What’s normal and what’s abnormal: Best practices in the face of allegations of poor parenting, child abuse and family violence.
Please join us on October 19 & 20, 2023, in Toronto, for our AGM and Annual Conference, as we celebrate AFCC Ontario’s 15th Anniversary. This year’s conference will be packed with the most up-to-date research and cutting-edge practice advice on how to deal with allegations of poor parenting, child abuse and family violence, delivered by a roster of leading experts in the field of family law and child protection.
The Law Society has approved the conference for 3 professionalism credits.
Date: Thursday, October 19th, 2023
Place: The Advocates’ Society, 250 Yonge Street
Pre-Conference Evening Social: Join us at the Advocates’ Society between 5:30-7:30pm.
Date: Friday, October 20th, 2023
Place: Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street
Justice Julie Audet
The Honourable Justice Fred Myers will preside over and Professor Rollie Thompson will moderate this year’s Practice Skills Program, which will be presented by Dr. Barbara Fidler (Psychologist), Julie Hannaford (J K Hannaford Barristers) and Shawn Richard (ASR Family and Estate Law).
Lawyers and Mental Health Professionals alike will benefit from this afternoon of instruction and demonstration from renowned leaders in the family justice community on the topic of how to conduct a Voir Dire to determine the admissibility of a child’s statements. The fact situation will involve a Voice of the Child Report in respect of a mobility issue. Learn the gold star standard of what a voir dire is, how it works and how to do it yourself in this master class offering.
Legal professionals will learn about the circumstances in which a voir dire will be appropriate and the techniques of how best to conduct it, what to do and what not to do.
Mental health professionals will learn how to give evidence when challenges are made to the admissibility of evidence contained in their reports and to their qualifications to give evidence.
Followed by a social gathering at 5:30 pm
The Practice Skills Program will then be followed by a social gathering at the Advocates’ Society with light snacks and a cash bar starting at 5:30pm.
789 Yonge St., Toronto
Mr. Paul Dubé, Ontario’s Ombudsman
8:30 a.m to 9:00 a.m.
Annual General Meeting
9:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
Welcome and Introduction
9:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
AFCC-Ontario’s 15th Anniversary Address
by Michael Saini and Stacey Platt
9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Child development Primer: Decoding child and parent
behavior in high conflict situations
Dr. Pushpa Kanagaratnam, Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Psychiatry
Dr. Catherine Horvat, Clinical Psychologist, Founder and Executive Director of the Ottawa Center for Resilience
High conflict parents tend to come to alarmist conclusions about their children and their behaviours and look to blame someone else for their worries, such as the other parent, the parenting arrangement, the school, or health professionals. This includes jumping to conclusions about the parenting of the other parent and that their child’s behaviour is a sign of distress and maltreatment. When in fact, a lot of the behaviours that children in high conflict families display, and the parenting behaviours of the parents, are developmentally normal behaviours.
Family law professionals are often in a position to provide corrective information about normal child and parent behaviour that could help to deescalate high conflict families and stop them from jumping to conclusions. You will leave this interactive talk with psychologists, Drs. Horvath and Kanagaratnam, with an understanding of what are normative child and parent behaviours, an awareness of the role of culture and cultural variations in parenting and child behaviours, and when behaviours actually raise flags.
11:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
11:15 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m.
Mr. Paul Dubé, Ontario’s Ombudsman
In December 2022, the Ombudsman released A Voice Unheard: Brandon’s Story. This investigation detailed how the interests of “Brandon” failed to be protected despite multiple investigations and reports of concerns about his well-being and living conditions. The Ombudsman issued 18 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the child protection agency, that “reinforce the need to keep the best interests of the child central to its service provision.”
In April 2023, the Ombudsman released Missing in Inaction: Misty’s Story, after concerns were raised about the adequacy of measures taken to ensure the safety of “Misty,” a vulnerable Indigenous girl who repeatedly went missing while she was supposed to be receiving supervised services from a foster care agency. The Ombudsman made 58 recommendations to the three agencies, aimed at improving services provided to children and young people in care.
In his keynote speech, Ombudsman Dube will discuss several lessons learned and highlight concrete best practices relevant to those working with, or providing services to, children and youth. The Ombudsman will also share the process of conducting investigations that increase the likelihood that recommendations are accepted based on a number of key factors, including the compilation of irrefutable evidence when child abuse and family violence is present.
12: 30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
(included in registration fee)
1:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
Presentation of the Dena Moyal Award:
The Honourable Justice Debra Paulseth
1:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Factors affecting children’s memory: What research tells us and implications for practice
Dr. Kim Roberts, Wilfrid Laurier University, Child Memory Lab
Meredith Kirkland-Burke, Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect Program, The Hospital for Sick Children
We often deal with family matters where a number of professionals have interviewed the child (CAS, Pediatrician, Evaluator, etc.). What standards are being employed (or not) when interviewing children and assessing the information received from children? When is it appropriate for professionals (lawyers, evaluators, judges) to rely on the information and when is it not appropriate? For example, when a child has made an allegation of sexual assault or abuse – a CAS worker may interview the child and conclude that the allegation is not verified. But how was the interview conducted? What is the professional’s understanding of the child’s memory and how was the information elicited?
Join these two experts as they answer many of the questions that you have about children’s memory and best practices for front-end professionals who interview children or who are required to assess the credibility of children’s statements to an interviewer.
3:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
3:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Children’s statements contained in Voice of the Child’s Reports:
pros, cons, risks and limitations
Justice Nicole Tellier, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Family Court
Katherine Kavassalis, Legal Counsel and Deputy Legal Director, Personal Rights Department, Office of the Children’s Lawyer
Shaista Durrani, Regional Clinical Supervisor, Office of the Children’s Lawyer
Introduction by Dianne Carter, The Children’s Lawyer
The “best interest” test has always included ascertaining views and preferences of the child where possible, but short of judges interviewing every child, prior to VOC Reports, there were few tools available to assist the court in obtaining this important piece of information. Katherine will walk you through the initial VOC Report pilot project, the reasoning behind VOC Reports, their uses and their limitations. Shaista will outline the training that clinicians at the OCL receive to conduct VOC Reports, highlight the key differences between VOCs and s. 112 Reports, discuss the pros and cons, and explain when VOCs may not be appropriate. The Honourable Justice Tellier will explore perspectives from the Bench, the purpose and utility of VOC Reports for judges who do not readily conduct judicial interviews; Justice Tellier will elaborate on her recent decision in Byers v. Byers, and address the need for a standardized approach / accepted methodology for VOC Reports moving forward.
4:15 to 5:00 p.m.
Parenting caselaw update
Aaron Franks, Partner at Epstein Cole LLP
Join Aaron as he provides a summary of the most recent and important case law relevant to parenting issues, including admissibility of children’s statements and of social science evidence, as well as on the new provisions of the law in relation to relocation and family violence.
The Law Society has approved the conference for 1 hour and 25 mins of professionalism hours and 4 hours and 45 mins of EDI Professionalism hours.