Single dad Derek Hoare has spent 18 months fighting the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to return his autistic daughter home.
Last week, they signed an agreement to do so, just three days before the trial on the matter was to begin.
Hoare is now making plans to bring his little girl, Ayn Van Dyk, almost 11 years old, back where he has always said she belongs – with him and her two brothers.
Hoare said the ministry has agreed to pay for intensive in-home support for Ayn and one of her siblings, who also has autism.
The final details are being worked out, and then Ayn will return to her dad’s care.
“I think it’s going to go really, really well,” Hoare said, although he is angry that it took so long to get to this point.
Ayn was taken from school by MCFD representatives in June 2011 after Hoare refused to sign her over to their care. The removal came four days after Ayn had disappeared from her Mt. Lehman home for three hours, resulting in a search by the Abbotsford Police.
She turned up safely in a neighbor’s backyard, but Hoare believes the incident – and episodes at school – were used as examples that he could not properly care for her.
Ayn was placed in psychiatric care for several weeks for assessment, but has been in a foster home the majority of the time. The hospital evaluation concluded that Ayn showed no evidence of physical abuse or neglect.
Hoare’s battle then went before the courts – a process that he attributes as the main reason it took so long to settle the case. Court dates were adjourned several times, often resulting in delays of two or three months, with no recourse.
In January of this year, a trial date was set for Dec. 7.
Meanwhile, Hoare refused to visit his daughter without knowing if or when she would come home. He said a visit from him, without any answers, would have distressed her and set her back.
Instead, his ex-wife, who has publicly praised Hoare’s parenting abilities, maintained visitation and informed Hoare that Ayn carried his photo, spoke about him often, and asked about home.
Hoare’s story gained international attention, primarily through a Facebook page with almost 4,000 members, many of whom shared similar stories of their children with autism – and other disabilities – being removed from their care all over the world.
Hoare, who now lives in Chilliwack, described the last 18 months as a “nightmare.”
“The whole ordeal has been pretty traumatic and pretty eye-opening. I didn’t believe before that kids who are loved and cared for in their home can be taken away.”
Even though his fight is nearing the end, Hoare said the stories he has heard from others and the connections he has made have inspired him to continue the battle.
He wants to form an umbrella organization to push for legislative change and to “educate the populace.” He said, as the laws stand, it’s too easy for social workers to remove kids from their home without any scrutiny of their actions.
“I don’t plan on walking away from this issue … I don’t think this is how this should work,” Hoare said.
The MCFD has a policy of not commenting publicly on individual cases.