Judge grants visitation to biological parents in adoption case – Winnipeg Free Press
A judge decided to exceed her jurisdiction by granting biological parents weekly visits with their child once he is adopted by his foster family, after identifying a loophole in Manitoba’s child protection law .
The August 30 Family Court ruling highlights systemic problems, biases and a series of errors made by child and family services social workers who have not worked with African immigrants whose children were apprehended while the mother was charged with criminal charges.
During the trial, shortly after his home address became part of the court file, the biological father was deported to Nigeria – five years after his student visa expired.
Judge Kaye Dunlop dismissed assessments that deemed him unfit to be a father. The judge said the SCF did not help the biological parents.
Instead, an experienced social worker was biased and practically promised the child to have adoptive parents, even though his mother and father were still trying to get him back, the judge found.
The unusual ruling places conditions on a permanent guardianship order and draws a comparison to a custody arrangement instead of guardianship for a child in need of protection, as the judge was reluctant to make an order that would remove the child from his parents and disconnect him from his heritage.
The boy is a permanent ward of CFS because his birth father was deported and his birth mother is on trauma counseling and not ready for full-time custody.
Judge Dunlop ordered his adoptive parents to allow weekly visits with his birth family so he could learn about his Liberian and Nigerian roots.
“Culture is not a side dish,” Dunlop wrote in his ruling.
The case is complex but not uncommon in the provincial child protection system.
It is about a couple in their twenties who were struggling with the arrest of their son, who is now three years old. The mother was born in Liberia and immigrated to Canada with her family as a child, settling in rural Manitoba. She was sexually abused at a young age and she later admitted to sexually molesting a six-year-old boy when she babysat him when she was 15.
Criminal charges were brought against her after she became pregnant as a teenager. The pregnancy was the result of being drugged and sexually assaulted, the court heard.
Due to the criminal charges against her, her firstborn was taken into the care of Child and Family Services shortly after birth. The young woman met her future husband, a Nigerian who had moved here for college, and had another child with him.
The second baby was apprehended shortly after birth and both children were adopted by the same foster family. When the couple had their third child, the adoptive parents also asked for his permanent guardianship, telling the court the boy was related to them and his older sisters.
None of the people involved can be named by law.
The adoptive parents gave the children a good home, the judge concluded, and they were to begin the adoption process immediately after the court granted them permanent guardianship of the son. But systemic flaws in the child welfare and criminal justice system, along with the CFS’s inability to communicate with birth parents in a culturally sensitive way, resulted in three children becoming wards of the State even though their parents could have kept them at home with a little help. CFS workers, Dunlop decided.
The social worker initially assigned to their case did not seek to understand why the biological parents might be suspicious of the system and made prejudicial assumptions, the judge concluded.
When the biological mother did not provide her employment records to the CFS, for example, the social worker assumed that she was engaged in sex work.
The social worker also failed to understand that the biological parents had less power than the CFS or the adoptive parents, the judge concluded, describing the CFS’s decision-making as “ill-adapted and sometimes disrespectful of the cultural differences between social workers”. involved and (the biological parents).
“When we don’t make the effort to understand the complexities of a case and come up with solutions, you have what happened in that case. Three children were all placed under permanent guardianship of an institution. They were taken from (their biological mother) who had real potential to be a good mother if only she had been understood and given the necessary resources,” Dunlop wrote.
No appeal of the decision has been filed.