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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FORSETH: No matter what you may see or hear in the media, a child is never removed for a random or arbitrary reason. That is a myth! The goal IS to keep families together when possible

Seeing the recent news story out of Manitoba, regarding the removal of a newborn by Child and Family Services, has given me pause for thought.

Let’s start with this.  For reasons of privacy, any Child Protection Services agency in Canada, is unable at any time, to give specifics regarding any case.  Unfortunately, that puts those responsible for the safety of not only newborns, but also toddlers, young children and teens, in a challenging position. They are unable to provide reasons why a child may have been removed from a parent; that due to privacy issues and confidentiality.  

One thing should be kept in mind however; no matter what you may see or hear
in the media, a child is never removed for a random or arbitrary reason.  That is a myth!  The goal IS to keep families together when possible.  What would possible causes, in the recent or any similar case, be?  There is nothing vague about why, as I found out through exploring the Canadian Child Research Portal.  Here is what they have to say:

Child abuse and neglect include acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that result in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.  The five primary forms of maltreatment are physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, emotional maltreatment and exposure to domestic violence.

Because of this, those in the news media -- whether TV, Radio, Newspaper, and those online -- do an extreme disservice to those who have the responsibility for the safety and well-being of children. 

I for one am sure that a social worker’s best day does not include taking a newborn child from a crying mother!

Those with responsibility to ensure babies, toddlers, and youth are safe, are obligated to do so UNDER LAW. For example, here in British Columbia, the Handbook for Action on Child Abuse and Neglect is unmistakably clear:

... if you have reason to believe that a child or youth needs protection under section 13 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act you must promptly report the matter to a child welfare worker... 

That report also clearly states:
Anyone who has reason to believe a child may be at risk — and the child’s parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child — has a legal duty to report that belief to a child welfare worker.

Additionally, Section 13, subsection 1 of the Child, Family, and Community Service Act of BC deals specifically with when that protection would be needed, why, and when. Those would include, but are not limited to the following: 

  • is likely to be, physically harmed by the child's parent
  • sexually abused or exploited by the child's parent 
  • physically harmed, sexually abused or sexually exploited and the child's parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child 
  • physically or emotionally harmed because of neglect
  • living in a situation where there is domestic violence 
  • deprived of necessary health care and the parent refuses to provide or consent to treatment 
  • unable or unwilling to care for the child
  • has not made adequate provision for the child's care, or has been absent from home in circumstances that endanger the child's safety or well-being 
  • abandoned and adequate provision has not been made for the child's care

In looking at this list, there is certainly no grey area about the protection and well-being of children. It is in fact abundantly clear!  Every province in Canada, including Manitoba where the issue has just been raised, have requirements which are nearly identical to those in BC.

Specifically to Manitoba’s case, the Reporting of Child Protection and Abuse states it is:

... everyone’s legal obligation to protect children by reporting suspected child abuse. You do not have to know for sure if a child is in need of protection. If, in your honest judgment, you believe that a child may not be safe, you are legally required to report it.

 And despite the recent CBC News story saying a First Nations family was ... 'blindsided' by how child services take newborns from mom ... individuals are made aware of the reasons for removal. 

Additionally, a story in the Winnipeg Free Press had Debbie Besant, chief executive officer of the General Child and Family Services Authority saying that she ... personally reviewed the file of the family in focus Friday, spoke to staff involved, and is "confident" in the choices made.  The same story also quoted from a prepared statement, Bessant saying:

"Apprehending a child is a very difficult decision, and is done only as a last resort and when required to ensure children are kept safe”

Safety was indeed likely a factor as ... according to the family — who spoke to media Friday, but whom the Free Press cannot legally name because the child is in CFS care — the Winnipeg mother was in contact with CFS while pregnant, seeking parenting and addictions support. 

If someone is indeed suffering from addiction, Manitoba’s child protection rules would compel an individual to report it.  The basis for that would be ... If, in your honest judgment, you believe that a child may not be safe, you are legally required to report it. 

Finally, let me close with the following thoughts.

It is a MYTH to think child protection services take children without cause, and we should be concerned when they are tried on social media.  When that’s the case, there’s a very good chance we will be making a uniformed decision.  Why?  Because all of the relevant information is neither available to the public, nor the news and information media.

I have compassion for the family. Child removal must be a painful situation, which has (or may have) possibly come about as the result of larger and deeper problems within a family.

We should also have compassion for social workers, involved in these situations, who have legal responsibilities they are duty bound to follow. Social workers actively seek solutions to help parents and families, and they are trained to search for practical options, rather than choosing child removal as the first.

Conclusion?  I Hope that I have shown that in this and similar cases of child removal, there is a lot more than meets the eye. It’s something all of us should consider before we jump to assumptions. 

I’m Alan Forseth in Kamloops.  If you have any thoughts on this, or anything else you read on the blog, I welcome you to share them in the Comments Section below. 

Please follow me on Twitter:  Alan Forseth  @AlanForseth


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