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Protecting Canadian Children The Children's Army

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on Mon, 03/05/2012 - 14:23 August 25, 2011 An area most Politicians care not to contribute to due to depth of emotion it ensues and controversy involved is that of children who fall under the realm of service recipients from Child & Youth Services. It is a topic so taboo that even those who profess to be Advocates sometimes remain silent; out of fear that Government funding to its organizations may be compromised. No matter how controversial the topic, it is one that must be examined for the well-being of vulnerable individuals and one that Politicians, the Media and the Public at large have a moral obligation to attend to. Society finds itself in the "Sandwich Generation", with families caring for children as well as elderly members. Often, related health issues impose restrictions on families who bear extraordinary needs through the birth of a child with diversity, accident, disease or the natural aging process. None of us are infallible so each of us must be willing to address factors in the here and now on behalf of those without a voice lest we all become unable to advocate for ourselves in the future. A harsh reality is the fact that we, Canadians, are gaining a notorious negative reputation for failing our most vulnerable. In Ontario, 83% of children who are recipients of Child Intervention Services, are those with special needs. In Alberta, the figure is 70% with similar statistics following across the Country. Instead of allocating resources to families directly, Governments are requesting the relinquishment of guardianship and out of home placements of children with extraordinary needs. As a speaker with the Tour Protecting Canadian Children/The Children's Army: Mourning the Dead, Protecting the Living I feel the endeavor was a productive, educational journey. Advocates from numerous groups representing Families & Children, members of the Public, Media, Social-work and Executive Ministry Directors united from both coasts to meet in the central location of Ontario. We benignly sat down to participate in discussion. Contrary to misconception, loving families are, indeed, being subjected to oppressive practice which can - and does - often result in harmful outcomes. Furthermore, parents and children traumatized by events, are expected to remain silent... Legislated Publication Bans deter individuals from being able to share the details of their case openly. While these restrictions were naturally geared to act as a means of protection of identity to support the child and family, these measures are unfortunately now detracting from accountability. We are missing key opportunities to learn from erroneous practice leading to fatalities. Silence has evolved into a mechanism to preserve integrity of the System, instead of innocent lives. Without a mechanism in place to disclose tragic events, Society remains largely unaware of the vast array of benign circumstances that lead solid families to require involvement in the Child Welfare System. Loving families unfairly blemished by ill-conceived reflection, "Surely, you must have done something" (to warrant intrusion?) Advocating on behalf of many who have found themselves amongst the statistics, I feel that I have a responsibility to educate and try to remove some of the myth and stigma attached. As a white, middle-class professional; the public typically does not envision me as a recipient of Child Welfare Services. I work in rehabilitation for Family-Centred Care Practice. I am a mother to 5 children (including a daughter now deceased.) I Administrator for a rare medical condition online. Close attention has led to an understanding of diverse stories negatively impacting large populations affected by well-meaning, but oft times, discriminatory and archaic practice. I have also served as a caregiver through the Ministry and thus, feel qualified to provide feedback. The Public, largely, envisions a realm of "intervention" for "abusive” situations. However, the persons who actually comprise the System fall under an umbrella which ought never occur: Children receiving services under Children's Aid Societies (CAS) with special needs. Loving families forced to relinquish custody or coerced into out of home arrangements for high needs children. Sound like something out of the dark ages? I assure you, it is not and the practice continues in present day. My only daughter, Samantha, was one of the children who government representatives opted not to fund in home. While institutions for persons with developmental diversity are no longer politically acceptable, forcing families to relinquish loved ones into government medical foster establishments - or – resorting to incarceration has become the present day version of the same practice. Instead of funding natural families, we continue to conceal children with special needs in out of home foster placements; a practice both detrimental to family and to child. In addition, studies demonstrate that it is more cost-effective and safe to provide in-home care to families; yet resistance is met. 3121 Ironically, I was approached by Ministry representatives, lauded for good parenting and asked to provide care to 2 additional children with special needs. Thus, the government formally paid the cost of out-of-home care when a family was in crisis while it would not support my own child's needs in-home. Furthermore, to develop the scope of contradictory measures, I witnessed the Minister of Child & Youth Services perpetuate assurance to the Public that foster placements are stringently recruited and monitored for safety. In reality, caseworkers were consumed with tasks which led to inability to maintain promises to the children and even mundane tasks such as retrieval of completed Criminal Record Checks were neglected. When a Home-Study was conducted, no visual occurred; instead, the assessor accepted my response to crucial topics: For instance, whether firearms were maintained in the house, sleeping arrangements in the home and if alcohol or prescriptive medication were in the household, locked and out of reach. While we hope that most individuals who take on the role of caregiver do so with benign motive, we cannot precariously compromise the lives of innocent and vulnerable individuals with blind trust. Ministry’s are consistently recruiting for more foster establishments and yet, if we returned to Family-Centred Care Practice, this need to seek alternate caregivers would be significantly reduced. Similar methodology of targeting transpires within the Native community; bearing outrageous statistical evidence of removal from natural families. Highly targeted in the realm of Child Welfare, where a predetermination of failure in the role of parenting exists are single parents, are those who have grown up in the System now having children of their own; grandparents raising their children's children, low-income families and those with limited access to education. What seems sadly obvious is the fact that Social Welfare is meant to bolster families in crisis, not further berate and destroy. Siblings are torn apart, mothers separated in hospital from their newborns, fathers distanced from their offspring, and children are left to bear the disservice growing up with loss of identity in both culture and sense of belonging. Abuse within the System is well-established by studies and understandably leads to angry young adults without the skills or fundamentals to function effectively in Society. I have personally stood at vigils for dead children. I grieve alongside grandparents who demonstrate photographs of their kin sporting horrific injuries; trying desperately to intervene on loved one's behalf with social-workers. Many caseworkers, who have sadly, lost the human touch. That is not to say that all social-workers are uncaring, that all foster placements are only committed for funding, that all natural families are innocent of violence. There are good and bad within every circle. However, what needs to emerge, is a better understanding of who comprises the use of social services, seek preventive alternatives and facilitate measures to improve transparent governing. Whether black, white, native or otherwise, these are all our children. While stringent protocols are written and function well on paper, the reality is that these are not being adhered to and the children are suffering the consequences. While steps are in place to voice concern, what transpires is a deflection of responsibility in layers. A complaint is lodged with caseworker and this is often the final step even if resolution is unmet. The circular displacement of responsibility I personally encountered consisted of: Caseworker, Supervisor, Manager, Directors of the Region, Senior Operating Officer of Child Intervention, Senior Manager of Child Intervention of Specialized Services, Senior Operating Officer of Community Initiatives, Information Officer, Ministers of Child & Youth Services (I have viewed 3 rotate Office), Ministers of Justice, Ombudsman, Office of the Child Advocate, Métis Child & Family Services, various Advocacy Groups, Medical Professionals, Staff and Superintendents from different Schools & Transportation facilities, Lawyers, The Law Society, Police Services, RCMP, Governor General, Premier and Chief Medical Examiner. Children simply do not have time to wait for an Authority to intervene; they can – and do - die waiting for someone to take a stance. When a report of concern is lodged for a child, immediate action must ensue... Days, weeks, months, years unravel without consequence. In a recent case, 6 days was too long for a baby in Alberta whose life was cut short in foster care. A rapid deterioration of health transpired despite alerts from the family to Authorities. **Whereas, one can easily locate legislation which defines Child Abuse & Neglect and appropriate reporting mechanism, there is not one single verse which outlines Penalty for failing a child. The key element is non-existent Legislation sanctioning breach of practice. If we are to deter poor outcome stemming from negligence of duty, consequences must follow. Compliance of Law must be adhered to by individuals beyond the public sector and be inclusive of employees of the Ministry. Our Veterans have fought diligently for safety and equality and are deeply concerned that families today face discord at the hands of current Leadership. Families accessing government funding solely for issues of medical need must be defined distinctly from those individuals requiring Intervention for abuse or negligence as per SAMANTHA'S LAW: Amendment to the Alberta FSCD (Family Support for Children with Disabilities) Act was made retroactive to December 2006 stemming from Samantha Martin's passing on December 3, 2006 and is defined in Section 2-3, Manual Amendments: Policy and Procedures in Family Centred Supports and Services: Legislation, however, presently lacks formalized title under Law to attribute establishment rightfully to the child whose life and death resulted in Amendment: Samantha Lauren Martin, June 4, 1993 – December 3, 2006. This is an issue to be defined within Samantha’s Public Fatality Inquiry along In addition to the goal of achieving Court recommendation of its establishment beyond Provincial territory to benefit all Canadians. A return to people caring for people will serve a far greater service both ethically and economically than what we have resorted to. Obvious solutions stem from common sense amongst those paying attention to issues challenging Canadians. However, a great number of individuals, including those in positions of authority, are largely unaware – some simply unwilling - to examine the deficits and make a conscientious effort to avert oppressive and dangerous practice. We have become numb as a society to tragedies. We keep trying to over-correct instead of returning to core values which involve honour of Family-Centred Care Practice. A concept which is not only ethically correct, but financially viable. Presently, we bear witness to children paying with their bones and their flesh and the ultimate cost of life. Consider the ramifications: It is not but one life lost, the remnants carry forward to affect all who loved that child; siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles, teachers and friends. None of us are immune. We are each vulnerable. We must collectively take a vocal position. Yours sincerely, Velvet Martin, Tetrasomy 18p Canada “Samantha's Syndrome”

Comments Trying to save lives of children in care isn't important enough Trying to save the lives of children in care is not important enough... at least that is what the Government of Alberta has conveyed: **Hundreds have come forward signing letters in support of an Application for Samantha Martin, a 13-year-old Child with disability who died under Ministry Direction in Alberta. NDP and Liberals in the Province believe that legal representation is important, that accountability is important, that saving children’s lives is important, that Samantha was important. However, the Stelmach Government does not think that trying to save the lives of children in care is important enough. Attached, I am sharing contents of the Government Brief, a Public Document: I urge those who do feel that salvaging the lives of vulnerable children is worth the effort, to attend the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton on September 21st 2011. Surviving family of a 4-month-old girl who died within 6 days of entry into the Child & Youth System will be present. As well, extended family members of a 3-year-old Edmonton-area victim. Let the Court know that Canadians expect virtuous response and will not accept an impertinent attitude towards family unity, nor death. Yours sincerely, Velvet Martin, Mother of the deceased, Samantha Martin


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