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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

How can those mandated to ensure the safety and well being of children is indeed the paramount consideration, when they are forced to get consent from parent(s) before sharing information?

Katrine Conroy, Minister of Child
and Family Development

Today, sections of the Child and Community Service Act (current as of September 11th) were thrown right out the window by our provincial NDP government.

This leads me to ask ... Is Katrine Conroy, the Minister of Child and Family Development, now actually in breach of the Act. I ask this due in part to the section pertaining to When Protection is Needed (Section 13*).  Among other things, this section covers physical or emotional harm, abandonment, and not providing adequate provision or medical care.

Today the Minister of Children and Family Development released the following statement regarding birth alerts (please note I have added the BOLD font):

Effective immediately, British Columbia is ending the child welfare practice known as hospital or birth alerts. Used in hospitals for decades in B.C. and in other provinces and territories, these alerts are issued, without the consent of the expectant parents, where there is a potential safety risk to infants at birth.”

If there is ANY time in a child’s life when they are most at risk, it is at birth, however the government now seems to be rolling over to accusations that they are ‘perhaps’ targeting a specific segment of the population.  I say this because of further comments made by Ms Conroy:

We know that birth alerts have been primarily issued for marginalized women and, disproportionately, Indigenous women. We acknowledge the trauma women experience when they become aware that a birth alert has been issued.”

She went on to state, “We are changing the way we work with and support high-risk expectant parents to keep newborns safe and families together through a collaborative, rather than an involuntary, model.”

This concerns me because it now appears one’s ethnic background should be considered first, ahead of the safety and protection of newborn infants.

Let’s be clear, supports and services provided by the government, private not-for-profit agencies, medical care providers, health nurses and many others have been available to mothers and families for many years ... if they wished to access them, and where they were available.

Each one of these service providers hold critical pieces of a puzzle – or information if you will -- regarding family life, and the safety, welfare, and protection of an infant about to be born.

The new model, according to Conroy, is to be:

“... a voluntary approach of providing early supports and preventative services to expectant parents will help them plan and safely care for their babies. This change to practice allows for a more trusting, collaborative relationship with service providers right from the beginning, while empowering women, their families and their communities to work together to care for their children”.

For whatever reason, it seems that Ms. Conroy is clouding current long-standing practises, with what she is now alleging will be the new model.

Mandating services only occurred when there was a concern for the safety or well-being of an infant or young child.  Importantly for the child or infant, it gave those providing services the opportunity to evaluate strengths, and to develop supports for the parent(s) when and where they were needed.

Expectant mothers and families should not be cut out of the process.  And I firmly believe that decisions regarding infant and child protection can best be made in collaboration with all parties.  That means parents, and their extended family, need to be at the table when decisions are being made.

In fact, it should be pointed out there is already a practise of case conferencing in place; this includes not only service providers and government ministry workers – but also parents, and their families.

Regrettably, what Ms. Conroy is proposing, as new policy, will effectively cut out those who may have legitimate concerns about a newborns well-being.  That then calls into question her understanding of the Act which clearly states it must be interpreted and administered so that the safety and well-being of children are the paramount considerations -- and in accordance with clearly laid out principles**

I question how health care providers and social service workers can possibly make the safety and well being of children their paramount consideration, when they can no longer share information without first getting consent from the child’s parent(s)?

I ask this especially in light of the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) which REQUIRES anyone with reason to believe that a child or youth has been or is likely to be abused or neglected, and that the parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child or youth, to report the suspected abuse, or neglect, to a child welfare worker.

In a handbook for service providers, the government also states that ... it is important that you report all situations where you think a child or youth has been or is likely to be abused or neglected ... workers need to be aware of all situations where a child or youth’s safety and well-being might be endangered in order to provide the most appropriate response.

The government has stated that ... a child’s safety and well-being is our first priority. Because we know that children thrive when they can live safely with family, connected to their culture and community, our every effort must be on strengthening families and keeping them whole.

Let me end by saying that only the most callous of individuals would disagree with that statement.

Let me also say, however, that a child’s safety and well-being can’t be the first priority if those with pieces to the puzzle are not allowed to bring possible concerns to light.  It cannot be at the will of parents ‘permitting’ that information being made available, the Child and Community Service Act must prevail.

* When Protection is Needed ... section 13

A child needs protection in the following circumstances:
(a) if the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed by the child's parent;
(b) if the child has been, or is likely to be, sexually abused or exploited by the child's parent;
(c) if the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed, sexually abused or sexually exploited by another person and if the child's parent is unwilling or unable to protect the child;
(d) if the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed because of neglect by the child's parent;
(e) if the child is emotionally harmed by
(i) the parent's conduct, or
(ii) living in a situation where there is domestic violence by or towards a person with whom the child resides;
(f) if the child is deprived of necessary health care;
(g) if the child's development is likely to be seriously impaired by a treatable condition and the child's parent refuses to provide or consent to treatment;
(h) if the child's parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child and has not made adequate provision for the child's care;
(i) if the child is or has been absent from home in circumstances that endanger the child's safety or well-being;
(j) if the child's parent is dead and adequate provision has not been made for the child's care;
(k) if the child has been abandoned and adequate provision has not been made for the child's care;
(l) if the child is in the care of a director or another person by agreement and the child's parent is unwilling or unable to resume care when the agreement is no longer in force.

** please note the Green font is used in the actual document:
(a) children are entitled to be protected from abuse, neglect and harm or threat of harm;
(b) a family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents;
(b.1) Indigenous families and Indigenous communities share responsibility for the upbringing and well-being of Indigenous children;
(c) if, with available support services, a family can provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child, support services should be provided;
(d) the child's views should be taken into account when decisions relating to a child are made;
(e) kinship ties and a child's attachment to the extended family should be preserved if possible;
(f) Indigenous children are entitled to
(i) learn about and practise their Indigenous traditions, customs and languages, and
(ii) belong to their Indigenous communities;
(g) decisions relating to children should be made and implemented in a timely manner


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