Pages

Friday, March 05, 2010

An Update on the Foster Child and Alberta Director's Contempt of Court Case.

UPDATE MARCH 5, 2010 5:11 PM - GOOD NEWS.  I have just been contacted by the Deputy Minister of Alberta Children and Youth Services who advised that they are not appealing the Guardianship Order of the Foster Mother as stated in this blog.  I understood from earlier communications that the department intended to appeal.  If the facts about the appeal intentions of the department are in accurate in this blog post I owe both Children and Youth Services and the Foster Mother an apology.  I hope they both consider this factual update to correct the record an appropriate apology.  I am going to correct the content of this blog post to refect this update from the department by overstriking the irrelevant commentary and incorrect facts according to Children and Youth Services advice to me.

For those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis (and I thank you) you will recall I did a series of posts on problems in the Alberta Department of Children and Youth Services last summer. I centered the series on a Contempt of Court finding against a Director level official in department over a foster child and the impact and implications for the child. I am writing this post as an update on the case but first let me put you back in context.


I have to be careful in writing about the case to ensure the parties are not identified due to privacy concerns for the child at the centre of the case. I also wrote the series about the Foster Mother who was a champion for the child to stay with her. She took court action to that end and won in spite of the contrary and rejected recommendations of the government.

The attitude and actions of those in control of these matters in the Department of Children and Youth Services were criticized by the Court of Appeal. The former Minister launched an external review of how these matters were handled and I was interviewed by the external reviewers as part of their work. One of the things I said to the review committee was I believed there may a destructive culture in the senior levels of the department if this case was an example that could be generalized.

My impression was garnered from reading the Court files, background documents, as well as considering the actions of senior management involved in this case and the attitudes expressed in their communications from the department. My sense was that senior management was more interested in protecting the Minister from political ramifications than it was in serving its duty to represent the best interest of children in care. I pointed this impression out to the review committee and asked them to be aware of this possibility in their work and in their reporting.

Now for the update! It is timely given the death of a 21 month old little girl in foster care in Morinville this week but that is another story and perhaps for another time. Since the blog series last summer the Foster Mother who went to bat for this little boy has contacted me directly and kept me posted on developments. I will still have to be careful not to disclose identities but I can tell you as part of the original court process there were competing interests vying to take care of this child. The Foster Mother applied for Guardianship. Others, with a competing interest in the child and who had temporary custody granted from the lower court, had also applied to adopt the child. I can tell you the child is aboriginal and so cultural issues arise as well as caring, safety and other best interests’ issues.

I have just been advised by the Foster Mother there is good news.  The good news is her application to the Courts for Guardianship of the child was granted. The Adoption petition of the others was denied, in fact the other party’s request for continuing contact with the child was also denied. In addition the Foster Mother was awarded all her costs in the matter to be paid by the Director of Child, Youth and Family Enhancement. The Foster Mother was granted a similar order by the Court of Appeal to have all her costs paid in the original action. That means she not only won on the merits based on the law, the award of total costs is a major victory on the equity of the situation.

Now for the bad news! It seems as though the Director of Child, Youth and Family Enhancement intends to appeal the Guardianship Order and rejection of the Petition for Adoption. This department has lost at every instance and issue on this matter every time except for the first trial and that decision was a travesty of justice in my opinion. So this Foster Mother has to continue to fund and fight if the Director follows through with the threat to appeal.

The arrogance of this approach by the Department of Children and Youth Services is breath taking. How much abuse must this Foster Mother endure and how much uncertainty must this child suffer? How is this abuse of power by our government serving the best interests of this child? If the department can’t get it right the first time given all the power and resources they have at their disposal, what justifies them to continue to persecute and pursue this family? Please tell me it is not political or bullying and intimidation of citizens and at-risk vulnerable citizens as we are seeing in other areas like PDD funding.

When a child in care dies it is a tragedy. When a child in care becomes a pawn of in an unnecessary nightmare of administrative insouciance and insensitivity it is still a tragedy that can last a lifetime for this already vulnerable little boy. Minister Fritz, you were was given this portfolio to fix up this department. You obviously have a lot of work to do. Call off the departmental dogs in this case and so get that departmental review fast-tracked and made public as soon as possible.

I have just done a conjoint study amongst progressive thinking Albertans on the values they want to see applied by our government when it makes laws, policy and other decisions that impact the lives of citizens. Those Albertans told us they mostly wanted integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency from their government. It is time to start delivering on these values Madame Minister. This case is an appropriate place to start to change the culture of your department and to start to show that you will reflect those core values of Albertans.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION MARCH 5, 2010:

THIS BLOG POST HAS BEEN EDITED TO CORRECT AN APPARENT ERROR OF FACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF ALBERTA INTENDED TO APPEAL THE RECENT SUCCESSFUL GUARDIANSHIP ORDER GRANTED TO THE FOSTER MOTHER OF THIS CHILD.  I HAVE BEEN INFORMED BY THE DEPARTMETN YTHAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE.  I WISH TO APOLOGIZE TO THE MINISTRY OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES AND THE FOSTER MOTHER TOO IF I MISUNDERSTOOD THE FACTS AROUND AN INTENTION OF THE GOVERNMENT TO APPEAL THIS RECENT COURT DECISION.