Ministry to return Hope couple’s children

Paul and Zabeth Baynes say their four children, three of whom were apprehended by the B.C. Children’s ministry nearly four years ago,are being returned next month.

Paul and Zabeth Baynes say their four children, three of whom were apprehended by the B.C. Children’s ministry nearly four years ago,are being returned next month.

The three children, apprehended by the ministry in September, 2007, are being returned Aug. 25, and a baby apprehended at birth in February, 2011 is being returned Aug. 2.

“We’re ecstatic,” Zabeth Baynes told The Progress in a telephone interview Monday.

Baynes and her husband Paul were living in Hope when their three children were apprehended by the ministry because authorities believed the youngest child had injuries that suggested “shaken-baby” syndrome.

But in March this year, a provincial court judge ruled that shaking was not the cause of the little girl’s brain injuries.

The Baynes maintained the child was injured after an older brother, a toddler at the time, tripped and fell on top of her. When the child was later taken to hospital after a change in feeding habits was noticed, doctors suspected a “shaken-baby” case and reported it to the ministry.

The Baynes’ troubles with the ministry seemed to escalate after they went public with their story, and their long court battle with the ministry for the return of their children began.

In March this year, Judge Thomas Crabtree found that the little girl’s “unexplained injuries” justified the ministry’s concern for the safety of all the children.

But he also ruled that the family is the “preferred environment” for the children, and he gave the family six months to satisfy the ministry’s safety concerns.

“Children are entitled to be protected from abuse and neglect, and this must be the over-riding concern of the court,” Crabtree said, in his reasons for judgment.

Zabeth Baynes told The Progress she believes a “positive” report by a psychologist finally led to the ministry’s decision to return the children.

“The psychologist report turned out positive and determined our children should be returned as there was no support for a (continuing custody order) as there was no risk,” she said.

“It’s surreal,” she said, about the long-awaited return of her children. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

Until the children are officially returned, they will have extended overnight visits with the couple, “to assist in a smooth transition for them,” Zabeth said.

The ministry refused to comment on the Baynes case, for privacy reasons.

But a ministry spokesman said in an email that removal of a child from their parents is “always a last resort.”

“If supports cannot be put in place to make the home safe for the child, we would remove the child with a goal of returning the child to their home as soon as it is safe to do so,” the spokesman said.

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