Progressive Conservative MHA and community services critic Sheila Osborne is worried an overburdened child protection system is putting vulnerable children like Toddler B at risk. (Photo: By GARY HEBBARD/The Telegram)
...When Tory community services critic Sheila Osborne read the Ontario file on Toddler B, it was the worst she'd ever seen.
blames the little girl's tragedy on social-worker burnout due to massive caseloads and workloads.
Earlier this year, a consultant's report on Newfoundland's social workers painted a disturbing picture of excessive workloads, resource shortages and a desperate need for substantial increases in personnel.
The consulting firms HRD Group and Goss Gilroy Inc.
found workload to be above acceptable standards, and recommended an increase in personnel of at least 15 to 20 per cent.
The report concluded excessive workloads are having a negative impact on client services and worker stress.
The case of Toddler B is a gut-wrenching result of that overwork, Osborne
says.The file is so horrifying, she
could only read it a few pages at a time.
"The mother of the child asked that (the father) not be given custody and she
warned the social worker that he
did have a history of violence," Osborne
"Their workloads are so great, they don't have the time to get into the background of every piece of information that comes to them on every case.That results in our most vulnerable citizens then are jeopardized, and greatly jeopardized."
Last year, Osborne
began seeking answers from the Department of Health
and Community Services as to why Toddler B was ever placed in her
In October, then-director of Child, Youth and Family Services Marilyn McCormack wrote Osborne
that in 1997, a social worker was made aware of an allegation that the father had assaulted Toddler B's mother.
However, since he
had engaged in counselling sessions and appeared to be a concerned father and in a new and stable relationship, family court agreed to grant him custody that November.Two days later, the case was closed.
In 1998, there were allegations Toddler B's father assaulted the woman in that "stable relationship."Child, Youth and Family Services got involved again.
Toddler B was being cared for by her
paternal uncle and his
partner.Then the three of them and her
father relocated to Ontario.
McCormack told Osborne
: "In summary, the decision to grant custody of (Toddler B) to her
father occurred in 1997.All indicators at that time pointed to (Toddler B's) best interest being served by living with her
isn't satisfied with the response.
"I didn't think that it gave answers and - it could be, once again, as a result of social-worker workload - it looked like there was a satisfactory conclusion when there wasn't."
A 2001 Ontario child protection document on Toddler B appears to shift a lot of blame to her
father's partner.It is a grim portrait of a little girl's life.
"(The father's girlfriend) said Toddler B had lots of toys in her
toy box, but the box was in the closet of her
bedroom and (Toddler B's) bed was too heavy for her
to move it away from the closet door to obtain her
toys," the report states.
The grandmother, with the help of Osborne
, is in the process of getting her
son back, seven years after he
was placed in care.
Toddler B's mother wants another chance, too.She
says Child Services has told her she
hasn't improved her
life - she
isn't in school or working.She
has no job - her
record dogs her
wants to take courses at MUN. She's
been with a partner now for nearly three years.He's
a labourer and they aren't on social assistance.But Child Services refused to do a home visit, she
"It's so tiring when you're trying to fight like that and they bring everything up.Sure I was young, I made mistakes.I've straightened my life up now.I mean, I've got a good life," she
There's little, if any, hope she'll get a chance now.