The province’s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has closed a major group home for children in care because of concerns about staff behaviour.
Children’s Representative Bernard Richard said the latest case was so worrying that MCFD removed and relocated 18 children and youth following allegations by a youth that a staff member was gang-affiliated, had smoked marijuana with the youth and offered cocaine.
“It raises very significant issues that we have seen in the past and that particularly concerned us,” said Bernard Richard, Representative for Children and Youth. “Nine of the caregivers are barred from working in a similar resource, 13 have to be re-screened because of concerning information that came to the knowledge of the ministry.”
Richard says he is concerned about the government continuing to pay 46 agencies to run group homes across the province where staff have not received proper background checks. The children’s rep is calling on the province to immediately conduct the background checks and ensure that the children currently in these homes don’t fall through the cracks.
“Clearly the ministry is not living up to it’s responsibility or taking care of some of the most vulnerable youth in the province.”
Richard is especially concerned because the closure is not an “isolated incident” and a 2017 report from his office found a similar case where a youth committed suicide after he was placed in a hotel with unqualified staff and little in the way of supervision. Alex Gervais had been moved to the hotel after the residential agency that operated the home he lived in was closed by MCFD and all 33 children and youth in the agency’s care were relocated due to problems, including inadequate screening of staff.
Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy has tasked her deputy minister with immediately ensuring all staff in care homes have had proper background checks. The province is also ensuring that all 800 children in residential care have their care plans reviewed before the end of September.
“I think what people have tried to do is correct the status quo but what I think we have to do is overhaul the system,” Conroy said. “I was surprised there was that number of providers that didn’t have criminal record checks done properly.”