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Totally Fucked Up

October 22, 2008 permalink

Our headline fills in the blanks in an Edmonton Sun story quoting an Alberta foster girl on the subject of the provincial foster care system. That system is the target of an internal government report, which included complaints of illegal restraint techniques that leave children injured, kids sexually abusing other kids, and children being placed in inappropriate or unsafe homes because nothing better was available.

We regret to say that these shortcomings are not limited to Alberta.



Foster care battle gets nasty

Premier vows probe after shocking allegations in children's advocate reports

Janis Tarchuk
Children’s Services Minister Janis Tarchuk says she won’t resign over allegations children received poor government care. (DAVID BLOOM/Sun Media)

Premier Ed Stelmach vowed yesterday to ensure all allegations of abuse, neglect and mistreatment of children in government care are investigated and "rectified."

The promise was greeted with a rueful laugh by one 16-year-old ward of the Crown, who on Friday was taken from her unauthorized foster home by her social worker and dropped off at an inner-city youth homeless shelter.

She ran away after a day and is now "couch-surfing" at friends' homes.

"It's about time," the teen said. "The system is totally f--ed up."

Stelmach was responding to Monday's release by NDP MLA Rachel Notley of the provincial children's advocate's internal quarterly reports.

The reports detail a litany of complaints, including illegal restraint techniques that leave children injured, kids sexually abusing other kids, and children being placed in inappropriate or unsafe homes because nothing better was available.

Ensuring that all the complaints in the quarterly reports are investigated, Stelmach said, "that, to me, requires additional focus."

Earlier in the day, opposition politicians called on Children's Services Minister Janis Tarchuk to resign because she has no control over the ministry.

"The minister has to take responsibility," Notley said.

But Tarchuk dismissed accusations that she had no control as "nonsense" and said she was "not prepared to resign," arguing that she's only held the portfolio since December 2006, and that she's working to improve the system.

Tarchuk acknowledged that some of the allegations are "very troubling," but argued that they are "raw" and not proven.

"This is not to say we don't have all kinds of issues. We do," she said.

Complaints in the reports are investigated, Tarchuk said, after the quarterly reports are submitted.

However, she said that children's advocate John Mould hadn't filed an annual report in three years, until they were all filed at once last week.

But Notley said the annual reports are irrelevant because Tarchuk was getting the quarterly reports and could have acted on them.

Mould is out of town attending to personal matters and was unavailable for comment.

Stelmach gave Tarchuk a strong endorsement yesterday, telling the legislature that there are few people in Alberta who have her level of compassion regarding children's issues.

On Friday, a teen who has been a ward of the Crown since she was 13, was given five minutes by her social worker to pack her belongings before being dropped off at a shelter.

The woman she had been living with had an eight-year-old criminal record, including convictions for drug possession, uttering threats and cheque forging.

She was not an approved foster parent and received no funding for giving the girl a home, but when her past came to light in early September the teen was told the home was unfit and she'd be placed somewhere else.

"A month later, she was still with me," the woman, who also cannot be identified, said. "If I was so unfit, why did they leave her here?"

The woman said Children's Services did nothing to place the teen until she contacted Sun Media.

But less than an hour after a reporter called Children's Services on Friday, the social worker was on their doorstep to take the girl away.

"I had a home," the teen said. "Then they decided it wasn't fit so they dropped me off at a shelter."

Source: Edmonton Sun