Child welfare worker ‘on leave’ after confrontation with Indigenous advocate caught on video

A profanity-laced video that shows a staff member with Children’s Services Alberta (CSA) making comments to an Indigenous child welfare advocate has led to the worker being put on leave according to the ministry.

The video, shared widely on social media, was taken earlier this week in the parking lot of the Forest Lawn children’s services office in southeast Calgary.

In the video the staff member says “you get in my f***ing face and I’ll punch you in the f***ing head” and “If you don’t like children’s services taking your f***ing kids maybe you should treat them right.”

The video was recorded by Cheryl Wozniak, who is part of the advocacy group Preserving Families: The Fight Against Alberta Child and Family Services.

She was at the Forest Lawn office to “chalk” the parking lot.

“I write in chalk ‘preserving families’ or #auditcfs’,” Wozniak told APTN News. She’s done 10 offices so far and says child welfare workers usually “just peek out the window and watch what I’m doing.”

Watch the video here:

But on Tuesday, she went with a grandmother who has been battling the Forest Lawn office over her grandchildren.

It was the end of the day and there were staff leaving work. She says one confronted her.

“I was waiting for the women to leave but thought ‘I don’t have all day. I’ve got three other offices to hit up’ so I got out my phone and took pictures and started writing P-R – to spell preserving families, and she went ballistic,” Wozniak said.

The woman, who CSA has confirmed works for them in that office but not her name, accused Wozniak – a dark-skinned Métis woman – of losing her children. Another woman in the video is heard on the phone with police identifying herself as a child welfare worker who was being confronted by a “client.”

Wozniak said she doesn’t have children in the system.

“They took one look at me and just assumed,” Wozniak said.

Children’s services critic NDP MLA Rakhi Pacholi wrote to CSA Minister Rebecca Schulz after seeing the viral video Thursday.

“Given the over-representation of Indigenous families in the child intervention system (the statements made in the video) may also be justifiably perceived as racist,” she wrote, and asked that the matter be dealt with “swiftly and fairly.”

Wozniak said she wants the child welfare system dismantled and rebuilt with an actual focus on preserving families with supports.

“I don’t agree that we’ve got 20 year olds taking a course that allows them to make decisions to rip apart families and tell people how to parent,” she said.

Lynne Marshalsay, who is also with Preserving Families The Fight Against Alberta Child and Family Services, says the suspension is “a start.”

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