Dedicated to battling injustice of any form against children, youth, persons with disability and the elderly. Family-Centred Care Practice is the most ethically viable and cost-effective approach of service delivery.
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Recommendations: These are possible recommendations that people may take forward in a variety of circumstances based upon my own experience as well as in listening to countless stories of other negatively impacted families of failed children:
*I encourage others to add their inspirations/insight here based upon experience in order to collectively lobby world-wide for reform of the Child Welfare System. - VM
These are taken directly from experience and comprise statement of recommendations in my daughter’s Public Fatality Inquiry. The recommendations are applicable in a vast array of circumstances.
I, Velvet Martin, Request the Court consider making the following Recommendations:
1/ I strongly suggest that the Court reinforce that ministry representatives must refrain from directing families of children with disabilities to relinquish and incarcerate loved ones. Instead, encourage equal access to supports for natural families, adoptive and kinship homes and follow-through with increased services where required. No loving family of a child with developmental or medical diversity should be coerced into relinquishing custody - whether temporary or permanent – or discouraged from adoption in effort to secure/maintain government funding for required medical, therapeutic and respite services. 2/ protective legislation for the vulnerable, children, elderly and disabled is largely archaic and requires identification of need to establish amendment 3/ consultation with natural families regarding medical decisions; particularly surgery and administration of medication 4/ clear definitions of who will be administering drugs to a child 5/ electronic recording of medical involvement to ensure duplication of services is not transpiring and, to prevent similar injuries being unnoticed with a child that is presented to various hospitals **In addition, a caseworker – or – additional position assigned to receive all educational and medical documentation for a child in care and careful review of the data 6/ access to a second medical opinion 7/ consultation regarding education 8/ permanent maintenance of medical and educational documentation which the child will have access to upon adulthood 9/ individuals under Ministry Direction need undergo cardiac assessment and ultrasound of the heart to determine whether or not a structural defect or rhythmic disorder exists prior to commencement of anti-psychotic, stimulant and type drugs 10/ Statistical data: Does Child & Youth Services maintain statistics on frequency of pediatric visits for children under direction of Ministry – or – is word of mouth by foster parent, the source of communication? Is data available to determine whether or not physician recommendations are carried out? Are statistics of annual check-ups with physicians available for children under care of Ministry? If so, what does data demonstrate? If not, the Court could recommend that Ministry ought to do so. 11/ accountability for all injuries that transpire in care 12/ where family members express concern for a loved one, review of the placement need transpire 13/ it is necessary to observe and speak directly with the child; as opposed to asking the opinion of the foster-parent 14/ in addition, where a child with disability is the focus of consideration, a social-worker specifically trained in communication skills with individuals who have disability need be dispatched. A supervisor with the Ministry stated, “It is not like I can just ask Samantha what she wants.” To which I replied, “Why not?” Samantha's vocabulary was minimal, however, her capacity to understand was quite strong; as is often the case amongst persons with developmental challenges. If we make efforts to communicate by offering augmentative devices and take time to listen to persons with disability, it is evident that response is possible Excluding children with disability as “different” is a prejudicial stance that must not be tolerated. All of the indicators specified in the report are applicable to children, regardless of ability! 15/ clear definition on who will be providing care to a child, including respite 16/ housekeeper/nanny within a foster home must undergo stringent investigation prior to placement and is not to provide duties of care to children with disabilities unless fully accredited with equal level of training as the primary foster-parent(s) 17/ timely access to supervisors and managers where disagreement with caseworker exists 18/increased decision-making authority amongst alternate agencies supporting children: For example, to assure that there is a transparent, impartial platform of intervention available, the Office of the Child Advocate, the Ombudsman, Métis Child & Family Services and the Law Society of Alberta could be independent reporters aside from Government, to Legislature and Public. 19/ Should a child under Ministry Direction in the Province die, Investigation by the Office of the Child Advocate need continue until issues surrounding death are resolved 20/ mandatory service plan for the child, reviewed consistently 21/ consistent, FACE to FACE visits with a child; increased frequency of visits for children with disabilities 22/ random visits to foster-placement 23/ support reunification wherever applicable 24/ natural family access to allow siblings opportunity to benefit from interaction 25/ dignity and respect for the natural family 26/ zero tolerance for bullying or limiting natural family access to a child; penalty in place for abuse of authority culminating in removal of the child for a secondary offense and closure of the placement with subsequent complaint 27/ endangerment of a foster child should result in closure of a placement 28/ falsification of a placement's capacity should result in penalty and any subsequent event, closure 29/ monies and belongings of the child to accompany the child when he/she leaves a placement; compensation for missing items, the responsibility of the care-giver 30/ special equipment i.e. disability placard, wheelchair, incontinence supplies, etcetera, to accompany the individual. By law, items, such as government-appointed disability placards for travel are NOT the property of either a foster placement, nor Child & Youth Services, but the sole property of the individual assigned. The individual has a right to use their property and not have it withheld from them. In addition, responsibility for return of items rests with the individual who signed on behalf of the vulnerable individual for equipment. Thus, alleviating the vulnerable person – to whom equipment has been assigned – from penalty 31/ upon death of a child under ministry direction; where the parents are also guardians, the family should not be denied access to medical records that exist. To state that guardianship ceases to exist upon death is a cruel, inaccurate estimation of the child-parent bond. 32/ increased communication between ministries. Perhaps the Court could recommend that Ministries work collaboratively to ensure issues of investigation are resolved prior to entrusting funds to individuals under scrutiny 33/ protection of persons from retribution who – in the absence of malice - allege abuse or neglect of a child 34/ penalty in place for representatives of the ministry who fail to focus on the child, causing a child to become a victim – or potential victim - of harm through negligence. Where more than a single offense occurs, removal of title and position 35/ should a child suffer harm, including loss of life while under Ministry Direction, the government should issue a formal letter of apology to surviving family to acknowledge pain and suffering 36/ a child who dies under Ministry Direction should be provided a memorial marker to commemorate importance of life and the financial responsibility should lay with Government. 37/ review of legislative practice; allowing surviving families the option to choose whether or not to submit to a Publication Ban. A child should not suffer death and be robbed of identity as well. Nor should the Public be denied opportunity to celebrate life and mourn loss. Particularly, where it is the Public's best interest to learn from circumstances surrounding death. Education cannot be gained when circumstances remain opaque. 38/ Repeatedly, I have been informed that there is no forum in which to address conduct infractions of Ministry employees. The sole mechanism in place that remotely touches upon issues which culminated in the death of my child is a Public Fatality Inquiry. A platform that I needed to battle to achieve and from which, discussion of violations are not raised; nor are there ramifications with proven wrongs. I believe that the Court has an obligation to address the judicial deficit and recommend channels be created to reflect the impact of negligent acts against victims. Suggesting paid counsel for survivors of government malfunction is a start. 39/ ** I strongly suggest that the Judge recommend closure of (any) medical foster home which causes harm to a child through negligence in order to prevent harm from arising amongst children; particularly vulnerable individuals subject to over-extension of care resulting in neglect. **I also strongly suggest that the Judge recommend a (caseworker) be dismissed from the title and duty of Social-worker where attempts to engage caseworker as an ally to protect a child’s interests is futile. Blind devotion (to employees of the ministry) must not allow a caseworker to be unable to perform duties effectively. Instead of securing medical documentation and pursuing discussion with other observers in the child’s circle of care, caseworkers dangerously rely upon the foster-placement for crucial data. Negligence in maintaining Department Policy can and does contribute to missing key areas of crucial deterioration in a child’s care. A flippant attitude shown by a caseworker, lack of respect and non-adherence to the premise of family unity makes for a poor candidate in the prestigious role of social-work. 40/ The FSCD (Family Support for Children with Disabilities) Act was amended retroactive to Samantha Martin's death for December 2006. However, since cases of misdirection are still developing, it is clear that social-workers are not following legislation. Which, in turn means there is either a lack of awareness that needs to be addressed by supervisors. Or, caseworkers are choosing to ignore Policy. In either circumstance, continued ignorance must not be tolerated. Families and children remain at risk of alienation and destruction if efforts to prevent over-lap between children with disabilities and the child intervention model is not honoured. **Most crucial: "Samantha's Law." Some may inquire why I feel it is necessary for the Court to establish official title - "Samantha's Law" - although legislation has been amended? While I am obviously pleased that the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act under Section 2-3, Manual Amendments: Policy and Procedures in Family-Centred Supports and Services presently reads: http://www.child.alberta.ca/home/527.cfm "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services." The purpose of the Petition is two-fold: a/ To attribute legislation rightfully to the child whom amendment originates, Samantha Martin. b/ To provide a recognizable title to legislation for ease of identification and reference in discussion. Please help establish a legacy for a beautiful child whose short time on earth has offered great insight and awareness emerging around the globe. Courts have the ability to adopt legislation from other locales where none exists. It is my greatest wish to see "Samantha's Law" reach National proportion to better enhance and protect Family-Centred Care Practice in honour of children. In Celebration of the Importance of Life & Loving Memory of: Samantha Lauren Martin, June 4, 1993 - December 3, 2006.
In addition: All interactions between Child Welfare Agencies need be recorded similar to Police so that no discrepancies or misuse of authority transpires. As is the case with Police who conduct interviews under camera, so too, must Child Welfare Authorities adapt similar recording to better enhance practice and avoid misinterpretation.
NO ONE OUGHT TO BE ABOVE THE LAW, INCLUDING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES.
It is ridiculous to assume that increased funding to the system/decreased caseloads for child welfare workers are the viable solutions to correct problems. Substantial Studies have already concluded that it is more cost-effective - not to mention, humane - to support natural families with in-home supports and services. If more monies are provided all this will accomplish is the apprehension of more children into a realm which has already proven to be grossly broken.
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