Canada Court Watch - Family Justice Review Committee
Policy and Position Statements

The conduct and practice of child protection agencies and their workers
(Under public review)

Discussion

The Family Justice Review Committee has received a number of legitimate complaints from children and families who have reported that child welfare protection agencies and their workers have failed to protect children and in many cases actually caused harm to the very children and families that they are supposed to protect.

Children and parents have complained of child protection workers and agencies conducting themselves in an unprofessional, unethical and bias manner.  Some of these complaints include:

  • that child protection agencies abuse their power and control to harass and to intimidate children and parents.

  • that child protection workers often refuse to meet with parents should the parents request to have a support person present in the meeting.

  • that the forced separation of children from their parents is used as a tactic to threaten and to intimidate children and parents into doing what child protection workers demand they do.

  • that children have been sexually abused and assaulted by child protection workers.

  • That children in care are afraid to report being abused while in care because workers try to cover-up the abuse in order to protect their jobs and the reputation of the child protection agency they are employed by.

  • That child protection agency lawyers and workers often insist that family members be kicked out of the court to prevent them from viewing the proceedings.

  • That child protection lawyers will ague against the rights of citizens to record their court hearings in jurisdictions where this is permitted.

  • That investigators, having a conflict of interest, have been called in to investigate complaints against child protection agencies.

  • That child protection workers and agencies will refuse to answer communication in a timely manner.

  • That child protection workers in group home facilities are drinking and doing drugs and in some cases permitting teenage children to drink and do drugs with them.

  • That some child protection workers have been involved taking illegal drugs themselves.

  • That members of the Board of Directors are often insulated from knowing about complaints about workers with workers and executive workers themselves taking actions to keep Directors of the agency in the dark about complaints.

In matters relating to the conduct and practice of child protection agencies and workers it is the position of the Family Justice Review Committee:

Disclosure of files to clients

  • That all parties who are involved in any action or named as a party in any court documents involving a child protection agency be granted access to their family's child protection file, without the parties having to resort to obtaining a court Order for access to their files.  Access to child protection files should be made available within 7 days notice to a CAS agency.

  • That upon request of any  party who is involved in any action or named as a party in any court documents involving a child protection agency be provided with copies of a family's child protection within 30 days of the request.

Presence of support persons

  • That upon request, all children and/or parents be allowed to have a personal support person accompany them during all meetings with child protection workers or with any professional associated with the child protection agency.  No child protection worker or agency shall deny any parent or a child the right to have a support person with them when this has been specifically requested by the child or parent who will be the one meeting with child protection workers or professionals associated with the child protection agency.

Electronic recording of meetings and interviews

  • That all children and parents be allowed to electronically record any meeting with child protection workers and that child protection worker shall not deny any child or parent the right to electronically record their meetings with workers.

  • That all interviews with children which is intended to gather information to be used in court against parents, particularly the first meeting with a child, which may result in a child being removed from the child's home, to be videotaped or electronically recorded if requested by any involved party in the proceedings.

  • That all interviews with children in care who may come forth to disclose abuse while in care of CAS, be videotaped or electronically recorded for future reference.

Use of electronic recording equipment in the court

  • That children and parents be allowed to electronically record their own court proceedings  using their own equipment if they wish to do so (as currently allowed under section 136 of the Court of Justice Act) and that no worker or lawyer representing any child protection agency shall interfere with this right or present any objection to the court.

Presence of family members and supporters in court

  • That all concerned immediate and extended family members be allowed to attend any court hearing (except at a trial only and where it has been confirmed that they are to appear as a witness) and that no workers or legal representative of any child welfare protection agency shall interfere with the rights of family to attend court hearings.

Disclosure of child protection worker's qualifications and experience

  • That all child protection workers who has submitted information under Oath to a child protection court be required to disclose their curriculum vitae and/or experience upon request of any of the parties involved.

Code of Ethics

  • That all child protection workers be required to follow the same code of ethics and guidelines as published by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, even if they are not registered with that organization.

Drug testing of child protection workers

  • That all child protection workers to be required to submit themselves to random drug tests and any worker who is found to be using illegal drugs, to be disqualified from working as a child protection worker or working for a child protection agency.

Complaints about workers or policies

  • That every child protection agency to publish a standardized complaint form for use by members of the public to submit complaints and that this complaint form to be given to each and every client of the agency as soon as possible after the commencement of services.

  • That every child protection agency maintain a complaint committee to deal with formal written complaints against workers and this complaint committee be made up of members of the public who are at arm's length from employees within the agency.

  • That every child protection agency be required to maintain detailed statistics about complaints to the agency which would include the nature of the complaint and the workers involved.  Every agency will publish an annual report summarising the number and nature of the complaints and this report be made available to all members of the agency upon request.

  • That all complaints to the agency be included as party of the monthly business of the Board of Directors and that a monthly complaint report be tabled and included in the minutes of the Board's monthly agenda.

Training of workers to conduct interviews with children

  • That all child protection workers be given training in how to properly interview children (including the use of videotape) using a standardized, interviewing protocol and that this protocol be made available for review by members of the public upon request.  This protocol to include interviewing procedures specific to the following:

  1. child custody matters

  2. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting (HAP) and parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

  3. sexual abuse

  4. domestic violence

  5. abuse in group or foster homes by workers

  6. abuse in group or foster homes by other children in the facility

  7. abuse by other professionals or agencies in the community including other child protection workers

Other Recommendations

  • That when a child has been taken into care by a child protection agency, that child protection workers and agencies shall properly notify children and parents in writing and as soon as is practically possible after the apprehension, of their option for kinship care and how a kinship plan of care can be implemented.

  • That children and parents be properly informed of their rights and be specifically directed to those sections of legislation which are applicable to the family's circumstances.

  • That a qualified social worker, registered with the appropriate professional association or college where available, shall be used to investigate a family's matters if children and parents have presented reasonable evidence to suggest that unqualified workers have made errors or acted with bias during their carriage of the family's files.

  • That any investigator brought in to investigate the conduct of child protection workers or a child protection agency, be required not to have any dealings with any CAS agency (such as an adoption lawyer).

  • That all child protection workers respond to parties in a timely and professional manner.  Correspondence should be responded to within 14 days of receipt.

In matter relating to foster or group homes

  • That children who are placed in foster or group home care should not be placed into the care of caregivers of alternate sexual orientation (gay or lesbian) without the prior knowledge and written permission of the children's parents or family members.

  • That all child protection workers acting as supervisors in group home facilities be required to undergo mandatory random drug and alcohol testing.

  • That children in care should have access to a kid's hot line or direct access to the Ombudsman, where they can safely report abuse while in CAS care without having to report abuse to CAS workers directly.

  • That all group home workers to be required to submit themselves to random drug tests and any worker who is found to be using illegal drugs, to be disqualified from working as a child protection worker or working for a child protection agency.