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Judge has harsh words for CAS custody plan.

Ontario Family Court Justice Donald J. Taliano had sharply critical words as he turned down a request by the Children's Aid Society of Niagara Region to change the conditions of custody of two children (10 years and eight years). The changes aimed to prepare the children for adoption by cutting off access with the birth mother.

The children were taken into custody by the Society in 2003. The mother, who had once been in the care of the Society, was involved in drugs and alcohol and has a criminal record. Since the children were apprehended, she has been in treatment and has had supervised access to the children.

Heide Tebrake, an experienced social worker testifying as an expert on adoption, said that despite their ages, maturity issues, and emotional problems, adoption would bring the two children together in one home. Continued foster care could be uncertain and disruptive and care will end at age 18. The agency also reported on the inappropriate and unreliable behaviour of the mother.

Tebrake reported that the Society has a good record with adoptions and that most of the adoptions through the society result in permanent placements.

Agency policy requires that access by the mother must end for the children to be considered adoptable. The children, speaking through their lawyer, want the current arrangement to remain in place, which would keep the children in foster homes and allow continued access to their mother and their aunt.

Justice Taliano viewed the Society's plan as no more than "statistical projections" based on past experience and offered no real evidence that a suitable match for adoption of these children was actually available. He accused the Society of being "ideologically wedded" to a policy that insisted on the termination of all access, no matter how beneficial, before it would even begin to work on a speculative adoption process. The policy, he said, not only lacked any statutory basis, but "arguably contravened central provisions of the Child and Family Services Act."

He found "no logic" in terminating access when it was uncertain that these children could be successfully adopted, as no child of 7 years of age or more could be adopted without the child's consent. The children opposed adoption and until their attitudes changed, court found it "unnecessary, unwise and insensitive" to sever their contacts with their natural family. The Society's policy would only visit more emotional damage on the children with no assurances that this grief would necessarily result in a better life for them.

Until the children's adoption became more probable, the judge saw no reason to disturb the "beneficial status quo of foster care and ongoing access."

Children's Aid Society of Niagara Region v. C. (J.)
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Publication:Community Action
Date:Jun 19, 2006
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