New recommendations for child welfare

Children in British Columbia with complex care needs that can manifest themselves in violent rages deserve more from the child welfare system than being locked in windowless rooms or tranquilized by doctors, says a report detailing the failed care of an 11-year-old boy who was zapped by an RCMP Taser.

Serious errors made by the Ministry for Children and Family Development left the boy open to abuse and neglect in his family home and in the numerous other homes he was placed in by the ministry, said the report released Thursday by B.C.'s children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

One foster family regularly kept the boy locked in a shed located on a rural property. Another put him in cold showers to punish him for wetting his bed and his parents raised him for the first two years of life in an atmosphere of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, starvation and neglect, the report stated.

The report, "Who Protected Him? How B.C.'s Child Welfare System Failed One Of Its Most Vulnerable Children," finds 22 critical injury reports involving the boy, including nine injury reports following the April 2011 police Taser incident in Prince George which made national headlines.

"The sad reality of this report is that the Tasering by the police of this boy at 11 years old is probably one of the least traumatic things that happened to him when I look at the 22 critical incidents reported to my office, including nine since the Tasering," Turpel-Lafond said at a news conference.

The report states the Taser incident occurred in April 2011, six days after the boy was moved to a new group home, his 15th move since 2001.

The incident escalated after the boy barricaded his bedroom door and escaped through a window. About an hour later, he was located in a nearby trailer stabbing at the walls and upholstery with two steak knives he found in the trailer, stated the report.

The boy stabbed the group home manager below the ribs after climbing out of the trailer's window and fled to another home. Three RCMP officers arrived shortly afterwards and after a standoff during which the boy continued to hold one of the knives, he was jolted as he stepped out of the home.

Turpel-Lafond said the boy has been known to the children's ministry since his birth, but the level of care he received "can only be described as appalling. Certainly not the way a compassionate society should treat any child. I can only characterize this as care by trial and error."

She said the boy's basic rights to safety, education, health care, socialization and cultural identity were not provided by the ministry.

The report makes four recommendations, including: create a residential service program for children with complex needs that can't be met in traditional foster home or group home settings; implement senior management oversight for cases of children with complex needs; develop a ministry unit to provide training and clinical support to those dealing with complex-needs children and youth; immediately stop using isolation rooms to manage behaviour in care homes.

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