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Surrey Councillor Joins Fight For The Bayne Family

Surrey  Councillor  Joins  Critics  Of  Child  Ministry

By Robert Freeman

Chilliwack Progress

Marvin Hunt.

Published: July 27, 2009 2:00 PM
Updated: July 30, 2009 8:20 AM

Surrey councillor Marvin Hunt is personally stepping into the fight of a former Hope couple to regain custody of their children seized more than two years ago by the B.C. Children’s Ministry.

And Hunt is not alone among the doctors, social workers and others imploring the ministry to follow its own rules and return the three children.

Hunt said he will join a demonstration Thursday outside Premier Gordon Campbell’s office in support of Paul and Zabeth Baynes.

“I find it beyond belief that these kids are still within the care of the ministry,” Hunt told The Progress last Wednesday.

Hunt said as a politician he always looks for the missing pieces in government policies that create such problems, but in this case “all of the pieces of legislation are in place.”

“But what we have … is an absolute abuse of the system here,” he said. “There is no point in time where the system has lawfully worked through the paper process on behalf of these people.”

Hunt said he does know the remedy, but questioned whether some in the ministry “should be in this type of work.”

He noted that at one point the children were returned to the care of the grandparents, but were re-apprehended by ministry staff, apparently miffed because the couple “broke trust” and went to the media with their story.

Retired social worker Ray Ferris said the ministry is “blatantly breaking” the province’s child welfare legislation, and showing “a complete lack of ethics” in its dealings with the Hope couple.

“They’ve gone so far, they’ll get egg on their face if they back-track now,” he said.

A review is supposed to occur when any child is held in care longer than 12 months, but Ferris said the Baynes’s were never asked to take part in a review, so only the ministry’s view was reported.

The two boys, now aged three and four, and a 19-month-old girl, were apprehended by the ministry in September, 2007 because the couple was suspected of shaking the girl and causing a head injury.

The Baynes believe the injury was caused when their youngest son tripped and fell on their daughter’s head.

Dr. Peter Stephens, one of eight doctors prepared to testify on the Baynes’s behalf, said shaken-baby cases are driven by politicians who don’t want to appear “soft” on crime, and by social workers who rely on the opinion of doctors unaware of chronic subdural hematoma.

“People like the Baynes are collateral damage in the war on child abuse,” he told The Progress in a telephone interview from his North Carolina home.

He said the baby girl’s head injuries were not caused by being shaken, but by the lack of oxygen to her brain caused by a chronic subdural hematoma.

Nobody knows for sure how these chronic conditions start, Stephens said, but they could begin as early as birth and a “minor bump in the bathtub” trigger a re-bleed.

Whoever is last seen with the child when the brain damage is finally discovered, is the one who is mistakenly blamed, he said.

Zabeth Baynes said the ministry’s allegation that she’d shaken her baby and caused the injuries “came as a complete shock” so the couple decided to look for experts in the field.

She said the doctors were not chosen because of their opposition to the “shaken-baby” syndrome, but for their research in the field.

“We did not shake our baby, we knew that,” Baynes said, and the doctors were sent the medical files for review.

The ministry is not commenting on the case because it is before the courts.

But Minister Mary Polak said in a statement last month that social workers “make judgment calls that most of us cannot imagine … with the prime motivation to keep children safe.”

“There are going to be isolated cases in which questions will be raised about those decisions,” she said, but the ministry makes executive summaries of case reviews public “to ensure accountability and strengthen and enhance practice.”


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