BC’s child advocate says three child welfare bodies failed to protect the interest of a foster child who nearly died under the care of her grandparents in the Fort Qu’Appelle area in 2008.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the BC Representative for Children and Youth, says the BC Ministry of Social Services, Saskatchewan’s Social Services ministry and a First Nations child and family services agency failed to ensure the girl’s safety and well-being.
The grandfather gained custody even though he had 70 criminal convictions and a history of chronic addictions.
Turpel-Lafond says he was not properly screened, his home was never properly assessed, and there was little follow-up on how the child was doing.
She places most of the blame on Qu’Appelle Beardy’s & Okemasis Child and Family Services (formerly Qu’Appelle Child and Family Services), which provided incorrect and incomplete information to BC officials.
She recommends uniform standards across the country, and greater accountability by all departments involved.
The child was removed from the foster home in 2008. She was severely malnourished, weighed just 26 lbs. and showed signs of long-term abuse.
Last February, the grandparents were sentenced to three years in prison for failing to provide the necessities of life.
Turpel-Lafond says basic due diligence by the agencies involved could have prevented this tragedy.
For its part, QBO CFS says it has begun its own review of the case — and adds that all of the front line staff, senior management and board of directors that were in place at the time have been replaced.
Saskatchewan Social Services Minister June Draude says her ministry has started the work on addressing Turpel-Lafond’s observations and that many changes have already taken place since the time of the incident.