Guardian of B.C. boy suing province for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty

The court document says the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia is suing the Ministry of Children and Family Development for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. It alleges the ministry consistently put the boy in homes where he suffered emotional and physical abuse.

The province’s director of child welfare, the two owners of a Dawson Creek-area foster home, and a social worker are also listed as defendants in the case.

The document says the taser incident happened in April 2011, when the boy was 11 years old. About a week after he moved into his sixth group home, he escaped into a nearby trailer and then stabbed the group home manager with a steak knife.

RCMP were called, and when the boy stepped outside the trailer, police zapped him with a taser. The document alleges that happened because the government put the boy through living arrangements that “created a situation of isolation and anxiety.”

The Children’s Ministry refused to comment on the lawsuit, saying the case is before the courts. It has three weeks to file a response.

The boy’s traumatic childhood was documented in a scathing report last year by the province’s children’s watchdog. Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the teen’s suffering could have been prevented if the government had invested in proper residential care.

The court document says the boy, who now lives in an adolescent treatment centre, was born into an abusive and unsafe environment but that he was not removed from his parents’ care until he was two years old.

After that, he was placed in foster care. At his second foster home, he endured three years of ill treatment.

The home, which is now closed, had a history of abuse, yet the government did not launch an investigation until 2004, when the boy was five years old, the court document alleges.

It says the child was put in cold showers for wetting his bed, fed hot sauce as punishment and shut in his room or the garage for long periods of time.

The boy was then placed in a variety of foster homes and care homes. With each placement, he became more aggressive and police had to be called at one point to take him to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where he underwent a psychiatric assessment.

Even though a mental health specialist recommended a therapeutic family home setting for the boy, he was placed in a facility where he was confined in a so-called safe room whenever he was non-compliant, the court document says.

After Turpel-Lafond released her report, Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux said she was “heartbroken that the system failed this child,” and that her ministry would implement Turpel-Lafond’s recommendations.

They included creating a residential service program for children with complex needs, implementing senior management oversight for cases involving children with complex needs, developing a ministry unit to provide training and clinical support to those dealing with complex-needs children and youth and immediately stopping the use of isolation rooms to manage behaviour in care homes.

Turpel-Lafond said her recommendations have not yet been implemented. Last year, Cadieux said the government is building a new six-bed facility for children with intensive needs, but the youth advocate said she is not satisfied with the facility’s location and model of care.

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