Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Social Worker and Foster Care Author on Life Story

John Dunn created a CBC Outfront Radio documentary which takes you on a thirteen minute virtual ride through his life in foster care. An American child protection worker, supervisor, and author of books for kids in foster care and adoption recently contacted Dunn with the following letter of support for his documentary.

This letter is something which should be read by people who work in child welfare at all levels.

The letter follows:

John Dunn

As a former child of the American foster care system, my heart and passion will always be in this field. When I began my career in social work 13 years ago, I came in with the perspective that "parents need to work harder to get their children back!” This was a very na├»ve statement on my part and after a few years, I realized just how the child welfare system really struggles to meet the needs of children in care. The damage that can be caused is lifelong and … hey, I am preaching to the wrong person…you already know all of this.

I started doing a lot of research and searching for a better way to do things and I came across your website. I listened to your story and it was such a powerful way to describe your experience. At that time, I was supervising case managers and I pulled them together one day so that they could experience your story.

All though many of them were very good social workers, and cared deeply for the children they worked with, I knew that none of them really could understand what the journey is like for a child in care. Your virtual journey was the perfect way for them to visualize what it is like.

They all listened to your story and afterwards they just sat there. My first thought was; okay this didn’t work out the way I thought. It didn’t affect them at all.

But, their silence was because they were all absorbing your message. One of them began to cry because it really affected her in a meaningful way. We had a great conversation after listening to your story and we began the process of trying to change the way that we practiced social work with families.

We created a new mission statement for our work – throwing out the one that the state created for us. Because we worked for a private agency, we didn’t have to adhere to the same restrictions that state employees were held to. We were able to really look at and implement changes to our own practice.

Unfortunately, the resistance from the system to our new approach was strong. Team members looked at us like we were crazy and that we didn’t know what we were doing. People that had known me for years would come up to me and ask what happened to the old Adam. When I asked them to explain, they would say that I just was different and that I seemed to be really focused on parents instead of the children. My answer was; I see what we are doing to children in care and if you can stand here and tell me that every child that comes through our system is getting what they need then I will back down, but until you can do that, then we need to all change our approach. None of them could say that we were helping every child.

I started opening my eyes to the treatment that parents were receiving and it made me sick to my stomach. They powerless and helplessness that they felt poured from their souls and no one was listening to them. In meetings I began to notice that not many people would regard the parents as experts of their own children. They were seen as a necessity of the process versus a participant.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer that children need to be protected from abuse and neglect and that if parents can not protect their children, they should not be allowed to continue to abuse them. But, for heaven’s sake; WE can not be allowed to put children in a situation that is worse than the one they were in. And WE need to really include the parents in the process.

The way that you tell your story did impact the people I worked with! So, please keep telling your story!! When I heard your message, I did hear anger and frustration with your system in Canada, but I didn’t take it that you were against them, you just want them to do their jobs better! The people who say that you are against them are like the ones here who said that I was changing, they are too blind by their own beliefs that they can’t see beyond them!

I actually have written (along with my wife) five children’s books for children in foster care. Three of them just came back from the printer so they aren’t on our website yet. But, if you want to check them out you can at

I started writing books for adults years ago, but then I realized that I needed to find a way to help children in care communicate what they are feeling and to help their caregivers understand that the behaviors they are seeing are not always what they seem like on the surface. It has taken me four years to get these books out there, and hopefully they will start picking up. I am still going to finish those books for the adults, but they will take more time.

Thanks for emailing me back and I look forward to collaborating with you!


Monday, February 16, 2009

Dunn seeking membership info with Ottawa CAS

John Dunn's letter to Ottawa CAS's Executive Director regarding membership

Membership Inquiry‏

From: John Dunn (
Sent: February 13, 2009 12:02:55 PM
To: Barbara Mackinnon (
Cc: Irwin Elman (; Horwath - QP, Andrea (; (; Julia Munro (
Barbara MacKinnon

The last time I called and talked to the Society for the purpose of asking for a meeting with you so that I could learn what the reasons were for my individual membership application being denied, and to find out what I can do to improve my chances of having my membership application approved, I was told by your receptionist at the time that you had no further information to discuss regarding this at that time.

As you are aware, I have never been provided answers explaining why the Society thinks I have acted in ways which do not demonstrate a genuine interest in the objectives of the Society, other than for them to have written that it is their belief that I have.

Now, several years later, I would like to ask of you once again, and especially since you have met me several times in person and I have never demonstrated any reason for you to be fearful of me in any way, whether yourself, and any members of the Board of Directors, especially those on the Membership Committee such as Tracy Engleking, and Brian McKee would meet with me, for the purpose of discussing whether or not the Society would accept a membership application from me, and if not, for how long, and what the Society's reasons are for not accepting a membership application from me, so that I can then know what I can do to work toward being accepted as a member of the Society in the near future.

Currently, I meet all of the eligibility criteria for membership with the Society, as I am over the age of 18, I live in the Society's jurisdiction, and I have repeatedly, actively, and publicly demonstrated a genuine interest in the objectives of the Society which as I understand them to be are as follows:

1) protecting the children and youth of our community from all forms or abuse and neglect.

2) working to keep them safe and secure, both within their families and the communities in which they live

3) helping raise awareness of the important work undertaken by the Society

4) promoting the notion that the well-being of children and youth is the responsibility of the whole community

Please respond and let me know if I can meet to discuss this matter.

John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Submission to OACAS Newsletter

The following is a letter by John Dunn, submitted to the OACAS for publication in their newsletter. Dunn is unsure of whether they will publish the article but awaits their response.

Jeanette Lewis
Executive Director
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies

Attn: OACAS Journal, (Newsletter)

I would like to submit the following article to the OACAS journal for publication.


John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
12-1160 Meadowlands Drive East,
Ottawa, ON, K2E 6J2


I am a former foster child who spent sixteen years in foster care as a Crown Ward, and the Founder, and volunteer Executive Director of a non-profit organization made up of former child-welfare service clients and their supporters, which has as it's mission "Involving current and former child-welfare service clients in the process of improving the quality and accountability of child-welfare services through a strong, united voice"

When I read an article in the Ottawa Citizen titled "Whose Child is This? which spoke to the issue of parents having to give up their severely disabled children to Children's Aid Societies, it reminded me of just how important it is for people in the community to understand that the best way to advocate for improved quality and accountability of child-welfare services is through joining your local Children's Aid Society as a regular member. Only them can you be afforded the rights that regular members have to vote for members of the Board of Directors, to review the financial documents of the Societies which receive and spend millions of dollars a year in both Tax-payers hard earned dollars and in Donations.

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Ministry of Government Services, the Child and Family Services Review Board who is supposed to have jurisdiction to review complaints regarding decisions and actions made by Societies, MPP's across the Province including Jim Watson, have all responded to letters of complaint regarding Societies stating that they have no jurisdiction over certain matters since Societies are non-profit corporations governed by what are thought to be community elected Board of Directors.

The problem with responses from official government officials who merely redirect people to attempt to resolve their issues directly and internally with a Society through corporate memberships is that those memberships are closely guarded, and not advertised to the public. For example, I learned recently that the Ottawa Children's Aid Society who serves a city of almost 1 million people has only 55 members. 17 of those are actually on the Board of Directors, leaving only 38 to "monitor" the decisions and actions of the Society.

During the most recent Annual General Meeting held at the City's Pine View Gold Club, any time calls for votes were made there was only ever a show of about five hands maximum in a room of what appeared to me to be over 100 people -- most of which were not even voting members. This is the type of apathy Children's Aid Societies enjoy across the province. Recently, MPP - Andrea Horwath, Child Welfare Critic with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario -- at the request of the Foster Care Council of Canada -- introduced Private Members Motion #41 which seeks support from the Legislative Assembly to have the Ministry of Children and Youth Services issue a Directive to have all Societies in Ontario make public information about the fact that they offer memberships to the public, that they hold monthly, publicly accessible Board of Directors meetings, and to make the By-Laws of the organizations available upon request.

If you are surprised to hear this is not the case already, a couple of Societies, including the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa have had charges pressed against them by citizens in their communities with provincial offences under section 307 (5) of Ontario's Corporations Act, for attempting block citizens from communicating with their existing members as allowed under the Act, in attempts to advocate for positive changes. Something Ottawa-West MPP Jim Watson refused to get involved in, stating that CAS's are autonomous bodies, governed by a "community elected" Board of Directors.

It also appears to me that the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) in their most recent Annual Report reveals that Ontario's Children's Aid Societies paid approximately 2.4 Million Dollars in Ministry Allocated Transfer Funds for membership fees to the OACAS, who has also retained the legal services of Swadron Associates law firm to intimidate me from creating an on-line, free yahoo support group for people who wish to learn more about obtaining a membership with their own local Children's Aid Society. This expenditure in the face of a recent submission by the OACAS which speaks about the "Administrative Burden" and costs associated with the Ministry's Transformation Agenda and Accountability measures.

I encourage anyone who is concerned about the welfare of Ontario's families and vulnerable children to contact their local Children's Aid Society and ask for a membership. If you have your membership application denied as others have experienced (myself included) call the Foster Care Council of Canada at 613-220-1039 or visit us on the web at for free support.


John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada

Friday, February 06, 2009

OACAS Posturing for Legal Action

It appears that the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) is still posturing to take legal action against John Dunn for starting a free on-line yahoo group titled "Ontario Association of Children's Aid Society Members" for people who have, or who intend to join their local Children's Aid Society as a regular voting member for the purposes of discussing how to advocate for changes in the way the Societies provide services through proper channels such as annual elections of Board members, attending monthly Society Board meetings and through the privileges available to them as members as stipulated in the Societies' By-Laws and under the Corporations Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. c-38.

On Friday February 06, 2009, at 5:09 pm, Dunn received a further email from Barry B. Swadron of Swadron Associates, externally retained counsel for the OACAS apparently seeking to confirm whether Mr. Dunn still intends to keep the name of his on-line yahoo group as is.

Dunn responded to Swadron seeking clarification from his client as to whether anyone has actually confused the two different entities and what harm was caused as a result of any alleged confusion to this point.

See the e-mail communications below:

Dear Mr. Dunn,

Further to my e-mail of January 16, 2009 herein, have you decided whether you are going to rename the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Society Members?

Barry B. Swadron, Q.C.
Swadron Associates
Barristers & Solicitors
115 Berkeley Street
Toronto, Ontario
M5A 2W8
Tel: (416) 362-1234
Fax: (416) 362-1232

Dunn's Email Response

Thank-you for your letter,

Before I make a final determination, can you ask your client if anyone has actually confused the two different entities and what harm was caused to this point?

John Dunn

Friday, January 23, 2009

Peterborough Letter to Editor on on Ombudsman Oversight of CAS

You can read a Letter to the Editor regarding Ombudsman Jurisdiction over Children's Aid Societies in Ontario at the following link. [here]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Durham CAS Keeping Mother from Plan of Care Meetings

RE: Name Removed
From: John Dunn (
Sent: January 22, 2009 8:26:47 PM
To: Name Removed (Mother);;
Cc:; DurhamCAS Media (; TheresaDucey DurhamCASSupervisor (; WandaSecord ExecDirDurhamCAS (; Susan McNeilDurhamCAS (; Lana PryceDurhamCASCounsel (; Durham CAS (; DurhamNews News (; MinCentralEast RegionalOffice (

Note to the media: Please remember that you can not publish information which has the effect of identifying a child in foster care, his parents and foster parents, however nothing in law prevents you from publishing information which identifies staff, volunteers or others professionally involved in child-welfare proceedings.

(See section 45 (8) Child and Family Services Act)

Name Removed (Mother)

I am monitoring this situation with the Durham Children's Aid Society preventing you from attending the Plan of Care meetings with your son. I am also preparing a press release in relation to this matter and will distribute it to the local Durham media, Ministry Officials, Members of Parliament such as Child and Youth Services Critic Andrea Horwath, Julia Munro, the Ombudsman for submission to their child-welfare portfolio, the Ontario Auditor General's Office, Child and Youth Services Sector, and others within the wider area press, and ultimately on my blog.

As you are aware, I have offered the Durham CAS an opportunity to correct the content of our blog as archived so far and have not yet received any response, therefore verifying it's accuracy, and again, I extend the same offer to anyone at the Durham Children's Aid Society on a permanent basis.

For now, I will be posting a brief update in regard to this matter and hope that the Society acts in a professional manner and responds to you as soon as possible regarding your request.

John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada

Friday, January 16, 2009

2009 - A New Year

During the Foster Care Council of Canada's November, 2008 board meeting it was decided that the advocacy efforts of individual members would be posted to their own personal blogs as opposed to the Council blog. Only official Council business will be posted to the Council blog. Therefore in 2009 you will see more advocacy related postings added to this blog accompanied by my general thoughts and experiences I wish to share with you.

Durham CAS Invited to Ensure Accuracy of Posts

The following e-mail was sent to Wanda Secord (Executive Director Durham CAS) Susan Mcneil, Lana Pryce (Durham CAS Counsel), Theresa Ducey (Durham CAS Supervisor), and the Durham News.

Durham Children's Aid Society
Oshawa Ontario

Date: Thurs. January 16, 2009

Attention: Society Board members, staff, and counsel,

Invitation for Detailed Corrective Submission
In the interests of ensuring that all parties have an opportunity to have their voices heard and to ensure the information as posted on our News blog is accurate according to all parties, I would like to extend an invitation to the Society, their staff, and counsel to make any detailed corrective submission they wish to see added to our News blog.

Relevance of Society Submissions
In a similar fashion to the way an appeal court works, we will not post unrelated information. Otherwise, in the interests of fairness, we will accept and post any unrelated submission the Society makes and will make a determination as to its appropriateness for public consumption in relation to this matter.

Please be aware that similar to the way Societies allow their clients to make additional rather than destructive amendments to their own records all information submitted by the Society will be posted publicly to our News blog by way of additional as opposed to destructive amendment.

Reminder: Nothing in the Child and Family Services Act(the Act) prevents the Society from talking to the public about their operations or cases. The Act only prevents people from making public information which has the effect of identifying a child who is the subject of a proceeding under the Act, the child's parent, or foster parent. All Societies are also exempt from any other Privacy Legislation in Canada therefore they can not claim to be restricted by such when referring to their operations and cases. Our News blog does not contravene section 45 (8) of the Act since none of the information made public on it has the effect of identifying a child who is the subject of a child-welfare proceeding, the child's parent or foster parent.

Corrective Submission Deadline Date
The Society is required to send a corrective submission to by 4:30 pm, Friday, January 23, 2009 for publication to our News blog.

Confirmation of the Accuracy of Information Posted
In the alternative, if the Society believes the information posted to our News blog to be accurate as posted, there is no requirement for the Society to respond by the stated deadline date and the Society understands, agrees, and permits me to understand and truly believe that the information posted to our News blog is accurate as posted if they do not make a corrective submission to me as instructed.

Simple Denial not Acceptable
The Society is also to understand that a simple statement asserting the information posted on our News blog is not accurate -- without giving a corrective submission -- will not convince me to believe so.

Defining Corrective Submission
A "Corrective Submission" is to be understood in the context of this communication as having three distinct parts.

Part I - Assertion of Innacuracies
An assertion that a particular word, sentence, or paragraph contains inaccuracies

Part II - Reason for Belief of Inaccuracies
Reason(s) the Society believes the word, sentence or paragraph contains inaccuracies

Part III - Corrective Information
Corrective information which expresses the Society's version of the information which is to be clarified.

Having said this, the Society is encouraged to carefully review the information as posted to our News blog to ensure its accuracy and to enable it to appropriately respond by the stated deadline date if so required.

The News blog is located on the Internet at

I am looking forward to hearing from the Society in relation to this matter.

John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Durham CAS Showing Signs of Cooperating with Client

It has been reported to the Council that the Durham Children's Aid Society is showing signs of co-operating with their client recently in relation to the previously posted issues, in that they have met with her personally to discuss the issues of concern to her and appear to be making some progress however we are still monitoring the situation.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Durham CAS Lawyer Lana Pryce Refuses to Talk Despite Client Permission

NOTE TO MEDIA: Nothing in the Child and Family Services Act prevents the Society from talking to the media about their operations. They are only prevented from making public information which has the effect of identifying a child who is the subject of a child-welfare proceeding, a parent, or a foster parent. See Section 45 (8) CFSA If they refuse to talk about this case based on "Privacy Legislation" contact John Dunn at 613-228-2178. All CAS's are exempt from any other Privacy Legislation

At their Annual General Meeting on September 11, 2008 the Durham Children's Aid Society and their Board of Directors officially launched their new Vision, Mission, and Strategic Priorities which they claim are important to ensuring that the Society works with the families they serve collaboratively to build on their strengths rather than to focus on their weaknesses, something child-welfare services have been known for over the years, but have been trying to move away from more recently.

Their claim asserts that their Vision, Mission, and Strategic Priorities were the result of the collaborative hard work of their Board members, staff and many other stakeholders, however, it appears a few of the Society's staff members and legal counsel may not have been involved in the collaborative process.

Despite the Durham Children's Aid Society receiving a written authorization from one of their clients which permits them to speak openly with the client's support person John Dunn of the Foster Care Council of Canada, the Society's legal counsel, Lana Pryce still refuses to contact Dunn, in essence, preventing the Society's client from being heard as is their right even if through a support person.

This client is not someone who has abused their child rather the client appropriately reached out to the agency for help during a time of temporary crisis, doing what the client thought was the right thing to do at the time in the best interests of the child.

Unfortunately, the client was not provided with counseling or information on what could be done as a temporary measure, and instead has been informed by the Agency that they are making a summary judgment motion in court to have the child adopted out without even the chance to defend it at a trial.

The client reports that the Society's Carmella Lanzillotti, (client's former worker) told the client 'We are the Children's Aid Society not the Parents Aid Society. We are here to help the children not the parents" A statement which does not appear to uphold the Society's Vision, Mission and Strategic Priorities.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Durham CAS Client Authorizes Communication Regarding Case

The Durham Children's Aid Society client who has been seeking access to her files for several days has given written authorization to the Society, their Directors, Staff and Legal Counsel to openly communicate with John Dunn of the Foster Care Council of Canada to facilitate advocacy on her behalf in her attempts to get access to personal information the Society has in their care and control about her.

Prior to obtaining the written authorization from the Durham CAS client, Dunn contacted the Society's internal Legal Counsel, Lana Maria Patricia Pryce at 905-433-1551 x2318 to ask if she would explain why the Society is refusing to allow this one particular client to have access to her files in contravention of Society policy and common practice.

Policies and practices which have been previously confirmed by the Society's Supervisor, Theresa Ducey as being established. Upon receiving a return call from Pryce, and after starting to ask about the Society's practice regarding clients accessing their files, Dunn was met with an abrupt response from Pryce stating simply that she is not going to discuss the matter and referring me to the Society's media relations department staff.

Dunn then obtained the written authorization from the client enabling the Society to discuss the case with him and then left a message on Pryce's voice-mail asking her to respond. So far, there has been no response, although someone from the Society has visited this blog as confirmed by our stats counter.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Durham CAS Supervisor Theresa Ducey Denies Client Access to Files

UPDATE Monday January 05, 2009

A Durham Children's Aid Society supervisor, Theresa Ducey is refusing to allow a client to review their own files, something clients have a right to do, and which is a fairly standard practice within most child-welfare agencies and departments across the Country.

John Dunn, the Executive Director of the Foster Care Council of Canada talked on the phone with Ducey approximately a week ago and Ducey informed him that file access is a fairly regular procedure where a worker will accompany the client while they review their files.

Dunn is also in the process of trying to obtain a copy of the Society's policy on client access to their own files so the client is aware of their rights.

"It is extremely frustrating to see that a Supervisor at the Durham Children's Aid Society is choosing to be contentious on such a simple matter, which will end up costing hundreds or thousands of tax-payer dollars for legal counsel as the Society is unnecessarily dragged through the complaints procedure of the Child and Family Services Review Board" Dunn said.

The Council is currently working on a press release regarding this matter and will make a report available to the provincial Auditor who now has jurisdiction over Children's Aid Societies, the Ombdusman of Ontario, child-welfare critics at the Legislative Assembly, the local Regional Office of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, the Minister of Children and Youth Services and to the media in the hopes of bringing the appropriate attention to this matter.


John Dunn