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Changes made after B.C. foster kids ‘failed at every level’ in horrific abuse case: Minister

Click to play video: 'B.C. minister responds to case of horrific foster parent abuse'
B.C. minister responds to case of horrific foster parent abuse
WATCH: It was a case that shocked the most hardened court watcher. Foster parents charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault in the horrific abuse of two vulnerable children in their care. One child died. There are many legitimate questions about the role the Ministry of Children and Family Development played in the neglect of these children. Kristen Robinson reports. – Jun 20, 2023

B.C.’s minister of children and family development said it’s clear two children subject to horrific abuse by their  foster parents north of Chilliwack, “were failed at every level” by the system in place to protect them.

“As Minister and a social worker, I am horrified by what these children went through and I extend our deepest apologies and condolences to the family, friends and communities that have been impacted by this tragedy,” Mitzi Dean said in a statement Monday.

“The provincial director of child welfare has assured me that changes have been fully implemented at the local office involved to ensure that ministry policies and practice for the protection of children are being followed and we will take all steps to prevent such a tragedy happening again.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. to offer free tuition to former foster children of all ages'
B.C. to offer free tuition to former foster children of all ages

During sentencing in Chilliwack provincial court on Friday, Judge Peter R. La Prairie said the accused’s actions were evil and inhumane.

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The Indigenous husband and wife foster parents, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter and six years for aggravated assault — to be served at the same time – for their horrific treatment of two Indigenous children in their care, one of whom died.

The crimes were committed in Lake Errock between 2020 and 2021.

The judge said the children were starved and forced to eat dog food, tortured and subject to slapping, punching, kicking and whipping assaults.

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Days after an attack in late February 2021, the boy, 11, died.

Click to play video: '‘Our government is committed to reconciliation’: Minister Mitzi Dean on MCFD changes'
‘Our government is committed to reconciliation’: Minister Mitzi Dean on MCFD changes

According to the evidence, which included 16,000 video clips, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) hadn’t checked on the children for seven months.

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Asked in an interview Monday how the foster children fell through the cracks, Dean’s response was similar to the earlier statement given to Global News.

“Yeah, you’re right this is an absolute tragedy and my deepest apologies and sympathies go out to the family the friends and the community. As the minister and as a social worker myself I’m absolutely horrified,” she said.

“I have been assured by the provincial director that a thorough review has taken place and that all remedial action steps have already been completed. The ministry does have a robust set of policies and procedures and they weren’t followed in this particular situation and that is not acceptable to me.”

The minister said the provincial director of child welfare conducted a thorough review of the MCFD’s involvement with the foster children, and found not all policies had been followed at the Hope, B.C., office.

Asked what exact policies and procedures were not followed and why they were not followed, Dean repeated a variation of the same response.

“Well, this is a real tragedy and my deepest sympathies go out to the family and the friends and the community,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Adoptive parents allege MCFD worker violated B.C. adoption rules'
Adoptive parents allege MCFD worker violated B.C. adoption rules

Dean responded similarly to a question about how it was possible the MCFD hadn’t checked on the foster children for seven months, as suggested by the court evidence.

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“Well, this is a real tragedy and my deepest sympathies go out to the family, the friends, and the community,” she said.

In a statement to Global News, the MCFD said changes were made at its Hope office, including actions to review all placement decisions for children placed outside their parental home to ensure care providers have been assessed appropriately and to review the thorough and timely completion of child protection incidents with the involved staff.

It said changes were also made to ensure involved staff would receive training about guardianship responsibilities, including regular in-person, private meetings with children-in-care, updating Care Plans, completing cultural plans for Indigenous children in care, and ensuring children access appropriate medical care and support services.

Click to play video: 'Sentencing hearing in case of horrendous child abuse'
Sentencing hearing in case of horrendous child abuse

The ministry also said a review of the involved team’s cases would be completed “focusing on family service, child service and resource standards.”

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“While we understand that these changes cannot reverse this tragedy, we want to affirm to the public that the changes outlined above have been fully implemented at the office that was involved in the circumstances for these children,” read the MCFD statement.

“I take my role very seriously,” Dean said.

“I’m absolutely committed to making improvements in the delivery of services.”

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