As a gothic teen in downtown Ottawa back in 1990, I passed a girl with a shaved head and a very beautiful face walking on Rideau Street. Her ankle-length hems swished as she turned her head toward me. Our eyes met and there was a frame of fear bracing her gracefully tough presentation. I recognized her immediately. It was Sinead O’Connor, who was on tour with an upcoming show in Ottawa. Since I grew up onstage, I chose to respect her anonymity and allow her to be a private person and continued on my path. Later in the day, I was with a friend and passed her again near the Byward Market. My friend said “Sinead”. I shook my head as she clearly heard him and made every effort to continue unnoticed. I always wondered how such a strong and deliberate woman could tolerate public life. In recent weeks, the entire world got the answer:
In her viral disclosure earlier this year, Sinead O’Connor opened up about her lifetime of struggles. When she was a child in need, there were no Child Protection Services (CPS). Today, she is a parent dancing with that very system, as her vulnerable and beloved child was handed to foster care while she sought recovery for mental health issues, which metastasized after medical treatments.
It is not uncommon for CPS to use physical disability, chronic illness or mental illness as the cause for “concerns”, which is the only term required by many courts to apprehend children and to subsequently refuse to return them to their families. Despite any treatments, community support, and progress, CPS keeps children out of their families because they receive no government money when a child is with a family member. Disabled or ill parents are described as “unfit”, extending to “delusional” if they believe themselves capable of parenting. Delusion is consistent with schizophrenia. This creates a double-edged sword, as CPS will argue that a parent with past or present mental health treatments is a clear risk to children, and parents with neither are effectively a wild card and therefore there are “concerns”. In certain territories, such as Ontario, Canada, even the provincial Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over CPS, which is accountable to no one.
Tina*, a single mother in her early twenties, was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, dyslexia, and bipolar disorder. She moved eight hours from her family to raise her baby boy with his father. Once socially isolated, Tina was assaulted by her boyfriend. Her young son, who has serious developmental delay issues, was put into foster care. CPS refuses to return the baby to Tina because she put herself and her son in danger of physical violence, and is in treatment for mental illness. Her family is not in a position to care for a special needs child, and her ex-partner’s entire family is considered a danger to the boy.
A Muslim colleague confided in me that his friend had lost his children to CPS after an after-school incident. The Middle-Eastern father was picking his six year-old son up at the school when the boy ran past him and into the busy rush hour street. Karim* chased after the boy, grabbing his arm while yelling at him to come back. A witness reported to school authorities, who then accosted Karim and brought him and his son into the office to wait for CPS to arrive. Karim was accused of yelling at his child and attempting to assault him. The boy was ultimately made a Ward and put up for adoption.
My supervisor at work, Anya* is in a bi-racial marriage. Her black husband has two daughters with his ex. His baby mother was living with a new boyfriend in a small, mostly white town. The girls confided in Anya and their father that their mom’s boyfriend was sexually abusing them. All signs were present. To protect his daughters, Anya and her husband contacted CPS to remove them from the home and offered to take them in immediately (which they could not do in the absence of a court order). CPS ignored their repeated attempts. On the one hand, CPS makes no money from family placements. On the other, Wardship would have been pointless because CPS does not see a market for minority children in the area.
History As A Predictor
Another devastating cog in the CPS wheel is the re-victimization of children who have been through the system. In addition to the long-standing tenets that “behaviour is learned”, “history repeats itself” and “patterns remain”, CPS requires that children born to kids also receive “intervention”. Their argument is that those who have been involved in the system cannot possibly know how to run a family or look after children. The endless self-renewal of CPS funding is galvanized by inevitable inter-generational interventions. The cycle of child abuse goes on and on, along with the suppression of minorities and the systemic abuse of women.
The Right to No Rights
So many provisions at so many levels: UN, Federal, Provincial/State, Municipal….”Why,” you may ask, “are parents’ rights not being respected as per Human Rights Charters?” Simply put, courts have to decide against CPS, under the rationale that this could create legal precedents – jurisprudence which could prevent the future enforcement of effective child protection. Here, I underline “effective”. Further, the noble and socially progressive initiative of CPS (and other adoption agencies) to place children with same-sex couples is the “equality” card that can be played by CPS. Meanwhile, physically disabled parents and those with a history of mental health treatments do not have the right to a family when CPS argues “concerns” regarding their ability to parent due to possible “omissions” and “commissions” which “could happen” while in their care.
By Carol Ann
DISCLAIMER: This article is intended to be strictly informative and in no way, seeks to advise against the reporting of bullying or other child abuse. In all cases, ABUSE, NEGLECT (AND SUSPICION OF) MUST BE REPORTED.
*Names have been changed to protect identities of survivors.