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Child Protection Services
Child protection services in BC are designed to protect children from harm. Where there is reason to believe a child has been abused or neglected or is otherwise in need of protection, child protection social workers have the power and the authority to investigate and take appropriate action to ensure that child’s safety. However, there are cases where the social workers act all too subjectively, lack compassionate competence, or seize children without a warrant, and without good cause. Once the wheels are set in motion, it becomes extremely difficult to extricate the child from the bureaucratic machinery.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development (the “Ministry”) administers the Child, Family and Community Service Act (the “Act”), and is the legislative authority governing child protection services. Under the Act, the Minister designates the Director of Child Protection, who in turn delegates the provision of child protection services across the province to social workers.
The hallmark of the Act has the best interest of children. The Act is to be interpreted and administered so that the safety and well-being of children are the paramount considerations. Social workers who exercise delegated powers on behalf of the Director are also governed by certain guiding principles as set out in s. 2 of the Act.
What Does This Mean
The Act requires that anyone who has reason to believe that a child may be abused, neglected, or is for any other reason in need of protection, must report it to the Director or a delegated social worker. These reports are investigated by social workers, who are required to take the most appropriate action that is least disruptive for the child. These actions may include providing or arranging for support services to the family, supervising the child’s care in the home, or protecting the child through removal from the family and placement with relatives, a foster family or specialized residential resources.
The Role of a Social Worker
Social workers also have the delegated authority of the Director to approve foster homes for children who come into the care of the Ministry. Resources such as group homes, specialized residential facilities, assessment resources, and respite resources are available to serve children and youth in care.
Child protection services across the province are provided through 429 ministry offices in 13 service delivery areas and a number of delegated Aboriginal agencies.
The Act also enumerates certain service delivery principles so that there is family and community involvement. Numerous support services are available to assist in the effective administration of the Act in order to achieve the intended goals.
While the goals of the Act are laudatory, there are numerous examples of inefficiency and self-aggrandizement that result in significant harm to children and their families. All too frequently, the guiding principles, as well as service delivery principles, are cast aside, or simply not adhered to. While the child’s interest in being protected from harm is of great significance, it is equally important to recognize the child’s interest in remaining with his or her parents, and that harm may come to the child from precipitous and misguided governmental interference. Removing children from their parents’ care may have profoundly detrimental consequences for the child. There is a strong interest in democratic societies to ensure that government bureaucrats cannot remove children from their parents’ care without legal grounds to do so.