Foster parents rally
The Koester family and some of their supporters gathered to protest the Ministry of Children and Family Development today.
As Castanet has previously reported, the Koester family has been going through turmoil as the MCFD prepares to take several adopted and fostered children out of the family's care.
The Koesters have cared for two children, who suffer from shaken-baby syndrome, since they were babies. Klemens Koester went to the Ministry for help with a third, adopted child who was having behavioural issues and that request resulted in all of the children being taken from his family.
About 50 people came out around 12 p.m. with signs to show solidarity with the Koesters and to try and raise awareness of what the Ministry is doing to the family. The Koesters say they're not the only ones.
Both kids are still currently in the Koesters care, but the new caretakers - staff in a group care facility - are in their home everyday, being taught how to deal with and handle the children being moved.
"We're teaching them the ropes and eventually they will move them out. We don't have a set day - there's speculation it will be June 27," said Klemens.
The government said they would remove the children nearly two years ago because the house was unsafe for them. All they have done so far is taken away the family's specialized vehicle for transporting the kids and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate a new building for them.
"To me, it's a safety hazard what they have done. The transition is not complete, we are still taking care of the children, so now if they have an emergency at night, I'm going to have to call 911 to have them transported," said Koester.
"What is really upsetting to me is that the older boy is over the age of 14; by legislation he has the right to say what he wants to do and where he wants to go. Yet he was never asked - he was told, simply because he is special needs."
The older child does have the ability to speak and communicate.
Koester is hoping to see politicians get involved. His group is calling for an independent oversight committee that can do more than merely suggest courses of action to the ministry. The Childcare Advocacy Association has been involved for quite some time he said, but has no power over the ministry.
Koester is also calling for an investigation into the MCFD's 'protection team' in Kelowna, which he says, is where this all started.
The Koesters are being told they will have some rights of visitation, although Klemens feels that is an easy right to revoke.
"All they need to say is it is too distressing to the child after a visit," he said.
The identity of the children is being protected for privacy reasons, which is also an issue for Koester.
"To me, that's hypocritical," said Koester. "I think last month it was adoption month. There was a big news and TV event where they showed full videos of children that are looking for adoptive homes. So, if it's against the Ministry, we cannot reveal the identity of children, if they want to do it, then it's fine to expose them."
Moving forward, Klemens said the future for his family is "a bit in the air."
"We are going to be forced to sell, the house is on the market and it was never on the market before."
"It makes no sense - how could they say our household was a safety risk two years ago and they're only making the change now?"
The main goal of the protest is to raise awareness for their own cause and for other people in Kelowna.
"You cannot just come in with a hammer and destroy a family - I reckon, don't ever call the Ministry for help, hide wherever you can. They will destroy your family and then they will walk away."
"It's my view that we need oversight - this cannot continue like this. I want politicians to respond, they work for us and nobody is answering us. I find it unacceptable."
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