“Voluntary”

It’s a hard statement to make when talking to relatives and neighbours – but often in cases of child welfare in Manitoba, parents are forced to choose between the forceful route of apprehension, or the more ‘gentle’ route of voluntary placement – to tell them your kids were voluntarily placed in CFS.  Recently the Manitoba Government released some news changing the way children in care are reported publicly, excluding the numbers of children who are “voluntarily” placed in CFS.  According to media reports, this change would apply to approximately 700 children in the province (of 10,293 kids in care), bringing the number of ‘kids in care’ below 10,000. The reasoning that has been shared is other provincial jurisdictions do not include voluntary placements, so we are now aligning with those provinces.

This feels very much to me like politicking with our children’s lives – and is unacceptable.

I have had the honour of connecting with many families, young people and children in the North End over the years growing and playing there. As a result, the statistic of 1 in 6 kids in the R2W area code being in care, I know to be true and I have seen the devastating impact felt by the whole community when a child is taken. I have witnessed and heard countless situations of social workers bullying our families, constantly pushing “voluntary placement” as the only way services/resources can be expended on this family. Constantly. These families and parents are often dealing with challenges related to institutional neglect, poverty or even inter-generational trauma. As a result of the socio-economic realities many families are facing, these parents and children need our support the most. They need help, not to have their kids taken. Families should not be punished for asking for help – they should simply be helped. The forced removal of children from their families has happened for generations in Canada and continues to this day in Manitoba and my neighbourhood and it must stop. Excluding the 700 families who have ‘voluntarily’ placed their children in care excludes so many of the families who truly feel they had no other option to support their own kids. We hear the heartbreaking stories on a weekly basis with the grassroots parent advocacy group Fearless R2W.

What does VOLUNTARY really mean?

I understand ‘voluntary’ to mean when someone is presented with options, they are able to choose which one they want/need. I understand voluntary when hundreds of community members come out to Meet Me at the Bell Tower. I understand voluntary when AYO leaders sacrifice their Friday nights, Saturdays and evenings to learn from each other, improve their system literacy and challenge themselves to find institutional solutions. I understand voluntary when the village convenes to feed our relatives on the street for Got Bannock?, I understand voluntary when families and helpers Drag the Red river to bring justice for our missing relatives, I understand voluntary when board meetings, councils and teams emerge out of motivated community members who want to help. Voluntary means I willingly share my gift with those around me. I am pointing out and picking on the use of the word ‘voluntary’ in all this – as I feel like our families are being slandered with a subtext or implication that indigenous parents willingly give their children to this beast of a system when it is absolutely not the case. We are a strong community and our village is emerging to protect all of the children all of the time.

This post was republished on CBC Manitoba’s Website – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-cfs-voluntary-opinion-1.3444341

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5 thoughts on ““Voluntary”

  1. I think cfs uses voluntary as an excape route for themselfs ti make them look better when they snatch a kid and tell the parents or parent its volutary then they make you jump threw hoops to get the child only to be told you didnt do enough you failed an aptitude test what right do they have to tell you or test you on how well you are a parent.ive seen numourus people threatend bullied and i myself have gone threw it thats why i dont ask for help thats why i have trust issues.

    1. thanks for your comment! we called the group Fearless R2W because we recognized that many parents were afraid to ask for help. We are trying to work on building up parent advocates, that are parents themselves as well as non-parents/community members to work together to help advance solutions in CFS. We are on facebook if you wanna connect with us http://www.facebook.com/fearlessr2w

  2. Jenn a VPA should end the moment a guardian says they want their child back in their home. If your child is not returned within a reasonable time upon request (ie in a treatment centre outside the city transport issues) then the worker has 4 (business) days from requested return date to serve you with apprehension papers. These papers must state the safety concerns. If this is not done then your child is illegally in care.

    IE the agency ( any agency under any authority) is not in adherence with the law.

    Now the legal papers will only have a court date but from that date the onus is on child welfare to prove that the system will do a better job then family.

    Mr Champagne I wonder if there has been any conjecture at your meetings about why the judges are so much easier on agencies these days?

    Not that long ago they wanted actual evidence and ‘my spider senses are tingling’ was not acceptable grounds for apprehension.

    1. It’s a very challenging situation and it is really hard to know what the solution is. All we can do from the village is encourage community members to help others when they are in need, work with parents to build their system literacy, help advocate where we can, and work ourselves towards institutional changes whenever possible. Thank you for including so much system info in your comment it is much appreciated! AYO works primarily on trying to create institutional solutions, so when we are working with our parents/community members in Fearlesss R2W we are mainly trying to educate ourselves on how CFS works by meeting with CEOs of the 4 Authorities, the minister herself, and other groups related to child welfare of which there are an overwhelming amount. This simple seeming goal of understanding the system and working towards a policy based solutions with frontline results is super hard

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