GIST: "A provincially mandated outreach campaign that was trying to use schools to find children affected by the Motherisk scandal triggered such outrage among students, teachers and advocates that the Ministry of Education pulled the plug on the effort. A flyer posted this week at the request of the Ministry of Education on elementary and high school bulletin boards and Facebook pages appealed directly to children, with the question: “Were you taken from your parent by the Children’s Aid Society?” “Children’s Aid Societies used hair strand tests to see if parents were using drugs or alcohol. We know these tests were unreliable,” the flyer said. “Do you want to know if this testing was relied on in your case? If yes, we may be able to help and it’s completely confidential.” The flyer was produced by the Motherisk Commission, which the province established to probe thousands of child protection cases that relied on flawed hair drug tests from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk laboratory. It was distributed by deputy minister of education Bruce Rodrigues, with a letter to directors of education instructing them to share the flyer “through bulletin boards, newsletters, or other methods that are most likely to be seen by staff, parents and students.” The commission was established on the recommendation of Justice Susan Lang, whose review of Motherisk, which followed a Star investigation, found the lab’s tests from 2005 to 2015 were “inadequate” and “unreliable” for use in child custody and court proceedings. The Hospital for Sick Children closed the Motherisk lab in April 2015.........Shortly after schools began to circulate the flyer this week, word travelled to Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Irwin Elman, who tweeted on Tuesday evening that he was “stunned.” Concerned the flyer would incite fear among vulnerable children, who “don’t know their histories,” he said he immediately contacted the Motherisk Commission and the Ministry of Education, urging them to remove the poster. “We just don’t throw that information out there,” he told the Star. “On 100 levels, it’s potentially damaging.” Julie Despaties, executive director of the Toronto-based adoption support network Adopt4Life, said her organization was flooded with frantic messages from adoptive parents, prompting the group to send a letter to the Ministry of Education on Wednesday demanding action to remove the poster and warning of “emotional and psychological harm.” Despaties said parents feared their children could be bullied by schoolmates who knew they had been adopted, and were struggling with how to provide reassurance and answer the sensitive questions that may arise. One mother, who has three adopted children, was grocery shopping on Tuesday when she saw the flyer on the Facebook page of her child’s school in the Upper Canada District School Board. “It was like a punch in the stomach,” she said. “It was just this immediate thought of, ‘My kids are going to see this.’ Not only are my kids going to see this, but this was actually directed at my children. That’s the part of this that’s so disturbing. “The intent to go directly to kids who have had a really tough start, and have tried to find healing and permanency . . . all of this just exposes them in a way that’s completely unacceptable,” she said. Although she said she knows Motherisk testing was not done in her children’s cases, she still spent much of Tuesday evening having difficult conversations with her kids, who are aware that drugs and alcohol played a role in their histories and needed reassurance that Motherisk wasn’t involved......... Amid mounting pressure on Wednesday, Rodrigues reversed course, issuing a directive for the poster and Motherisk Commission materials to be “removed from all schools and social media immediately.” “We understand that some of our students may have been negatively affected by these posters,” the letter states, noting that the concerns had been raised by “students, parents and advocates” and that those concerns “have merit.” He also asked schools to make mental health and support staff aware that “some students may require additional support on this matter.”......... Before the ministry’s reversal on Wednesday, Bianchi said the commission had not intended the poster to be disseminated in elementary schools, but stood by its placement in high schools. She did not respond to requests for comment following the ministry’s decision. The commission is more than halfway through its two-year mandate to review cases and determine the weight given to Motherisk tests, which were used as evidence of parental substance abuse in decisions to remove children from their families. It has relied on Children's Aid Societies, Sick Kids, the electronic court filing system and affected individuals to find cases. In cases where the commission concludes the tests played a significant role — a finding it has reached in 33 of the more than 650 cases reviewed so far — it offers legal support to help families reconnect. It also offers counseling services."

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