photos: Photo by Kyle Pearce.

The crime of addiction

Viewpoints: Trapped in the child-care system

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By Jason D. Love

 

Two years ago my three-year-old daughter was apprehended by the Ministry of Children and Family Development in Courtenay, B.C., while staying with extended family members. At the time, my wife and I were staying at a friend’s house in Alberta actively seeking help to deal with unresolved substance abuse issues.

Our child was removed July 9, 2014. The court application was made the next day, and the presentation hearing was scheduled July 14, 2014. That gave two parents suffering from and seeking help with substance abuse five days to find a lawyer, gather evidence, and prove that they were willing to and had provided adequate care for their child—all while living in another province.

Ninety-eight per cent of the time, the ministry is granted interim custody of a child and the other two per cent, the child is returned to the parents under a supervision order, according to a report taking statistics from 1999–2000. There is no record of a child being returned to parents having no order attached.

During the presentation hearing, the ministry must present the court with a written report that includes the circumstances of removal, information about less disruptive measures considered prior to removal, and a plan of care for the child after the removal has taken place.

According to the facts of removal report conducted on our file July 10, 2014, the social worker had learned my wife had relapsed into drugs and left to stay with me in Alberta. It goes on to say my wife had left our daughter in the care of extended family members while at the same time was receiving more reports of domestic altercations and drug use around our daughter (which could not have been true as we were in another province, staying with friends to resolve our domestic and substance problems).

The report goes on to say: “These concerns were explored with extended family who were caring for [my daughter] and it was discussed that removal was necessary.” The report finishes by stating the extended family members were in full agreement and consented to our daughter being placed in the temporary care of the ministry, closing with how my wife and I needed to address the “issues before the family and the ministry are confident that [my daughter] is safe”.

Extended family members deny consenting to our daughter’s removal to this day. Neither my wife or I were contacted prior to our daughter’s removal, only being contacted directly after by extended family members to inform us our daughter had been apprehended by the ministry.

My mom, who had been in contact with the extended family members where my daughter was staying, was not contacted by any social worker prior to my daughter’s removal. This is in direct conflict with the ministry’s mandate to consider less disruptive measures prior to the removal of a child.

Currently there are many groups seeking justice and reform in childcare practices carried out in B.C. and Canada. One of these groups goes by the acronym PAPA—People Assisting Parents Association—with a website containing mountains of information and documents to help families suffering from often mislead and unlawful child protection decisions. Quoting a section on legislation improvement, it states:

“[The Child, Family and Community Act] needs to be substantially revised, if not repealed in its entirety.”

“There is no disciplinary provision to deter social workers from abusing their authority—lack of accountability and corruption ensue,” the site states.

My daughter was taken two months before her third birthday. She is now five and attending kindergarten. Having your child taken by the government, after leaving them with family so you could address self-admitted problems, is about the worst thing that could happen to anyone. The only things I could imagine being worse is either having your child being diagnosed with a terminal illness or having them pass away.

My daughter’s apprehension was a living nightmare that felt like someone ripped my soul out of my chest, placed it in a pressure cooker, and heated it in front of me. I went from owning and operating my own welding company in Alberta two months prior to my daughter’s apprehensions, to being a homeless, suicidal, heroin addict three months after she was taken. That was the psychological effect my daughter’s apprehension had on me at the time.

Now, after two years of undying determination, unwilling to ever give up my right to parent my child or my daughter’s right to live safely at home with her family, I am clean and moving towards success. I am on the waiting list to attend the B.C. Institute of Technology in March 2017 to obtain my Red Seal welding ticket; and hope to have my daughter back living with me in the summer of 2017, God willing.

I speak with my daughter every week and travel to visit her in Courtenay every month. I love her more than words could do justice, and love is the one unbreakable force that will conquer adversity—no matter what the circumstances.

Jason D. Love participated in Megaphone's fall session of Community Journalism 101.

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