Consent: How one mother beat the child welfare system and got her kid back - APTN NewsAPTN News

Consent: How one mother beat the child welfare system and got her kid back



(Watch the full story above. Minister Jane Philpott already has. See her response and what the government is doing to address the child welfare crisis.)

Kenneth Jackson
Nation to Nation
When her son started talking about suicide while living in a group home this mother decided she needed to do something.

Emails between her and the child welfare agency show she pushed to get him help while being kept at a distance.

Then during an unsupervised visit in April she didn’t return him to his group home.

She just kept her son at home.

“I had already made the decision that my child was not going to go back into harm’s way,” said the mother that Nation to Nation is not identifying due to legal restrictions around privacy in child welfare.

“I was not going to allow my son to have another serious occurrence because I did not want that serious occurrence to be a suicide.”

Her son had been in child protective services for almost a decade.

But he was removed from his mother with her so-called consent, which is a key word used over and over in the system.

He was one of many kids removed from their homes in Ontario through what’s known as kinship or customary care agreements in the child welfare system.

Sometimes they’re called private arrangements.

It means parents giving consent to the state to take their children without a court forcing them.

But does that mean a parent can just take back consent from the child welfare agency and bring their kid home?

That’s exactly what they can do according to Marco Frangione, a child welfare lawyer in Thunder Bay.

“There is a right to revoke private arrangements, customary care agreements, temporary care agreements. All agreements for that matter, that are done outside of court,” said Frangione.

He’s revoked these agreements many times, which often means going to court.

But Frangione has noticed a startling trend.

“It seems to be common practice with many children aids societies across the province that these agreements are being entered into with huge power imbalances, no interpreters, when needed obviously, so they don’t necessarily have capacity at the time of signing,” he said.

He said parents often don’t have legal representation when signing.

“Far too many and that is one of the hidden secrets from those seeking veritable child welfare reform, not just in Ontario but across Canada,” he said. “I receive calls time and time again from parents who have signed agreements without legal advice.”

Frangione thinks that’s what happened with Kanina Sue Turtle who died by suicide in Sioux Lookout in 2016 after spending several years in foster care.

An APTN News investigation in February revealed that she filmed her suicide inside a child welfare agency operated home.

She was suicidal, self-harming but was left alone for 45 minutes the day she died.

Barbara Suggashie, left, and her husband Clayton Suggashie hold the picture of their deceased daughter Kanina Sue Turtle who died by suicide Oct. 29, 2016. APTN file photo

Only after her death did Frangione become the family’s lawyer.

“Had the family had legal advice from beginning to end they would have been able to keep the society in check. They would have had proper checks and balances to ensure their child was being properly cared for,” said Frangione.

But the case involving the mother and her son didn’t happen in northern Ontario.

It unfolded in Toronto.

She remembers signing an agreement inside the courthouse on 311 Jarvis Street and avoided going before a judge.

“I felt I wasn’t listened to, I felt invisible … being in the basement of 311 Jarvis was really hard because I was alone and I was pretty much alone through the whole process for this,” she said.

About two years ago she had another son. She said the agency put a birth alert on the child, meaning they would be notified by the hospital once he was delivered.

But she fought to keep him, while her other son remained in child welfare.

Things would soon change when she met another mother earlier this year.

That mother had defeated a different a child welfare agency in northern Ontario just to keep her daughter.

She did it by teaching herself the law and learning what consent meant in the child welfare industry.

She refused to give it.

Because the agency opened a file Nation to Nation is not identifying her either due to legal restrictions.

But she had advice for the mother trying to get her son back.

“I said withdraw your consents. I just felt it in my bones (the agreement) was illegal,” said the second mother.

She helped the first mom write letters that used legal language informing the agency she was not returning her son to a group home.

The second mother is known to drum and sing throughout Toronto.

It appears to have worked.

She’s had custody of her son for over a month – with little interaction between the agency.

While elated to have her child back she also felt crushed not knowing that she could take back consent she gave away under duress so many years ago.

“When she realized that, she fell to her knees in my kitchen. She bawled her eyes out from her soul, man. Because all she had to do was withdraw her consent and she missed her child’s entire childhood,” said the second mother.

Nation to Nation had Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott in studio earlier this week to preview the mother’s story.

“It’s a devastating story and the worst part of it is that these kind of stories are taking place all over the country. Families that have been separated in cases where the parents did not have their rights respected,” said Philpott.

“The incentives are wrong in the system, the policies need to be changed, we need to get families reunified and we need to prevent severe over-apprehension of Indigenous children.”

Tens of thousands of Indigenous children are in the system but provinces like Ontario just started keeping track of exactly how many are taken last February.

The mandate all these years has been to remove the child from the home and the funding has been based on that.

Philpott said the government is trying to shift that policy and earmarked $295 million for this fiscal year that is for prevention. In fact, the feds expect to pay nearly $1.4 billion over the next five years on prevention, instead of apprehension.

In February, a letter went out to Indigenous child welfare agencies asking them to outline what the actual costs would be for prevention.

“We recognize this represents a significant shift in approach and that your agency will need support to understand and implement these changes,” the letter stated.

Figures are still being worked on and the money hasn’t started to flow to the agencies.

“We are changing policy to make sure that agencies are funded for preventing the apprehension of children, rather than (incentivizing) agencies to apprehend children,” said Philpott.

As for the mother and her son she got him in a new school.

His first class was on the Ojibwe language.

“I never thought I would be able to get my son back,” she said. “It is very surreal that I do not need to fight anymore.”

But she has a message to share about a mother’s consent.

“Just take away your consent, exert your sovereignty in a matriarchal way. You have the right to your children,” she said.

kjackson@aptn.ca

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22 Responses to “Consent: How one mother beat the child welfare system and got her kid back”

  1. Beth52@sympatico.ca'
    Beth June 1, 2018 at 1:02 am #

    Such a wonderful story. I want to fight for positive change. A paradigm shift. More to come..

    • Hot.2hot@hotmail.com'
      Shawn June 1, 2018 at 5:17 am #

      Is a great story. But when I went through foster care my parents could not take us back because they were not Marryed in the the 1976. So we were abused physically and sexualy which would not of happened if the government had let us stay with the family that did want us. I was a trial kId for social services to have other kids live with there parents after being Givin up under section 56. I successfully completed a independent living program and thus change a system that was really broken. And now have too fight for what happened to us within Saskatchewan and British Columbia this is quite upseting for me but am very happy for this your story

    • mayabbb35@outlook.com'
      Maya bradshaw June 2, 2018 at 5:47 pm #

      Hi, I received your email from another woman like me who lost her children however got them back, I have thousands of followers and supporters and no help unfortunately. I too am paying a life sentence for choices I made when staying in an abusive relationship over 5 years ago, and being incarcerated for marijuana over 4 years ago. I then had lost both my children due to me not having any family except an older son who was of course deemed not appropriate at that time to care for his siblings. From that minute of incarceration and getting over that relationship I have never looked back, only to reflect on the poor choices I made then to never make them again. I regret staying however leaving is harder said then done. I have always been a hands on loving mother, I would do anything for my kids, and have always been there for them through any need they have, I love them unconditionally and this breaks my heart. After they took my children my sons father and I got a lawyer and he got my son out of care, my son then went to live with his brother in Calgary and wait on my return, so thats how I got my son, then almost 13 back. I have had him back in my care every since, but cannot get my daughter, almost 10.

      The MCFD has spent upwards of 100’s of thousands on my case, with 3 Supreme Ct hearings (cant be cheap) and over 15 provincial court hearings, applications so they can keep her and attempt to have her adopted. They applied for a CCO (continuing Custody order) while I was still incarcerated and therefore had no chance to succeed and show the courts any sort of change in their eyes and so I of course lost, over 3 years ago. Had they waited until I found stable housing a job and moved forward like I have, the outcome might have been different. When the CCo was handed down the judge felt if important for her to have access to me, and MCFD took that access order to Supreme Ct to fight it, and won taking access away from a judge and making it at SW discretion. Immediately they took away all access, I never saw her again.

      I have tried for the entire time (3 yrs) to show them that I would never in my life go backwards, this was the ONLY abusive relationship with an addict that I have ever had, I have never even known addicts, and had a very good upbringing. This wasnt some pattern and I didnt just fall of the wagon for the 40th time….I was a good mother who made some bad decisions, and again, that was over 5 years ago! Today there is NOT one reason whatsoever why I cannot have my child at home, since I have also raised my other son as well with not one MCFD complaint or issue. (have that on record they have no concerns)

      MCFD has kicked me and my then 14yo out of Creston, banned me from living, working (I had a job then I couldnt take) or being in the town- claiming it may cause anxiety for my daughter. They have completely brainwashed her and I fear for her psychological and emotional well being- I have nightmares shes not okay. If it were a parent doing this to her they would take her so why are they allowed to mentally abuse her? She is fearful and scared, worried all the time about seeing us, obviously a little girl who begged me to take her home just a year ago on our last visit, held me in the car crying, has changed and is now scared and not the same. Moms know.

      MCFD has restrained us from any contact with her, as well as making an illegal vexatious order under CFSA (not allowed but they did it anyway and I didnt have a lawyer to take it to Supreme CT) barring me from applying to the courts for 2 years, while they get rid of her and have her adopted

      MCFD then sent her to Victoria to have her adopted and clearly didnt check the family who was having marital issues, unstable and God only knows what she witnessed or was a party to, if they hurt her we will never know. The adoption broke down due to marriage and breaking up, she was then moved again to another foster home, then back to Creston BC to the original placement- 3 placements, 3 schools in 7 months. My daughter is currently NOT in school I was told, and no one knows why.

      MCFD has no communication whatsoever with me, and me and my 2 sons are not allowed contact with her, and no one knows why. (they claim its because there is a CCO, so thats it) cut off family forever, my eldest son lives in HER town! I live in the next town, yet we cant see her, or speak to her!

      MCFD has told her to run if she sees us (this is insane, abuse of power)
      My daughter is now back in foster care, no adoption in place and no plans to adopt, yet no access- Access is currently at the Directors Discretion, and the SW in Creston has said NO access, because he can.

      MCFD has taken the $400 Norco bike I bought her last year, and gave her a crappy bike instead, no clue why they keep my items I have for her, so she has nothing from us.

      I recently won a Supreme Ct chance to appeal the provincial court judges error (they collude with MCFD and in most cases agree) however I had merit and found a lawyer who saw that, we got the appeal heard, then lost, most judges dont want to overturn another judges decision. I was applying to cancel the CCO, and I hope still one day that I can, but due to not being able to apply to the courts without the permission of a judge, I dont know if they will ever give me permission, until my 2 years is up in 8 months.

      MCFD can also decide that I can have access, they can also decide that they want to cancel the CCO, and acknowledge change, yet they dont.

      I have never abused my kids (although one of the big reasons I dont have them is for “emotional abuse about 5 yrs back”.) I have yelled at them at times, grabbed them, and said a few things I probably shouldnt have, and of course apologized with ice-cream, but thats being a parent. I have never used drugs or alcohol, I am smart, educated, had my own business, nice home and good looking kids. My eldest today works for a logging co, and my youngest is trying to find his first job thru the K’tunaxa employment program. We are not perfect, I have made mistakes, I am sorry about my past, however all I can do is make a better future which I have done.

      I identify as Aboriginal (3 generations back) no status, I have several things in my background, my son is in the Ab-ed program at school and receives support thru K’tunaxa, however for OVER 4 years I have attempted to have my daughter transferred to K’tunaxa as well and I cant, MCFD has stated I have no proof, everyone is dead and they can say what they want…..My son has been registered in school since kindergarten as aboriginal so why would I register him 10 years ago, if I was planning on making this up 4 years ago? They refuse to transfer her since K’tunaxa doesnt adopt out their kids, they also know that if she was transferred Id see her and they would work with me, as NO agency in the world would deem me not good enough to raise my daughter today. There isnt one single reason why I cant have her today!

      I need help desperately, this has become personal, not about my daughter or her needs, there is no such thing as the best interest of the child, because if there was anyone in the world can clearly see that she needs her mommy and her brothers, and this is WRONG. so very wrong in every way to alienate her and us. I should not pay a life sentence for staying in that relationship, for allowing crap into our life, and not being able then to leave….I am a stronger better more educated person today almost 5 year later, many groups, therapy and lessons later, many certificates and supportive letters from very influential people in my community who can back me up, employment and references from landlords….I am not quitting, I just cant find someone who is able to help me. I cant get media attention and I am lost with not many things left to do at this point.

      my website is https://mayabbb35.wixsite.com/mcfd-legal-kidnapped I have had over 50k views of my fb page and many many hundreds of support letters.

      mcfd, ministry of children and families BC, mcfd-legal …
      mayabbb35.wixsite.com
      child protection, mcfd, children and families BC, stealing kids, family court system,, BC child welfare, corruption MCFD, CCO, continuing custody order
      If you can help me, or talk to me, anything…anything at all, I would appreciate it. Yes, there are 2 sides to every story, however TODAY MCFD cannot tell you or anyone that the best thing for my daughter at almost 10 is to remain in care and never see us again….Today, there is NOT one reason to question my life, I should have her home with us! and there never will be again. I am proud mother with a good, stable life.
      FB- mcfd-legal-kidnapped

      From, Maya Bradshaw

    • lisaarlin80@gmail.com'
      Lisa June 6, 2018 at 8:41 pm #

      Wow this story really hit home. The MCFD I dealt with was in Surrey BC. I revoked my consent filed with the supreme Court registry. If I gave it was without legal advise or counsel. That was back on 1996. I never signed anything that gave MCFD my consent to adopt my child. So many years later my boys don’t understand how hard it was for me to fight MCFD relative did same thing force you to give consent, you dont know what your cosnenting to or told you can revoke it. Then MCFD make you see a pyscolgist to prove your mentally incompantant and have the power to get a judge to expose your consent. It is a good thing parents know this now! I would want my boys to understand I never wanted to give you up, I wasn’t stupid, or freely gave consent. This is what child protection dose to parents the are corrupt. My boy are adults now aged out of the system and want no relationship with me. I hope. My boys get this information to protect them selves and Thier children. If a parent says to MCFD you don’t have my consent that means, No you don’t have it. If MCFD required consent then there is no question my consent is required. Most parents don’t realize when your child is in foster care your consent and s valid. Report MCFD or they try and force you to give consent and only do with a lawyer!
      MCFD will deny you visits when th your child and make your life miserable, you even have rights to hospital treatments or info. What MCFD didn’t realize you need my consent it is valid karma if s a butch! Why isn’t there a class action re: parents consent in British Columbia?

  2. Me@me.com'
    Me June 1, 2018 at 12:21 pm #

    CAS Ontario should be dismantled they do more harm than good. Its amazing what transgressions a person will forgive themselves for when supposedly protecting children. Its been my observation that they have issues with abuse of authority and are too close to court staff for the process to be impartial.

    • Jesscanivet1891@gmail.com'
      Jess June 14, 2018 at 4:45 pm #

      Simply revoke any contracts with them

      No contract
      No consent
      No Jurisdiction

  3. kellie.bardy@yahoo.ca'
    Kellie Bardy June 1, 2018 at 2:13 pm #

    Great story , parents need to know their rights … to many children taken away from everything and everyone they know … change needs to happen …

  4. Cr33style@gmail.com'
    Crystal June 1, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

    My mom was in residential school&we(10 of us siblings)were placed into care,no supports enywhere for growing up in/out of care(abuse of all kinds)growing up&ending up in a domestice violence relationship,my own kids ended up in care&eventually landed in an first nations run cfs agency&then in my own (dysfunctional)mothers care. I learned later on my kids(first nations cfs)worker,had a “personal problem” with my family&ended up “over-apprehending” my children. The worker came to interview my youngest daughter&i secretly recorded the interview,only to discover she was not “acknowledging” my daughters storie about her foster mom selling pills in front of her&another foster child. I cut in&told the worker a little of what i was going through&she was telling me undisclosed information. I then met up with her supervisor and let them listen to the voice recording. They were shocked and told me to email the voice recorded interview to their Boss which i did& i ended up getting my children back into my care that same day. My (3)daughters worker ended up getting offered a lower job at her agency or resign(supposedly)never to work with another agency again.

  5. joannehusak123@gmail.com'
    Joe June 1, 2018 at 3:15 pm #

    There has to be a reason why the children are taken in the first place. This is not just a big ploy at social services.

    • Charisma7540@gmail.com'
      Sherrie June 1, 2018 at 6:25 pm #

      My daughter was apprehended 11 months ago. She was molested by her babysitter. I was told by Mcfd I should have known better. Because the sitter was fat with a beard. Their lawyers tell them you have no grounds to keep this kid. . But she is special needs and they get alot of funding for her. So we go to trial in 25 days.

      • ashleighenemark@yahoo.ca'
        Ash June 3, 2018 at 8:04 am #

        I hope you get your child back

      • jeantalbot54@gmail.com'
        Kandy June 4, 2018 at 8:56 am #

        I wish you luck, I hope you get her back soon, they are always taking kids for no reason.

    • hannahmoscovitch@gmail.com'
      Matty W June 1, 2018 at 11:37 pm #

      I’m a white chic who’s been interviewing front lines child case workers – the reason is a combination of racism and the classification of poverty as “neglect”.

    • biindigenhealingandarts@gmail.com'
      Suzanne Smoke June 2, 2018 at 2:46 pm #

      They get incentives for children in their care..I.am.an advocate and it is more of a power, issue..bullying.. systemic racism issue than poor parenting..Canadians have been taught since arrival.that they.need to be caretakers for Indigenous peoples because we don’t know anything..our traditional ways of life were never considered or respected and we have been devalued for 500 years..loss.of land base. Connection to.community…legislation meant to erase Indigenous.women’s identity …and all that effects her parenting and go be subsequently judged and scrutinized by a settler Nation and judged on their barometer of social skills and parenting negating colonial interference… Anishinaabe , all Red Nation women ..are some of the most engaged incredible.moms I have had the honour to work with…they may be in.poverty or lack of transportations.. But they know how to raise their children safe and happy…unlike CAS and the settler nations

      • margajoy@hotamil.com'
        MJ June 4, 2018 at 4:16 pm #

        Thankfully, in Ontario, more and more indigenous child protection agencies are assuming responsibility for overseeing child protection for first nations people, as it should be.

        .. to say that CAS’s get “incentives” for children in their care is absurd, but this continues to be perpetuated. The majority of families served by CAS’s, are working voluntarily and children removed from the care of their parents remains a small percentage of overall families that are involved with/served by CAS’s.

    • Wildthingforadaughter@msn.com'
      Sam June 2, 2018 at 4:25 pm #

      Yup, there’s a reason! It’s called brown skin. The dehumanizing of the First Nations people. You must have heard about it…. it’s been going on for centuries!

    • oldham.bmary52@outlook.com'
      ,Bridget Doman June 3, 2018 at 12:47 pm #

      You have clearly not experienced this organisation anywhere, whether it be Canada, USA, UK or Australia as well as a couple of other countries on mainland Europe. It is only when you do have these experiences that you find out to your detriment what lying, underhanded, dubious and manipulative people they are who will trample over anybody when it suits them to their own ends regardless of who they hurt. I never thought they behaved like they do until it happened to me.

  6. cathymaryanderson@knet.ca'
    Cathleen June 2, 2018 at 10:54 am #

    I had my children taken when I didn’t know anything about the system. .that worker used second hand news to use to take my kids and when I didn’t want to sign she slammed down the paper and told me if I don’t sign .all my children will be taken. .I had children younger then the the 2 oldest who were taken that time..if I had known how it worked.I would have not signed any paper that I was told to sign.To this day I have not seen that worker who did that to my family. I just wanted to tell her that she did a really good job in screwing up my family…

  7. lorraineloranger@gmail.com'
    Lorraine Loranger June 2, 2018 at 12:11 pm #

    It might not be a ploy by youth protection agency, but I saw the disrespect of mothers by DYP workers when children were apprehended, I am so glad that what is important here is about the parent’s rights. Listen to the whole interview, it is worth it to get the nuances.

  8. maiingan.kwe77@gmail.com'
    Lila Flamand June 2, 2018 at 2:26 pm #

    The distress a parent feels when a Child Ware agency is being allowed involvement harming our lively hood with their harmful correspondence with us, with our child/children. And knowing the powerful resources they have at their disposal. Intimidating us as parents pushing consents on us.
    And now they have pre-consents in place a collaboration within the minister government on our band members lives, . Consents that predetermine our way of life, being and resources.
    We have human rights as Canadians Laws that protect those rights. How about taking that 1.4 Billion and then some for harming our lives and our parenthood. Collaborating and consenting without consent on Band Members. While say your service is no longer required Child Welfare give us our written lives back.

  9. donnalynnmitchell@hotmail.com'
    Donna Mitchell June 2, 2018 at 8:01 pm #

    Just dealing with a case right now where the mother lost the children because she was a junkie. CAS would not allow the bio- father to parent based on his gender, the children were female. Despite full disclosure that the children were one quarter Indigenous, CAS hid the fact. The adoption failed for one of the girls, and she was thrown away into a group home for two years. As she was aging out, the bio-father was contacted. CAS admitted to ignoring him and railroading him. Worst part of all this? The adoptive father was recorded admitting he is racist and has no respect for Indigenous people or culture. So, these little girls were raised by a racist who probably would not have adopted them if he had known their racial background. CAS did nothing but harm to these children.

  10. AuroraCree2015@gmail.com'
    Juanita Desjarlais June 3, 2018 at 11:47 pm #

    Ok.. So tell me this.. I just have to use the Consent… Right. Well ive been dealing with this agency here in Saskatchewan. . ive been told by my lawyer that there is no jurisdiction for my Daughters .. Because of the fact there is 3 diff agencies sayin neither one has jurisdiction over my children n not one of those Agency lawyers responded once served. .. Original Copy of Apprehension is dated the day before .. I didnt notice the date until later.. When it was too late to do anything.. Is there an advocate who’ll actually listen to Our story…