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Monday, November 07, 2005

Three Step Proposal- Jeffrey's Law

Three Step Proposal- Jeffrey's Law

1. Agencies need to be held accountable for their actions:

a) if a child dies in care, an agent should be required to prove before a committee that they did everything in their power to protect the child including:
- a thorough check of the child’s family for a history of abuse
- a thorough check of child’s foster family regardless of blood ties
- saw the child face to face at every home visit which is currently every 90 days- and should remain every 90 days regardless of ‘kinship’ care
- ensured all appointments were kept if parents or children are receiving social services
- if allegations were made after placement or initial intervention, they are followed up closely

Failing to do any of the above, and found guilty, the agent would not only be dismissed, but they could face criminal charges of negligence causing death. Hopefully this would encourage more concise, thorough investigations and documentation being done.

Currently, all the CCAS agents involved in the Jordan Heikamp, Sara Podniewicz and Jeffrey Baldwin cases are either still actively employed or are on long term disability paid with Ontario public’s taxes- they should be in jail.

b) Agencies need to be responsible for hiring qualified agents who have university or college education to work in the field. Agents should be trained by all levels of professionals including pediatricians, coroners, homicide detectives, sexual abuse workers, and highly experienced social workers so they can be better equipped to notice red flags. More funding definitely needs to be concentrated on children to ensure agents are qualified professionals.

c) These agencies should have to function like a business. Without divulging confidential information about children or families, they should have to publish an in depth annual report available to anyone on their web site that states budget, spending, the number of children placed in foster homes or adopted as well as any deaths and their causes. The agency should have to divulge the details surrounding any deaths and why they were not prevented.

They should have to be accountable to their four stakeholders;
a) their customers- the children,
b) their shareholders- Ontario tax payers;
c) their community- doing fundraising, awareness campaigns, benefits of adoption/ fostering/ volunteering campaigns, etc.,
d) and finally to their employee’s- adequate benefits, salaries and vacation time.

Instead of a monetary bottom line, they will have a ‘successful placement’ bottom line.

They should have goals, budgets and forecasts just like a corporation and should strive to meet these objectives.

e) Agencies must take every call seriously and have someone personally visit the household and see the children face to face before they consult their ‘Risk Assessment Module’. Agents should legally be allowed into any home when an accusation of abuse has been made or if they fear for their safety, an officer go with them. The visit should be a surprise and at the initial meeting, the caller should not be identified. Agents would note various aspects such as the condition of the home, the demeanor of the parents and the condition of the child relative to its age. If the claim is substantiated by the agent, the child be taken immediately and put into emergency foster care. If not, the agent then visits the caller to determine whether or not revenge or malicious intent was the motive for the call. I use the example of the Toronto woman who cut off the hands of her neighbour because she thought the neighbour called the CAS on her.

f) Abuse repeats itself, so family histories should be researched and examined before a child is placed with a relative or back with their parents.

This is all regurgitated information. It’s the same issue over and over again. It is past due time that the Provincial and Federal government step in with more funding and provide more resources to agencies. I’m convinced that the general public wants our future generation to be properly protected. Having said that, agents must be held responsible for their judgement calls and have known and severe consequences for failing to research properly.

‘Why should we cut more slack for professionals than we ever would with a parent? A parent screws up, their kids are taken. When an agency screws up, it’s an honest mistake and everyone has to be understanding.’ - Bruce Hardy

2. Various Laws and Legislation need to be changed as well as the Judicial System:

a) Parents should not have access to children taken and put into foster homes until they can convince the CAS that they are willing to learn how to be better parents. Children should be made crown wards more often than not and available for adoption rather than going from foster home to foster home, or worse, back to their parents

b) Children must come first. The clients of the Children’s Aid Society are the children! Too often the parents are forgiven for their behavior and the child’s best interest is not taken into account. The laws must be revised to state that the child’s welfare is the absolute most important factor the minute a call is placed to the society. The current child- protection legislation in Ontario states that children will benefit more from less intrusive alternative and no longer applies when statistics show that the most dangerous place for a child is in the home, and that abuse most of the time is inflicted by a known person. In a report done in 1998 called The Consequences of Child Maltreatment Canada, the Manitoba Family Services stated that ‘the fatality rate from physical abuse is estimated to be between 4% and 10 % if an injured child is placed back in the family home a second time.’ The rates are most certainly higher now. The system clearly puts the rights of adults before children.

c) A special charge of ‘death by child abuse’ must be included in the Criminal Code of Canada with a minimum sentence of ten years regardless of the child’s age. Currently the trend is that the younger the child, the less the sentence, sometimes parents getting no jail time at all. A year or two later they’re pregnant again and it starts all over.

d) Government has to start taking an interest in Child Welfare because although they can not vote right now, they will eventually. The price of properly caring for a child now is a lot less than the cost of dealing with potential juvenile delinquents

e) Neglect and failing to provide the necessities of life should be considered as significant as physical abuse to the judge

f) Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that any adult can use force to correct a child under his care as long as the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. This is so out of date it shouldn’t need fighting to be changed, however, both the Provincial and Supreme Court of Canada believe it should still be in effect.

In all, there are too many loopholes in many aspects of both the Criminal Code and Child and Family Act of Canada to mention. Why haven’t the other four adults living in the house with Jeffrey been charged with Criminal Negligence causing death? Their actions, or rather lack thereof, clearly fall under that law. Why are some laws enforced while others are abandoned?

3. The public CAS and CCAS should be amalgamated:

a) Both agencies are competing for the same funding but if both agencies cleaned house so to speak and became one public agency, it would function much more effectively. The public CAS on a whole seems to performing much better than the CCAS

b) A single case manager for each child for the full duration of their lifetime in care would be beneficial and help prevent fatal miscommunication mistakes.

In conclusion, our current system is not working and requires a complete overhaul that I don’t believe would take millions of dollars to accomplish. It’s logic that should guide agencies, ministries, judges, and foster parents. Consulting some professionals on how the laws should be revised, what signs to look for when determining potential abuse and an agency set up to watch the Children’s Aid Society is all that should be required. It needs to happen now, too many silent victims have lived in torture and died alone and needlessly. Coroners inquests don’t carry much weight anymore, the recommendations aren’t implemented, it costs a lot of money and places empty blame. No one can be charged, fired or serve jail time as a result of the jury’s decision. We know what happened, we know who’s to blame, we know what should happen, there’s no point spending thousands or millions of dollars on finding that out. Use the money to overhaul the system, it would be much more beneficial.



maggi said...

Hello everyone,

I appreciate the thoughtfulness put into these proposals and, indeed, into all the work that Amanda has accomplished thus far.

I have been following Jeffrey’s story in the Globe & Mail and am surprised at how deeply affected I am by it. Of the many horrific stories covered in the media, somehow this one has crept into my heart in a piercing and unrelenting manner.

Unfortunately, as we all know, Jeffrey’s story is not unique. I live in BC and have also been following the case of a young Native girl named Sherry Charlie who, like Jeffrey, was taken from a home where abuse was suspected, and placed into her Uncle’s home in a kith-and-kin arrangement. Like Jeffrey’s grandparents, Sherry’s uncle had a lengthy criminal record, and was on probation for assault at the time of her placement. That same uncle killed Sherry by a blow to the stomach because she “wouldn’t stop crying”. Alarmingly, Sherry’s three-year-old brother was left in the killer’s home for a full six months after Sherry’s death.

The conclusion I come to is that the incompetence and neglect of the agencies involved transcends regional and provincial boundaries. It is a national issue and deserves federal attention.

I know that changing laws is an onerous and lengthy process. However, in the interim, I am wondering why there have not been more charges laid in Jeffrey’s case. In particular, why have the four other adults living with Jeffrey and his siblings, not been charged? I would like to see James Mills, Yvette Kidman, Tammy Kidman, & Tammy Kidman’s boyfriend, be charged with a criminal offense. They appear to be wholly complicit in the abuse and neglect and should held accountable for this.

Anonymous said...

I also would like to know why why there have not been more charges laid in Jeffrey’s case. I too would like to see James Mills, Yvette Kidman, Tammy Kidman, & Michael Reitemer(Tammy Kidman's boyfriend or husband) be charged with a criminal offense. As far as I'm concerned thay are all "accomplices" to the abuse and neglect of Jeffrey should held accountable.

Jeffrey's Law said...

That is a million dollar question that I hope I can find the answer to... they should be charged with criminal negligence causing death and none of them should ever be allowed to have custody of children.

Tina said...

Is there any chance an additional round of charges will come after the initial trial is concluded? If Bottineau and Kidman are rightfully convicted of first degree murder, then perhaps these other adults can be tried as accomplices to murder. But who would/will make the charges? Can someone find out how and who to pressure to consider round two? It would be such a termendous signal to society that inaction is the same as action in a case of abuse. Should we be writing letters aboutthis issue as well?

Jeffrey's Law said...

We can't even write about this until after the trial... it would just be a wate of time because 'they' won't even look at the letter. The other letters we write are about more general issues like ending child abuse and asking for an inquest into the death of a child, which I guess is specific, but as Jeffrey is deceased, 'they' will at least respond. Please, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Mills is exempt from any charges because he testified, same if Michael testifies. Yvette, Yvonne, and Tammy should most definately be charged though! There are so many laws they broke, but I don't know who to contact . I think it has to be Michael Bryant, Attorney General who would charge them... we should write to him immediately after the trial. Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey probably would have lived if he had been left with his biological mother and if his paternal grandparents had been allowed to have regular visitation. Who is responsible for this tragedy? He was turned into someone's meal ticket.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeffrey's Law. Is it o.k. to send in the three step process along with the appropriate letter?

Jeffrey's Law said...

Sure! I have sent it with all my letters.

Catherine email: said...

RE:"a) Parents should not have access to children taken and put into foster homes until they can convince the CAS that they are willing to learn how to be better parents. Children should be made crown wards more often than not and available for adoption rather than going from foster home to foster home, or worse, back to their parents"

I find this comment very wrong. I saw the interview of Jeffrey's Parents on CBC. It seems that all allegations were fabricated in order to take the children from the parents, while the CCAS was profiing with the case management.

I have 10 y.o. autistic child. Both my husband and I are professionals and employed with large corporations. We take responcibility for the welfare of large number of people every day. We became a subject of ethnical harrasment and persecution due to my son's disability. The CAS workers would fabricate reports that were plain false up to the point it did not make common sense. For example they would claim we would have dark stains on the carpets but we have hard wood floors, the laws of gravity would not exist anymore and they would claim that we have stack of books ceilings high and so on of non-sense. My son was taken out of school without a warrant .... we were threataned. Finally we were forced to separate and I have my son living with my parents in Europe now. I was hoping to process a complaint with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. I spoke even to Minister Chambers in person - from 2003 up to todays date - nothing - York CAS keep being hostile and vendictive.

The point is that it is very unatural for a parent to hurt a child. I believe that if Jeffrey was to stay with his mother , he would of been taken good care of. You can see at all the pictures before he was taken from her , having all the baby fat, etc. - he looks like a child that was cared for.

So now the CCAS with their false protection claims created the whole situation. I believe that they supressed the parents, see... hey even took their newborn baby. I believe that the CCAS knew what was going on and they purposefully left this child to die in order to gain more funding and have mediocre Canadians to increase their power.

It is shamefull that in Modern Canada monorities are subject of ethnical genicide.