Brandon couple reunited with newborn son who was apprehended 2 days after birth

A Brandon mother whose baby was taken just days after birth at the city’s hospital has now been reunited with her child.

The mother, who CBC is calling Jessica because her family is still involved with the child welfare system, says her infant was returned last Friday.

“I can’t even tell you how happy we are,” she told CBC News this week. “We’re so exhausted, we’re sleep deprived …. we’re still getting to learn his his routine,” she said.

The baby was taken by social workers and Child and Family Services workers in late November while mother and baby were still in hospital. She said a nurse began to ask questions about her partner’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. 

That was followed by allegations that the father had muttered something about shaking their baby — while trying to explain rocking or cradling — while she was out of the room, according to Jessica. 

“I was in absolute shock because I know that my partner would never intend to say such a thing. I know that you could accidentally say such a thing, but did it warrant such an extreme response?” Jessica said at the time.

She has spent the last two months trying to get the infant back. Before Christmas, the baby’s care was transferred from Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba to Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services. 

Jessica said she was due in court this Monday to begin fighting to regain custody of the baby, but said DOCFS surprised her last week when they said the child would be returned — if they allowed a support worker into her home, which they agreed to. 

But Jessica now fears the two months the baby was out of her home might have an impact on his development. 

“I can’t get back the breastfeeding bond and I can’t get back those two months,” she said. “And I don’t know how this will affect him in the future in terms of his development, whether or not it will affect you know, they say that babies remember things like these, and I really hope he doesn’t.”

Nearly 100 babies apprehended

According to figures obtained by CBC News thorough a freedom of information request, 93 babies under three days old were apprehended in the first eight months of 2020. 

The request, which was delivered to CBC News in late January, does not include figures for September to December 2020 due to a four month lag in the province’s data entry. In all of 2019, 203 children under three days old were apprehended.

Irwin Elman worked as Ontario’s Children’s Advocate from 2008 to 2019 and has worked with young people for more than 40 years. He says apprehension at any age can be unforgiving, but especially in infants. 

Irwin Elman was Ontario’s children and youth advocate between 2008 and 2019. (CBC)

“The bond between a mother and a child is almost instant,” he said. “Every time you separate a child — no matter what age — from these fundamental attachments, it weakens the ability for a person, a child, to form attachments in the future.

“The primary attachment for this infant is severed,” said Elman. “We know this has an affect on the child to attach in the future.” 

The province of Manitoba ended the practice of birth alerts — warnings from social services agencies intended to flag the history of an expectant mother considered “high risk,” which in some cases led to a baby’s apprehension in hospital — as of July 1, but said newborns can still face apprehension if a situation is deemed unsafe. 

“This may include the need for intervention when an infant is at a hospital,” a provincial spokesperson previously told CBC News. 

More family supports needed: advocate 

Elman said he would like to see more family supports brought in, rather than taking children away. 

“When a child is apprehended into a system, in some ways it causes the family to explode and to splinter,” he said. “Families tend to splinter, it causes great grief and stress in families.”

Jessica says her baby was taken last fall after she gave birth at the Brandon Regional Health Centre. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

He said the longer children are kept in care, the more questions they will have about their background and circumstances they will have as they age. 

Jessica said her partner has taken anger management and both took additional parenting classes while their baby was in care.

“We’ve been pretty proactive trying to show them that we are more than capable and ready of taking care of our child and that we want him home,” she said. “We did everything we could.” 

Jessica said, for now, she and her partner are looking forward to spending as much time with their baby as they can. 

“What’s next is being the family that we wanted to be,” she said. “Being the mom and dad that we are planning to be the minute he was born.”