Anonymous takes stand against 'flawed' child welfare and foster care systems
CTV Calgary Staff
Published Saturday, August 22, 2015 6:10PM MDT
Last Updated Saturday, August 22, 2015 6:27PM MDT
Protests organized by the activist group Anonymous are being held in locations around the world this weekend to bring an end to alleged flaws with systems created to protect children.
In Canada, rallies have been, or will be held, demanding child protective services be held legally accountability, hire only registered social workers, and an ombudsman should oversee all operations. Anonymous also wants an end to false accusations and believes that families who are wrongfully involved should be compensated.
Calgary’s demonstration took place on Saturday along Macleod Trail, outside of city hall. While rally attendance was small, those who gathered shared personal stories of struggles within the system.
Dawn Kennedy has been involved in the foster care system for decades, first as a child, after her mother committed suicide when Dawn was eight years old, and now, as a mother separated from her son.
Her 12-year-old son is presently under foster care but she is unable to speak to particulars of his case as children in care are protected by publication bans.
Child protective services complaints are commonplace and Dawn says changes need to be made to the much maligned system.
“There’s no accountability, there’s no transparency,” said Dawn. “As long as people aren’t speaking up about it, it’s going to continue as it is.”
Dawn says government and case workers supplied her with food and shelter as she made her way through foster care but ended up in a situation without guidance or support.
“I was put in an apartment at almost 16-years-old and then just left there. I didn’t have any adult mentors or anything. Basically it felt like they just disposed of me.”
As an adult, Dawn placed her son under government care as she battled an issue with alcohol.
“I gave my child to them to look after him and, instead of looking after him, they gave him very, very little therapy,” said Dawn. “What was supposed to be a few months was dragged on for two years in court. My son was moved to seven homes and came back home extremely traumatized.”
Since 1999, approximately 800 Alberta children have died under provincial care, thirty of which occurred during the first three months of 2015. A large percentage of the deaths involved First Nations youth.
First Nations children account for more than 70 per cent of children in provincial care, an extremely disproportionate representation as only nine per cent of all children in Alberta are First Nations.
Michelle Robinson of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Commission says the representation should not come as a surprise.
“We have the institutionalization with residential schools, now we're seeing it with the foster care system,” said Robinson. “All of these numbers are leading to the missing and murdered indigenous women, so that's part of the reason we're seeing these barriers, because nobody wants to be held accountable.”
In a statement to CTV, an Alberta Human Services’ spokesperson said the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate “appears not to be aware of the checks in the current Alberta child intervention system and the transparency in reporting publicly.”
Prior to the provincial election, Rachel Notley campaigned on promises to improve the system and reverse a planned $49 million cut to the family and child protection budget. The Premier has yet to reverse the funding cut.
With files from CTV's Bridget Brown