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The County gets more interesting every day

Well, I have to say, the County gets more interesting every day.
Newspaper people are running their butts off trying to keep up with breaking news in l’il ol’ Prince Edward County.
Top of the list is the horrible Valley Road murders. Fortunately, murders only happen occasionally in the County although, per capita, we might now be rivaling Toronto. All of our hearts go out to the family.
Justice Byers, who served as a Picton lawyer for many years, made no attempt to hide his contempt for the kid who will now pay a heavy price for his actions.
The rest of us are left thrashing around, trying to put a “Why?” into the heartbreaking situation, hoping to find an answer that will make us feel a little more comfortable.
But there is no easy answer. There is no: “Ah, now I get it.” There is no sense of completion, and no satisfaction.
The world gets a little stranger every day, and there’s no predicting human behaviour.
Hot on the heels of that story, is the shocking announcement of a Bloomfield area foster-home family convicted of sexual abuse involving their charges.
This is horrific enough and, again, there is no counting on human behaviour. A dark light has been cast on the agencies who placed children in their care, but I don’t fault them.
I’m sure there were no indications of misconduct over the years. With no ‘Red Flag’ to act upon, why would they question what seemed to be a mutually beneficial relationship?
As careful as they are in choosing their people, the Children’s Aid Society can’t read minds any better than the rest of us. This is yet another situation we could only have prevented “If we knew then what we know now.”
We all know people who are very weird. Hell, that describes half my client list at County Magazine. But if I called the OPP and gave them a list of weird people, they would be busy for months. And I’m weirder than most of my clients, so I’d probably end up in the same jailcell.
Shocking as it is, and painful as it is, none of us can predict the unexpected. We would love to stop bad things before they happen, but we just don’t have the ability.
Which brings us to the next hot news item of the day: Dr. Charles Smith speaking at PECI. You’ve read the stories, so I won’t fill you in on the background. This incident has sent boards and administrations into the bunkers to draw up new rules on ‘allowed speakers’.
Despite the turmoil, and the fact that the Toronto Sun broke the story (this means there are Toronto people hidden amongst us, feeding subversive information back to The City. They all have sweaters tied loosely around their necks, and carry bottled water wherever they go, so watch for them), there is more to this than meets the eye.
Of all the news reports I’ve read, one question stands out in my mind. What did he say? Was he introduced complete with his credentials as a former forensic child pathologist, stripped of his profession? In which case, I would like to hear what he has to say.
I feel the pain of Smith’s victims in this scenario. But I also believe that information is a valuable commodity. I learn more from people who disagree with me, than from those who agree.
High school students are not dumb. (Well, at least if we’re doing that job right.) If they knew the speaker’s background, it would be a very interesting session.
Before everyone goes looking for ‘heads to roll’ over this apparent fiasco, perhaps we might check with the students for their perceptions. If I were in a law class, and the speaker said: “First of all, lie your ass off,” I would be at least somewhat skeptical.
When the Neo-Nazi Party emerged in Canada, lots of people said they should be banned. I say No. If you ban them they will go underground, and no-one will know what they’re doing. I want them visible, right up front, so you can see what they are, and what they’re doing. That’s information.
And my final “What’s happening now?” is about the Times supporting Peter Mertens.
I was on deadline for the Winter issue, and so missed the original super-hot news story about a newspaper supporting a candidate. I did pick it up in the letters pages of the ‘other’ papers
To the point, Gord Fox and Dennis Fox (no relation) were shocked that a newspaper would support a candidate. Dennis, though otherwise an intelligent individual, said something like: “Never, ever in the history of Canada have I ever, ever, ever seen a newspaper support a candidate.” (That’s a satirical paraphrase.)
He obviously missed the days when the clearly Liberal Picton Times under Bill McLean went against the clearly Tory-Blue Picton Gazette under Phil Dodds.
Poor Dennis also must live in an area in which he has no access to the right-leaning Toronto Sun, the left-leaning Toronto Star, the buttoned-down middle Globe and Mail and the Ping-Pong Ball National Post.
None of these have ever supported a candidate of any kind, and ripped apart the opposition, in any election, because that would be wrong.
Any business, as everyone knows, has a right to contribute to a political party, and to a municipal hopeful. There is no sin here. This is why we have McGuinty and Harper.
On a local level, not to speak for Conroy, but the Times stands out from the crowd because he does analyze, and opinionize, and decode the bafflegab for the rest of us. That’s his style, and I have no problem with that.
To blame another candidate’s loss on his financial contribution is blatantly stupid. I think the voters made up their minds based on the merits of the people running. And there were many running.
So, if your choice lost, it would be better to help them strengthen their weaknesses, than to jump on the people who supported someone else.
By the way, this is my own opinion, and not due to any loyalty to The Times. Sure, they gave me a sweet deal for writing these columns, including an all-expense-paid trip to the Bahamas, and all the booze and women I could handle.
But, so far, I only have one of those tiny airplane-type bottles that come free at LCBO when you buy a big bottle. And there are no women yet.
And Air Transat won’t return my calls.

Filed Under: Steve Campbell

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  1. William Booth says:

    The Truth about CAS
    This is not an indictment of Foster Parents or Social Workers because there good and bad in both groups. It is also not an indictment of the Children’s Aid Society in principal. Society indeed needs to protect our children from the effects of real abuse. This letter is an indictment of a system gone bad. A system that has lost sight of its mandate and become self serving and insensitive to the needs of the children in its care, and the families of those children. CAS’ in Ontario have become independent power structures with self serving agendas of propagation and enlargement. This has affected their hiring practices, their procedures and in general the morale in child care workers in Ontario, as the large turnover rate indicates. There are some little known facts about the CAS that will shed light on this appalling situation in child care.
    The Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario are private not for profit Corporations. They are independent of the government or to a larger body, meaning that each CAS is absolutely autonomous. As such they are not compelled to release information under the freedom of information act. They are financed by the province with funding largely geared to the number of files open and the number of children in care. This means the more open cases the more money. The Ontario Ombudsman’s office says they receive over 1.4 billion dollars annually in funding. They are also the only CAS in Canada not under the oversight of the Ombudsman’s office. Despite the common perception, they operate in a self regulated manner, meaning that they are accountable to no-one but themselves. The vast majority of their social workers are not qualified, and are not registered with the College of Social Workers which they are required to be in order to legally work in the field. The powers that the CAS have, exceed those of the Police. The Child and Family Services Act gives them almost unlimited power and even the court system seems unable or unwilling to hold them accountable. As Andre Marin the Ontario Ombudsman pointed out in a recent letter in the Toronto Star June (21 2011) the CAS is “Subject only to limited oversight even from the government itself.” What does this all mean? A quick search on the Internet will show that corruption is running rampant in CAS’ in Ontario. There are numerous groups trying to bring this to the attention of the public, yet the Government refuses to do anything.
    Bringing this back to the issue of the Foster Parents in Bloomfield being charged with sexual abuse. Expecting the CAS to do a real investigation is simply foolish. This is not the first or only case of foster parents to be charged with sexual abuse recently. It’s just the first to leak out to the public. The CAS would do the same thing as when questioned about the County CAS withdrawing from the proposed merger. They will refuse to answer. And after all why should they, there’s no-one to hold accountable.

  2. David Norman says:

    Steve, in your article you state, “…but I don’t fault them. I’m sure there were no indications of misconduct over the years. With no ‘Red Flag’ to act upon, why would they question what seemed to be a mutually beneficial relationship?” I’m curious, on what basis did you make this statement in your article? You seem to trying to mitigate that statement and your culpability of disinformation in your replies to the comments here. Regardless of your intentions it seems to me that you could set an example and be transparent… without the ‘public inquiry’ occurring in these comments. And, the Children’s Aid Society need not have the ability to “read minds”, they must simply exercise their mandate for prudent discovery in relation to their public service.

  3. Lori Smith says:

    I do have another concern and that is the continuing protection of the teenagers who suffered at the hands of the abusers. In the County Weekly News the story written by staff stated that the names of the offenders could not be stated due to a publication ban (to protect the children I’m sure, not the fostering parents). Two pages later, in the editorial, the people were named. In the Picton Gazette the editorial again stated the names of the accused were being witheld due to a publication ban, and then they allowed the names to be publised in a letter submitted to the editior. Where is the editing in these papers? I also noted that one writer here has used provided the names. Shouldn’t we all be observing the publication ban?

  4. Steve says:

    Okay, now we’re all over the place on this.

    My original column comments stem from my years in business, in which something that looks great can unexpectedly turn into something horrible. Clients that start out looking like they’re great people to deal with … can turn into absolute bitches and bastards in the course of their project. There’s no predicting this – people being people. My intuition is pretty good – I usually have a ‘sense’ as to whether a client is going to turn ugly, or burn me for the bill.

    This leads to my reference to Red Flags. Sometimes you catch them but, no matter how smart and intuitive you are, you can still be taken completely by surprise.

    That being said, I think the best statement on the subject came from Ann Hunter early on. In case you missed it:

    “When you are looking after other people’s children the standard of care is much higher… We are talking about complaints of a serious nature against foster parents – people who look after other people’s children… From what I understand these people should not have been foster parents in the first place. No matter how desperate they are for homes to place children some people just do not qualify … if you take children from their families you are obligated to ensure their safety. And that is the bottom line – no excuses!”

    She’s right. Responsibility for your children, biological or not, is the ultimate job for any parent, foster or not. I would give my life for my children, without hesitation.

    How this tragic situation happened – over so many years – will never be known, without a public inquiry. Even then, I doubt we’ll have the answers we need.

    It’s like watching a train wreck. We can only watch in horror … unable to help, and unable to get anyone to pay attention to the impending tragedy, before the fact.


  5. Paul says:

    I guess next you ll be saying that when the mechanics day is done so is your Surgeons..Apples and oranges

  6. Paul says:

    Well Ernest it wasn’t to long ago the spending habits of some CAS agencies came into question by the Auditor General Luxury vehicles worth up to $59,000 for executives, trips abroad and personal trainers. In the report, the auditor asks why government funding for Ontario’s children’s aid societies has more than doubled over six years, while the number of families served increased by 40 per cent.

    As far as building cars and cutting lawns and Caring for Children in the custody of the CAS, Ernest your talking apples and oranges my friend..

    There needs to be oversight.

  7. Ernest Horvath says:

    My father always felt it was his responsibility to raise his child. . Afterall , I was his son.
    So I think his response would be , as a parent it is his responsibility, no the “village’
    The 8 hours should make sense…be it pumping gas , on assembly line , or working at a CAS , it is a job , withset hours of work.

  8. SAB says:

    When did it become standard that it take only 8 hrs to raise and look after children…Does the saying not go
    “It takes a Village to raise a child”.

  9. Ernset Horvath says:

    There are laws and regulatons that immediately set into motion with CAS issues.
    Sometimes parents or professionals are caught up in that process that have done absolutely nothing is not personal but an entire process kicks into high gear….and I feel for them.

    If I am hired and accept responsibility to build 5 cars in an 8 hour day , or mow 5 lawns , then I have 10 more cars added or 10 more lawns added , I still only have 8 hours to complete the task.

    It is the government that sets the laws and regulations that should bear full responsibility to provide the people and resources it requires to ensure the laws and regulations that are put in place have the adequate resources and manpower to enforce what is mandated.

  10. Ann Hunter says:

    When you are looking after other people’s children the standard of care is much higher. The bar is raised so to speak. We are talking about complaints of a serious nature against foster parents – people who look after other people’s children. The agency does not have to prove in a court of law that these people committed a crime if they suspect that there is truth to these complaints they can act on those suspicions. As you have said it happens with biological families. From what I understand these people should not have been foster parents in the first place. No matter how desperate they are for homes to place children some people just do not qualify. As far as workers being overworked that is no excuse if you take children from their families you are obligated to ensure their safety. And that is the bottom line – no excuses!

  11. Steve says:

    There’s certainly more to this than meets the eye.
    Ann has indicated that several people had made reports to the CAS. This certainly troubles me. Most of the stories I hear about CAS say that they are TOO reactionary, not dismissive. These reports come from people who have had their children pulled from their homes simply on hearsay, and they say the CAS was too quick to respond – react- to a domestic problem.
    For the CAS, I’m sure it’s a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation. If they go everything’s okay, and it’s not, they’re screwed. If they say, Something is wrong here, we’re moving the children to a safe place, and it’s not … they’re screwed too.
    I find it very hard to believe that CAS did not investigate reports that Ann has indicated. Without the specifics, I don’t know why concerns expressed to the CAS by neighbours were not acted on immediately.
    If this is the case, then yes, the CAS should accept the fire and brimstone that comes their way.
    The seemingly mutually beneficial relationship I mentioned is quite simple. CAS needs homes to place children. Foster families offer their services. Everybody’s happy.
    Clearly this is not enough. As Ernest suggests, maybe dealing with today’s problems has damaged CAS’s ability to properly monitor ‘closed cases’.
    I agree with Bill that this should not be an ‘in-house’ investigation, as the need to ‘close the file’ will trump most other concerns, and there will be nothing anyone can learn from this travesty.

  12. Ernest Horvath says:

    I don’t know enough about the CAS issue to comment on it specifically.
    There are laws and regulations in place that must be followed by CAS.
    Most CAS case workers carry far too many cases and the turn over rate is troubling but understandable.
    The resources are simply not there and no shortage of cases.
    It is easy to fault the CAS , but it doesn’t matter what the laws and legislation are , if you have too much on your plate , you can’t get to it..end of story.
    These are jobs like any other and no one is entitled to expect people to work 24 hours a day because their employers are understaffed because of underfunding.
    The CAS is pretty much cut to the bone.
    As far as newspapers or any media pushing for a candidate is concerned , I thing that is very troubling.
    Most people get their information in a minute here or there. So it can lead to what I call grooming. I have no problem with it if full disclosure is used however.
    If I have stocks in an Industry and I will benefit by that industry having a government that will back it meaning I will make more money and I tell this to the reader , then that is quite alright.
    If I as a paper push for a candidate that will serve my interest and not disclose it , I feel that is simply wrong. Because as a paper I decide what issues I bring forward , and I decide who gets to write about it or speak out for or against it.
    But people will not know that this is happening.
    As far as the Neo Nazi’s are concerned , I have little use for that kind of thinking.
    But no one every said Freedom would be comfortable or uncomplicated.
    I have the choice to listen or not to listen.
    That is Freedom.
    Freedom is not Freedom if it was just on my terms.
    So while I totally disagree with anything to do with any ideology like that….if I control their right to this , I too could be controlled by their ideology as well.
    Great article , seems the simple things in life are becoming few and far between.

  13. Bill Samuel says:

    I often find Steve Campbell’s insights concerning the County interesting. I do not always agree with him, but feel that he is well informed and well intentioned. However his comments concerning the foster-home in Bloomfield at the very least uninformed.

    “A dark light has been cast on the agencies who placed children in their care, but I don’t fault them. I’m sure there were no indications of misconduct over the years,” said Steve Campbell

    Judge Geoff Griffin (the judge that presided over the trial) questioned the CAS’s apparent ignorance to what was taking place at the home. He said in a small community such as Prince Edward County, it is difficult to believe no one knew what was taking place.

    It is, as Judge Griffin stated, that it is hard to believe that nobody knew what was going on. Not just because it took place in a small community, but this involved 25 teenagers over three years. My experience with teenagers, (especially in the Facebook world), is they can’t or won’t keep a secret. Surely somebody knew and by their silence are as guilty as the perpetrators.

    “With no ‘Red Flag’ to act upon, why would they question what seemed to be a mutually beneficial relationship?” said Steve Campbell.

    Please, Steve explain what mutually beneficial relationship are you referring too?

    “I hope the public demands there be an inquiry into what took place at the home,” Judge Griffin said.
    We are often reminded via the media that the CAS is “Our CAS”. Between you and me “My CAS” should now be held publicly accountable. We have an obligation to the victims to hear their stories and make recommendations on how to prevent these crimes from being committed again. Unhappily, CAS has already stated that they will not have a public inquiry.

    They will do an internal investigation. The results, recommendations or the names of those that conspired to hide this crime will never be made public, nor will there be any charges laid as a result of that investigation.

    The only course of action that is left is for the victims to seek a remedy through a civil action. Personally I think if confronted with a lawsuit CAS will settle out-of-court and require the victims to sign nondisclosure agreements.

    This leaves me with the question, how do we expect “Our CAS” ever to function they way should if we, the people of Ontario, can’t hold their “Our CAS” accountable?

    Bill Samuel

  14. Ann Hunter says:

    Don’t be so sure that there weren’t very Red Flags about the couple! Don’t assume that concerned members of the community did not make reports on this family! Don’t believe that everything was done to prevent this from happening! And don’t think that they are the only ones to be charged! In a perfect world that would be true but if the world was perfect we would not need CAS in the first place!

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