The use of a stun gun on an 11-year-old aboriginal boy by police following a stabbing near a group home in Prince George nearly two years ago made headlines across the country.
For the boy, however, it was just the latest indignity in a life marred by abuse and neglect, first at the hands of his parents, and then by the child-welfare system that was supposed to protect him, a new report shows.
“The sad reality of this report is that the tasering by the police of this boy of 11 years old is probably one of the least traumatic things that happened to him,” said representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
Her report examines the boy’s life and concludes that the Ministry of Children and Family Development failed him almost from birth.
Even today, the ministry still has no suitable home or plan for the boy, who is partially deaf with serious developmental disabilities and mental-health issues, Turpel-Lafond said.
“There are no other words to say this: This child has been served by the ministry in a way that can only be described as appalling,” she said. “I can only characterize this as care by trial and error, and the errors are multiple and egregious.”
Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux said she was heartbroken by the findings and vowed to act on all recommendations. “It is clear from this report that decisions were made throughout this child’s life that were wrong,” she said.
The report found that for the first two years of the boy’s life, social workers ignored repeated warnings and left him with parents who physically abused him and locked him in a bedroom.
Once apprehended, he was placed in a rural home where he was often confined in a shed, subjected to cold showers if he wet the bed and was fed hot sauce as a form of punishment. Turpel-Lafond’s investigators could find no evidence that ministry staff ever visited the home during those three years.
By the time he was removed, he was described as traumatized, rail thin and “feral-looking,” she said.
Now 13, the boy has been in 15 foster homes or residential placements that largely failed to deal with his complex special needs, ignored his schooling and relied on police to control his behaviour. The one foster mother who went to extraordinary lengths to help the boy never got the support she needed from the ministry, and he was eventually moved.
The report also found that every home the boy has been in since he was eight has had a so-called “safe room” where he was isolated for safety reasons when he became too aggressive.
This was done despite the fact there is no ministry policy or legislation that permits the use of isolation outside of mental-health facilities, the report said.
“The Representative finds it inconceivable that the ministry could allow use of such a room given the fact the child was reportedly traumatized by earlier confinement in both his natural home and one foster home,” Turpel-Lafond writes.
Cadieux has ordered a halt to the practice.
© Copyright 2013