Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/3/2012 (3313 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A family of Burmese refugees waiting for a meaningful apology from Child and Family Services for wrongly seizing their children and refusing to return them in a timely manner is out of luck.
K'dah Ra Wah and Shwe Le Say's three children were apprehended on June 15, 2010, after a Health Sciences Centre employee misread an X-ray, leading child-protection authorities to believe the couple's five-year-old paraplegic son had a broken scapula. Abuse was suspected.
Although the allegation was quickly disproved, it would be a month before CFS returned Blessing, 5, Buna, 8, and Thaena, a nursing infant.
There was no language translator provided when the children were taken. The couple, who speak the Karen language, thought the government had kidnapped their children. The workers left in such a hurry they didn't take Blessing's wheelchair or his medication. No letter was left by the agency to explain why the children were taken.
Jay Rodgers, CEO of the General Child and Family Services Authority, maintains HSC deserves the majority of the blame in the case.
HSC officials met with the family and their Canadian advocates on April 8, 2011, and apologized for their role.
Hospital staff tried to right the wrong from the start. On June 18, 2010, Dr. Elske Hildes-Ripstein, HSC head of pediatrics (and Blessing's pediatrician), sent a letter to the parents and to the CFS workers assigned to the case.
She said she and her staff had no concerns about the child's safety. More letters from medical professionals followed, all of them supporting the family.
Still, CFS kept the children. They were not returned to their shattered parents until July 14.
Rodgers said the decision was made based on a June 29 letter sent to CFS by Dr. Charlie Ferguson, director of the child protection branch. The letter clearly says the final X-ray report revealed Blessing did not have a scapula fracture. He added:
"No suspicions were ever held that the parents of this boy inflicted his injuries."
The family and their supporters have always seen this letter as vindication. CFS saw it differently. Because Ferguson went on to speculate there may (he underlined the word) be other factors at play in the home, they kept the children. Ferguson wondered if Blessing's mother was depressed, if the young daughter was doing any or all of the mothering and whether the father was away a lot.
"The actions of the agency, based on the information they had, I think were warranted," Rodgers said.
Sue Burak, an advocate for the family, is outraged.
"If these were their suspicions, why didn't they tell the family? Why didn't they come to the house to investigate?"
A family advocate met with CFS officials on Nov. 23, 2010. The family was not asked to attend, nor were they told an investigation into their case was underway. Repeated family requests for information and updates from CFS went unanswered.
As a result of this case, CFS bumped up their efforts to communicate with non-English-speaking families. They've developed a multilingual one-page document to be left when children are seized from non-English-speaking parents.
CFS hasn't notified the family its investigation is complete, nor have they set up the meeting where Rodgers says he will explain the agency's position. He'll apologize for what he calls a "hairy" situation and explain where the true fault rests.
Last month, Rodgers said it would be appropriate to return children more quickly when there is evidence no abuse occurred. To the best of his knowledge, no CFS employee was reprimanded for their handling of the case.
CFS was right to take these children. You've got a paraplegic child with a suspected scapula break. There's a six-week-old baby and a little girl in the house. Those kids need to be in a place of safety.
But when it becomes rapidly, abundantly clear there has been no abuse, the agency must return the children. Delaying that process and ignoring entreaties for information by the family and its supporters is unconscionable.
Point all the fingers you want. This family was savaged by our child-welfare system.