Steps to Take After a Child Apprehension
I deal with a number of cases involving apprehension of children and the children’s aid Society.
This post will focus on the issue of how to fulfill the conditions to the satisfaction of the society and the court such that an apprehended child or children may be returned to the parents.
Once an apprehension has taken place, the society is required to bring the matter back to court within five days. Except in exceptional circumstances, at the first hearing, the matter is adjourned to a date when the matter can be argued in great detail. This could be several weeks away. Until then, on a non-prejudicial basis, the child or children continue to remain in the care of the society.
The society is required by legislation to present a plan of care. The society normally takes its time and provides such a plan of care after the arguments for the temporary care and custody are completed.
For the purpose of this blog, let us assume that the parents are not successful at the temporary care and custody hearing for the child or children to be returned to them.
At this point, the court has ordered the children to be in the care of the society normally with supervised access to the parents by the society. The normal next step would be to have a settlement conference. That would be approximately 2 to 3 months away. The moment the temporary care and custody hearing takes place, it is critical to move quickly on the matter.
As a lawyer, I normally sit with my client and prepare a plan. Often times the main concerns of the society as related to the parents is in ability to take care of the children relate to issues of mental health, emotional conflict between the parents, or substance abuse issues. There may be other reasons, but I would state that these are the three main reasons.
I would like to address each of these three main reasons to inform readers as to what they can do in a logical step by step basis to put in place a thorough and proper plan of care, from their side, to address these issues.
1. Mental health:
A parent would have to undertake regular counselling, medically, make appointments to see their doctor or psychiatrist for counselling or undertake any other program that will assist them. The parent provides permission to the lawyer to make direct contact as well to obtain an update on these programs and progress. The court is very keen to hear from professionals on the progress of the parent including their attendance at these counselling and other programs or sessions. Often times, counselling may be available through keystone, Canadian Mental Health Association workers, or others. The society worker can also provide useful information.
2. Emotional conflict between parents:
Children are often apprehended because of physical and emotional conflict and fighting amongst the parents. Though the initial passion and love induces two people to get together and produce children, often enough, life results in conflict amongst the parents which has a very negative effect on the children.
In case of conflict, it is critical that parents go for couples counselling. If the conflict continues, then it is better for the parents to live apart so the child or children are able to return to at least one of the parents who has the capacity and ability to take care of them at that immediate point in time.
Once the situation changes and improves, parents can get back together again. But, that is for a different day. For the moment, it is critical to do everything possible for the children to come back to at least one parent rather than continue in the care of the society or in foster care.
There are times that the society may even impose a condition through the court requiring that the parents not be together. If it means that one of the parents is going to get back the children in their care, I believe it is better than the children continuing under care of the society or in foster care.
The longer the children are away from your care, the more difficult it is going to be to get them back into your care in the long term.
3. Substance abuse:
The parent or parents immediately need to start both substance abuse counselling, as well as undertake regular drug test. Regular drug test means taking drugs screening every 2 to 3 days for weeks on end or even months on end.
Yes, it is an incredible commitment.
This means you have to go and get an order from the doctor to get the tests. You also have to ensure that your lawyer and the society are given permission to obtain all test results.
I have had cases where regular and consistent negative drug test results have greatly heartened the court with judges openly praising the parent and encouraging them to continue. In my experience and opinion, if you are able to show that you are completely drug free for at least 3 to 4 months continuously, you have a great chance of asking for the children to be placed back into your care if substance abuse was the main problem.
Substance abuse is very difficult to overcome. Unfortunately, with addiction being such a problem, despite keeping away from drugs for a few months at a time, sometimes some parents may get back into it. It could be a lapse of one or two times. Generally speaking, as long as the parents are able to get over this obstacle and continue with clean drug testing and show the court and the society that they can remain drug free, the court will still look upon them with favour.
However time is ticking. The court may give you one, or a maximum of two chances if somebody slips up, but no more. That is because children are so young and their life needs to keep moving forward. If the parent messes up more than two or three times, then unfortunately, the society may well move for a summary judgement motion or for long term extended care which is used to take away the children from you permanently.
I hope the above discussion may provide readers with an idea as to what to do in order to ensure that their children may be returned to their care.
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