Foster mother airs grief with N.S. adoption system

A Nova Scotia woman who waged a bruising adoption battle with the Department of Community Services is speaking out, in the hopes no one else goes through what she and her foster son experienced

"I cannot fathom any miscarriage of justice greater than that," she told CBC News.

The woman cannot be identified to protect her and the children in her care and she is only identified in court documents by the letters TG.

Her fight involved a two-year-old boy she cared for from the day he was born until just before his second birthday.

Over the years, TG has provided foster care to more than 20 children, but she became concerned about short-term foster-care arrangements because they appeared to upset her son.

"This was too hard for him as well as myself," TG said.

But when she told him she was considering not bringing any more foster children into their home, she got a surprise.

"And he's asking 'why not?' and I said, 'well, it's too hard to say goodbye.' And he just looked at me and he said 'if we don't do it mommy, who will?'"

TG told workers at the Department of Community Services she was only interested in long-term foster care arrangements with the possibility of adopting.

"I was told the department had a clear understanding of my position," she said.

"And in talking to my worker made it very clear that I was getting very close to saying no I can't foster any more."

When it came time to consider the boy's long-term future, TG attended a placement conference.

"I actually twice asked during that meeting 'Is this a done deal? Have you already decided where this child is going?'"

She was assured that was not the case.

But when she took the Community Services department to court, she discovered she was never seriously considered.

"I was shocked sitting in court to hear that my name was never even on the table for that meeting. It came out in court, my information was not passed around," TG said.

"They did not have my case studies. They were not told."

The department had decided to place the toddler with a woman who was already caring for his two older sisters.

According to the department, that second woman had initially indicated she could not take the third child.

But by the time his future was being decided, she had told the department she was willing to adopt all three children.

"This has never been a case of her versus me as far as I'm concerned," TG said.

"This is a case of the procedure that was followed and the definition of what is the best interest of the child."

TG argued the department failed to consider the strong attachments the toddler had formed with her and her son.

She challenged the department's decision in court, and won. The trial judge ordered a new adoption assessment, and that second assessment determined the boy was better off staying with TG.

The department appealed the trial judge's decision. The appeal court sided with the department, which went ahead with its original adoption plan.

"Within two hours of that appeal decision being overturned four workers showed up at my door and removed him; basically with the clothes on his back, and that's it. They weren't interested in his toys, they weren't interested in his clothes. We had an hour to an hour and a half goodbye visit because my son was at school at the time. And that's it. That's all I've heard," she said.

TG is hoping that by speaking out, she can improve things for future adoption cases.

"If the system changes, great," she said. "If it doesn't, I've done what I could."

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