I’ve attached the trailer for the documentary Powerful as God as I hope it will motivate some of you to watch the documentary in full at www.blakout.ca. I had originally intended to cover the information in the documentary as part of my final blog post in this five part series but have instead decided to use it to place any readers into the correct frame of mind. This is perhaps a puzzling idea to someone who has little understanding of the Children’s Aid Society.
If you’ve ever spent time wondering what kind of people become involved with C.A.S the answer is simple; anyone with kids. The scary truth is that C.A.S. involvement isn’t limited to a certain type of family and that means anyone could be next, even you. Much of the literature promotes their involvement as a service assisting families with any issues they may be struggling with. While this may be true it doesn’t give us the whole picture in regards to whether the assistance is desired or whether it is forced on people who are simply too afraid not to cooperate.
Part of a child abuse prevention initiative saw the introduction of duty to report, which obligates any person who observes any behavior which may be construed as a sign of abuse or neglect to report it immediately or face fines. One of the many unforeseen issues with duty to report is that it places everyone in the back pocket of the C.A.S. This is again an odd concept when first brought up but becomes clearer upon closer examination.
A child with behavioral issues for instance, may find themselves in contact with doctors, therapists, and the faculty at their school including child and youth workers and guidance councilors all on a weekly basis. All of these professionals are keenly aware of their duty to report as any failure on their part could potentially lead to consequences in their professional lives beyond the simple fines that effect the average lay person. With this in mind they follow the mantra of C.A.S to do what is in the best interest of the child and what also happens to be in their own best interest as far as self-preservation. When asking most of these professionals why they feel compelled to make a report the answer is often simply that they are required to do so whether they believe any abuse or neglect is taking place or not. These professionals have essentially been forced into becoming C.A.S. watchdogs and their professional opinion on the circumstances is no longer relevant.
What’s even more troublesome about the duty to report scenario is that observations made by people in the community are as subjective as they are within the social services industry, however they can be all the more damaging due to the lack of education in regards to what really is a child protection concern. While the people in the professions dealing with children are concerned with limiting their liability and following the rules of the book by reporting even minor explainable issues, the people in the general public are given the freedom to make as many assertions as they please in regards to child welfare and have the benefits of hiding behind anonymity. Unfortunately once the report has been made and the file opened the family finds itself at the mercy of whatever investigation is deemed necessary by the protection worker assigned to them. Now one may say that this is ok as it’s the protection workers job to be able to determine whether the case is worth pursuing, however due to the toolkit provided to social workers, which they must utilize while performing an assessment, the more involvement or complaints a family has received, the more they are forced to take action as a safeguard against anything they could potentially be missing. This is all a benefit to the C.A.S. directly since the push to ensure more people are required to report, even small issues as child protection concerns, gives them an excuse to provide service to more families and obtain more funding from the government.
One of the chief issues people are faced with when they first encounter C.A.S. is the stigma they have to deal with from the other people in their lives. Unfortunately the fear of being shunned is part of what contributes to the lack of information and lack of support placing families in a position of isolation when they find themselves facing an open case file. By and large it seems to be a commonly held belief that C.A.S only gets involved with children whose families are somehow lacking. Thus these families find themselves unwilling to openly admit to people that they are dealing with the agency for fear of the common statement “well if somebody called them then there must have been a good reason.” The fact of the matter is that all to often these are calls made for anything but. The fact that these reports are made anonymously and callers never face any accountability for whatever information (or misinformation) they provide, leads to issues where case files may be opened for subjective issues, professionals trying to limit personal liability, or even vendettas.