In July 2003 I visited with Sharon at her home. Sharon was a friend and co-worker who began volunteering with CAS a few years after I started working for them. I trained her in her volunteer activities, which included office administration. I had years ago encouraged Sharon to apply for a job at CAS and she eventually became an Administrative Assistant alongside myself. While visiting with Sharon at her home, I told her about an argument I had with my spouse three months earlier. She told me of a similar incident she had had with her husband a few years prior.
In early September, two months after my visit with Sharon, my common-law relationship came to an end. I had ended it for other reasons and he was not living in my home. At the same time, I was pregnant and had a C-section scheduled for mid-September. Sharon offered to book the day off work and accompany me to the hospital so I wouldn't be alone. When Sharon spoke to Marcus, her supervisor, about getting the day off, she told him about our conversation and the argument I had had with my former spouse. I like to believe that Sharon's heart was in the right place. I think she had a little bit of a "rescuer" complex and wanted to look like the hero coming to my aid by discussing what had happened in the past. I had been working there for almost ten years, was an excellent and very involved employee, yet Marcus didn't think to phone me. Instead, he reported the argument to Intake, who then called the Police to track me down and get a statement. I think Marcus had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. Had he phoned me, or had a meeting with me, he would have realized this did not have to be dealt with the way that it was. I had seen worse cases not opened and Police not involved. This whole thing was a little over zealous, and I believe it was only because I was employed by the CAS that they became too gun-ho about everything.
Shortly afterwards, Laura, a social worker from my office, was pulled over for speeding. The police informed her that they were looking for a worker from her office for a statement. Laura offered to go to the police station and pick up the report. She then shared the information with Sharon. I was returning home from Toronto approximately three days prior to my scheduled C-Section and Sharon called me over for tea. When I arrived, Laura was there, which I thought was odd because I didn't think Sharon and Laura socialized. They told me there was an arrest warrant out for my former partner based on the incident in April. I was stunned. I said, “What? Why? There were no children involved in that. That's ridiculous!”
It's amazing the power that the CAS has to get the police doing things. What was most annoying to me, after working with CAS for so long and knowing the policies and procedures, was the following: 1) the dispute was not in front of children, therefore not a CAS issue. 2) It was an historical event. 3) Laura should NEVER have gotten herself involved in this.
Laura made a statement to police that was full of lies. She said I confided in her about being in an abusive relationship, which was not true. She somehow became the number one witness, yet, she had never witnessed anything! My former partner was subsequently arrested and not allowed to attend the hospital when his daughter was born. He would have been at the birth of our child, but because they had him arrested a restraining order was put on him. My hospital room was right by the nurses' station and a police officer was one of the first to see my baby. I have no family in this country,I drove myself to the hospital for my C-section, went through it alone and went home alone. It was a very difficult time for me.
Several weeks after giving birth, I started trying to piece everything together. What on earth happened? Why was the CAS so gun-ho over something that did not involve children? They had forever taken something from my former partner - the birth of his daughter. My other children were devastated by the whole event.
I called Sharon to ask her why Laura would lie in a statement to police. She said she didn't know. I called Laura and asked her about it, and she said Sharon had given her all the information. Laura then told me, 'Whatever you want me to say in court I will. If you want your ex to go to jail, I will make sure he does.' I met with the arresting officer and the Crown Attorney and told them Laura had offered to lie in court. I also told them that I didn't agree with the charges. Laura was dismissed as a witness.
Having worked with Laura in the same office for a number of years you get to know who she is. I was the Administrative Assistant and Laura was a social worker. I would type up reports for Laura as I did for all the other workers. Laura was a very young social worker and her personality was that of what some would call a "drama queen". She seemed to thrive on the adrenaline rush of getting the police involved. She was young and single and on many occasions would make statements regarding young, single police officers. It almost seemed that any chance she could get to be around the officers she would. In my opinion, she really didn't have anything to gain by lying in her statement, other than gaining an opportunity to be at the Police Station and experiencing the adrenaline rush of the situation. Her whole statement was basically lies. Actually, it was very upsetting to read the lies.... saying I confided in her, and quoting things I had said, when in actual fact I had not said them at all. To be honest, I generally get along with everyone, am very easy going and laid back; I wouldn't say I disliked Laura but I had absolutely no respect for her. I did not like the way she worked and the way she would come back from apprehending children - laughing and joking about it, trashing the mothers and basically getting another notch on her belt. After the initial "swoop and scoop", as she liked to call it, she never really put a lot of effort into getting the families back together.
She lied all the time on her cases and children were removed from homes that did not need to be. She loved the adrenaline rush of taking children from their homes and was especially proud when she got to snatch a baby from the breast of its mother in an apprehension. I would hear her say things like "Yee ha! Going to swoop and scoop a baby," and "Going to the police station to get someone to come with me to take a kid." I think the worst was when she came back from one of her "swoop and scoops" and boasted about how she snatched the baby from the mum's boob as she breast fed it. This disgusted me and I did lose respect for Laura. It actually upset me. Being a mother I can imagine how heartbreaking it would be to have my baby snatched away from me while breast feeding. She is disgusting and not the person who should be caring for less fortunate children. What is most frightening to me is that Laura offered to lie in court.
After Laura was dismissed as a witness, she and Sharon went to their supervisor and Human Resources to report that I was threatening them. They said they were afraid of me and that I had said I would sue them. This was all a lie. I had done nothing. When Laura showed up in court to testify and the Crown Attorney sent her home as a discredited witness, I believe she panicked, thinking if CAS found out she had lied and was a discredited witness, it may affect her career as a social worker. I think a lot of the information Laura had about my relationship came from Sharon because I never discussed my personal life with Laura. The day Sharon and I were talking, and I told her about my relationship and the incident that occurred to me, she told me of an incident when her husband grabbed her by the throat - an historical event. I didn't go to my supervisor and tell him about that! I wonder if I had, would the same thing have happened to Sharon that happened to me? I was friends with Sharon and her husband. I had taken Sharon to England with me to visit my family and tour around a little. I considered her a responsible person and I respected that what happened between her and her husband was in the past and that they had worked through it. I wish she had felt the same way about me when I told her my story. I trusted we were friends just talking about our relationships.
While I was on maternity leave, I received a phone call from Paul in Human Resources, basically saying I was to hand in my keys, stay away from the office, not talk to any fellow co-workers, and that I was no longer allowed to volunteer with the CAS. I was devastated. I felt like a criminal and didn't understand. I had seniority over both of them and yet no one was thinking, 'maybe this isn't right, lets get Amanda's side of the story.' I have friends that still work at CAS and one friend told me about a staff meeting where Laura curled up on the floor to appear terrified and distraught, as though she was afraid of me. It was horrifying to hear this from my friend. The locks and security codes were changed at the office and I was warned not to come near the building.
At no time did I ever threaten anyone. I was recovering from a C-Section and could barely carry my child let alone be a threat to anyone. It was just devastating. I was involved in a Toy Drive and they even called the newspaper to tell them I could not be involved. It was very humiliating and embarrassing. I had devoted 14 years to volunteering, in addition to working for the CAS. My performance appraisals were exemplary! If Laura and Sharon were feeling threatened it was their own doing by creating a web of deceit and realizing I was cluing into it. If their lies came to light, their jobs and reputation could be at stake. I will never forget Laura saying, "If you want him to go to jail, I can make that happen.” That is how powerful she thought she was. It makes me sick to think of how many families she has destroyed by her lies. Frightening, really.
When my maternity leave ended, I thought I would be returning back to work. However, I felt I could not work in the same office as Laura (it is a very small office) because I would be forced to see the person that redefined my life, my children's lives and that of my former partner. I asked that either she be re-located or that I be re-located. I was told that wasn't possible.
I spoke with a lawyer because I felt I was being forced to quit. The CAS paid me 6 months salary as compensation and I felt I had no choice but to take it. When they gave me the package, I was basically told not to speak of this, not to speak of Laura offering to lie in Court, not to speak of any of it, and I did not. I did not want to leave because I loved my job and the people I worked with. I got on well with all of them, stayed late when necessary, really put my heart and soul into it, and it made me very happy. What I hated was the politics, and the way it had become with "sacrificing the children to balance the books." I felt like it was more of a business than a social agency, but I think many social agencies have gone that way.
Seven years went by and life moved on. In the Fall of 2010, I had a yearning to volunteer with the CAS again because I had thoroughly enjoyed it. I had actually seen Sharon occasionally and we always chatted. I did not see Laura because she had relocated to another CAS. I was told to apply to be a volunteer in February 2011, which I did. I was to come to a training session in March. I showed up at the CAS office for the training session and Marcus, Sharon's supervisor, grabbed me before I could go in, took me to his office and asked me what I was doing. I told Marcus I wanted to volunteer again, and he asked me if I thought that was a good idea? I replied that I thought so because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Marcus did not want me volunteering. Then Paul from Human Resources got involved. I didn't understand why I could not volunteer. They were talking as if something horrid had happened to Sharon and Laura and that I should not be near them. Quite frankly, if anything horrid had happened, it was done to me, not to them.
I convinced them to let me try volunteering for a three month probation period. Paul agreed, but told me I had to get a criminal record check, drivers abstract, and references. I gave references, they asked for more. I gave more, they asked for more. The whole process dragged on and on. Finally, in July 2011, they told me that I could not be a volunteer. My references were excellent but they told me when they spoke with people in the office, the staff expressed I should not be a volunteer. I was confused. I see these people all the time, we chat, I am still the captain of the lottery pool (Lotto 649) at the CAS office, which we have been in since I started working there in 1994. I collect the money and purchase the tickets. To this day, there are a dozen workers that give me their money to buy the next subscription of tickets every 13 weeks. These are the people who do not want me volunteering in their office? They will trust me with their money, but not as a volunteer? I spoke with one of them and they said they had no knowledge of people having an issue with me, except perhaps Alison, as she was best friends with Laura and Sharon.
I enjoyed the children that I got to know through my volunteering. I still bump into some of them in town and they remember me. Occasionally, I get a big hug from them and that is a wonderful feeling. It makes me feel like I made a difference in their lives. It was actually one of those hugs in a local grocery store last year that made me think about how much I miss the CAS, being a volunteer and working there. That is why I started the process to volunteer again. I really had no idea I was going to be turned down, no idea at all. The way I was treated makes me think there is something I don't know, something that Laura and/or Sharon said that I am not aware of because it seems so outlandish that, based on what I know, I am not allowed to volunteer. I did nothing wrong. If anything, I was the "victim". For the supervisor of volunteering to refuse me, I think something must have been said that was untrue.
I felt oppressed by the whole situation as well as embarrassed. I feel totally victimized. I did nothing wrong at any time. Sharon and Laura manipulated the system and their power to cover up their wrongdoings. It appals me that people like this are allowed to work in such an organization. It is corrupt. After eight years I am still being punished for something I did not do! They just don't want the truth to come out.
All I wanted to do was offer my volunteer services, and because of their dirty little secrets I was made to feel like a criminal. The actions of these people re-defined my life, and not for the better.