A Manitoba couple defeated an Indigenous child welfare agency to get their 14-month-old son back only to learn the mom’s six-year-old daughter was quietly adopted while they were embroiled in the battle.
The couple was reunited with their son Tuesday, but were recently advised by a caseworker that the daughter – who was made a permanent ward in 2016 – was given up for adoption by the province.
“I feel completely attacked by the system who claims to be in the best interest of children and let down by everyone who was supposed to help,” said the mom, who APTN News can’t legally identify.
The mom had been fighting for her daughter’s return for the past three years.
“I’m truly bothered by how the government lets this happen – that CFS has all this power to take anyone’s kid for anything and give them up (for adoption) when their parents are fighting to get them back,” said the devastated mom.
She lost her daughter when the child was four-months old on allegations the baby had been shaken.
No one was charged with hurting her, but the mom pleaded guilty to failing to protect the child.
Court heard testimony that the father was a potential suspect, but he was never charged or prosecuted. He was, however, convicted of beating the mother.
Because of her conviction, the mom was put on a child abuse registry – a designation that was used in part to justify taking her newborn son with a new partner at birth in April 2019.
Child welfare workers in older court documents, and during the May custody trial said they felt apprehension was also justified because the boy’s dad – who is raising other children from previous relationships and is described as a loving fit parents by one of the mothers — was uncooperative and rude to social workers. Michif Child & Family Services lawyer also suggested at the trial that the father’s admitted marijuana use was grounds to take his son.
After the week-long trial in May the judge ruled none of that amounted to reason to keep a child in foster care and gave the agency three months to return the boy.
With that win in their pockets, the parents vowed to fight for the return of the mom’s daughter.
It’s unclear now if that’s even possible.
An adoption coordinator with Child & Family Services of Western Manitoba, the agency who adopted out the girl, said it’s only done in cases where there is no hope of returning the child to their family.
That infuriated the mom.
She and her partner had been working to have the girl returned before their son was born. At least one home check had been done but visits stopped while they were busy battling a different agency over their infant.
Manitoba’s adoption website says “children become eligible for adoption through child and family services because birth parents have consented to an adoption plan, or the court has determined that the parents are unable to care for the child.
“Where possible, workers involve birth parents and the child, if they are old enough, in the adoption planning.”
But a government spokesperson said permission isn’t required by birth parents, nor does the government have to notify them, so long as a judge signs off on it.
The mom hasn’t been given any paperwork from the agency involved and says she has no idea if her daughter – who is Metis – was put in a culturally appropriate home or if she was scooped.
A government spokesperson said while a Metis home would be ideal, it isn’t required so long as the agency “approves a cross-cultural adoption.”
The government website also advertises that it pays parents for adopting a permanent ward with special needs, which the little girl has – some as a result of being shaken as an infant.
The government will cover any equipment or services the child needs plus daily maintenance costs in the range of $12.26 to $17.49 per day. That’s up to $6,400 a year until the child is 18.
Meanwhile, the couple received a small bag of plastic toy balls and a $300 “reunification payment” with the return of their son today along with a touching note from the woman who cared for her son since he was taken as a newborn and felt the apprehension was unjust.
“When I first locked eyes with (him) I knew he was going to have a special place in my heart,” said the letter in part.
“I spent countless hours rocking him to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night and playing with him until he falls asleep, feeding him, changing him – doing everything you never got to experience because he was taken away from you when he shouldn’t have.”
She went on to write, “It’s been a great year that I’ve got to spend with him and watch him grow and I’m excited for you guys to get to experience all the rest of his firsts! I know this is the best place for him…. I’m so happy for you to be with him now.”
“It breaks my heart all the time that was stolen from us,” said the boy’s dad. “But I’m glad he was looked after by seemingly caring people.”
The boy’s mom finds satisfaction and frustration in reading that the foster mom knew that child shouldn’t have been in care.
In the time since the judge’s ruling, visits were increasing to transition from his foster home to his parents’ home permanently, which happened Wednesday.
As for the girl, the couple said their Michif CFS caseworker said she would advocate for them with CFS Western to see what can be done in terms of receiving information about the girl or even visits.
None of those details are known yet.