Headline 7:
Supreme Court rules no duty to parents

Headline 7: Child welfare agencies have the right to remove children from families without fear of retribution from those families, according to Canada's highest court.

The unanimous Supreme Court of Canada decision effectively threw out a $40 million lawsuit filed by the Ontario parents of a troubled teen who was removed from their home by child protection workers in 1995.

The suit accused Children's Aid and one of its case workers of negligence, and claimed the unwarranted actions resulted in the loss of a future relationship with their now 28-year-old daughter.

The Children's Aid Society apprehended the teen after she wrote a story in school that stated her parents physically and sexually abused her. No charges were ever laid because an investigation showed no evidence of abuse. The teen consented to staying in state custody until she turned 18 years old.

Comments to Headline 7:

If case workers lived in fear of legal ramifications by families, then abused children would never get the protection they need. Child welfare agencies must be able to take action to protect children. If that means the child is removed from the environment, then so be it.

When social workers investigate a report of child abuse, they conclude one of three ways. That the abuse was either:

  • substantiated,
  • unsubstantiated,
  • or suspected

The media reported that "no evidence of abuse" was ever found and therefore no charges were ever laid. But lack of evidence does not necessarily mean that the abuse was unsubstantiated. Prosecutors only charge someone with a crime if they believe they have a chance of winning the case. If they don't believe they can win, they will not prosecute.

When the media focuses on the "no evidence" factor, they are not necessarily reporting the whole story. Given the teen was removed from the home; the abuse was either substantiated or suspected. But nowhere in my research was I able to find what the conclusions were in this case.

Child Protection Agencies and social workers are in a no-win situation.

If a child is harmed and it is discovered that child abuse was suspected and not acted upon, the public is outraged. If a child is removed from the home because child abuse is deemed either substantiated or suspected, but the parents vehemently deny abuse has taken place, those who believe the parents are outraged.

The safety of our youngest and most vulnerable in society strikes a deep-seeded emotional chord.

Thumbs UpThumbs UpDouble thumbs up to the Supreme Court of Canada for this decision. The duty of care must be to the child, not the parents. If the decision had gone the other way, abusive parents would effectively be given a license to abuse.

Headline 7 originally posted August 8, 2007

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