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Letter: CAS pandemic rules keeping children in care from parents at Christmas

Ontario released inmates due to COVID-19, but so many children will go without seeing their parents for the holidays
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Editor’s note: changed the name of the letter writer to protect the identity of the child of her family member.

I would like to shed some light on the victims of this pandemic that I have yet to see mentioned. 

People that are constantly ignored and left to fall through the cracks of the Children’s Aid Societies (CAS). Each ‘society’ is an individual not-for-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) that here in Ontario takes care of child protective services.

This year, so many children will go without seeing their parents for Christmas or the holidays. In-person visits have been put on hold and altered since the start of the lockdown. Courts have also been put on hold, and soon these children will have lost a year of their lives with their families that they can never get back.

We wisely move low-risk inmates out of our prison systems to protect them from potential harm, but parents who are of no risk to their children are only allowed to phone or video chat their children, scarcely. 

This isn’t right. Virtual love isn’t enough. These children and parents are falling through the cracks and their mental health will suffer forever because of this. 

Why are we allowing this? I'm guessing it’s because no one really knows it’s happening and because CAS has the power to operate this way. They are a private NGO with more power than most governmental bodies.

Rules about how long children are in temporary care are being ignored, and the Children’s Aid Societies are getting away with it because the people they remove children from do not have the money or power to fight them.

My sister’s son was apprehended and placed into care in March of 2019 because she was abused by his father, who is now in prison. If there is no more risk of abuse, why is the child’s mental health being risked by keeping him from his mother? Is a domestic violence survivor not fit to be a mother? 

She has attended all her court-ordered domestic violence classes. She will continue therapy for her mental health. If my sister is not a danger to her son, then it is more damaging to the mother and son’s psyche to have them separated from her for such a long time. It is detrimental to their relationship and connection. He is only three years old; he doesn’t understand. 

I don’t even have a child myself, but it causes me so much mental anguish to know that parents with no criminal record and their young children will forever suffer because of this. 

Cases are being put on hold with no concern for the devastation it is causing to families. Look up “Powerful As God,” a documentary that you can find free on Youtube, and you will see more stories like my sister’s. 

In 2013, an internal memo was leaked from Peel CAS that asked workers to keep cases open in order to retain funding from the government. This caused the government to change the funding formula, but the problem is systemic and changing the funding formula doesn’t change the problem. The model needs to incentivize societies to reunite families.

My sister’s son was apprehended by Nogdawindamin, which is an Indigenous Child and Family Well-Being Agency (a seemingly separate agency that handles child protective cases for Indigenous families), but I have seen that other agencies follow these same COVID-19 procedures as well.

Problems like these aren’t new with the agencies. This is systemic. Problems existed long before COVID-19. But now, parents can’t even see their children. Something needs to be done, and soon.