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Every year, approximately 18,000 youth will emancipate or "age-out" of the foster care system when they reach age 18 or finish high school.

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Autistic Child, US Citizen mother, and Canadian Injustice

by Christine Conklin

Timothy in the care of his mother

Canadian Injustice Update

I just found out today from my lawyer that MCFD is taking the extreme position of seeking a continued custody order and the intent is to put up my child for adoption! They will be asking a judge to grant them this order next Thursday. Somehow I remain strong in order to fight this. It means so much to me that you have posted my information.

My name is Christine Howarth and I am a US citizen. My son Timothy (born April 21, 2001 in Vermont) is a dual US/Canadian citizen. My son was diagnosed with autism in July 2004.

I am a single parent facing an ongoing struggle (since May 2004) involving the notoriously over-zealous and blatantly corrupt Ministry of Child Protection here in Victoria British Columbia Canada, as well as a Removal Order from Canada issued by the Department of Immigration.

Basically, this Ministry has criminalized my child's autism. Let me elaborate.

My situation prevents me from returning to the USA, yet the Ministry of Human Resources has failed to provide me adequate monthly financial support. I am prohibited from seeking employment in Canada. I moved to Canada in 1999 and was married to a Canadian citizen. At the time of our marriage my husband undertook an intent to sponsor me for status as a permanent resident of Canada. I was granted approval in principle status but did not attain landing because we could not afford to pay the right of landing fee. My immigration status was further complicated when I had to leave Canada on two occasions to attend to family matters in the USA. In the spring of 2001 my mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer and required surgery.

I traveled to Vermont to assist my mother in her recuperation. At the time, I was seven months pregnant and my doctor felt that it would be safe to make the trip and return the following month. On April 21, 2001, Timothy was born 10 weeks early and needed to stay in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I had arrived in Vermont in March and was unable to return to Canada until June.

I returned to Vermont again in October 2002, to help my mother. During my absence from Canada, Immigration officials issued an Exclusion Order against me. My legal aid lawyer has exhausted all possible appeals to this decision and the Canadian government will not consider a new application for residency based on my son's legal claim to citizenship in this country. A Pre-removal Risk Assessment appeal was filed and denied in 2004.

I ended the relationship with my husband in September 2003, to escape domestic abuse. My son's father does not provide any financial support and has not fulfilled any other parental responsibilities. I face a constant struggle to obtain the basic needs for living.

Timothy in custody of MCFD

In October 2003, I applied for Canadian social assistance (welfare) only to be told that due to my immigration status we did not qualify for any benefits. For the next five months I paid rent with funds donated by local churches. I utilized food banks for groceries. During this bleak period I reached out to local advocacy groups in Victoria for help and support. One of these organizations held a rally on my behalf and succeeded in pressuring the Ministry of Human Resources (February 2004) to grant me a monthly hardship benefit while I await the enforcement of my removal order from Canada. This monthly hardship amount has been reduced by one third since my child remains in the custody of the Child Protection Ministry.

While I have provided this background information to describe my general circumstances, I would like to point out that my main focus for contacting you involves the nature of the Child Protection matter. The MCFD removed my son Timothy from my care on May 13 2004. I feel that the following information will clearly illustrate that the MCFD apprehension was not only unwarranted but has proven detrimental to my son's health and development. As for how this ordeal has affected me, I can not even begin to describe the level of devastation and stress that this has caused in my life. My advocates and supporters regularly compliment me on my ability to cope. Sharing this information with you gives me hope that this matter will be investigated and ultimately resolved.

Removal Timeline

May 2004

MCFD appeared at my residence (May 11) claiming that it has come to their attention that there are concerns relating to my "ability to parent." My requests for specific information regarding this claim are not granted. After their departure I contact MCFD offices and schedule a meeting to discuss this matter the following day. The first forty-five minutes of this meeting pass and I am still not informed as to the nature of their investigation. MCFD views my repeated requests for specific information as inappropriate and demanding. Finally I am informed that a person in my neighborhood contacted the Ministry to report "bizarre behavior" on my part.

It is important to note that the person who approached the MCFD with "concerns" is someone who I had previously reported to police for harassing me. Several months earlier I had contacted police to report that this woman had harassed and followed me. This information had been provided by a woman whose behavior and utterances I would qualify as "bizarre." When I moved to this neighborhood last summer this woman expressed her displeasure that my leashed German shepherd had urinated on the telephone pole across the street from her residence. Following that incident this person regularly verbally abused me when I had the misfortune to encounter her in the neighborhood. I avoided using her street to eliminate further interaction with her.

In December 2003 this woman stalked me for over an hour and appeared at my door where she announced: "Now I know where you rent." I responded by notifying the police who then warned her to stop harassing me. I was advised to seek a no contact order if her activities persisted. I am certain that her false claims were made in retaliation to my police complaint. MCFD has refused to discuss this matter and has not so much as considered questioning the validity of this woman's report.

At the close of the meeting I was advised that MCFD would be visiting my residence in two days for a fifteen minute walk through to inspect the living quarters. While this meeting took place my son had been waiting in a room down the hall with an attendant. I could hear him crying and left the room to attend to his needs. MCFD states that I "abruptly ended the meeting." From the start of this investigation I am depicted as unwilling to cooperate and also there begins a pattern of instances in which my intentions to provide care for my son Timothy are thwarted or depicted as cause for concern. MCFD did not come to inspect my house on the day they scheduled. Instead they chose to conduct the removal of my son without warning or explanation the following afternoon.

For the next five months my son Timothy remained in Ministry custody. Despite my lawyer's efforts and letters of support from community members, my son was not returned to my care until October. As I am sure you are well aware, the power of the Ministry is such that a removal can be ordered based on nothing but the slightest suspicion of risk to a child. Throughout my ordeal with MCFD this alleged "risk" has shifted focus on many occasions. In addition to the concerns alleged by the woman in my neighborhood, MCFD has alleged that I am:

  • Medically Negligent regarding attending to my son's development
  • Too self focused to provide care for my son
  • Too financially insecure to care for my son
  • Mentally Unstable and/or Mentally ill
  • Unable to communicate my concerns regarding my son
  • Unable to take "ownership" for my estranged husband's abusive nature
  • Having unusual ideas about my son's diet
  • Unable to work with medical professionals involved with my son
  • Too lenient with regard to my son
  • Too passive with regard to my son
  • Too over-protective with regard to my son
  • Unable to cope with stress

In March 2004, I had noticed that at times Timothy was becoming less responsive to me. Sometimes he seemed oblivious to sounds (a door shutting, someone entering a room). I called my local Public Health Unit and scheduled a hearing test. Bonnie Daudlin, an experienced speech and language pathologist advised me that my son's hearing was normal, but she referred him to Queen Alexandra Children's Health Care for assessment of a possible communication disorder. Prior to the spring my son Timothy had appeared to be developing normally.

Although he had not developed speech yet, at the time that I had brought him to the Public Health Unit my son appeared to be on the verge of speaking. He experimented with vowels and consonants and was able to able to say Mumma and Go Go Go and a number of other words.

Ms. Daudlin arranged to provide weekly speech therapy sessions with me and my son. Ms. Daudlin praised me for the hard work and subsequent progress she was observing. Over the next month and a half. Timothy was making great strides as far as increased eye contact and communication turn taking. It is a shame that this progress was derailed with the Ministry's involvement in our lives.

The last time my son Timothy saw his speech therapist over the next three months was the morning of the very day that they removed him from my care. Naturally, I advised them about the weekly speech therapy appointments which had been booked with Ms. Daudlin. Although I have requested an explanation and filed a formal complaint within the MCFD, I have never been given any clarification as to why MCFD decided to deny my son the benefit of continued speech therapy sessions.

Young Timothy in the care of his mother

By late August, after my son had received an autism diagnosis, a speech pathologist was assigned through Queen Alexandra Health Care. Speech therapy appointments would begin at the end of the month. The new speech pathologist (Miriam Dirbach) however, was away on vacation and Bonnie Daudlin was scheduled to provide the first two appointments.

Bonnie Daudlin's observations confirmed what I had been asserting for months. My son Timothy had indeed lost speech skills. Her findings are documented and state that my son was not being properly stimulated in foster care. Later that afternoon, Ms. Daudlin told me that after we had left her office she shut the door and cried. She also immediately faxed my MCFD social worker as well as other interested parties including Miriam Dirbach. Ms. Daudlin also informed me that she had spent some time with my son's foster caregiver Wayne Belcher after I had left.

It was her observation that Mr. Belcher not only repeatedly ignored my son's communication cues, but also that he admitted to her that he had little if any knowledge of strategies to encourage communication with non verbal children. This is especially interesting to note in light of the fact that Mr. Belcher is the adoptive father of a nonverbal child with disabilities.

In the Spring of 2004, following my first visits with Bonnie Daudlin, I began to read about Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many parents (and doctors) are investigating possible benefits to autistic individuals through implementation of a gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy/casein free diet. I made the decision to investigate this dietary approach. Please note that at no time did I think that my son Timothy would be "cured" of his communication disorder by removing the ingredients mentioned above. When my son was removed from my care I requested that his special diet would be continued. My requests were not honored. MCFD dismissed my interest in a GFCF autism diet as "strange and unusual."

In my care, my son appeared healthy and energetic. He was thriving and had a good appetite. In MCFD care my son has developed an iron deficiency and lost weight. Foster caregivers have often reported difficulty with mealtimes. The day that dairy was reintroduced in my son's diet he broke out in hives covering a large portion of his body. I happened to have a supervised visit with my son that afternoon. While changing his diaper I noticed the hives. Some of the spots were crusted and scabbed over. I find it strange that Timothy's foster caregivers had not noted or reported the hives.

MCFD social worker Carol Sawyer dismissed my opinion that the hives may have resulted from the reintroduction of dairy products. I remember that she quickly suggested that it must be that the fabric softener used at the foster home was different from the brand I regularly used. My response to her was that I did not regularly use fabric softener and if I did it was not a specific brand but rather whatever was on sale.

Visits with my son have been infrequent and irregular at best. Last summer, the judge who heard my case stated that a minimum visitation schedule should include supervised visits on at least four days per week. This judge also advised that I could have additional visitation if I could secure and arrange for a qualified person in the community to act as a visit supervisor.

I am assigned a Family Development Worker named Robin Heron through an organization called Nisika. It is unclear to me as to the exact role that Ms. Heron serves in relation to MCFD issues. The relationship with Ms. Heron has been problematic. Initially I had been told that her role would be to transport my son to and from visits. She also stated that she was qualified to share parenting strategies with me. Unfortunately, I have not found her to be of much assistance.

Mother and Son Interaction

Speech Pathologist Bonnie Daudlin often complimented me for my being in tune to my son's needs. She once told me that the way I interacted with my son was "beautiful" and noted that I am "very patient with Timothy."

During speech therapy sessions she discussed the strategy of encouraging communication by "following my son's lead" and "mirroring play." Ms. Heron has often misinterpreted my implementation of these strategies as indication of a "passive" approach to parenting. Last Fall Ms. Heron accompanied me to a speech therapy appointment with Ms. Daudlin. Ms. Heron was critical of my interaction with my son and Ms. Daudlin actually told her to sit quietly or "it would be necessary for her to leave the room."

Ms. Daudlin later confided to me that she had observed Ms. Heron to be unfair and harsh in the way she treated me. She also noted that she felt Ms. Heron lacked knowledge about autism and my son's particular needs.

From the time they first contacted me to the present time MCFD has regularly failed to recognize my strengths as a parent.

Legal Council

I immediately contacted my lawyer, Peter Golden, after the MCFD visited my residence on May 11, 2004. Peter Golden had been my legal aid lawyer for my immigration matters and (with additional legal aid funding) he agreed to represent me for this matter as well.

My lawyer had advised me that the MCFD had enormous power especially in the court appearances prior to the Protection Hearing. He spoke to me of the fact that this power is such that the removal of a child from parental custody can take place with only the slightest suspicion of the possibility that a child could be at risk. I can provide you with a detailed account of the manner in which MCFD has abused this power at the expense of me and my child.

Mental Stability

From the very start the MCFD has questioned my mental stability. My family doctor who had known me for four years provided a letter stating that she had never questioned my ability to parent nor any concerns regarding my mental health.

Still, MCFD stated that I would need to pass an Individual Psychological Assessment before a return of my son Timothy would occur. MCFD required that I complete this requirement yet they were reluctant to arrange for this evaluation within any reasonable amount of time.

I was told by my social worker Carol Sawyer, that she had put in a referral with USTAT a local agency that would be able to conduct an evaluation. Ms. Sawyer assured me that testing would be arranged by this agency within a week or two from the time of the referral.

Several agonizing weeks passed as I awaited an opportunity to disprove MCFD allegations regarding my mental health. After approximately two weeks I called USTAT to inquire about whether an appointment had been set up. I was told by a representative at their agency that USTAT only handled clients in acute need of psychological testing (suicidal individuals, etc.) This representative also told me that she could not understand why MCFD was referring me to their agency. She added that USTAT had previously instructed MCFD to discontinue referring clients to their agency.

USTAT then sent my referral to another department of the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), called General Psychology. After at least another week passing with no word of an appointment I called this agency and was told that there was a waiting list of 3 to 4 months.

Because of my economic situation I was not able to arrange and pay for this testing on my own. At this point, I contacted many of the psychologists listed in the Victoria telephone directory. Also, my lawyer was investigating the possibility of applying for Legal Aid funding to pay for an evaluation. Eventually I located a qualified professional who had availability.

Sadly, I was not successful in arranging funding to cover the psychologist's fees. Had I been able to pay for this evaluation I am sure the next few months would have been quite different for me and my child.

At this time Carol Sawyer stated that although MCFD was not willing to cover costs for an Individual Psychological Assessment, they would pay for a complete Parental Capacity Assessment. The Individual Psychological Assessment would have included 1-2 consultations with a psychologist and cost MCFD approximately twelve hundred dollars. The Parental Capacity Assessment was not completed until the beginning of September and I have been told that the cost was more than five thousand dollars.

I passed the Parental Capacity Assessment. I was not found to be mentally ill. Carol Sawyer had stated that if I passed the Parental Capacity Assessment she would "see no reason to keep Timothy". Another month would pass before my son would be returned to my care under a three month supervision order.

Had it not been for the fact that my son's foster caregivers wanted to go on a vacation I believe that MCFD would have continued to stall the return. I had agreed to this supervision order under the advice of my attorney. By agreeing to this order I would avoid facing immediate removal from Canada. Although Canadian Immigration has an enforceable Exclusion Order against me, they have not yet acted upon it since MCFD became involved with my case. MCFD advised me that the three month supervision period would allow me to plan my departure from Canada. Please note that Canadian Immigration could at any time decide to enforce this Removal Order.

Also, a local attorney informed me of an archaic law still in effect by which I could be removed from Canada without my son Timothy and refused re-entry to the country!

I have read documentation prepared by a local agency named HARC who examined Timothy in the days following his abrupt removal from his home and family. Here my son's response to removal is described as behaviors consistent with those seen in "children with severe depression." Prior to MCFD involvement, my son Timothy was a happy and healthy boy. In fact, all summer my son's smiling face could be seen on the cover of the Victoria & Vancouver Island Kids' Guide available at brochure racks throughout Western Coastal British Columbia as well as in Washington State.

I had entered Timothy's photo in a contest sponsored by Island Parent Magazine Group. His photo had been judged and selected to be representative of Summer Family Fun. MCFD initially placed my son with two female caregivers. Within less than a month's time, the caregivers had notified MCFD of their wish to discontinue this placement since they had found my son's behaviors too challenging. I can remember the first time I saw my son after the removal. Four days had passed. His eyes had a glazed sort of look and he avoided eye contact. I have listed below some of the disturbing changes that presented themselves over the summer of 2004. Also, I can provide documentation that supports my argument that these changes are directly related to the trauma surrounding MCFD removal.

First Foster Placement

  • Deliberate and repeated head banging (beginning the day after removal) (Please note that my son had never exhibited this behavior prior to removal)
  • Throwing himself to the floor and remaining in a fetal position for extended periods
  • Regression to infantile behaviors such as crawling<
  • Diminished eye contact
  • "Flat Effect" Presentation consistent with depression
  • Feeding problems, Inability to thrive
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sudden fear of water (tub, bath and especially the shower spray attachment

Communication Skills

Because Timothy is non-verbal he cannot express his needs and feelings in the way that most children of his age would typically communicate. Communication between a parent and child develops long before speech skills are acquired. MCFD has served to rip my son Timothy from me, his loving mother and main communicator. Imagine the frustration for my son in foster placement. He can no longer count on someone understanding and responding to his wants and needs. Daily routines are no longer in place. Everything familiar has been replaced by the unknown. Children with autism benefit from a life that includes predictable routines. MCFD has robbed my son of this security.

One would think that these horrifying changes in my son would have prompted someone to reconsider the removal. MCFD did not act upon my repeated pleas to address the physical and developmental decline of my child. Instead they chose to attribute these behaviors to maternal "abuse and neglect." The attorney for MCFD even went so far as to suggest that perhaps my son did not even have autism. He suggested to the court that these behaviors could be the result of abuse. Instead of even considering the possibility that the removal had triggered such negative behaviors and dramatic change, MCFD used these behaviors as a baseline for my son.

Safety Concerns

My son's second foster placement at the home of Carol and Wayne Belcher was in some ways an improvement upon the initial choice of caregivers. The second placement was in a home with two parents and three other children. I was told that they were a Level Three foster care, which meant they were qualified to care for children with special needs. I later learned that they had no experience with the special needs of children with autism.

For the first few weeks I was able to have supervised visits at their house. Often I would visit my son for an hour and a half.

This arrangement went smoothly until I reported safety concerns regarding the Belchers' often unlocked front door. I had noticed on several occasions that the Belchers did not keep their front door locked. This door opened directly to the outside of the house (there was no storm door) and their yard bordered a busy street. The back sliding screen door was not safe either. The screen was ripped out at the bottom and the four dogs and three cats staying at the Belcher residence let themselves in and out of the house through the large tear.

Children with autism often engage in repetitive behaviors. My son has always been interested in doors of all kinds. With the onset of autism Timothy developed an interest in doors and would often fixate on opening and closing them. On several occasions at their home I witnessed him opening the unlocked front door. I was horrified to see how easy it would be for him to open the door and slip outside undetected. I shared my concerns regarding my son's safety with Robin Heron, the family development worker. She assured me that she would have the social worker Carol Sawyer look into the matter.

In speaking with me Ms. Heron had agreed that the Belcher's front door should be kept locked as a safety precaution. The following week Ms. Heron told me that Belcher's had felt that my concerns about the door were unnecessary and critical. The Belchers did not treat me in the same way after I made this report. In fact, within a matter of a few days time it seemed as if they had a total reversal in their opinion regarding my ability to parent my child.

A meeting was called. I attended this meeting with my advocate from Vancouver Island Human Rights, Meg Meredith. Carol Sawyer was present. Family Development Worker Robin Heron sat across from me. Carol Belcher was in attendance. There were several others present who I was not familiar with. The topic of the unlocked door was discussed. Again, I brought forth my concerns regarding the safety of my son. Ms. Belcher said that it was "ok to leave the door unlocked because Tim was always supervised." My advocate supported my position and asked those in attendance to consider what it might be like for me as a parent to have so little control over anything related to my son. She spoke to the group regarding my need for peace of mind. Would Ms. Belcher be willing to lock the door? The answer was a clear "No."

Returned - October 2004

When my son was returned to my care I immediately became concerned with disturbing behaviors and fears that did not exist prior to removal. Because MCFD had never upheld the court ordered minimum standards for visitation I was not able to fully understand these behaviors until my son was returned full time to my care. I immediately voiced concerns including the items listed below to my son's psychologist Katherine Cass:

  • Waking in the night - night terror
  • Holding urine for up to 17 hours at a time
  • Rage and head banging accompanying release of bowel movements
  • Hiding and cowering under bedspread after release of urine and/or B.M.
  • Unwillingness to hold my hand
  • Frequent prolonged episodes of crying
  • Fear of water (tub, bath and Shower)
  • Preoccupation with genitalia
  • Fear of swings and slides at playgrounds
  • Biting and slapping himself (and me)

Behavior Problems Noted

I noticed that my son was screaming and raging with every release of urine and bowel matter. Right away I took my son to a medical clinic. Medical tests were performed and ruled out any intestinal parasites or urinary tract/kidney infection. Within a few days I began to see a disturbing pattern. My son would retain his bodily fluids and throughout the day you could tell that he was preoccupied with preventing their release.

Eventually nature would take its course and my son would no longer be able to prevent release. He would repeat "Uh oh, Uh oh" and cry and either cower under a bedspread or sometimes run to another room and hide. On a number of occasions, upon urinating he would wake up from a sound sleep and rage and tantrum to the point where had I not been right beside him, I am sure that he would have injured himself.

At the Belcher's my son slept in a crib in a room separate from the foster caregivers. Throughout the summer my son always seemed to have bruises and bumps especially concentrated to the facial and forehead area. My son has a scar below his lip from an injury he received during the night while in his crib. I was told that he had been having a tantrum in the night and injured himself by thrashing and hurling himself at the crib rails. I have always kept my son in the same room with me at night. Also, my son had not slept in a crib since he was an infant.

I asked the MCFD social worker to request that the foster caregivers place Timothy in their bedroom at night so that they could quickly respond to any troublesome night time awakenings. They refused. In light of the fact that my son has a communication disorder that currently prevents him from vocalizing his needs I can not understand why such a simple request could not have been granted.

As the days passed my son became more comfortable with toileting. My son's speech pathologist mentioned that since his return to me Timothy looked more content and healthy. I kept in contact with his psychologist who commended me for the progress I had been making. I learned from her and MCFD Social Worker Carol Sawyer that the foster parents had not been attempting any toilet training.

Many of the behaviors that I noticed are consistent with those typical of abused (often, sexually abused) children.

The last week in October my lawyer Peter Golden received a fax from MCFD stating that I was not in compliance with the rules laid out in the supervision order. I was very surprised to hear of this concern since only approximately two days earlier I had met with MCFD social worker Carol Sawyer at length and she never mentioned any concerns at all. In the letter, MCFD said that I:

  • Had not attended all scheduled appointments for my son. This is false. My son missed several appointments because he had been up at all hours of the night as I described earlier. On such occasions I called the voice mail number that I had been provided by Queen Alexandra Children's Health Care. I later learned that the number I had been given was not the voice mailbox for Timothy's autism interventionist but belonged to another worker with the same first name. I had been given the wrong number!
  • Was not following the advice of medical professionals. This is false. I am motivated to provide my son with any possible benefits that he might receive by Autism Intervention. I can provide documentation from a number of medical professionals who have enjoyed working with me and my son. These professionals have testified in court as to my willingness and motivation to work with them.

When my lawyer asked MCFD Social Worker Carol Sawyer why she thought that these medical professionals contradicted her assertion she replied "I believe these people tell Christine what she wants to hear."

The Second Removal

My lawyer told me that he would prepare a response to the MCFD fax. He never got the chance. On November 3, MCFD removed my son a second time. I returned to my home that evening with my son and was shocked to find my residence in complete disarray and my dogs were missing.

A short time later there were seven police officers standing in my living room. I was told to prepare my son for removal.

Since my son's second removal he has been sick more often than not. He has had upper respiratory infections, lost six pounds in a month, and suffered with an untreated rash in the anal area for about two months. I can prove that the MCFD has been medically negligent with regard to the care of my son.

Medical Care Denied

On many occasions I have requested that my son see his family doctor. Advocates have acted on my behalf to voice these identical concerns. How can a Ministry whose mandate is to promote the best interests of children explain the documented fact that my son's physical and mental health and well-being has seen nothing but a dramatic decline while in their "care?"

Dramatic Weight Loss

My son's physical appearance has changed dramatically since removal. Not only has he lost weight, but he has grown taller and not gained body weight either! He now fits in a baby diaper that did not fit him a year ago! His ribs and vertebrae are visible through the skin. MCFD Family Development Worker Robin Heron observed in December that "He looks like he has lost body mass." Yet she refused to follow through with having this matter addressed by MCFD or her employer who is contracted by MCFD. Upon request I can provide "before" and "after" photos that illustrate this sad fact.

The foster caregiver has exhibited unusual behavior at several of my son's medical appointments. On one occasion she observed (through one way glass) a speech therapy session that I attended with my son.

At the end of the session I lifted my son's shirt to show his dramatic weight loss to a medical professional. Upon seeing this, the foster caregiver abruptly burst into the room and demanded that I keep my son's shirt on. The two professionals in the room have reported that her behavior was shocking and defensive. Earlier that same day the foster caregiver had argued with the speech pathologist and threatened to pull my son out of his therapeutic sessions. The speech pathologist had asked that she remain in a waiting area while I attended the session with my child.

My son has continued to lose all speech. He no longer calls me Mumma.

MCFD insists that I am unable to work with professionals. They have created a requirement that I prove to them my ability to work with professionals. MCFD dismisses my documented ability to work with many professionals already involved in my son's therapy. Further to this matter, following the above mentioned outbursts featuring the foster caregiver, MCFD/QA have not included me in my child's autism intervention and/or speech therapy.

Visitation Denied

MCFD has not provided reasonable visitation. MCFD attempted to cut corners and save a few bucks by relying on my unpaid Human Rights Advocates to serve as visit supervisors. Recently on a weekend day the foster caregiver prevented my Human Rights Advocate from bringing my son to my home to visit. She felt that I had "already seen him enough" that week. On several occasions I have waited two weeks between visits. At Christmas time I had no visitation with my child. Bonnie Daudlin, my son's original speech pathologist had kindly offered to supervise several visits in my home over the holidays. MCFD never returned her phone calls.

Thinking that I knew nothing of this offer, MCFD informed me that there was no one available to supervise the holiday visits. MCFD did not want Bonnie Daudlin to have the opportunity to further document my son's decline!

MCFD social worker Alys Pivetta has allowed my case to stagnate. For the second removal MCFD has asserted that they believe I have a problem with anger management. Certainly if I had an anger management problem, one would think that it would have been detected and addressed at the time of the first removal of my child. While I do not feel that I have a problem managing anger, I have always agreed to taking an anger management course. Alys Pivetta waited three months before arranging this anger management program. My advocates were not successful in their attempts to see that this course would be made available within a reasonable amount of time.

Last month I asked Ms. Pivetta what she intended to tell the judge regarding the three month wait for getting thew anger management program set up. She told me that she was going to say that I had "refused to comply with attending the course." MCFD Social Workers Alys Pivetta and Carol Sawyer do not hesitate to lie before a judge.

Anger Management Ordered

My Human Rights Advocate recently spoke with Alys Pivetta about the Anger Management Course. My advocate asked Alys as to what would happen next if "upon completion of the Anger Management Program it was decided that Christine does not have an Anger Management Problem." Her response: "Then that would be the problem." I have now completed all sessions, no "anger management problem" was detected and I scored 100% on the final test.

I have not seen my son at all for over three weeks!

A month ago I asked Alys Pivetta why I was not allowed unsupervised visits with Timothy. She said she had concerns that I would have problems dealing with the transition of drop off and pick up of my son. MCFD manufactures "problems" to suit their needs.

Alys Pivetta announced at last month's case conference that she thinks the reason there is a communication problem between me and MCFD is due to my alleged "underlying mental illness!" I have undergone a complete Individual Psychological Assessment as well as a Parental Capacity Assessment. It is a violation of the Social Workers' Code of Ethics for a social worker to attempt a diagnosis or make a statement regarding the mental health of an individual with no documentation to support it!

MCFD is causing damage to the mother/child bond. My son has autism. He can not tell anyone that he misses his mother. He has no voice. MCFD has exploited my son's communication disorder.

Cruelty to Animals

Even my dogs have not been spared the cruelty of the Ministry. On November third (Day of 2nd Removal) MCFD informed the Victoria Police that my dogs were vicious and acting upon this information the Police pepper sprayed my dogs and took them to the local dog pound. My german shepherd ran from the house blinded by the stinging substance. Since the pepper spraying she has developed a skin condition and chewed most of the hair from her body. I assure you that my dogs are docile. Further to this, MCFD had known me since May and visited my house on dozens of occasions. If my dogs were vicious why is there not one shred of documentation to support their assertion. I have documentation from the first removal that states that the dogs needed to be put in a spare room at that time because they were busy licking the paperwork of the police officers and seeking out attention! In fact the animal control officer apologized for what was done to my dogs. The Police Apologized.

Contact Information

When will MCFD take ownership for their cruelty?

Unfortunately the nature of the Ministry's power and the fact that this case has not been investigated has put me in a position in which I stand accused and judged with little opportunity to shed light on the truth regarding my character, the needs of my son, as well as the clearly evident mishandling of this case. I thank you for reading my statement. I would like to add that I have never been arrested for anything in my life. I also have never had any drug or alcohol problems. I love my son and my only hope for his return is to shed light on these matters. To be frank, I also fear reprisals from the Ministry of MCFD for even contacting you. Any and all support will be sincerely appreciated. I have included important contact information below:

Christine Conklin Howarth
(250) 360-0537

Please note that I have restricted phone service and can not make long distance calls. Also, I do not have an answering machine. Please feel free to contact my brother Gene Conklin in Massachusetts, USA at the number and/or email listed below. Messages can be left at his number and he will alert me. Gene Conklin (413) 664-0760

Vancouver Island Human Rights Coalition Society (250) 382-3012
My lawyer: Lex Reynolds (250) 383-8685
Fax: (250) 383-7973


In Victoria, call Client Relations: (250) 387-7027.

If you are outside Greater Victoria, please call Enquiry BC
(toll-free): 1-800 663-7867. Ask to be transferred to the Ministry of
Children and Family Development in Victoria at (250) 387-7027.

Mailing Address:
PO Box 9770 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9S5

Media Inquiries & Communications
Public Affairs Bureau
Phone: (250) 356-1720
Fax: (250) 356-3007

Minister's Office
PO Box 9057, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Phone: (250) 387-9699
Fax: (250) 387-9722

My most recent court date was March 11. This date was for a "case conference" and due to recent changes in Canadian law, THIS judge did not have the authority to order the return of my son at this meeting. The Court has set trial dates for early June 2005. My social worker has informed me that it is the MCFD's position to seek continued custody of my child. It is my belief that this case conferance judge will somehow petition the court to move up the aforementioned court date so that this matter can be resolved immediately but I can not be sure of that. Also, a month ago at my last case conference session, this same judge stated unequivocably that he felt that waiting until June was "unreasonable." These recent developments however, have done nothing to change the circumstances of my son or myself. This travesty has only been protracted and the MCFD has made it clear that they are going to prolong this agonizing experience for as long as they can.

Since I plan to move to Massachusetts when I leave Canada, I have included contact information for the offices of Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator John Kerry. I am requesting that concerned individuals contact his office on my behalf for possible US State Department intervention and assistance.

Senator Edward Kennedy (there is a contact form on the website)
Offices of Senator Edward Kennedy
317 Russell Senate Office Building,
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4543
Fax: (202) 224-2417 and/or

2400 JFK Building,
Boston, MA 02203
(617) 565-3170

I have included this link where anyone interested can view pictures of my son. One folder contains photos of my son before he was removed from my home. The second folder shows my son in ministry "care."

Christine Conklin Howarth
959 Dunsmuir Road
Victoria, British Columbia
Canada V9A 5C4
(250) 360-0537

Update April 9, 2005