Brandon baby returned after Dakota Ojibway CFS takes over from non-Indigenous agency

‘It’s been a happy whirlwind,’ says mom

Dakota Ojibway

A Brandon, Man couple got a surprise Friday morning (Jan 29) when Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services returned their two month old infant. '(Dad) has not let go of him since,' says the mom

A baby has been reunited with his parents two months after being taken at birth after a Brandon, Man. nurse reported to child welfare authorities, that she felt that dad used “unsafe language” near the infant.

Provincial child welfare legislation prevents APTN News from identifying the parents because at the moment the child is still in care.

The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation mother and her husband have been fighting for the boy’s return since he was born Nov 24.

In mid-December they had their file transferred from Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba to Dakota Ojibway CFS (DOCFS) and the mom credits the caseworkers there, with getting their baby back home.

“DOCFS gave him to us on (Jan. 29) and it’s been such an exhausting but happy whirlwind learning our baby and jumpstarting our bonding as a family,” said the 38-year-old mom.

“(The father) has not let go of him since (Friday).”

The couple didn’t expect to leave empty handed when they arrived at the hospital on  Nov 21.

But after three days of labour she and her partner were escorted from the hospital by security guards while their newborn was whisked away to a foster home by a child welfare worker from a non-Indigenous agency.

“This is probably the biggest battle I’ve ever had in my life,” the mother told APTN at the time.

“There are no words — no one prepares you for something like that, no one prepares you for something that you’ve nurtured for nine months to be suddenly taken away.”

The mom explains going on no sleep for three days, dad had been tending to the newborn who was fussing. He was talking quietly to the baby assuring him dad would rock him to console him. But a nurse insists she heard the word shake.

When a CFS worker came to the hospital she told the parents they had 24 hours to find an approved adult to move in with them into their two bedroom home if they were to leave with the baby.

Manitoba was in code red Covid-19 lockdown.

“There was no way we could make this happen,” says the mom. “How do you find someone to live with you in a pandemic and with no notice?”

The mother amassed a list of references and supports to convince Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba, that they’d made a mistake.

She said they were willing to jump through every hoop without question, in order to get him back but what happened in the weeks that followed made her question if reunification was the goal.

“They had originally said he was taken because of language in the hospital but in our paperwork now, they’re saying it’s because of historical mental health issues, which they didn’t know about until after we were cooperating and being open about our histories when they asked,” the mom said in mid-December. “Now these are the reasons you took him?”

The paperwork also said that historical addiction issues are a reason they took and are keeping the child – another disclosure that was only made after the baby was taken as mom and dad felt they had nothing to hide about their past.

“Before any of this happened I was ignorant about what CFS does – I had no idea. We thought it was a mistake — cooperate and get (the baby) back. But now it feels like we’re being set up. Like they’re going to drag this out, try to trigger us to fail and then they can say ‘see, we were right’ and keep him,” she said at the time.

APTN asked CFS Western when they planned to return the baby and they said their was no timeline.

The file was then transfered to DOCFS days before Christmas.

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas for us at all,” she told APTN at the time.

“ We just stare at each other and try to find things to do to not break down in tears. It’s starting to eat at us as a couple. We don’t blame each other or anything, but it’s the stress of this – it’s hard.”

Now, she says they have a happy stress – the kind all new parents have when their baby comes home, whether days old or two months old.

The couple credits DOCFS for seeing the situation for what it was, and returning the child .

Manitoba estimates there are 9,000 kids in care on average each year, 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous. The province spends $435 million a year on the CFS industry.

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