The Ontario Libertarian Party holds its annual convention
this weekend. One of the items on the agenda is Children's Aid.
The current Libertarian Bulletin contains a much abbreviated
version of the following article:
In April 2001 Brooke Latanville took her baby to the
doctor. Her questions about the effect on a six-week
old baby of drawing blood for tests got a hostile
reaction. In a follow-up call from the doctor, she
asked the doctor to leave her alone. This exchange
resulted in her and her husband losing three of their
children for nearly a year.
In a case in Dufferin County (in most cases, real names
cannot be used), a family took a child with pneumonia to
the hospital. Routine x-rays revealed a broken arm that
had healed without treatment, provoking immediate
Children's Aid intervention. Later reexamination showed
the the bone had never been broken, but Children's Aid
would not leave the family alone. A year later the
family fled the jurisdiction in a desperate effort to
save themselves from Children's Aid.
In a high-profile case reported by all the Canadian
media Children's Aid in Aylmer Ontario seized the
children from a family that proudly admitted to spanking
their children with objects. A few days later when CAS
questioned another family from the same church, the
Church of God, all the mothers and children in the
church, over a hundred people, fled Canada.
Why does Children's Aid snatch children in such a
trigger-happy manner? And how do they get such power?
Every year the Ontario legislature, in common with many
other jurisdictions throughout the western world,
appropriates money for the protection of children. Some
reasons for their generosity are:
In child protection, the funded agencies identify
children in need of protection, take them into what they
euphemistically call `care', and fight any legal battles
necessary to sever their connection with their parents.
The children may be adopted, or kept in foster care
indefinitely. The largest single item of expense is
usually foster care.
Most of the details of the operation of child protection
agencies are closely guarded secrets. For this
paragraph I have to rely on an analysis by Doug
Quirmbach of agencies in the USA, likely similar to
Ontario. At the agency level, the administrators are
faced with an appropriation providing a per diem rate
for foster care. The rate paid to the agency exceeds
what the agency pays to the foster parents, thereby
covering overhead. The reimbursement rate also depends
on the special needs of the child, that is, a child with
a disability, such as mental retardation or deafness,
gets a higher rate than a normal child. Consequently,
the agency profits more from placing a special needs
child than a normal one. One child may even have two
evaluations. An evaluation at a low level of need
justifies a low per diem payment to foster parents;
another at a high level of need justifies a high per
diem rate from the appropriation. Once a foster care
placement of this kind has been made, it is a continuing
source of revenue for the agency, making them unwilling
to have the child adopted or returned to his parents.
In Ontario, foster care rates start at $25 per day for
the family, reimbursement rates for the agency for a
special needs child may go as high as $100 per day.
For a person who spends appropriated funds, the worst
possible sin is failure to spend all of the money
available within the allotted time. To get the funds
appropriated for child protection, the agencies must
place the requisite number of children in foster care.
Legislative generosity has placed children in foster
care at levels far in excess of need.
Child protectors use terminology extending that of
George Orwell. Kidnapping a child is `apprehension',
the plaintiff is the `applicant', the accused family is
the `respondent', the institutions of forcible
confinement are called `care', a contractor who houses a
child for money is a `foster parent', parents and foster
parents alike are `caregivers', permanent legal
separation between parent and child is `crown wardship'.
In Ontario the agency that does the child protection
work is called the Children's Aid Society, so I will
call them CAS from here on. A large part of the story
comes from my interviews with other parents in Dufferin
County Ontario, where I have been organizing opposition
since my own son was snatched in 1999 at the age of
What does CAS do when they have to get so many kids into
foster care? They cast their net far and wide for tips.
The laws of Ontario require anyone in a child care
profession, such as teachers, doctors and day-care
workers, to report any incident that may be construed as
child-abuse. A few cases of non-reporting have been
criminally prosecuted, and made known to the child care
professions. The February 20, 2001 minutes of Dufferin
CAS show their efforts to expand the net:
Kim Evans, Program Manager of Intake and After
Hours, attended meetings re guidelines that police
departments are to follow to report to CAS. These
guidelines will result in a significant increase in
calls to CAS, ie if there are any children present
upon investigating a domestic situation, the police
are to call CAS; if a child is not in an approved
restraining system (car seat), the police will
contact CAS, if police go into a house and don't see
appropriate fire detectors they must report to CAS.
This means more investigations and follow-ups.
And anyone with a grudge may use a phone call to sic CAS
on a personal enemy. This system gives CAS a rich
stream of leads while making parents wary of using
professional services, or even public schools, for their
Once tipped off, social workers routinely enter homes of
parents, approaching with smiles. If smiles won't get
them into a home, they go through the inconvenience of
getting a warrant and make an armed entry under police
escort. When the children are of school age, they
usually take the short-cut of picking them up at school
and placing them in foster care. Parents only find out
when they frantically call police after the children
fail to come home. Social workers can then enter the
home under the pretense of evaluation for reunification.
To get a child into long-term foster care, it is
necessary to get a court order. This is usually a
formality since CAS targets families that cannot afford
legal representation. Even for those who do hire
counsel, the process is a sham. There is no testimony,
no cross-examination, no discovery, no jury, no rules of
evidence. The material comes on competing affidavits,
and no one can be asked a question that he is required
to answer. There is no record made of the proceedings
in the courtroom. Formally, the rules do provide for
all of these things, but in practice the lawyers abridge
the process so that they do not occur. In over a
hundred families interviewed, I have found only one that
had a chance to testify, and they wound up in bankruptcy
and lost their children anyway. Here are some of the
- Social workers misrepresent themselves as friends of
the family. Parents unaccustomed to hostility from
agents of the crown often make the mistake of
cooperating with social workers until it is too late.
- Broken promises. Common promises are to leave the
family alone in exchange for cooperation in the
investigation, then the information gathered becomes
the legal basis for apprehension.
- Twisting statements. In an American case, a father
told the social worker that he gave his daughter a
shower. This got to court as: The father admitted to
holding his daughter's head under water.
- Faeces in the home. Sounds terrible. To find faeces
in a home, first check the diaper change room. For
older children, the catbox will reveal the dreaded
- Assessments. Social workers fill out risk assessment
forms on the family, using them to justify foster care
for children when the assessments pass a threshold. A
statistical analysis of several filled-out assessments
shows proof of bias.
- Home renovations. If any part of a home is under
renovation CAS will claim it is a safety hazard.
- Coaching young children. A three-year-old Dufferin
girl was coached (through methods not recorded), then
induced to say on video-tape that her mother hit her
with a frying pan. Mother later found that the girl
did not know what a frying pan was.
- In almost all cases social workers will threaten to
remove children unless the parents immediately take
some action, often as trivial as cleaning the fridge.
Aside from power-tripping, I have not found any
purpose to these threats.
- Examinations. CAS has a staff of professionals they
can depend on to give reports unfavorable to parents.
Once children are in custody, CAS takes them to a
pediatrician, therapist, psychiatrist or social
workers for reports. If there was little case to
begin with, there will be a large stack of documents
against the parents within a few days.
- As a last resort, CAS looks for bad housekeeping.
Socks on the floor, dirty dishes piled in the kitchen,
laundry not stacked neatly.
- Opposite accusations. If you examine enough cases you
will eventually find instances such as this: One
family lost its children for having locks on the
interior doors, the same CAS intervened in another
family for not having locks on the interior doors.
If you don't have kids, or have not had one of your
children kidnapped, you don't know what this stage is
like. Seizure of children at the hands of the crown
produces a distress unlike any other. I encountered the
writing of a tragic mother who experienced both the
seizure of a child, and the death of a child. The
seizure was the far worse experience. Marriages often
survive a child death, but rarely survive child seizure.
The desperation of parents allows for unbounded abuse by
social workers from that point on.
A natural question is whether this level of intervention
achieves a beneficial purpose. I spent 9 and a half
years in foster homes and boarding schools myself, and I
know what they are really like. Any parent who is not
homicidal is better than many foster parents. In the
dozens of interviews I have conducted with parents, I
found only one where the child was better off in the
custody of CAS. In my experience, the number of
children in care exceeds need by a factor of ten
everywhere, and fifty in some jurdisictions, even more
in some hot-spots. Janet M Frederick reports that in
1996 half the children in Clare County Michigan were
removed and placed in foster care.
As Dr Frankenstein assembled body parts from several
people to create one monster, Children's Aid is partly a
government agency, partly private. Each Children's Aid
is organized under the Corporations Act as a
not-for-profit charity. The funding comes from the
Province of Ontario. The Child and Family Services Act
gives extensive powers to one officer of CAS, called the
local director, or executive director. This
Frankenstein structure sidesteps traditional protections
from the police. An example is the right to remain
silent. In police work, silence cannot be held against
the accused, but CAS stigmatizes parents who remain
silent. Another is freedom of information. As a
non-government body, they reject all calls for
disclosure, not only to parents, but even to graduates
of foster care. John Dunn, age 31, grew up in Ontario
foster care and the only record of his childhood is the
notes kept by social workers, yet they will not let him
view the documents. Still another abrogated right is
protection against search and seizure. In the case of
homeschooling parents Jim and Mary Ann Stumbo of Kings
Mountain, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that
the family had no constitutional protection against
unreasonable search and seizure by Child Protective
Services because child protectors are not state actors.
A network of laws and policies keeps the operation of
social services secret. A simple tool is the law making
it an offense to disclose the name of a child involved
in a child protection case. This is construed broadly
to apply to any name from which the child's name could
be derived, such as the parent's name. In practice, the
parents rarely object to publication of their names,
most objections come from CAS. Parents who wish to get
relief by publicizing their plight are subject to a
banning order similar to South Africa under apartheid.
In a case in which I put a family's story on the
internet, CAS threatened not me, but the mother, with
jail if it stayed there. It was removed.
The social service industry feeds the press with
favorable stories. Here are some of the ones you may
- Social workers are overworked. Of course, when a
small agency attempts to keep tabs on nearly every
family in its jurisdiction, it is overworked. They
make no attempt to confine their efforts to cases
where they are truly needed.
- The greatest danger to women is from their husbands.
Actually, a marriage is the safest institution for
a woman to live in.
- Parents are the greatest danger to children. A
similar reversal of reality. Anyone with common sense
knows knows the terrible damage to a child (or even an
animal) caused by removing him from his parents.
- A death occurred in a family already known to social
services. If we only had more money and power, say
the agencies, we could prevent these tragedies. In
various jurisdictions this has produced what Richard
Wexler calls a foster care panic. New policies cause
social services to take far more children than ever
into custody, but this only elevates abuse. What
about the opposite situation, where a baby is harmed
while in custody of CAS? Ontario held an inquest into
the case of Jordan Heikamp, who starved to death in
CAS custody. Remarkably, even in this case, a
coroners jury returned 44 recommendations all
suggesting more money and power for CAS.
Outrages and scandals
In Orangeville, courts handle only one kind of case on
any day of the week. On criminal and civil court days,
the courthouse is nearly empty. On family court days,
the parking lot is full, requiring a two block walk from
the nearest space. The corridors are packed with
people, and lawyers mill around incessantly making
deals. Family court has become a principal means of
state control over the lives of the people.
I have personally spoken to four women who took shelter
in the local women's shelter, Family Transition Place,
and then lost their children to foster care. Reports
from elsewhere suggest this is a widespread practice,
and in New York City it is the subject of a class-action
lawsuit, Nicholson v Scopetta.
One of the most extreme developments in social services
is the shotgun divorce: a divorce imposed against the
will of both husband and wife. A common technique is to
apprehend children and tell one parent, usually the
mother, that a divorce is required before she can see
her children again. Another starting point is a
domestic disturbance call. In these cases, police are
encouraged, and in some jurisdictions required, to make
an arrest, no matter what the circumstances. Once one
parent, usually the father, is in jail, he is required
to sign a document forbidding contact with his own
family. Children's Aid will then intervene further,
ensuring that the marriage is destroyed.
In October 2001 Philadelphia social worker Brandon Ware
entered the home of a 28-year-old single mother and
threatened to remove her children unless she submitted
to sexual intercourse with him. He got what he wanted.
In 1999 Massachusetts DSS removed two children, Kyle and
Damien, from their mother Diana Ross. In June 2001 Kyle
Ross was killed by the foster family's rottweiler. DSS
shamelessly took her next child, Aaron, born two months
later, into their custody.
Florida DCF placed 5-year-old Rilya Wilson in the care
of her grandmother. Late in 2000 or early 2001
according to the grandmother, a social worker from DCF
took the child back. For a year after that, her
caseworker regularly filed false reports affirming that
she had visited the child. In May 2002 DCF finally
realized the child was missing, and she has not been
found. This case opened up a flood of stories in the
Florida press about DCF, and governor Jeb Bush fired the
head of the agency Kathleen Kearney (nicknamed the
Terminator, for her habit of terminating parental rights
while serving as a judge), replacing her with Jerry
Regier, an advocate of family rights.
An examination of the law and the actions of social
workers convinced me quickly that there was no remedy
through the courts, only through political action.
Membership in CAS is open to any adult in the
jurisdiction upon payment of a nominal fee. I organized
a membership drive and ran candidates opposed to the
incumbents. The result two years later was the adoption
of a new bylaw restricting candidates for director to
those nominated by the nominating committee, composed of
incumbent directors. Elections are now like those in
the Soviet Union under communism, with only approved
names on the ballot. A website at
www.freespeech.org/herod has a record of this effort.
In addition to Dufferin, there are three other
opposition groups dealing with a specific CAS, in
Halton, Durham and St Thomas/Elgin. These may be the
four worst agencies in Ontario. So far, there is no
province-wide opposition group.
Disrespect for CAS is widespread in the child care
industry. I have encountered many people who freely
acknowledge that it is a harmful institution, yet none
will take action to oppose it, since CAS is in a
position to destroy the career of any child care
professional who raises his voice in opposition. The
situation brings to mind a line by Martin Luther King,
history will not remember what bad people do, but what
good people fail to do.