I’ll venture a guess that no one ever wants to answer the door to find the Children’s Aid Society standing there, accompanied by the police, ready to take your kids away. Ok – maybe Lamar Odom’s mother is having second thoughts these days, but you get the idea.
In theory, a Children’s Aid Society is supposed to “Promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children” while “…recognizing that while parents may need help in caring for their children, that help should give support to the automony and integrity of the family unit and, wherever possible, be provided on the basis of mutual consent”. Now, I stuck quotation marks around this stuff and popped in a little Bold and Italic (so you really get my point), because it comes straight from section 1 of the Child and Family Services Act, under Big Bold Letters that read: “PARAMOUNT PURPOSE”. Yep, they even put it in CAPS, so you know they are shouting it at you. Problem is, I don’t think the CAS guys are reading the statute much these days……..at least not based on what I am seeing far too often.
Here are a few recent hi-lights of cases I have fought against a number of CAS agencies across this province – you might want to sit down and brace yourself. In one situation, two nice young parents agreed to take in a boy who had been living with a seriously troubled mother who abused and beat this poor little tyke to the point that he was damaged goods, physically and psychologically. Ironically, the male in the nice young couple was the bio dad of this lad, and had been telling the CAS that the nut-job bio mom was abusing the boy, but CAS kept sending the little fellow right back to Mommie Dearest. Well, CAS finally decided to yank the boy out of hell and put him with his dad and his spouse. Despite trying their best, they could not undo the damage that had been done to this boy. The boy was dangerous to their young child, and was fabricating allegations to the point that they understandably admitted that they could not fix the harm that had been done to the child. They called CAS and asked them to come back and pick up the boy, as they were at their wits end. Here’s where it gets good – and this bit was fortunately recorded on tape by the couple – the CAS worker threatened them that if they gave this boy up that they could be charged with child abandonment, that CAS would open a fil on them and come to investigate their own biological child who was a happy and normal boy at home, and that their names could be placed on the Child Abuse Register (you know, the same place where Paul Bernardo’s name appears for sexually assaulting, torturing, mutilating and murdering). Wow.
To add insult to injury, when I contacted the irresponsible-responsible worker, she pretended to have no idea what I was talking about, and feigned both innocence and ignorance. Like I said, fortunately someone had the good sense to carry a pocket tape recorder and I got to hear the tape. Long story short, when the bright lights at the CAS figured out that a Judge was also going to hear the tape, we made CAS go away and write a letter of apology to the young couple. And this didn’t happen in Syria – it didn’t happen in communist China – it happened right here in Ontario with a state-funded agency paid.
A couple of months ago, a Superior Court Judge made an order in a custody case ordering a mother to deliver a little boy to his loving dad for access, after she wrongly withheld that child for weeks. Unbelievably, after mother made up some codswallop story and called CAS, some genius worker simply decided – without any proper process or any regard for the legislation – to tell the OPP not to pick up the child. When I tried to speak to the worker, she of course refused to take calls. The next morning we were back in Court, this time with an emergency contempt motion against both the mother and the CAS. To say that the Honourable Justice was less than pleased with the CAS was an understatement. The CAS was reprimanded and the child was returned to father that very afternoon. Again, this state funded, statute-governed agency and its worker just blindly thumbed its nose at a Superior Court Order without so much as the slightest regard for what the Child and Family Services Act required.
Even more recently I assisted a young couple in southern Ontario. Their 1 year old baby was apprehended by CAS – in English, CAS showed up and scooped the child with a police escort. In short, the reason for the CAS allegation that the “Child is in need of protection”, was that over a period of several years, this young couple had gotten into several good yelling matches with each other. No, you aren’t missing anything – they just yelled at each other. On a couple of occasions the police got called but police confirmed that there was no violence, that the couple had already calmed down and made peace, and that the child was just fine, the home was fine, and that there were “no child protection concerns”.
Now, I was raised in a family that was half French and half Scottish. There were a few times when the voices got raised and once or twice the plates flew. If you go for lunch or dinner with a lot of my passionate friends, everybody yells over the meal – about religion, sex, politics, and whomever their kids might be dating. And then the kiss and make up. Last time I checked, passionate people getting vocal with each other was not child abuse. Heck, a couple of weeks ago even Pope Francis gave a little speech in Philly talking about the family being the base of our society and how sometimes families fight and how – occasionally – the plates fly. Imagine……..me quoting the Pope. Who woulda figured!
Well, it seems that the gung-ho CAS worker who pushed the buttons to scoop this little fellow from his mom and dad over a couple of arguments never met the Pope, never went to dinner in an Italian household, and never listened to Sinatra sing “I wish I were in Love Again” (when Francis Albert sang about the flying plates….in 1938, by the way). It took court and a mediation to get this little guy sent home – fortunately within 5 weeks of him getting whisked away from his mom and dad. Sadly, these things happen far too often. The serious flaw in our system is that it can take months – that’s right, months – to get time in front of a judge to argue a s. 51 CFSA motion for the return of the child. Far too often courts just have not enough time on that ever-so-crucial first appearance date (required within 5 days of apprehension) to hear any arguments, and far too often the CAS wins by default as they hang onto kids who should never have been taken in the first place while courts set dates months down the road to determine if the children should go home pending trial. Something is.
Here’s a thought – CAS workers, CAS lawyers, and the thousands upon thousands of paid CAS personnel who now make up the largest employer in far too many communities – pick up the Child and Family Services Act and give it a read – in particular s. 1 (conveniently quoted above for your reading pleasure) as well as the requirements about returning a child and following the “least restrictive course of action/serious risk of harm” requirements contained in s. 51(3), 53(d), and 57(3). And maybe give Oliver Twist a watch on Netflix and think how you would feel if you were a little kid and some stranger came and yanked you away from your parents with the police lights flashing because your mom and dad.
Oh, and if you thought that was weird, after Lamar hit the canvass in a Nevada brothel while loaded up with a cocktail (now, just stop what you are thinking) of viagara and booze (talk about mixing yourself a “stiff one”….), it seems that was all that was needed to regain the love of his dearly betrothed Khloe Kardashian, who has now called off the divorce, rallied to his side, and professed eternal love yet again.
Does anyone else sense a script being written as we speak?? Someone call my agent!!
If you would like to contact me about your case, please contact our Toronto office at (416) 642-4928 or our Timmins office at (705) 267-7600 to arrange a free consultation.