Leah and Steve Flagg on CBC News
airing the trauma their family suffered

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On 14 July 2015, the Supreme Court of B.C. handed down an unprecedented judgment J.P. v. British Columbia (Children and Family Development), 2015 BCSC 1216. This is the first case in Canadian legal history in which child protection workers are found liable for misfeasance in public office, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the standard of care. Litigations between JP and the MCFD are summarized in JP Aftermath. Our commentary on the Plecas Review Part 1: Decision Time was published on 4 January 2016. On 31 August 2017, the Court of Appeal for B.C. set aside the orders in the civil proceeding against the Director/Province, set aside the finding that Mr. Strickland committed misfeasance in public office, that the Director and her delegates breached their fiduciary duty to the children, and that the Director and her delegates breached the standard of care in the decisions they made with respect to the children while they were in her care.
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Leah and Steve Flagg child removal, Kamloops, B.C. aired on April 27, 2010

Flagg family
Leah and Steve Flagg and their children

Leah and Steve Flagg and their four children live in a city called Kamloops, British Columbia, about 335 km northeast of Vancouver. Their eldest son, 20-year-old Trevor Flagg, has brain damage, possibly from birth, and has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses. When Trevor was 13-year old, the parents sought help from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) after he beat Mrs. Flagg badly. He was placed "in care" of MCFD for six years with 24-hour staff supervision. After he turned 19, MCFD released him without any support as Trevor is no longer a child by legal definition and therefore the Ministry has no responsibility any more.

Mrs. Flagg begged MCFD to provide supports to help Trevor during his transition into independent adult living. MCFD did not offer any assistance. The parents have no choice but to allow their son to move back home so that he will not end up homeless. Mrs. Flagg quitted her job to supervise her children and ensure their safety.

When Mrs. Flagg asked the MCFD to provide support because she was having difficulties to provide care for her children, they helped by removing her three younger children before Christmas in 2009. Trevor voluntarily left home hoping his departure would bring his siblings home.

After going through mediation, MCFD returned their youngest daughter within hours. Their younger son, who has been suffering from anxiety and depression from these trauma and upheaval, is still in "care" at the point of writing. MCFD wanted to ensure he is given sufficient counseling and support services. Mrs. Flagg was infuriated by the $6,000 a month paid to her son's foster care. She believes that money could have been far better spent to support the family and prevent the trauma.

The day after the mediation, Trevor had a run in with some peers at school. He threatened to shoot them and their families with a gun he has hidden at home. The police searched the Flagg's residence and the foster home. They found nothing.

Under the Mental Health Act, Trevor is now in the mental ward of a hospital with psychotic adults because he threatened to suicide when he was arrested. While authority refused visitation of the Flaggs, Trevor's foster mother was asked to visit him as much as possible. Social worker told the Flaggs that the foster mother is allowed to visit because she works for the MCFD.

Trevor is suffering from depression and is facing several counts of criminal charges. The Flaggs consider this a blatant abuse of authority and believe that forcing Trevor to leave home has exacerbated his depression.

For more detail of their story, please click here to view the CBC web page.

This case suggests the following:
  1. Seeking help from MCFD is like playing with fire. This is not a free babysitting service. Many parents are surprised by the "help" offered. Once attention is drawn, parents have absolutely no control, no power to refuse "services" and little right in defending the custody of their children. We come across many parents who deeply regret seeking help from MCFD.
  2. Removed children are seldom placed with their next of kin.
  3. Our hard-working "child protection" social workers do work 24/7. There are children removed during holiday seasons such as Mother's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Year, which will inflict maximum emotional damage to both children and their parents.
  4. Fees paid to foster parents are just a drop in the bucket. Mrs. Flagg will be shocked by the amount of tax dollars paid to counselors, lawyers, mediators, social workers involved in her case.
  5. The Mental Health Act has already given authorities sufficient power to lock up mentally ill persons if they pose any risk to the public or their families. This reduces the necessity of the child removal authority.
  6. When trauma like this occurs, many people, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, often point their finger to lack of services and lack of fundings. The real problem is that too much fundings have been allocated to self-serving service providers that render the "child protection" apparatus inefficient or even counter productive.
  7. Many removed children are worse off and stand a much higher chance of dropping out from school and facing criminal charges when they reach adulthood.

It appears that a frequently used MCFD tactic is to accumulate information in order to justify a removal. Offering of services are to be minimized (citing lack of resources as an excuse) or deliberately constrained so that the problem can never be "solved", child protection concerns still exist. Social workers then alleged "all less intrusive interventions tried, but failed". Inevitably, removal becomes the only viable option to "protect" children.

Prior intakes are often used to lend support for removals. They have all the aforesaid ingredients:
  • services requested and offered;
  • parents failed;
  • children still in danger; therefore
  • all efforts failed and the last resort of removal is justified.

It would be wise for parents to acquire previous intake reports, record all meetings, get names of all MCFD personnel involved, take detail notes of what has transpired and always be prepared for removal and the subsequent legal battles that often drag on for years.

[This page was added on added on 6 May 2010.]