The seizure of two young children from a Western Newfoundland couple is getting a lot of media attention in my home province, mainly because of the heartbroken mother’s allegation that intelligence testing was used to determine that she and her husband cannot adequately care for the children:
Neighbours of a southwestern Newfoundland couple whose children were placed in foster care are raising money to help the family mount a legal challenge.
Dorothy, 31, and Bobby Rodgers, 34, of Port aux Basques, said the decision to put their children in foster care was unfair. They said authorities used their scores on intelligence tests to justify keeping their son and daughter out of their home.
“So many people knows me and Bobby, he’s such a good father to those kids, I’m a good mother,” said Dorothy Rodgers.
The couple plans to go to court to fight for the return of their children.
Dozens of supporters have called open line radio shows and more than 150 people have joined a Facebook support page.
A lawyer hired by the couple told CBC News that he has concerns about paperwork done by social workers about the Rodgers.
Lawyer Adam Crocker said it contains hearsay allegations and judgmental language.
The CBC’s sympathetic video report can be viewed here. The “intelligence tests” were part of a Parental Capacity Assessment, which is regularly ordered in child-protection matters:
What is a parenting assessment?
A parenting assessment gathers information from a number of different sources about:
- the needs of the child or children
- the parent’s ability to meet those needs
- the skills and strengths of the parent
- the relative skills and strengths of parties proposed as caretakers
- the quality of the parent child relationship
- supports available to the family
This information is analysed to form recommendations promoting the best interests of the child. Recommendations may include:
- placement options for the child
- long-term planning suggestions
- treatment suggestions
- services that may help the parent address problem areas
Why get a parenting assessment?
Children’s Aid, therapists, the court, or lawyers may need to understand how someone approaches parenting, including strengths and weaknesses.
Often certain problems in a parent’s behaviour, or problems between a parent and child, need to be addressed before making any decisions on behalf of the child.
Areas to consider when assesing a person’s ability to parent can include:
- depression or grief
- anger control/management
- alcohol or drug abuse
- issues of child abuse or neglect
- criminal activity
- mental/emotional health issues
I’ve worked on many child-welfare matters in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and I’ve seen several cases where, in my opinion, officials went too far in removing children from the care of their parents. That is the ultimate violation of family integrity by the state, and if a government agency is going to separate children from their mothers and fathers, it had better be only way to ensure their safety.
That said, social workers and child-protection officials are in a no-win situation, where they may be savaged for their inaction if they don’t intervene – especially after the Shirley Turner fiasco just a few years ago. And even Ms. Rodgers admits that there is more to this case than her test results:
…She says social services took her children based on a set of lies she admits to telling while in a transition house seeking help from her abusive past; lies which Dorothy says had nothing to do with the quality of care for her kids and which she believes social services are holding against her.
She also feels that her missing a doctor’s appointment for one of her kids because of bad weather is being held against her. She explains that they struck bad weather in Port aux Basques on the day of the first appointment and there was no way she was going to risk her or her children’s lives by driving through the Wreckhouse at that time. She says she missed her rescheduled appointment too, but assures that her child eventually saw their family doctor and that at no point was her child in any grave medical danger.
Rodgers believes there are flaws in the Parent Capacity Skills Test, which the department made her take. She says the test is designed to identify familial strengths and weaknesses so that families can focus on the strengths while improving upon the weakness. In her case, however, she says only her family’s weaknesses received any attention.
Is this family being victimized by an unfeeling, intrusive government bureaucracy? Maybe, but unless I have all the information available to the lawyers, the social workers and the Judge before me, I cannot say for sure. Which is precisely my point.