Sunday, March 11, 2018

Episode 7 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 7 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION
Today, Solutions to the Problems … that's right, after four episodes reviewing current problems in the B.C. Child Protection programme, Ray Ferris is providing solutions. Remember, that the ten-page document from which all of this information has been taken has been given to some members of the B.C. Legislative Assembly.
The segments for this blog are prepared with Ray's permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

Written by Ray Ferris.
Some General Information. 
            After retirement I first started doing advocacy when one of my former foster parents asked me for help. This resulted in my becoming a voluntary consultant to the Victoria foster parents association. The Association reported that only 2% of foster home closure appeals were successful. I did not believe that the children's ministry got it right 98% of the time, nor did anyone else. I also became knowledgeable about the epidemic of false accusations from recovered memory counselling. This practice did a lot of damage before it was finally debunked. An offshoot was the counselling cult of satanic ritual abuse accusations. The FBI investigated 300 cases and found not a shred of evidence, and yet many social workers believed in it.  
            My advice on child protection issues really stepped up after I got involved in the Bayne case. A blog was opened to help raise funds for the defence and court costs. I often wrote on it and I had many people asking me for advice. There was a heavy readership from all over Canada and the USA and on the day the judgement came out there were over 12,000 hits. I still get people contacting me on line. I had 10 new cases in 2015. I have been writing much less frequently over the last few years and requests have tapered off.
            I soon began to discern definite patterns arising. To start with it seemed to me that in two cases out of three the director's evidence was usually quite weak and did not merit the adversarial treatment that was common. In the other cases there was certainly a need for protection in various degrees. However, my approach was very basic and the same as when I did protection work. I tried to guarantee due process in court. I thought that if the Act were to be followed and the rules of evidence were followed that there should be a just outcome. So what was the problem? I found that seldom was the Act being followed and even when there was legal representation there seemed to be great laxity in following due process. Some lawyers did not like to take instructions and got confused between giving advice and giving instructions. So I found that most of the time I was just giving legal advice. When asked how to pick a lawyer I suggested that they should ask them if the have read the Act and how recently and what are the salient points I need to know. Eventually I was giving them an advice letter telling them in detail how to instruct counsel to insist on notification and disclosure and how to keep reminding the court of the mandatory clauses of the Act.  I found that if we got on to the case early, we could usually get results, but if it had gone on too long there was too much ego entrenched. Defence counsels did not like being told that they had not done the job properly. The parents in most cases had no difficulty studying and understanding the sections of the Act I had them read.


If you are reading this post and have not seen previous posts, I encourage you to return to the start of this recent series.
Thank you for reading ... 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Episode 6 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 6 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION
Today, Recommendation for Assessments … that's right, after four episodes reviewing current problems in the B.C. Child Protection programme, Ray Ferris is providing solutions. Remember, that the ten-page document from which all of this information has been taken has been given to some members of the B.C. Legislative Assembly.
The segments for this blog are prepared with Ray's permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

Written by Ray Ferris.
Assessments:  A great deal of protection work involves knowing how to do assessments. Such work needs experience and judgement. A worker may need to be called on to do various assessments such as risk assessments, foster home studies, parental capacity assessments, general social assessments and adoption home studies. Although these assessments have different purposes, they are far more alike than different. They all require the assembling of evidence-based information. 

This means having interview skills and listening skills and knowledge of normal and abnormal behaviour and social norms. Knowledge of child development is especially important. Interviews should always have structure. The format can be flexible as long as the necessary areas are covered. An assessor must start with an open mind and only make judgements after looking at all the facts. Human behaviour is usually consistent and it is important to understand this, particularly in assessing injury to children. Most injuries to children are accidental and one should never assume deliberate injury without good evidence, but unfortunately this happens quite regularly. This can simply be due to the social worker being anxious and afraid of being wrong.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Episode 5 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 5 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION
Today, Suggestions 1,2,3,4 … that's right, after four episodes reviewing current problems in the B.C. Child Protection programme, Ray Ferris is providing solutions. Remember, that the ten-page document from which all of this information has been taken has been given to some members of the B.C. Legislative Assembly.
The segments for this blog are prepared with Ray's permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

Written by Ray Ferris.
RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS TO CURRENT PROBLEMS WITH B.C. CHILD PROTECTION

Suggestion One: CONTRACT PUBLIC DEFENDERS - INSURE ACCESS TO EFFECTIVE LEGAL REPRESENTATION
            It is not easy to equalize the power in the court situation. The directors have deep pockets funded by the taxpayer, but the parent has to rely on patchy legal aid, on selling property or on the charity of an individual law firm. My proposal is that we follow a model that has been used with success in the criminal law arena. Public prosecutors and public defenders are both funded by the state. We used to use this model in the Victoria juvenile court. A duty defence council was always there to ensure fair process. 

             At present counsels are contracted to act for directors. I suggest we also contract public defenders.
            This model could greatly speed up cases and facilitate the settlement of cases by mutual consent. Defence counsels should know the Act inside out and be diligent in checking the wording. Prosecution and defence would in effect work together to review the evidence and this would help to avoid unnecessary extreme positions. Cases could be settled with fewer hearings and this should ease the court backlog and save parents from being beggared by legal costs. A pilot project could be initiated in a medium sized court to evaluate the concept. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Episode 4 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 4 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION
Today, Problem #4 of 4

The content derives from a ten-page document prepared by Ray Ferris for members of the B.C. legislative assembly. The segments for this blog are prepared with his permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

Written by Ray Ferris.
We've been dealing first the Current Problems With B.C. CHILD PROTECTION and then the suggested solutions. Illustrations have been included to define the problems clearly.

Today, Problem #4 of 4  Social Workers Ignorant of Their Duties
            Problem #4 of 4. A leading cause of a denial of parent and child rights is that social workers and their superiors are simply ignorant of the duties required by the Act. They rely entirely on advice from their contracted lawyers who can become very careless. Defence lawyers, especially on legal aid are often equally careless and do not take well to taking reasonable instructions. One outcome of the heavy reliance on lawyers is that the adversarial culture of the law and the courts has permeated the children's ministry and staff behaviour has become antagonistic to clients. As soon as a complaint is laid under the CF&CSA the social worker is in an adversarial situation. This spills over into attempts at mediation.  Many examples are in appendix 4. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Episode 3 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 3 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

The content derives from a ten-page document prepared by Ray Ferris for members of the B.C. legislative assembly. The segments for this blog are prepared with his permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

Written by Ray Ferris.
We've been dealing first the problems and then the suggested solutions. CURRENT PROBLEMS WITH B.C. CHILD PROTECTION

Today, Problem #3 of 4 WEAKNESSES OF THE CFCS ACT

           The Child & Family And Community Services Act has many flaws, but if used by well-trained professionals within a clear set of ethics, it can work well. The main weaknesses of the Act are due to the fact that it was theoreticians and not practitioners wrote it and they made the mistake of trying to legislate good practice, making the Act cumbersome and difficult. The strengths of the Act is that it was written by people with a good knowledge of child development and the damage that can be done by severance of the bond with principal caregivers. The Act has many clauses meant to give guidance on this and to forestall injury. Unfortunately the Act is not followed in a great many instances. This failure has become entrenched at every level.

Illustrations of Time Lines and Principles
            The Child & Family And Community Services Act (CF&CSA) is long and detailed but the working sections can soon be learned. When other sections become relevant, it is not difficult to look them up.
            It is important that all levels of protection staff understand not only the specific responsibilities of the Act, but also the spirit and intentions of the Act. The basic intention of the Act is that children can be made safe at home or in alternative care. This is simple in concept but complicated to achieve. Parental rights are invested in their children's rights. When due process is given high priority both rights are protected. The Act particularly focuses on young children and urges swift resolution of cases and restricts the time allowed for temporary orders. This is to avoid psychological damage caused by prolonged separation, which can result in lasting anxiety disorders as is born out in reputable child development literature.
            Here then are the principles of the Act relative to the best interests of children.
Section 2 emphasizes that the family is the best place to raise a child and they should be given help if that keeps them safe at home. Kinship ties should be maintained and decisions should be timely.
Section 4 describes the best interests of a child. These are guidelines and include safety, physical and emotional needs, continuity of care, quality of relationship with parents and others and the effect of maintaining it. It also speaks to the child's racial, cultural and religious heritage and the effect on the child if there is delay in making decisions.
Section 71 also emphasizes the making relative placement a priority. Also the child's right to privacy is mentioned.
Section 4 also emphasizes that no right is paramount and they must be judged overall. This means that when there are conflicts between rights a good professional judgement is needed. For example after years of continuity of care it gains importance over other rights.
            Next are the procedural sections of the Act.
Section 13 attempts to describe all the possible circumstances that define a child in need of protection. This section is problematic because many protection workers have not read it and because a number of sections are hard to prove with factual evidence. Many sections are subjective and rely on good judgement.
Sections 14 through 19 describe in great detail all the possible circumstances that can arise in receiving reports and in accessing children and evidence and how to deal with them. These do not arise in practice very often and can be looked up when needed.  This is one more attempt at prescribing practice and is meaningless if the staff is unfamiliar with the Act.
Sections 22, 23 and 24 deal with mediation and family conferencing.
Section 23 is problematic because it allows family conferencing to be repeatedly adjourned and this can cause long and damaging delays in the court process. In other words there is a built-in conflict in the Act. It also just does not work in the adversarial culture that commonly prevails in the ministry.
Sections 24 through 30 once more describe in great detail all the possible circumstances and actions necessary to protect children. One more attempt to prescribe practice and ineffective when the staff do not know the Act or how to look things up.
Section 31 begins a series of critical procedural responsibilities and this is where the training needs to be strict. This is after a child is taken into care and the case is presented at court. Parents must be notified of the removal and the child must be presented to court within 7 days. At the presentation hearing a written report must be made describing the circumstances and copies given to the parents, who are entitled to attend. There is usually very good compliance to this point. The main snag that I have noticed is that the evidence can be very vague on these reports. Also there is no time for parents to argue any evidence or interim custody at a presentation hearing and it can be a long time before they get the opportunity.
Section 37 and following detail numerous circumstances that arise following child apprehension. Protection staff must know the ACT as it pertains to dealing with these circumstances. For instance Section 37 specifies that a protection hearing must be set within 45 days of the presentation hearing and must be concluded as soon as possible. This is no longer done except in consented cases. It is very easy for the director to evade this section by calling in so many witnesses that there is not enough court time for months or even years. In my case examples I cite a case where one witness took a full week in court on opinion evidence and another where the case was before the court and in interim custody nearly three and one half years. There needs to be far more stringent vetting of evidence. I have sat through hours of testimony that was absolute rubbish, but the judge just let it roll on.
Section 38 spells out the duties for service of notice and it's vital that protection workers know this. It specifies that notice must be served at least ten days before a protection hearing and must state the time place, date and location. Also it must specify the order being sought as well as some other things. Note that this is an absolute legal requirement and failure to do this should negate the validity of a protection hearing. No longer is proof of service a court routine and notification has become whatever the director says it is. This is now treated as optional by protection staff, lawyers and judges. No judge should make an order without knowing that the law has been followed. No lawyer should agree to waive notice unless specifically instructed to do so by the parent.
            Section 41 specifies the orders that can be made when a protection finding is made. This includes the stringent requirements for making a continuing care order and the fact that the parents must be so unfit as to be virtually beyond redemption or else do not want the child.
            Section 45 specifies the time limits of temporary care.
            I am only trying to deal with the most important parts of the Act for the protection worker to know and I conclude with Section 64. This section covers the duty to disclose. This specifies that, if requested a party to an action, including the Director must disclose fully and in timely manner specific information. Timely means well before the due date of the hearing, so that defence counsel can prepare a proper defence.  The specific information falls short of what may really be necessary. There are a couple of problems with this because there is plenty of wriggle room for the director to avoid it.
            A good disclosure request will ask for all witnesses to be called and the gist of the evidence to be given. Also disclosure of all documents, reports and letters to be filed as evidence. This is what a parent's counsel should demand. Social workers ideally should provide it on request of disclosure anyway. The other snag is that it is hard to prove that disclosure has been requested. So defense counsel should be instructed in writing to make the request for disclosure in writing, so the proof is clear.


Tomorrow, Problem #4  Social Workers Ignorant of Their Duties

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Episode 2 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 2 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Ron Unruh's Preface: This is the second post in a multi-post presentation on Improvements for BC Child Protection. The content derives from a ten-page document prepared by Ray Ferris for members of the B.C. legislative assembly. The segments for this blog are prepared with his permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

Written by Ray Ferris. First the problems and then the suggested solutions.
CURRENT PROBLEMS WITH B.C. CHILD PROTECTION

Today, Problem #2 of 4 Child & Family & Community Services Act is Routinely Ignored
            Many of the important clauses in the Child & Family And Community Services Act  (CF&CSA) are routinely ignored, which deprives parents and children of their rights to due process. Two very important sections of the Act are, (1) the right to receive ten days written notice of protection hearings, stating the evidence to be presented and (2) the right to full disclosure that can be very specific. When due process is denied to unfit parents, it can easily be denied to cases where the director has weak or insufficient evidence.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Episode 1 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Episode 1 of 7: SUGGESTED IMPROVEMENTS TO B.C.'S CHILD PROTECTION

Ron Unruh's Preface: For the next several days I am presenting a series of posts under this broad title of Improvements for BC Child Protection. The content derives from a ten-page document prepared by Ray Ferris for members of the B.C. legislative assembly. The segments for this blog are prepared with his permission. Ray has written many articles on this blog for the past decade.  Ray Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at rtferris@telus.net.

 Written by Ray Ferris.
CURRENT PROBLEMS WITH B.C. CHILD PROTECTION
            In assessing problems within British Columbia's Children Protection it is helpful to note the conclusion at which The Seebohm Commission in Britain arrived in the 1960s, that there were many problems of a non-administrative nature in the British social services and that they could not be solved by administrative changes. There have been many serious problems in the child protection services of British Columbia, but the repeated attempts at solving them have exclusively been through administrative and legal devices, all of which have failed. Indeed it could be argued that they have sometimes made the situation worse.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

PROPOSED IMPROVEMENTS FOR CHILD PROTECTION.

Article by Ray Ferris. (Ray Ferris, my friend and fellow advocate is an expert on child protection and specifically the work of the Ministry of Children and Families in British Columbia (MCFD). He is the author of  'The Art of Child Protection."  Ray reissued this information now, sent to me September 27th, 2017-09-27. Ron Unruh).

PROPOSED IMPROVEMENTS FOR CHILD PROTECTION.

This is based on material I wrote at the request of some NDP members of the legislative assembly for the election of 2009. 

Introduction.
The British Seebohm Commission of the 1960s noted that there were many problems of a non-administrative nature in the British social services and they could not be solved by administrative changes. This is important to remember because there have been many serious problems in the child protection services of British Columbia, but the repeated attempts at solving them have only been through administrative and legal devices, which have always failed. Indeed it could be argued that they have sometimes made the situation worse. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ANONYMOUS MOTHER WRITES - HER GIRLS HAVE BEEN TAKEN FROM HER

This happens frequently, that a parent or caregiver writes a comment on one of my posts that is years old. They have responded to a topic that has popped up in their online search. The likelihood is usually remote that the writer will know where to return to see whether I or someone else has responded to them.

Yesterday, Anonymous wrote on a 2010 post. Here is the communication.
 AnonymousSeptember 12, 2017 at 4:08 AM
my 2 girls were apprehended based on the falsifying of drug test results by my social worker or someone else who is obviously paid by mcfd to do so. funny how I was not using and yet, every single result came back positive for fentanyl and norfentanyl...
I am hoping and praying for the truth to come out at trial in October...has anyone else had the same experience? I am literally dying more every day that my girls are not with me. and the truth is they were stolen from me for NO REASON. which makes this even harder. I am a good mother and everyone, even the sw says I am. so then I ask, why are you doing this to us when you KNOW I would NEVER abuse or neglect my girls? while you are wasting resources and foster care placement on my girls there are other kids out there in ACTUAL need who are suffering. go save them and leave us be. please! 
Reply

Replies

  1. Well Anonymous Sept 12, 2017 --- I hope you have returned to read. Since you wrote your comment on a blog piece done in 2010, I think you may not find this again, so what I am going to do, is to put your comment on a post for today, Sept 13, 2017 to see if someone responds.
If you are reading this Anonymous letter and you would like to provide her/the writer with some counsel or share your own story, please do.

The original post to which she was responding was entitled,

IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE US / Part 372 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne

and it began this way. "Child Protection workers and administrators would like us all to understand what an almost impossible task they have. Well, impossible in the sense of making all citizens happy with the results of their work. They will tell us that a perfect balance is unachievable between not protecting children from abusive parents and not making unfounded accusations against innocent parents. Stated differently and more positively, it is difficult both to protect children and to correctly assess risk by parents. To which I and others will quickly declare, “Then become more proficient at the latter in a hurry.”

I was writing then, in the middle of the horrific 4 year MCFD custody of the 4 children that belonged to Zabeth and Paul Bayne. They were finally returned in August 2011. Rejoice.








Sunday, August 27, 2017

PARENTAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENT - An answer to Anonymous

Parental Capacity Assessment 
An Anonymous respondent asked for information about this, but placed the response on a post that is several years old. The original post was published on May 3, 2011. It is unlikely that the Anonymous person will be able to find that post again so here is a current post that hopefully catches the person's attention. I referred the query to my colleague, Ray Ferris, an expert on child protection and specifically the work of the Ministry of Children and Families in British Columbia (MCFD).

Here is Anonymous' post followed by Ray Ferris' answer.

Wayne .. hey I am a dad of five girls one of them autistic and we had traveled in a truck to keep moving while home schooling the girls once in a house we were case filed by child protection and they have decided to go with the mom after a forced break up the problem that I am having is the fact that no dad has ever been so close with a bunch of kids as I and I had basically raised them on my own now separated for over half of a year they want me to do the assessment for the court and from what I read 95% of the time they recommend against the parent in question is there a recommendation for betterment of situation as to please the courts I mean what do they look for I can only be the dad that I am theirs. So if you are truthful and your self you fail but if you study to mimic what they want you pass ? tell you what I will check this site in a couple of days just to see if there is any good advice have a great night

                        Ray Ferris  August 26, 2017 at 4:55 PM
There is no short or easy answer to your situation. I do not think a PC is the most important thing to go on, but I will tell you about them anyway. A parental capacity assessment should be a fact based report with as little room for subjective opinion as possible. 'The facts should speak for themselves. There are very few reliable guidelines foe PCA reports. In the part or Canada where I live the college of psychologists has no guidelines and neither does the college of social workers. The law society does have guidelines and they specifically state that psychologists are not qualified to do parental capacity reports without further training and mentoring. They also state that psychometric testing should not be a routine part of an assessment and should only be used in special cases. Regardless of guidelines and training, the only true protection for the public is in the skills and integrity of the assessor. Facts should be sought like level of schooling, job training, work history, marital history and any history of alcohol and drug abuse, or any criminal record. Also telling the truth about the negatives in your life. Right away I would want to talk about your statement that you were travelling in a truck to keep moving. This looks like serious instability to me. You would need to convince an assessor that you were capable of finding and maintaining a decent home for six people and capable of maintaining them. I do not know the age of your girls, but if I were you or your representative, I would want to have them interviewed to find out what they want. If the authorities decide to leave them with their mother, I would want to know that the girls have been interviewed by a third party to find out if they want to keep in touch with you on a regular basis.

Ray Ferris