On 14 July 2015, the Supreme Court of B.C. handed down an unprecedented judgment J.P. v. British Columbia (Children and Family Development), 2015 BCSC 1216. This is the first case in Canadian legal history in which child protection workers are found liable for misfeasance in public office, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the standard of care. Findings therein confirm our views and support the merit of our cause. Continuous litigations between JP and the MCFD are summarized in JP Aftermath. Our commentary on the Plecas Review Part 1: Decision Time was published on 4 January 2016. If you have evidence of misfeasance or abuse of children in foster care, please come forward and contact us.
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Assess if the child protection practice and actions taken by ministry staff, supervisors,
and legal counsel contracted to represent the Director under the Child, Family and
Community Service Act (CFCSA) were consistent with legislation, policies and standards
during the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (the ‘ministry’) contact with the
family during 2009 to 2012;
In the context of the J.P. case, particular focus will be given to when a child protection matter also involves private custody and access issues between parents, particularly when there are applications, proceedings, or orders involving the provincial court and Supreme Court of British Columbia;
Examination of the ministry’s legislation, policies, standards and practice to provide the appropriate degree of guidance with respect to child protection practice in cases
involving custody and access disputes, including orders from the provincial court and
Supreme Court of British Columbia and/or Acts; and
Provide recommendations to improve the ministry’s practice, policies and standards.
specified by the government on the second paragraph of his covering letter dated 4 December 2015. For the benefits of those who have no previous knowledge of the JP's case, the recap of what has transpired is provided in this highlighted link
MCFD was called to assist JP after the domestic violence report was filed.
Social worker William Strickland was confronted and accused by JP of acting inappropriately after he wrote a letter to clear BG (the father) of the allegations of physical abuse of one of the children, KG.
Supreme Court Judge Paul Walker found Strickland acted in bad faith, knowingly used false information to remove her children, allowed BG unsupervised access (hence disobeyed Walker's previous order of supervised access). As a result, JP's children were sexually abused during unsupervised access.
Judge Paul Walker ruled that child protection workers are liable for misfeasance in public office, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the standard of care after a lengthy hearing that bankrupted JP. The most damaging finding to the industry is immunity afforded by the CFCSA to good faith discretionary decisions is not afforded to the Director and social workers in this case ( of J.P. v. British Columbia (Children and Family Development), 2015 BCSC 1216).
The MCFD promoted William Strickland, appealed the Walker's decision in higher court and retained Bob Plecas to conduct a review on her case that covers 2009 to 2012, that conveniently excludes embarrassing court findings after 2012.
At the beginning, Plecas was hired as an external contractor. JP has a privacy concern and applied to the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Supreme Court to prohibit Bob Plecas to have access to her personal information on MCFD files. The B.C. Government circumvented the privacy issue by making Plecas a director in MCFD.
His appointment attracted opposition from JP for privacy reason. After rounds of legal wrestling with JP in the Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Supreme Court of B.C., the B.C. Government won. Bob Plecas was appointed a MCFD director and obtained clearance to access JP's private information. He released his first review on MCFD titled "Plecas Review Part 1: Decision Time" (hereinafter known as the Review, unless otherwise specified) on 14 December 2015. A noteworthy remark is that the 78-page Review was leaked to the media shortly before it was officially released.
Summary of the Review
The Review spends a great length in lobbying for more fundings not only in hiring more child protection workers, but also in providing quality assurance, staff training and computer information systems. According to Plecas, child protection workers who directly interact with families in crisis exhibited a level of staff turnover is disproportionately greater than that in other public sector (page 21). He cited the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) publication
"The Thin Front Line" (released on 8 October 2015) to support his position (page 25). Maximum hourly rates for delegated child protection workers appear to be about 11% below the Canadian maximum salary average of entry level workers (page 25). He alleged that child protection is one of the most difficult jobs in government. Child protection workers should be recognized and rewarded with higher compensation. Wage change could be accomplished through pay increases, special circumstances add-ons to existing pay (akin to the concept of danger pay), or a combination of both. Benefits also need to be increased in areas that will allow staff to deal with workplace issues such as stress and trauma (page 25). Plecas quoted that the Toronto Children’s Aid Society was recently recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 employers and has introduced many measures to ensure it is an employer of choice. A staffing model must be built that rewards success and does not punish it (page 26). The BCGEU's analysis suggests that 300 FTE's are required at the front line, not 200, and Plecas expected they are closer to the correct number than the Ministry (page 27). The system is short on both staff and program resources (page 31).
The Review blames criticisms from the media, the RCY and the Opposition create instability in the Ministry and divert energy of the MCFD to firefighting. In his words, "a culture of relentless accusation" (page 10) does not serve society well. Plecas alleged that MCFD finally finds its feet in 2015, but continues to struggle, not equipped for this century, and in need of repair. The following problems have been identified on page 12 of the Review:
lack of effective staff training;
lack of consistent leadership
Since the Ministry was established in 1996, there have been 13 Ministers (with none in place for more than three years), eight Deputy Ministers, and eight Provincial Directors of Child Welfare.
Furthermore, with the exception of the inaugural Provincial Director Ross Dawson who was forced to resign after four years, no subsequent Provincial Director has remained in the position for much more than two years. Almost all have been terminated or forced out in response to critical incidents over which they had only modest direct engagement. Six different Provincial Directors of Child Welfare have held the post and the longest period of “stability” was when it was simply left vacant from 2008 to 2011 (page 20).
chronic shortage of staff and resources;
lack of communication about decisions from different levels of court;
inconsistency and lack of direction regarding advice and direction from outside legal
a quality assurance model that does not effectively translate the data it collects into
clear direction for staff.
Mr. Plecas wrote that the state can never replace a parent. The people with primary responsibility for children are, simply and appropriately, their parents. The second level of responsibility lies with the extended family of grandparents, siblings, aunts
and uncles, cousins, god-parents and other family and friends. The third level of support for our children is based in the communities where they live, such as volunteer groups, sport organizations, schools, churches, and Aboriginal communities and groups.
There are three things that make up any transition plan: money, people and time (page 9). He stated that some children (in care) will be abused and die despite improvements of the system (page 9 and 58). He indicated that the MCFD has always attracted a special kind of person to deliver these services in what he believes is one of the toughest jobs in government.
Page 10 of the Review states that MCFD’s 1,200 child protection workers prepare around 37,000 reports when a child is in need of protection. About three quarters of these admissions to care are by court order, the balance by agreement with parents. At the same time, about 83 children and youth are discharged from care, two thirds of them because they have reached the age of majority at 19. The remainder return to the care of their parents or other guardians. As a result, there are approximately 7,200 children and youth in care today (the fall of 2015). Child protection functions were exempt from the last hiring freeze (page 32). The overall number of contract counsel significantly involved in conducting child protection work is really quite modest, approximately 40 law firms involving about 70 lawyers (page 41).
Mr. Plecas' beliefs are summarized in points form below:
Professional social workers should not be absolved from discipline or court processes when professional codes are violated. However, he states that mistakes must be separated from professional misconduct and must be treated differently (page 10-11).
As long as there are child poverty, inter-generational dependence on government, high
unemployment, substance abuse and dependence, individuals with untreated, undiagnosed and
recurring mental health problems, and communities that pay lip service to the concept of family and neighbours, there will always have an individual, most often as a family, or extended family member in a position of power, to abuse, and sometimes kill weaker members of society. Children are often the victims (page 14).
Statistics can be used to illustrate almost any argument. MCFD by and large does an admirable job in addressing the needs of our most vulnerable citizens (page 17).
MCFD has a fundamental flaw in its management model. It is the only Ministry in government where all of its business is driven from the bottom up, and the executive has only a miniscule level of knowledge as to what is happening on a day-to-day, case-by-case basis (page 18).
The Review is the first part of a two-part series government propaganda written for a predetermined purpose to pave a preset course of action. It has been perverted to serve the purpose of lobbying more money for the child protection industry (hereinafter known as the industry) and to set the foundation to whitewash the JP judgment. Release of the Review is shrewdly scheduled to prime the B.C. Government to give money to the MCFD before budget preparation begins and to test how the media and the public respond. Despite Plecas' belief that external oversight should be phased out, he cherry picked a RCY's publication to support to support his funding increase recommendation. Likewise, selected statistical data are misconstrued to support this. None of the social workers involved in the JP case participated in the Review (as indicated per Participants List, Appendix 5 on page 70).
Our conclusions are summarized as follows:
Child protection workers are described as doing the toughest job in government. They should entitle to a wage premium and a job hazard pay. We find this statement misleading and disturbing. How could secret law enforcement officers masqueraded as social workers with absolute power to remove children and to command the police at will be doing a tough job? Like all government employees, they are very well paid. Government pension is more generous than most pension plans offered in the private section. The witch hunt network created by Section 14 of the CFCSA ensures sufficient reports to keep them busy. Most parents they scrutinize are unsuspecting marginalized people who post little risk to these overly protected bureaucrats who are often escorted by the police when conducting their hideous child removal business. Government indemnification protect them to the teeth and their personal assets are never at risk despite how serious they abuse their power. The JP case is a good example to prove the foregoing. The child protection worker found liable for misfeasance in public office and acted in bad faith was promoted instead of being fired and charged. Contrary to Plecas' allegation, we believe that it is a very easy job, not having to worry about being accountable for their actions, and as long as they ignore social worker ethics guidelines, their own conscience, the CFCSA, and their own Practice Standards.
The notion of (child) poverty was reiterated on page 3, 10, 13, 15, 16, 43. Indeed, many removed children come from poor families. If the Ministry's annual budget in 2015 (page 14) is equally divided up by the 7,200 children in care (page 15), each of them will have $191,517.64 ($1,378,927,000/7,200). Their poverty problem will instantaneously vanishes. Instead of using tax dollars to help them directly, the MCFD uses additional funding to hire more child protection workers whose job is primarily to remove children and continues to fund child removal. Few of tax dollars end up helping families in need. It confirms our belief that the Ministry creates jobs that appear to protect children. Most tax dollars allocated to help families in need are funneled to finance the lifestyle of service providers, who have the power to impose their services on families by rule of law under the pretext of child protection. Instead of waging war on poverty, the industry wages war on poor people by removing their children under the pretext of protection. There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because government thinks it would be good for him.
The Review stated that government is acting as a parent. When financial times improve, the place to start for government, like a parent, is spending some of the new found money on the kids and their welfare (page 31). In another words, Plecas advocated that government must spend more on child protection when tax revenue increases despite whether or not there is a genuine need. This contradicts the concept of zero-base budgeting.
Various statutes ban publication of personal identifiable information of children and families in child protection cases. At one point, JP has received a letter from government lawyers warning her that going public could be illegal. Parental consent offers no exemption. This effectively prevent the media and parents to identify children who die in care when going public. Who are these laws really protecting? Obviously, perpetrators from the industry are the largest beneficiaries. These laws also give the minister an excuse to evade answering embarrassing questions from the media. The Review suggested that the B.C. Government could consider changes to the privacy restrictions that surround cases (page 46). Demanding minister resignation is not a solution. Plecas proposed 3 options to the Cabinet. Option 1 would propose retaining the status quo (page 50). Option 2 would propose a one-time infusion of extra funding, a fairly typical approach after a difficult case. Option 3 would propose a strategic four-year plan that would start immediately and would be carried out over the next four years. Details of his proposed plan can be found on page 50 to 56.
To enhance clout and acceptability, Plecas indicated that his Review received inputs from
a team of highly seasoned policy and program experts (with collectively over 200 years of public service management experience) for over four months on a part time basis. A common ruse often used in government reports is collecting opinions from a large group of service providers from different disciplines to enhance credibility. These willful participants are carefully selected. They often share a common interest and will likely concur on certain conclusions sought by the report writers. For instance, doing a survey on same sex marriage by collecting opinions from participants in a gay pride parade. In statistics, this is known as sampling bias. Appendix 2 and Appendix 5 of the Review contain the short resumes of the review team and the list of participants in the Review (every person who testified in the JP trials are excluded in the Review). They are from different backgrounds but most share the commonality of earning their livelihood from tax dollars. Many of them have an inseverable financial tie with government and will benefit directly if government budget increases. They seldom oppose raising government spending and never bite the hand that feeds them. Relying on inputs from these people to make policy is inappropriate and unwise.
Since Plecas is the founder of the MCFD when it became a stand alone ministry in 1996 and the first deputy minister, he is an unfit candidate to conduct review due to his inherit bias. He will not refute the value of the monster he created, despite huge amount of empirical evidence suggesting that the modus operandi of modern child protection is oppressive, counter productive and largely rejected by parents whom child protection workers call clients. His mandate is conveniently restricted to exclude any damaging information from the Judgment. His review will therefore never produce any harm to the interests of the industry.
The Review reveals a frightening piece of information. Newly hired social workers receive a total of three weeks of classroom training at the Justice Institute of BC while Team Leaders receive two days of mandatory face-to-face training on Clinical Supervision, along with a “Practice Supervision Certification” Program that is also available to them (page 35). They are empowered with absolute child removal authority and become the most powerful law enforcers in the Province.
Quality Assurance is often thought of as code for internal discipline or negative
auditing of work (page 31). The relationship between the Representative and the Ministry has become strained (page 42). According to Plecas, Hughes never believed that external oversight would be a healthy or appropriate situation in the long term (page 42). Quality assurance function could be undertaken by the Ministry in 18 months (page 33 and page 44). External oversight should end when the Ministry is capable of carrying out these functions, and the Representative’s role should become one focused on advocacy (page 47). This creates a good guy bad guy scenario to divert public attention from the real issues (see below) created by the industry. If the public or the media does not buy Plecas and opt for the RCY who also advocates more funding, the industry wins one way or another. Too much money has been given to the wrong hands. Modern child protection has opened government to corruption and racketeering.
Child protective service is a global problem in most English-speaking nations. Child Aid Societies (CAS), MCFD's counterpart in Ontario, are creating the same problems and has attracted immense public outrage.
On Page 17 of the Review, Plecas stated that "MCFD has a fundamental flaw in its management model that is, in my view, cultural, structural and historical. MCFD is the only Ministry in government where all of its business is driven from the bottom up, and the executive has only a miniscule level of knowledge as to what is happening on a day-to-day, case-by-case basis. There is no incident reporting until a case reaches a critical stage: no early warning system, no flagging of potential problems, no oversight management of cases, just reaction when a crisis erupts."
In another words, while there is no effective leadership from the top, minions of the Ministry get to run amok and could do whatever they please in full violation of law and practice directives. They create cases in which parents are coerced to admit child abuse in court, removed children are dumping unsupervised in hotels resulting in suicide. Furthermore, some fabricate evidence and misrepresent information to court in order to justify child removal. Senior management all the way to the Premiere back up wrongdoings, incompetence and malice of their workers who appear to act for the best interests of children and bring in so much transfer payments from the federal government to improve provincial balance of budget by removing kids at will. By Plecas' own admission, lack of management control alone justifies the abolition of state-sponsored child removal.
The promotion of Mr. William Strickland after the Supreme Court of B.C. found him liable for for misfeasance in public office confirms that the MCFD rewards wrongdoings of its workers. When perpetrators are not punished but rewarded, it delivers a clear signal that abusive behaviours are not only tolerated but encouraged. This absurdity at the macro level reflects the twisted logic often found at the micro level when child protection workers misconstrue and fabricate information to justify their child removal decisions. Perverted ideas appear to be epidemic all along the totem pole in the ministry. Mr. Plecas is correct that the MCFD has always attracted a special kind of person to deliver these services (page 9). Contrary to the positive attributes he implied, only ruthless, unconscientious and hypocritical people could handle jobs that appear to protect children but indeed destroying them and their families. This also explains the high turnover of front line child protection workers. Few people with a conscience could ruthlessly remove children from their families without legitimate reasons. Those who refuse to go with the flow will eventually quit or forced out by their peers and superiors. Only birds of a feather remain. Hence, the presence of good child protection workers will not rectify corruption and racketeering. This renders corruption in the industry structural.
Corruption is the abuse of trust and power for the benefits of parties entrusted with power. In the industry, corruption exhibits in form of using children as pawns to coerce acceptance of services that results in the financial benefits and job security of service providers. Not all acts of corruption involve demand and payment of bribes or gifts. If carefully structured, corruption can take advantage of loopholes in law and becomes completely legal. Service providers control the demand of their services, render services and legally collect payments (by way of wages, fees and tax-free child care expenses) from taxpayers. At a broader level, provincial and territorial governments seek more subsidies (transfer payments) from the federal government by removing Aboriginal children. Beneficiaries of the industry maximize profit and job security at the expense of destruction of families, resulting in more social problems like chronic poverty, homelessness and mental illnesses. In the current legal system, it is almost impossible to convict any service providers of wrongdoing despite their blatant abuse of power. Problems created by state sponsored child removal is a global problem pertain in CPS infested jurisdictions, mainly English-speaking nations, especially those with a colonial background. This are compelling reasons to believe that modern child protection originates from the now denounced residential schools, in which Aboriginal children were removed for political and financial reasons under the pretext of child welfare.
Powerful As God - The Children's Aid Societies, MCFD's counterpart in Ontario. CPS is a global problem. Hear the testimony of an ex-CPS worker below.
Relevant issues that government must examine are as follows:
Why a benevolent ministry designed to help families in need could permit its workers to abuse their child removal power and harm vulnerable children? Even one case like the JP's is one too many. There are many more similar cases of abuse in which parents do not have the financial resources to pursue justice in court.
Why a child protection worker found liable for misfeasance in public office and acted in bad faith by the Supreme Court of B.C. was promoted instead of being fired and criminally charged? How accountability could be restored if perpetrators are rewarded instead of being punished?
Are the tax dollars spent in legal expenses related to appealing the Judgment relevant in child protection or the child protection industry?
Is modern child protection a derivative of the now denounced residential schools in which children were removed from their families for protection reason?
Plecas alleged that some children will be abused and die despite system improvements (page 9 and 58). If so, why waste huge amount of tax dollars to finance this worthless system that fails to protect?
The Review conveniently stays away from these issues and sidesteps to allegation of insufficient funding, which is relevant to the JP case only to the extent that too much funding has been given to the wrong hands. Motivated by job security, bureaucrats ruthlessly remove children to justify their significance. Many, if not most, child protection cases are unnecessarily dragged on for years costing taxpayers dearly and heartrending grief to parents. Less fortunate children end up dying in care. High profile cases are used by the lobbying arms of the industry to get more funding. More service providers hired will eventually create more atrocities. The root problems of abuse of power, racketeering and corruption are never addressed. The Review is silent on mandatory enrollment with the College of Social Workers. Any measures that could limit abuse of child removal authority will be ignored or disregarded as irrelevant or biased. The value of questionable social programs is simply assumed and exaggerated. Service providers in the industry are the only certain beneficiaries.
The Review suggests that there is no political will to correct problems created by the industry. Perpetrators show no remorse and continue to abuse tax dollars to protect their private interests. Rest assured that government lawyers will aggressively whitewash wrongdoings and malice in the appeal of the JP case as honest mistakes and hence act of good faith protection should be accorded. They will fight all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada if necessary as the Judgment will act as a deterrence to service providers who need to abuse their child removal power to maintain their lucrative business.
From a broader perspective, the Review reveals flaws in democracy. It is obvious that child welfare legislation and policies are controlled by service providers whose job security depends on government funding. Elected politicians turn a blind eye to ministry created atrocities and generously spend our hard earned tax dollars to placate service providers. To maximize the chance of success in the next election, politicians do not want to antagonize the BCGEU who represents most front line child protection workers, lawyers, shrinks and foster parents. These service providers form a cartel and will gang up against whoever may jeopardize their lucrative business. The JP case demonstrates how vigorous service providers will fight back when challenged. They have access to the deep pocket of taxpayers and are of course generously abusing it to further their interests. There is no built-in mechanism to correct the problem. Grievance and legitimate complaints from oppressed parents are ignored. Children who died in care are written off as an inevitable act of god. Malice, misconduct and misfeasance in public office are whitewashed as honest mistakes. More funding is granted after ministry created atrocities went public. Whistle blowers, critics and those who disagree with what the industry does are persecuted, threatened of breaking the law (often violation of privacy) or placed under duress of child removal. Ironically, CPS jeopardizes the safety of our children, civil liberty and freedom. It weakens our nation by breaking up families and perpetuating more social problems.
The first step to solve a problem is recognizing there is one and correctly identifying what it is and how it came into existence. The Review steered to the wrong direction and made recommendations that serves the interests of the industry. More funding will only create more problems. Errors remain errors even after they are ratified into law. Power attracts the corruptible. Absolute power attracts the absolutely corruptible. Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through persistent struggle guided by conscience, wit and wisdom. Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. State sponsored child removal is oppressive, barbaric and inhumane. It must be renounced and dismantled without delay at all costs before we could build a safer future for our children.