MoE Directive to Directors of Education, Regarding Motherisk Commission

re: Addresses:

To: Bruce Rodrigues Bruce.rodrigues@ontario.ca

Ministry of Education

Bruce Rodrigues, Deputy Minister of Education

 

Mr. Rodrigues,

We are writing with our immediate and urgent request that you withdraw your March 20th directive to Ontario Directors of Education that they distribute to schools and students the flyer from the Motherisk Commission: “Were you taken from your parent by the Children’s Aid Society?” Further, we ask that you urgently notify all Boards and Directors to tell staff who have already posted the flyer (in print or online) to remove it.

Families across Ontario are expressing significant concerns over this communication to Ontario schools, and the lack of consideration it shows for vulnerable children across the province:

  • The language and tone in the flyer vilifies Children’s Aid Societies, which provide an essential service in our province. The flyer also creates fear in the minds of children that the Children’s Aid Society will “take them” from their families. Further, some of the information is factually incorrect in suggesting that all CAS agencies used the Motherisk hair tests, and that these tests were consistently used “to see” if parents were using drugs or alcohol;
  • The generalized statement about children being “taken from their parent” ignores the role of adoptive parents in a child’s life, and de-legitimizes the permanency of adoptive families;
  • Generally, the flyer creates fear in all children that they could be “taken away from their parent” at any time; but in particular, it is a clear trigger to children who have been placed into foster care or adopted in Ontario;
  • Within the adoption community, we are mindful to keep our children’s stories private and confidential as they are not ours to share.  This communication has the potential to expose our children to emotional and psychological harm, with little regard for providing them with any level of support or guidance.

It’s important to acknowledge that even if the Ministry of Education’s directive is retracted, students and families across the province have already been exposed to the damaging messages included in it. It is critical that school staff and families have the support and information they need to control and respond to this harm in the best interests of children. Thus, we are further asking that the Ministry of Education ensure that educators are equipped with information, facts, and culturally appropriate strategies to participate in meaningful dialogue with affected students and with their peers (who may make inappropriate comments or bully students who were, in fact, “taken from a parent”—i.e., a birth parent).

The work of the Motherisk Commission is critically important, and we fully support it. Their findings have been a tragedy for the affected children and families, and everyone involved deserves support, respect, and some form of restorative justice.  In this instance it is important to consider intentions separately from actions and execution.  While, with the flyer, there was likely the noble intent of ensuring that all potentially affected children and families have access to the Motherisk Commission and their resources - respectfully the execution was poor and sadly, has negated the good intent.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you closely to remedy this situation, and to balance the important objectives of the Motherisk Commission with the ongoing need to support and protect our most vulnerable children.

Sincerely,

Julie Despaties