Give kids in child welfare system a voice

Posted on November 4, 2016 in Child & Family Debates – Opinion/Editorial – NDP MPP Monique Taylor introduced a bill this week that would guarantee kids a voice in decisions made about them in the child welfare system. All parties should support it.
Nov. 3, 2016.   Editorial

It was August of 2008 when Katelynn Sampson was found dead by police, her seven-year-old body riddled with 70 sickening injuries. Her legal guardians, Donna Irving and Warren Johnson, had slowly, over months, beaten her to death.

Now, eight years later, the Ontario legislature has a chance to make a change that could help prevent any other child from being failed so miserably, if not criminally, by child welfare authorities.

MPPs should unite to pass Katelynn’s Principle, a private member’s bill introduced this week by New Democrat Monique Taylor.

The proposed legislation would put children at the centre of the decision-making process about their own welfare. It would require that children be consulted about decisions affecting their well-being, “listened to and respected.”

Indeed, if Katelynn had been seen, never mind consulted, she might well be alive today. But she was virtually invisible in the process that led to her tragic death.

Only months before she died, her mother, Bernice Sampson, and Irving were in court to get a custody agreement for Katelynn legally approved. But Katelynn wasn’t there. Nor did any of the three child protection services that received calls from concerned people about Katelynn’s condition ever meet with her.

It’s no wonder, then, that the idea for “Katelynn’s Principle” was the first of 173 recommendations put forward by a jury at the inquest into her death this spring. The jury members must have been gob-smacked that no one in child welfare services ever saw Katelynn after concerns were raised, never mind spoke to her.

As Ontario’s children’s advocate, Irwin Elman, put it on Wednesday, “the jury recognized that all children and youth have a valuable contribution to make about what is in their best interest.”

Taylor’s bill reminds authorities not only to listen to the child, but to be an advocate for them. “Advocacy may be a child’s lifeline and it must occur from the point of first contact and on a continuous basis thereafter,” the bill reads.

It only makes sense that children should be consulted about their welfare and that child welfare authorities should be advocates for their wards.

How tragic that it took little Katelynn’s death to make authorities see the obvious. And how sad it will be if MPPs don’t unite to pass this bill to make sure a child is never voiceless again.

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One Response to “Give kids in child welfare system a voice”

  1. Jade says:

    The Star,

    It is with great relief to see head way into passing a law that would allow for children (people) to have a voice in their own life. After looking into the tragic death of Katelynn Sampson I am ashamed as a member of society to see the lack of responsibility and responsiveness for a child. I think the proposed private bill ‘Katelynn’s Principle’ by NDP MPP Monique Taylor, will open up a lot more conversation – the type of conversation that is to scary for many of us.

    Jade McIntosh


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