Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Parentless Children

Posted by: Blue

In our province, there is one service which takes care of children.  It governs all of the smaller off-shoots and the variety of levels of care which are needed for the variety of concerns.  CFS (Child and Family Services) is the organization, and it is mandated to care for children whether in temporary care, emergency care, foster care, or as long-term wards of the state.

In a city of just under three quarters of a million people, there is one locked facility of an emergency nature where problem girls can go if they have not broken the law or are not intoxicated, but have become a danger to themselves due to behavioural issues (running away from care etc.)  It is frequently full.  Police are not given power to determine to place the run-aways in this home.  I don't know exactly how many beds are available for girls there, but they number in the low double digits, possibly even single digits.

Runaway girls are at exceptionally high risk for exploitation.  They are also far, far more frequent to run away than boys.  Girls as young as 10 frequently leave their CFS mandated homes to prostitute themselves for money, crack, meth, booze or other drugs.  It is not surprising that suicide risks often accompany young girls in these situations.

The CFS workers do nothing to stop the girls from leaving.  Indeed, it is in their policies and procedures that they may not physically stop a child from leaving a house, whether they are threatening suicide with a razor blade in their hand or just going down the street for an ice cream at the corner store (though this policy is contrary to both the Criminal Code of Canada, which grants the use of reasonable force by a legal caregiver or guardian to enforce rules and discipline and to ensure the child's safety).  Ironically, the policy could also result in criminal charges, as Failing to Provide the Necessities of Life to a Minor.

Their procedure instead: call the police.  That way, the responsibility is entirely off their shoulders.

Now a child threatening suicide is a reasonably simple procedure for the police (when they are in immediate danger of following through).  We form the opinion that they are a danger to themselves and have them undergo mandatory psychological examination.  The doctor has a brief meeting with them (around 5-10 minutes in the emergency room) and then almost always releases her.  Very, very, very few are admitted to hospital psych wards.  I have repeatedly had teenage girls in the hospital waiting rooms with cuts to their wrists or rope burns on their throats who have been stitched or bandaged up and released without being admitted.

The wait before seeing the doctor is frequently between 4 and 10 hours.  All while in the custody of the police.

When a child is not an immediate danger to themselves or to others, they are not able to be forced to undergo this typically meaningless examination.  Ergo, a child thinking of suicide rather than planning it is not able to be taken into custody as it is not a police matter.  This is where everything gets very fuzzy.

A child who is not able to be taken into custody because they are not a danger to themselves, because they haven't committed a crime and because they are not intoxicated, but who has shown that they will run away from their caregivers as soon as the police leave, with no restraint from the caregivers is a major problem.  And it happens far more often than you think or would like to believe.

There is only one organization who can lock a child such as this up.  And they are always busy.  And there are often no more beds.

In short, if a child of any age less than 18 wishes to leave their mandated housing and prostitute themselves for money, drugs or alcohol, there is almost nothing that police can do.  We just search for them, hopefully find them (alive), and bring them home, praying that this time, they will keep their promise to stay.

The most interesting thing to me is that if that child turns up dead or raped or beaten, it is always the police who are blamed first, not the legal guardians who allowed the child to leave the safety of the home in the first place.

So what the hell should a cop who cares about kids do?  Maybe the police should start adopting children and showing these "caregivers" how to parent.  We are the only ones they ever hear "no" from in many cases.  I guess there's a reason they learn to hate us and run from us and fight with us.

It makes me sad.

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