Uncaring bureaucrat the worst of parents

 

Uncaring bureaucrat the worst of parents

Reporter: Jody Paterson

 

 

Jody Paterson is a reporter at the Newspaper: Victoria Times-Colonist.

This article was previously published in Victoria Times-Colonist Column "A Closer Look" on June 20, 2001. It is published here with the kind consent of the author.

 

 

 

This says it all: One of the things that now counts against you when the B.C. government is deciding whether to take your children away is whether they also took you away from your parents.

In other words, child apprehension begets child apprehension. Each new generation of state-parented children grows into adults who may end up poor parents themselves.

With 10,000 or so children in care in B.C. in any given year and 70,000 across the country, it's a substantial concern.

I've, heard the explanations as to why the state makes a lousy parent. Too few foster homes, not enough social workers, caseloads beyond reason.

The children are difficult, the parents troubled, the issues complex. And while your flesh-and-blood parents are there for you long after you turn 19, the state hands you a welfare cheque and considers its job done.

But if that's how it is, then there has to be a better way. Because a government that takes messed-up children away from their homes only to mess them up even more has certainly strayed far from the business of child protection.

Listen to the recent court testimony of local social worker David Roy, who did his job so poorly in one ongoing child-protection case that a provincial court judge deemed last month that he'd breached four of his Ministry's laws, most notably not acting in the child's best interests.

Asked if he was aware of the rule requiring regular reviews of plans for children in care, Roy told the court, "I'm aware of the standard, and I'm also aware that we are not meeting the standard. Standards are not being met in any particular case in our office, as far as I know."

In fact, the child, - now almost four - has been in care most of his life without anyone in government bothering to map out what's needed to raise him right.

Roy said he kept his plans "in his head", noting that a 1999 audit found the government complied with its own regulation in less than a third of all cases. That's an improvement; a couple years before that, it was eight per cent.

Roy was involved in the case for two years, during which time he never read the child's file, didn't know the boy was aboriginal, didn't develop a care plan, shredded police documents, made up a hospitalization to bolster his case that the father should be denied access, and blocked one parent or another at every turn through 23 court appearances.

The parents were helpless. The act that governs child apprehensions packs plenty of punch when it comes to the government exercising its rights, but has no remedies for wayward social workers.

Roy's supervisors couldn't intervene, as the only one who can yank a

B.C. social worker off a child-custody case is the director of child protection.

Even the judge had to work hard to find a way to punish Roy.

He ordered the Ministry of Children and Family Development to pay $2,000 to the parents' lawyers, Shannon Buchan and Lex Reynolds, in recognition of the lawyers' dogged (and often unpaid) determination to set things right. And he contemplated bringing contempt-of-court charges against Roy, but decided "indifference and neglect" were not sufficient grounds.

Roy was eventually pulled off the case and his other cases have since been audited by the ministry, which isn't commenting.

I guess it's a win for somebody, although it's hard to say who. The child who sparked it all is still in the custody of the ministry.

His parents and their lawyers thought they'd have to answer all sorts of questions when the ministry investigated Roy. But no one ever called.

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