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Wednesday, June 07, 2000

Children's Aid assailed for taking baby from disabled mother
Woman with cerebral palsy fights to have son returned
Adrian Humphreys
National Post, with files from Ottawa Citizen

Disability groups say the removal by Children's Aid Society workers of a five-day-old baby from his mother, who has cerebral palsy, will cause a "parenting chill" among disabled couples.

The baby boy was removed on Friday from his mother's care in Ottawa while she was breast-feeding the child, said the boy's father, who does not have a disability.

"They had the nurse unlatch him from my wife's breast while she was feeding him, take him to the nursery and dress him. They're trying to make my wife look incompetent. They're saying I can't look after both my wife and baby."

The mother, who cannot be named because it would identify her baby, uses a wheelchair and has limited use of her arms and legs. She is in court this week, arguing for the return of her baby.

"It's been heartbreaking," she said. "We know he's in foster care, but we have no idea where. Neither of us can stand it."

The couple had been trying for three years to have a baby. There were four miscarriages, including a set of twins, before their son was born by Caesarean section on May 26.

The executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa-Carleton said she could not comment on this case directly.

The CAS would likely have other reasons besides disability for a decision to remove a child, said Susan Abell, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa-Carleton.

She did call "absurd" an allegation that a CAS worker took a Polaroid photograph of the baby before taking him away and, when giving the picture to the distraught mother, said: "There's your consolation prize."

"When people are upset and in crisis and angry, they see things the way they see them," said Ms. Abell.

"We do the work we do with as much sensitivity as we can, but if that is the way they remember it or want to describe it there is not a lot we can do, other than say we are always trying -- even in very stressful situations -- to keep in mind what it is like for the mother and child."

Activists for the disabled say the case will be followed very closely.

"It is a very difficult thing to go through being discriminated against and most people will try to avoid situations where that happens. It will be really too bad if anyone misses out on the experience of parenthood because of a perception that there is hostility out there to what they want to do," said Mel Graham, spokesman for the Council of Canadians With Disabilities, a Winnipeg-based advocacy group.

Kevin Kinsella, 34, an Ottawa man with cerebral palsy who knows the couple, said the situation makes he and his wife nervous.

"We have been thinking of having children but this makes us shy away and there is no reason why we should be shying away. But this scares me. It makes me nervous to have children. It is not fair. It is inhumane."

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