A Sioux Valley Dakota Nation mother didn’t expect to leave empty handed when she went to a Brandon, Man. hospital to have her first baby on Nov 21.
After three days of labour, and when her son was just two days old, she and her partner were escorted from the hospital by three security guards while her newborn was whisked away by a child welfare worker.
“This is probably the biggest battle I’ve ever had in my life,” says the 38-year-old mother, who APTN News can’t name due to privacy rules under the child welfare act.
“There are no words — no one prepares you for something like that, no one prepares you for something that you’ve nurtured for nine months to be suddenly taken away due to an allegation, whether or not that happened, that was deemed risky.”
A nurse called child and family services (CFS) to report “unsafe language” triggering a visit.
Going on no sleep for three days, dad had been tending to the newborn who was fussing. He was talking quietly to the baby assuring him dad would rock him to console him. A nurse says she heard the word shake.
When a CFS worker came to the hospital she told the parents they had 24 hours to find an approved adult to move in with them into their two bedroom home if they were to leave with the baby.
Manitoba is currently in Code Red lockdown.
“There was no way we could make this happen,” says the mom. “How do you find someone to live with you in a pandemic and with no notice?”
Watch a segment of the APTN show InFocus featuring the parents
Arlene Stewart, chief executive officer for Child and family Services of Western Manitoba, says the baby – now more than two weeks old — will be returned when a “safety plan” is in place that may involve “personal and professional supports.”
“In order for a child to be returned home safely, we emphasize to the parents the behaviours we need to work with them on to ensure child safety,” Stewart said.
The mom says they don’t have behaviors they need to work on. She supplied 12 support letters to CFS including from her doctors. Her partner has ADHD and aged out of CFS himself, which she believes, is now being used to shape a narrative against them, along with her previously suffering from depression.
“I’m not sure how much stock they are taking of our extensive network of support,” the mom says.
“I think its correct that of (the hospital) to notify CFS if they believed that there was a risk but at this point it feels like what’s their end goal now? We were already prepared to begin with – we wanted this baby, we were prepared — and if I did have someone (move) into my home would you still put me through the hoops?”
She says they want their baby home by Christmas. Stewart said there’s no timeline on the baby’s return.
In the meantime they get to see him a few hours as week at the CFS office, watched closely by a case worker watching their every move. Because of the apprehension she’s not able to breastfeed him as they’d planned.
There are currently around 10,000 children in the CFS system in Manitoba. 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous.