Gov’t end­ing ‘birth alert’ baby seizures

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Jeremy HAINSWORTH Glacier Me­dia

B.C. will cease so-called birth alerts that have led to the seizures of in­fants as young as 90 min­utes old from par­ents deemed to be a dan­ger to their chil­dren, the min­is­ter of chil­dren and fam­ily de­vel­op­ment said Mon­day.

Katrine Con­roy said the alerts have been pri­mar­ily is­sued for marginal­ized women and, dis­pro­por­tion­ately, Indige­nous women.

The alerts were ad­dressed in the fi­nal re­port of the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls re­leased ear­lier this year.

It said hos­pi­tal so­cial work­ers are given a list of women who are preg­nant and their due dates and as soon as one of th­ese women en­tered the hos­pi­tal to give birth, an alert was ac­ti­vated.

“We ac­knowl­edge the trauma women ex­pe­ri­ence when they be­come aware that a birth alert has been is­sued,” Con­roy said.

“We also heard calls to end this prac­tice from Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, or­ga­ni­za­tions and the re­port from the Na­tional In­quiry into Miss­ing and Mur­dered Indige­nous Women and Girls.”

The in­quiry fi­nal re­port called child ap­pre­hen­sions “a form of vi­o­lence against the child. It also rep­re­sents the worst form of vi­o­lence against the mother. Ap­pre­hen­sion dis­rupts the fa­mil­ial and cul­tural con­nec­tions that are present in Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, and, as such, it de­nies the child the safety and se­cu­rity of both.”

The re­port said birth alerts against Indige­nous mothers, in­clud­ing mothers who were in fos­ter or gov­ern­ment care them­selves, can be the sole ba­sis for the ap­pre­hen­sion of their new­born chil­dren.

“Birth alerts are racist and dis­crim­i­na­tory and are a gross vi­o­la­tion of the rights of the child, the mother and the com­mu­nity,” the re­port said.

The alerts have been used in B.C. Man­i­toba, New Brunswick, On­tario and Al­berta.

Saskatchew­an said in March it was work­ing to de­crease us­age of the alerts.

Lit­er­a­ture on the prac­tice said women would avoid go­ing to hos­pi­tals to give birth – fear­ing loss of the child – and not re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal care as a re­sult.

Con­roy said changes are be­ing made to work with and sup­port high-risk ex­pec­tant par­ents to keep new­borns safe and fam­i­lies to­gether through a col­lab­o­ra­tive, rather than an in­vol­un­tary, model.

Health care providers and so­cial ser­vice work­ers will no longer share in­for­ma­tion about ex­pec­tant par­ents with­out con­sent from those par­ents and will stop the prac­tice of birth alerts,” Con­roy said.

B.C. Green Party MLA So­nia Furste­nau said in her rid­ing a three-day-old child was taken from a mother with­out ex­pla­na­tion in 2018. The child was, how­ever, or­dered re­turned by a judge.

Furste­nau said in a Kam­loops case this year, a mother de­liv­ered a child by cae­sarean sec­tion only to have the lit­tle girl seized by child­care work­ers 90 min­utes later.

“Th­ese are ex­am­ples of deeply dam­ag­ing ac­tions on the part of gov­ern­ment,” Furste­nau said.

“We need to rec­og­nize that the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis of Indige­nous child ap­pre­hen­sions will not be stopped by tin­ker­ing around the edges of a very bro­ken, non-ev­i­dence based sys­tem.”

She ques­tioned why it has taken the gov­ern­ment so long to end the prac­tice.

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