is a clear and present danger to children. CPS is not about social engineering, it's about protecting children from abuse.

smalltown usa...

"CPS is not about social engineering, it's about protecting children from abuse."
In our area of smalltown usa, everyone knows everyone else... and you can just imagine the "gonna getcha" mentality that permeates this region. 
In our CPS office, which harbors many older and vindictive people, are those with the following problems themselves:
one is a hard-core drunk who divorced his wife, left his three children and married a woman half his age, and began a new family.  He moved to the country one county away (still represents THIS county) and hibernates with his sickness.  Next we have a man-hater who is a cancer survivor; she makes each call a time to cry over what she has survived; yet it does nothing to make her anything less than a stone-cold unfeeling bitch who props her ego up on FOUNDED child abuse; even when it is NOT abuse... she sees no fine line.  Then there are the old-bitties in the office who have been there since the beginning of time, harboring great resentment to those of us who find ourselves left to the welfare lifestyle; even though most of us do not want to be there but were forced into it. 
They change social workers regularly because most of them are climbing the ladder and care nothing for the "people" aspect of CPS/DHS.  Most of them look like the scum of the earth with a chip on their shoulder; wanting desperately to hit-back at the harsh life their own parents/spouses forced on them.  They NEVER smile, and take great pleasure in pointing the finger and declaring that none of us have ANY boundaries!  NEVER ONCE declaring help for the WHOLE family; just pretending the children are the only reason they are there; while shuffling those children off to ungodly foster homes, out in the boonies, and subjecting them to neglect and sexual abuse by other older foster children.
And then you find the rare woman and man who just want there to be fairness in the world-of-welfare because they are still young and have a vision of making a difference in this world.  I feel the only way to bring change for those falling into this welfare life (but are not truly child-abusers) is to find and reach the very few who are in this to help ALL concerned.  Those without an agenda.  Those who have not been in the "business" so long that they have become hardened to the needs of the WHOLE family.

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

The young and the restless

And then you find the rare woman and man who just want there to be fairness in the world-of-welfare because they are still young and have a vision of making a difference in this world.

I saw and experienced this, first-hand within the nursing profession.  The new-graduates have all the pump and passion "to make a real difference", but that fire-within cools quickly.  Six months later, the newbies soon realize they are constantly given the worst shifts and schedules, the worst districts and realize they dread sitting in the staff-room because each co-worker wants to our-worst the other with complaints that start with, "You know what I hate?".  These people usually hate life, their jobs, and most people.  They put up with most of it because they need the income and don't want to work retail.

This is where the private adoption industry has a leg-up on public (CP) services... why work for the state (getting state-wages) when you can work for a private firm that offers all sorts of great little perks each time the bell is rung and an adoption is made final?  I imagine it's much like working in the the newborn-delivery unit, as opposed to gynecological oncology. 

Pound Pup Legacy