Photos and names have been removed from this story at the request of Ministry lawyers who say they are the legal guardians and the family had no right to release the images and names of the children.
Eva Koester looks after two young foster boys. She has been the children's mother for 11 years and is the only person they know as 'mom'. In two weeks, that will no longer be the case.
The mentally and physically disabled children have been in her and her son Klemen’s care since they were babies, they are a family; but the Ministry of Children and Family has decided to take the boys away from the Koesters and put the children into a new home.
The move came as allegations arose against the Koesters after Klemens asked for help with his adopted son, who was having behavioural issues, a concern which did not inhibit his care for the two other boys he says.
“The decision was made by the Ministry that if you can’t care for your own child you can’t care for others.”
The Koesters appealed the decision, they were upset that the Ministry had come to this conclusion after they had reached out for help from an agency that they believed could offer assistance. For the last two years the boys have remained in the Koester’s care while his two adoptive children were removed and the Ministry continued their investigation.
“They took them (the adoptive children) out of my care and the ones with the physical disabilities they left in the care,” explains Klemens.
“To me this means, as hard as it sounds, but special needs have less value than the ones without special needs.”
The Ministry would not comment on this matter, but said their decision is based on the best possible outcomes for the child in care. It was also decided the two disabled boys’ health and wellness was not being jeopardized by staying in the Koester’s care.
One reason for the move is Eva’s age and ability, at 73 the Ministry was concerned she would not be able to care for the boys much longer. To which Klemens disagrees, stating that he is available to help as he is also a caregiver of the children and he employs several other care takers to assist in the home.
“I believe there is more behind this. They are closing this chapter (on us and it) is completely unjust,” says Klemens.
Klemens also tells Castanet, that according to the Ministry, the children were never supposed to be left in their care for the 11-year period, because the Ministry did not want the boys to grow attached to a family.
To which the Ministry responded:
In cases where a child has special needs, appropriate placements may be a challenge and the Ministry, as per policy, evaluates the appropriateness of placements every 90 days. A child can remain in a foster placement until it is no longer suitable or they reach the age of majority.
The youngest child in the Koester’s care is confined to a wheel chair and has to be spoon fed special meals which Eva prepares. He cannot talk, but he can smile, no one is sure how much he will smile after the move.
His biological family remains close with him and they believe there is no better place for the child than to be with the Koesters.
Nancy is the child's great aunt, says she could not be happier for the love and attention her great nephew receives from the Koesters.
“He receives everything he could possibly need and more from them. They are an extension of our family,” says Nancy as she holds back tears.
Nearly $100,000 in renovations were made to the Koester’s home. It was all part of a long term care plan for the disabled boys, which was signed off on by the Ministry. However, the boys will be moved regardless of the improvements.
The residence which sits on a large farm, with many animals for comfort, recently underwent construction to add a wheelchair lift from the ground to the second floor. They also had to widen doors and hallways, and to allow for a lift installment for the bathroom. Yet, despite these costly renovations the boys will be moved to a new home that also had to be retrofitted to meet the children’s needs. No one is talking about how much that cost taxpayers.
Now, Klemens is demanding accountability from the Ministry. He is angered that the government has the final say without any repercussions for their decision. He claims social workers, case workers, and psychologists have spoke on his behalf to the Ministry without avail. A Representative from Children and Youth also attend the home, and while they do act as a type of watchdog on the Ministry, their recommendations cannot override the Ministry’s final decision.
“No one has responded back to us with a proper explanation (as to why the boys are being removed),” says a frustrated Klemens.
Dr. Martin Steinruck has been caring for the boys since both of their traumatic injuries as babies and is outraged by the recent action by the Ministry. He has written letters the Minister of Children and Family, the deputy minister and called the local ministry, but has not received a response.
“The two children that are in the Koester’s care are getting excellent care, exemplary care in fact, beyond the call of duty,” says Steinruck. “I think that it is a tragedy that the children are being removed from which is the only home they have known all of their life.”
Steinruck is also concerned the boys will both have to be medicated, the eldest child for behavioural issues and the other for his seizures or he will be given a feeding tube which will lessen their quality of life says the doctor.
“I have not, in my 35 years of practice, (seen) where the Ministry has gone directly against the advice of physicians, in this case three physicians, myself, the pediatrician and also the child psychiatrist who has been involved with the older boy.”
The aunt agrees with Steinruck, believing her great nephew could be in danger of regressing in his development if he is removed from the Koester’s care.
“You take them from a situation that is healthy and loving and you put them in a situation that is more clinical, how is that better,” Nancy questions. “They are not going to comprehend that what-so-ever because you are saying what? They don’t understand because they are mentally handicapped, so you don’t have to give them benefit of understanding?”
The Koesters have been Foster parents for 20 years, proving they are capable of providing care for the children in their home, yet at the end of June the two disabled boys will be moved from their home to another residence.
Castanet did contact the ministry regarding the Koester’s case but they would not comment due to privacy laws.
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