When a child is removed from the home by order of the Director of Alberta Children’s Services, it is a traumatic event for the entire family. In some cases, the parents may want to challenge the Director’s decision in order to return their child to the home. Failing an immediate return, the parents continue to have a say in the care and interim guardianship of their child while they work on bringing them back home. However, this involvement can vary between cases and often depends on which caseworker is appointed to the matter.
At Mincher Koeman, we are uniquely qualified to assist a parent of an Indigenous child who wishes to have their child returned to their care after being removed from the home. Lynsey Mincher, one of our firm’s founding partners, previously worked as Director’s Counsel with Children’s Services before her move to private practice. Her experience there affords her unique knowledge of a complex system and enables our lawyers to advise clients with an insight into the child intervention process that few other family law firms in Calgary can provide.
We have considerable experience advising on child guardianship issues, particularly as they pertain to Indigenous children. We have become the firm that other lawyers in the Calgary family bar regularly reach out to with referrals for work or for our respected opinions. Our primary concern will always be to ensure that the best interests of the child are met in each case and that children are given the best chance possible for a stable home life while allowing for their continued connection to their identity and community.
Within 54 days of a child being removed from their home, the Director will seek an order for either Temporary Guardianship (“TGO”) or Permanent Guardianship (“PGO”), depending on the Director’s assessment of the likelihood of the child being returned to their parents. As part of this application, the Director must also apply for initial custody of the child in the interim. A parent wishing to challenge the child’s removal from the home may formally challenge the application for initial custody in court. The Director has to show they have reasonable and probable grounds to support the apprehension.
As soon as a child is apprehended, if the child is not returned within 2 days, the Director must apply to the court for an order for custody and for a TGO or PGO. When a parent receives notice that the Director will be making this application, we will begin to prepare a carefully crafted case on behalf of our client to address any concerns that the Director may have. It is crucial to put the best possible case forward.
If the Director is successful at the Initial Custody Hearing, they may be granted custody pending a Permanent Guardianship trial and later a PGO, which becomes much more difficult to challenge. Our lawyers will work with the parent(s) to establish a record of everything the parent has done to address the initial concerns of the Director and plans for ensuring their child’s ongoing safety and wellbeing. At the hearing, we will present a case on behalf of our client which demonstrates their willingness and ability to provide for the care and safety their child needs in order to thrive, while also highlighting the importance of keeping the child’s roots to the community intact. The court will then make a determination as to whether the child will remain in the Director’s custody or be returned to their home.
If the initial challenge is not successful, the parent of an Indigenous child can request to be involved with the decisions concerning their child’s care while they are out of the home. The parent can also request a Family Group Conference, which will allow the parent to identify potential guardians for their child to representatives of Children’s Services while the child remains under the Director’s guardianship.
In the event a child is removed from a parent’s care under a Permanent Guardianship Order, the parent still has the right to bring an application after a year has passed to terminate the PGO and reinstate the parent as a guardian of the child. An application of this nature is complex and parents seeking success in such an application face a number of hurdles. Our lawyers are familiar with the process of bringing such an application and will work with clients to ensure that they take all the necessary steps to place them in the best position for advancing such an application.
When an Indigenous child is removed from their home and placed outside of their community, the trauma is twofold. Most parents will want their child to be returned home as soon as possible. For parents who are committed to reversing that decision and providing their child with a safe home environment while ensuring their needs are met, Mincher Koeman can help. Our family lawyers will work with you to oppose the Director’s application for initial custody and have your child returned home while keeping a focus on the child’s need to maintain a much-needed connection to their community. Please contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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