At what point is it reasonable to terminate an order for supervised access? That is the very question the court considered in a recent case. As the court noted, while resolution is always encouraged, judges have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that orders in relation to children are safe and appropriate.
The respondent parents had a young child together. In early 2018, it was reported that the child – who was then approximately seven weeks old – had received an “unexplained” head injury. Among other things, the child had suffered brain bleeding and hemorrhaging, as well as eye hemorrhaging. He also had bruising on parts of his body.
A physician from the Child Advocacy and Assessment Program, Dr. B, concluded that the child had had “severe inflicted trauma” to his head, back and abdomen.
The parents refused to accept Dr. B’s opinion, but they could not present a credible explanation for the child’s injuries. As a result, another physician, Dr. W, provided a second opinion about the child’s condition. Dr. W supported Dr. B’s conclusion that the child had been physically abused. In fact, Dr. W opined that the child had suffered “traumatic head injuries” at least two times before.
Given the circumstances, the child’s maternal grandparents took care of him after he was released from hospital. The parents’ access to the child was supervised until the summer or fall of 2019, at which point they began having unsupervised access.
In January 2020, the child was placed in the parents’ care for a period of five months, under supervision by the Children’s Aid Society.
In June, the Children’s Aid Society brought a motion to terminate the supervision order.
The court recognized that the child had been doing well in the care of the parents. However, it found that the basis for the initial apprehension and protection of the child was “extremely troubling.” In dismissing the Children’s Aid Society’s motion, the court explained:
…horrific unexplained injury cases require enduring community vigilance. Anything less would be an abdication of our responsibility to protect a young, vulnerable child who has already been severely abused.
In the end, the court commended the parents for their progress and applauded the Children’s Aid Society’s efforts to support family repair and reunification. However, the court ultimately concluded that it was premature to grant the order the Children’s Aid Society was requesting. Interestingly, the court also noted that because of COVID-19, the Children’s Aid Society is currently conducting its supervision by videoconference, which is somewhat less intrusive for parents and less expensive for the Children’s Aid Society.
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