VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Shocking concerns have been raised about the care of some of BC’s most vulnerable children.
The latest review ordered by the provincial government involves a gang-affiliated worker possibly sharing illegal drugs with teens in a Lower Mainland group home.
Children’s representative Bernard Richard says 18 kids recently had to be removed from a Lower Mainland home after a complaint was filed about a staff member with ties to organized crime smoking pot with kids and offering some cocaine.
He says an investigation found only 10 of 33 caregivers passed criminal record checks.
“It’s a very concerning situation and the ministry has just proven to be unable to deal with it in any responsible fashion –certainly, we wanted to cut the new government some slack, but the impact on the kids is what bothers me the most and it frustrates me the ministry is not able to do its job.”
Children’s Minister Katrine Conroy agrees a number of flaws must be corrected.
“We’re undertaking a whole review of caregiver pay system, so that we can look at how foster parents are paid, but also how families are paid to make sure that we have proper funding in place.”
She adds the review of contractors responsible for more than 800 children is due within three months.
“It’s unacceptable and we need to change things. This is a systemic issue and we need to ensure that anybody who’s working with youth have the proper credentials. I’ve said to the deputy that has to happen and it will happen.”
After learning a boy reported a staff worker with gang ties smoked pot with other teens and offered him cocaine, Richard says this wasn’t an isolated incident and similar concerns were raised by his predecessor, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, more than two years ago.
“It is frustrating. The impact on these kids is immeasurable. These are kids that are already vulnerable. They’ve been re-traumatized.The ministry has really dropped the ball on this and I’ve been saying the new government, but it’s been a year now. They’ve had time to deal with –this is one of the most egregious issues that we’ve raised over the last few years.”
Conroy admits hundreds of children could be at risk.
“We need to do a better job. They have to be safe. Social workers have to make sure they’re safe. It’s unacceptable. I’m not happy with what’s happening and we’re going to get it done as quickly as possible.”
Conroy says her staff have three months to report back to her.