Pam Framp­ton

Sackville Tribune - - FRONT PAGE -

what’s best for the child.

So it’s tough to put a pub­lic, hu­man face on what is a real and trou­bling prob­lem. The child pro­tec­tion sys­tem it­self is com­plex and multi-lay­ered.

But at least we can get a grasp on the scope of the is­sue.

“As at March 31, 2015, there were 6,252 chil­dren, or ap­prox­i­mately eight per cent of the child pop­u­la­tion of the province, un­der the pro­tec­tion of the De­part­ment of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment,” au­di­tor gen­eral Terry Pad­don re­ported last month.

That’s one in ev­ery 12.5 chil­dren.

And $74.5 mil­lion was paid out in fi­nan­cial sup­port for chil­dren in var­i­ous forms of care and cus­tody last year.

That’s a huge prob­lem that car­ries a huge price in many dif­fer­ent ways.

Ei­ther one in 12.5 chil­dren in this province is be­ing mal­treated in his or her home or else we are too quick to re­move chil­dren with­out help­ing par­ents find ways to make the home a safe place for the fam­ily to be.

The end goal of the sys­tem is un­doubt­edly the child’s well­be­ing. But read­ing the AG’s re­port, it’s clear that ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures are not al­ways taken in a timely man­ner, whether it is re­mov­ing chil­dren who are in ac­tual harm­ful sit­u­a­tions, re­unit­ing them with their fam­ily when it’s safe to do so, as­sess­ing whether place­ment homes are safe, of­fer­ing con­sis­tent care, doc­u­ment­ing and shar­ing the re­sults of assess­ments, and de­ter­min­ing whether the sys- tem as a whole is do­ing what it should.

I cer­tainly don’t have the an­swers, and in a sys­tem that places em­pha­sis on child pro­tec­tion at all costs, there will al­ways be cases of chil­dren be­ing re­moved from homes be­cause some­one erred on the side of cau­tion and fam­i­lies who suf­fer need­less an­guish, shame and sep­a­ra­tion.

But would you want to be the so­cial worker whose as­sess­ment re­sulted in a child be­ing left with their par­ents and then be­ing ne­glected or abused? No one would.

One only has to con­sider child and youth ad­vo­cate Carol Chafe’s re­port last week about the death of Matthew Rich and the un­safe en­vi­ron­ment he shared with his older brother to see what can hap­pen to chil­dren, even when there is in­ter­ven­tion from the sys­tem.

But the AG’s re­port makes clear that the de­part­ment, de­spite its mas­sive re­or­ga­ni­za­tion four years ago, is still not work­ing ef­fec­tively, whether be­cause there aren’t enough staff to han­dle caseloads or there are not enough hours in a day for so­cial work­ers and su­per­vi­sors to keep up with the mas­sive amounts of pa­per­work re­quired.

The de­part­ment has said it will act on all 27 of the AG’s rec­om­men­da­tions for im­prove­ment.

Given the province’s lim­ited fi­nan­cial re­sources, you have to won­der if that’s even pos­si­ble. One thing is cer­tain, though: for ev­ery prob­lem that doesn’t get fixed, there is po­ten­tially a child out there in harm’s way or else a painfully frac­tured fam­ily that should never have ended up that way. Pam Framp­ton is an editor and colum­nist at The Tele­gram. Email pframp­ton@ thetele­ Twit­ter: pam_framp­ton

As we Christ­mas shop for the kids, Sue and I en­deav­our to keep hol­i­day spend­ing equal across the board.

When they were young­sters, it was sim­ple and straight­for­ward – the same num­ber of gifts re­gard­less of in­vest­ment. As presents were un­wrapped, Simon would sit in the corner keep­ing count with his aba­cus.

Th­ese days, it’s the ac­tual dol­lars that mat­ter. The chil­dren hire KPMG to study re­ceipts and en­sure eq­uity.

I don’t judge them for th­ese cal­cu­la­tions. I to­tally get it. When I was a boy, it was much the same for my sib­lings and me.

My mother, no mat­ter our fam­ily squab­bles or state of fi­nances, al­ways knew how to keep Christ­mas. Her force of will shines this time of year. We may have been tip­toe­ing upon eggshells, with wolves at the door to col­lect over­due bills, but noth­ing would get in the way of her fam­ily’s fes­tiv­i­ties.

Dec­o­ra­tions filled the home, gifts were nu­mer­ous and, just like my chil­dren, we were hy­per­vig­i­lant over the fair­ness of it all.

One Christ­mas morn­ing, while my fa­ther treated his Yule­tide headache with some hair of the dog, we set­tled into po­si­tion around the tree – presents sprawled around the liv­ing room. Some had al­ready been par­tially un­wrapped by Gretchen, the odd­ball dog, who, when faced with win­try chills or drifts of snow pre­ferred to do her busi­ness un­der my sis­ter’s bed. How’s that for a lump of coal in your stock­ing?

Mother made sure that on top of a great num­ber of small pack­ages – whose plea­sure was more in the mad ec­stasy of the un­wrap than the con­tent, each child was sure to re­ceive a big­ger bounty – one meaty present that would be the stand­out of the sea­son.

For my older sis­ter, ap­pro­pri­ate for her non-con­form­ing spirit, it was a col­lec­tion of ob­scure LP’s. My brother would re­ceive a gift that would to­day pro­voke calls to Chil­dren’s Aid – a lovely cross­bow, com­plete with ra­zor-sharp arrows. For my younger sis­ter, it was a hand-dec­o­rated, three-storey doll­house.

I opened the last present tagged for me (the cli­max of my haul) with ner­vous op­ti­mism. The soft tex­ture hinted at cloth­ing. Could it be at last my longed­for #14 Dave Keon Maple Leafs sweater??? I stopped breath­ing mo­men­tar­ily as I tore open the wrap­ping pa­per and gazed upon eight pairs of jockey un­der­wear – pow­der blue.

Des­per­ately try­ing to stop the pre-sob twitch­ing in my face, I slowly rose and shuf­fled to­ward the stairs to re­treat to the bed­room I shared with my brother. There I would weep in soli­tude at my mis­treat­ment.

As I opened the door, I saw my fa­ther stand­ing and smil­ing (a stubby of La­batt’s 50 in his hand). My brother was kneel­ing on the floor, hav­ing just con­nected the last piece of track in a Lionel “O” scale elec­tric train set.

This was quite the shock, for up to that point in my life, my brother had yet to do any­thing nice for me. My sus­pi­cion quickly gave way to pure Christ­mas joy. I wiped away my tears of self-pity and within min­utes my tin train was oc­cu­pied by plas­tic army men plot­ting vi­o­lent col­li­sions and de­rail­ings.

No Christ­mas rec­ol­lec­tion can com­pare. Ted Markle, a me­dia in­dus­try veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen ob­server of the hu­mor­ous side of the hu­man sit­u­a­tion. He ap­pears in this space ev­ery Mon­day. You can reach him at Twit­ter : @ted­markle

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