Sunday, August 12, 2012


by Ron Unruh

She is a delightful girl. Ayn is ten years old now. An entire year has passed since the Ministry of Children and Family Services took her from her father's care. It was not a necessary removal even by MCFD standards. It was an unnecessary reaction to a situation in which a girl wandered from home for three hours and a father became livid when social workers appeared with a voluntary release paper for him to sign. How surprising is it really that an autistic child might try to explore her family neighbourhood? How surprising is it that a diligent dad will show hostility when social workers or anyone wants to take his child?

When receiving expressions of concern about a child from educators, neighbours or any observer, is it always necessary to remove the child from parental custody and care before conducting a thorough investigation? I do not believe that it is. Investigation of Ayn's care by her father and investigation of her health and her home and her living conditions and her nutrition could so easily have been done without an immediate removal. Investigation of her father's parenting capacity could have been affected without removing Ayn from the home. Asking questions about Derek's and Aime's divorce and Aime's endorsement of Derek as primary caregiver to the children did not require Ayn to be in a hospital or a foster home. Opting for the default protocol of removing the child first was a regrettable social work decision. All the assessments required to file a report could have been done without this apprehension which social workers know from experience always extends into months and too frequently into years.

Ayn was not in need of protection. She had not been neglected. She was not evidencing ill health or bruises or discontent. Were any of Ayn's bizarre autistic behaviours inconsistent with her place on the spectrum? Probably not. Was she thriving? I am sure that could have been determined by professionals while allowing her to remain with her family. Was it reasonable to assume that a more effective assessment of her thriving quotient could be made by provoking the trauma of removing her from the people who mean the most to her? I don't believe it was reasonable.

This is one of those cases that gives child protection a bad name. This child did not need protection from her father or her two brothers or her mother. What she needed was for MCFD with all its resources and resource people, to come alongside her and her dad and this family unit with two autistic children and help them to function and to flourish as an effective child-rearing family unit to the satisfaction of MCFD. Pour the money into the family rather than creating a fractured family and pouring the money into a foster family account. Build Derek's confidence and self-esteem with support rather than depreciating his energies and spirit.

A man or a woman have to be remarkably strong in character to endure and to survive the missteps and the mismanagement of an entire department of the British Columbia government. Paul and Zabeth Bayne have been that durable and resilient. Derek will also tenaciously hold on, because he is a committed and responsible father to his four children. All who know him, commend his determination and performance as a dad. But the unanswered, perhaps unanswerable questions, are why does such a well equipped ministry with so many well intentioned people predictably make decisions about people's lives which all of the rest of us clearly perceive to be mistaken. And, why when ministry personnel know the time, cost, trauma, and pain that will be done to a family, is this repeated time after time?

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