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  • in reply to: impossible standards? #309

    1. There are numerous systemic challenges present; Melissa’s own history with foster care, her socio-economic status, her history of substance use, her experiences as a woman and survivor of domestic violence. The removal of her children removed all sources of income for Melissa, which led her to move into an “unsuitable” new environment, though it’s not like she had much choice. Her history of substance use is used against her to form a judgement as an unfit mother (though she has not been using). Her role as a single mother further makes it harder for her to find employment, and to access visits with her children (which are quite far away, especially considering Melissa does not have a car). Her personal experience with the foster care system has likely had an impact on her understanding of attachment and family dynamics.

    2. Ensuring the “health and safety” of the children could be a hugely traumatic experience for both the children and the mother. We don’t know that Melissa is an inadequate parent; she has been in situations and arrangements that the Department deems unsuitable for raising a child, but that does not reflect on her parenting ability. Melissa has even hitchhiked to access visits with her children, and sometimes she is simply unable to get a ride. That alone shows dedication to her children. The children are also quite young and have no other kinship family, their connection to their mother is quite important. Melissa is likely doing the best she can with her limited financial means, and it is definitely questionable whether the decision to remove her children permanently is justified.

    3. Yes, and yes it does make a difference. The reasons behind Melissa’s “unacceptable” behaviours is directly related to the struggles she faces as a single mother facing economic hardship. She would likely be meeting the agency’s requirements if she had the means to, but she doesn’t. She did alright (for the most part) previously when she had her children in her care due to her income from the child tax benefit and social assistance. She experiences sexism in the form of “unpaid labour” by being a stay at home mom. The main reason the children were removed was the violent partner and the drug use, and both of those (according to Melissa) are no longer present in her life. She has no control over what her roommate does, and to suggest otherwise is rather close-minded for a social worker.

    4. She should be referred to an agency such as SHYM or another housing program that can help her. Additionally, she should be provided a FSW worker who can refer her to mental health services/addiction services if she needs them. Perhaps most importantly, she should meet with a social worker who can assist her in finding work that (even temporarily) allows her to construct an “appropriate” environment/home that meets the agency’s standards. This should not be all on Melissa.

    5. Yes. The caseworkers were aware of Melissa’s limited means (lack of vehicle, financial hardship) and still made it mandatory for her to attend supervised access visits with her children that were 35 minutes away. How is Melissa supposed to reliably arrive for these, let alone find a job that pays well enough for her to live in a “stable” home/allows her to take that time off from work? It is also insensitive to mandate that Melissa proceed with charges against her former partner; that can be retraumatizing and rather unnecessary given many of the failures of the court system. Melissa is afraid to testify due to what may happen if/when her former partner is released from prison (assuming he even goes). Additionally, the caseworker has failed to applaud Melissa for her success at abstaining from cocaine usage.

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