VICTORIA (NEWS1130) – Getting tasered by the RCMP almost two years ago was one of the least traumatic things an 11-year-old Prince George boy had to endure.
The province’s children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says BC’s child welfare system failed him.
“Locked in his room at an early time, he came into a foster home where he was abused and placed in a locked shed, given hot sauce in his mouth and given cold showers for bedwetting.”
In a report released today, Turpel-Lafond says serious errors were made by the Ministry for Children and Family Development that left the boy open to abuse and neglect in his family home and in the homes he was placed in by the ministry.
“Inexplicably, the child was returned to his natural mother despite a clear lack of evidence that her parenting skills had improved sufficiently to justify this move. This return lasted less than a year and has been followed by nine more placements for the child to this date,” she says.
Her report says the boy’s case is one of the most difficult she has investigated, and it’s not the only one where safe homes have been unavailable for children with unique needs.
Turpel-Lafond says the April 2011 Taser incident and most of the 22 critical injuries suffered by the child could have been prevented.
She’s recommending properly funded therapeutic residential care with trained workers. “And certainly that has to have a regional and provincial component to it. Also that we have a shared sense of responsibility across the health system, the education and the child welfare system to do better for these vulnerable kids.”
BC’s children’s minister calls the report heartbreaking and says a six-bed facility will be opening in the short-term to care for kids with complex needs.
Children and Families Minister Stephanie Cadieux couldn’t say how many other children may be in similar situations but insists she’s working on the problem. She says many steps have already been taken, including an overhaul of the foster care system.
“My deputy will be undertaking some additional work, he will be providing a report to me on that in about September at which time we’ll know what further we need to do.”
NDP Critic Claire Travena says that’s not fast enough. “This child clearly fell through many many cracks, now we’re seeing a government spending $200 million on a computer system when what the ministry really needs is support for foster parents and support for children.”
Cadieux says she is considering the recommendations as “urgent.”