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Wrongly accused dad gets his due, $20,000 in restitution

The story below is one for the history books, because I don't think the child welfare system ever gave a falsely accused person some money to make up for their mistake, not without a fight, at least. Though not all cases warrent cash restitution, the actions of Winnipeg Child and Family Services is a testament to what an honourable child welfare system does when they make mistakes. Hopefully, their advances in investigative methodology will reduce the liklihood of false allegations in the future for the people of Manitoba [Canada].

It is a great day when you can see justice done, and give credit and respect to a child welfare system, two items that don't usually get into the same sentence for most people in Canada. This is the first time Parents Helping Parents has ever been able to obtain some financial redress for the wrongly accused, but I certainly hope it won't be the last.

Louise Malenfant

Family Advocate
Parents Helping Parents

Front Page Story

Winnipeg Free Press

Wrongly accused dad gets his due

$20,000 CFS settlement believed to set precedent

Sun, Apr 29, 2001

By Aldo Santin

A Beausejour man wrongly accused of sexually assaulting his child has received $20,000 from Winnipeg Child and Family Services. It is believed to be the first settlement of its kind in Canada.

The man, who can't be identified to protect his daughter's identity, fended off the allegations between 1995 and 1999, when an over-zealous social worker was convinced he was guilty.

No charges were ever brought against him and he was fully exonerated at a custody hearing. The judge blasted the social worker and Winnipeg CFS and awarded him custody of his daughter, who is now nine years old.

"(The settlement) might give hope to other people out there that might be in the same situation," the man said this week. As part of the settlement, he agreed not to criticize the agency.

Louise Malenfant, of Parents Helping Parents, a family advocacy group that helps parents navigate through the legal system, said the agency doesn't deserve criticism, only praise. "They provided a fairly substantial amount of money, which says to the dad, 'We made a mistake. We want to help you get back on your feet and put this behind you,' " said Malenfant, a staunch critic of child welfare agencies.

"They did this, not because they had to because of legal pressures; they did it because it was the right thing to do. I was very impressed."

Malenfant said Winnipeg CFS did more than dig into its pockets. As a result of the judge's ruling in 1999, the agency commissioned an independent review of the case, then completely overhauled its investigative procedures.

Malenfant said Winnipeg CFS is now the Canadian role model when it comes to proper parent-child sexual abuse investigations. She said the number of wrongful-accusation cases has declined so much in Manitoba that she moved Parents Helping Parents to Alberta.

A spokesman for Winnipeg CFS said the agency would not comment on the settlement.

Malenfant said her research has been unable to turn up any situations in which a child welfare agency willingly paid because a father was wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting a daughter. She said she did find a case in which an agency was ordered to make a $50,000 payment as a result of a court ruling.

"But in that case, the agency appealed and the man had to abandon it because he couldn't afford to keep fighting in court," she said. "In this case, there was no drawn-out civil trial and no exorbitant legal fees.

"It really demonstrates a certain nobility and honourable action on the part of Winnipeg CFS, one that is extremely rare for child welfare systems across the country."

But his four-year ordeal did put the man in debt. Because of the social worker, he could see his daughter only through supervised access, which cost him $14,000. The allegations cost him his job -- which he's since regained -- and he estimated his total expenses during that period reached $40,000.

"I was happy that I got some of my bills covered," he said. "I was happy for that."

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Posted 2001 04 30

Parents Helping Parents

Louise Malenfant

malenfant.jpg (2818 bytes)

Family Advocate, Parents Helping Parents

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Louise Malenfant passed away in 2006.  She is being missed.


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