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CHILD PROTECTION - Protective agencies and institutions - Supervision or guardianship

Monday, January 13, 2020 @ 8:41 AM  

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Appeal by the mother from an order placing her daughter in the Minister’s permanent care. The child was taken into care in 2016 at age 4 months and the mother was involuntarily hospitalized for a period. The child then resided with the mother under the supervision of the grandmother. The mother was taking medication by injection and was under the care of a mental health team which included regular contact with a psychiatrist. By December 2017, she was no longer taking prescribed medication nor accessing mental health services and therapy, and the child was no longer in daycare. The mother was again involuntarily hospitalized for a period. She continued to exercise regular, supervised access at home and in the community, which had gone very well. Most of the child’s life was spent supervised by or in the care of the Minister. The mother was unwilling to accept the medical diagnosis of a permanent and irreversible delusional disorder. She was historically resistant to treatment at various periods. The judge found the child continued to be in need of protective services due to the real possibility that the mother would not adhere to medical treatment in the future in the same way she avoided treatment in the past. The judge then found a permanent care order was in the best interests of the child.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The judge did not apply the wrong test in determining that there continued to be substantial risk to her daughter under s. 22 of the Children and Family Services Act. When deciding whether there was substantial risk, a judge must only be satisfied that the chance of danger was real. She recognized it was not necessary for the evidence to show on a balance of probabilities that future physical harm, emotional abuse or negligence would occur for there to be a real chance of danger. While the judge did not state specifically the nature of this future harm beyond referring to the child’s well-being, a reading of the whole of her reasons demonstrated she accepted the Minister’s position on future harm that the 3-and-a-half-year-old child’s needs would not be met if the mother again stopped taking her prescribed medications. The judge made no error in considering the evidence of the mother’s past actions in assessing future risk. The fact the child did not appear to have suffered any physical harm or emotional abuse or neglect in the past when the mother was unable to look after her due to the deterioration of her mental health after she failed to adhere to treatment due to the actions of neighbours, police and the Minister, did not mean the judge erred in concluding that there was a real chance of danger to the child. There was no guarantee such timely interventions would take place in the future.

Nova Scotia (Minister of Community Services) v. C.R., [2019] N.S.J. No. 488, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, D.R. Beveridge, M.J. Hamilton and D.P.S. Farrar JJ.A., November 19, 2019. Digest No. TLD-January132020002