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Teens in Foster Hotel Fight
April 9, 2015 permalink
A teenaged girl is in a coma after she was beaten by a teenaged boy. Both teens were in custody of Manitoba CFS and housed in a hotel. CFS is placing the entire blame on the boy.
Teen girl's family in shock over vicious attack in Winnipeg
'She didn't deserve that,' says aunt of teen, who remains in a coma
The aunt and brother of a 15-year-old girl who was viciously beaten this week in downtown Winnipeg say they're disturbed by the assault and the serious extent of her injuries.
"I'm still in shock. I can't believe that happened to her. She didn't deserve that," the girl's aunt told CBC News in an interview Thursday evening.
The teen has been in critical condition in a Winnipeg hospital since she was found badly beaten early Wednesday morning on Hargrave Street near St. Mary Avenue.
"I didn't want to believe it was my sister there," said the teen's brother.
The aunt and brother are not being named to protect the identity of the girl, who is a ward of the Child and Family Services system as well as a minor and a victim of sexual assault.
The aunt said her niece is in a coma with severe head injuries. Her head is badly swollen and she cannot open her eyes, she added.
"I only went for a visit for, like, 15 or 20 minutes. I didn't really want to stand that much longer, looking at my sister like that," the brother said.
"She might not even make it the next couple nights," he added.
Boy charged with aggravated assault
A boy, also 15 years of age, has been charged with aggravated assault and aggravated sexual assault.
Winnipeg police said the suspect and victim know each other.
Both were in government care and were housed at the same downtown hotel, a few blocks away from the place where the victim was found.
"It's my understanding that they were walking around together downtown and some kind of argument ensued between the two of them," Const. Chris Wingfield told reporters earlier Thursday.
The teen's aunt described her niece as a good girl who was kind to everyone, and her brother said he and his sister were very close. The siblings lived with their grandmother in a home in Winnipeg's North End.
However, they said the girl had friends who were a bad influence, and she ended up in the child welfare system in part because she was running away from home.
"Taking off every once and a while without telling my granny … that's part of the reason why," the brother said.
When asked what she would say to her niece's alleged attacker, the aunt said, "You almost killed my niece. You should've just walked away from her if she was getting you mad. You didn't have to beat her up so bad, because she looks really bad."
2nd incident in a year
The latest attack marks the second incident within a year involving a teenage girl who was in the child welfare system.
In August 2014, the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was recovered from the Red River in Winnipeg, over a week after she was reported missing.
Like the victim in the latest case, Fontaine was staying at the same Winnipeg hotel while in care last summer. She left the hotel and disappeared.
Fontaine's death is being investigated as a homicide, but no arrests have been announced.
Her great aunt, Thelma Favel, said she's disgusted to hear there is now a similar case. She wants the provincial government to fix the system.
"They shouldn't be called Child and Family [Services] because they don't care," Favel said Thursday.
"They don't care about the child. They don't care about the families that love their child."
The province says it will end the practice of housing children in care in hotels — a practice that was meant to be a last resort — by June 1.
Manitoba has about 10,000 children in care, and on any given day, dozens are put up in hotel rooms because there aren't enough foster homes.
Provincial child advocate Irwin Elman wants to ban the use of hotels for foster children in Ontario.
Ontario urged to ban use of hotels, motels for foster children
String of Manitoba attacks prompts Ontario child advocate to demand ban on opaque practice of placing kids in hotels, motels when homes unavailable.
Ontario needs a policy to prohibit children’s aid societies from placing kids in hotels and motels when foster and group homes aren’t available, the province’s child advocate says.
“When the children’s aid is considering where they should put a child, I don’t want them to think about a hotel,” said Irwin Elman.
Manitoba announced Thursday it was banning the practice as of June 1 in the wake of a string of attacks on foster children being cared for in hotels.
A girl living in a Winnipeg hotel was sexually assaulted, beaten and left for dead Wednesday. A 15-year-old boy, also staying in the hotel, has been arrested.
Last November, 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was murdered after running away from a hotel placement.
Child welfare officials in Manitoba have had trouble finding enough foster and group homes to care for about 10,000 children, mostly aboriginal. They have been promising since 2006 to stop using hotels and motels where dozens are cared for on any given night.
Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act is silent on the use of hotels and motels, according to a spokeswoman for provincial children’s minister Tracy MacCharles.
“Following apprehension of a child, a Children’s Aid Society must place the child in a place of safety,” Ali Vitunski said in an email. “Hotels are not specifically mentioned.”
But the act doesn’t preclude their use.
The main concern is that a child must be safe and secure, Vitunski said. It would be up the discretion of individual agencies to use them, she added.
Elman asked the ministry how often Ontario children are placed in hotels and motels when news about Manitoba’s problems hit the headlines last fall.
“Here’s what we were told: We don’t know. And we don’t have any policies, directives or guidelines. We don’t think it’s a problem. But you should ask the agencies,” Elman said.
After writing Ontario’s 46 children’s aid societies, 24 responded to say that they rarely, if ever, used hotels or motels, he said.
“But what about the others? We just don’t know.”
Elman isn’t against children’s aid workers helping a former youth in care, who may be already living independently, stay in a hotel or motel for a short time to avoid going to a homeless shelter.
“But for children in care, if they have no group home or foster home available, I don’t want them to think, I know, we’ll use hotels,” he said. “I want them to get proper resources for kids. And the province needs a proper policy for that.”
Only one of the children’s aid societies Elman contacted mentioned any policies on the practice.
The Children’s Aid Society of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, which serves the Cornwall area near the Quebec border, acknowledged hotels and motels were regularly used in the area until about seven years ago “when our kids were in crisis and we had a shortage of homes.”
But under the agency’s revamped family-based care model “it ended the option to ever think that a child could go to a hotel,” director of service Angela Arcuri said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Under that model, the goal is to ensure that every foster child is cared for in a family setting. Of about 280 children in care in the agency today, all but one is living with a family, she said.
“It took a lot of (work) to be successful in helping locate different options for our kids other than hotels,” Arcuri said. “But it was worth it because the outcomes when our kids were there (in hotels) were very poor.”
A spokeswoman for the Ontario Association for Children’s Aid Societies, which represents the province’s 46 agencies, agreed that “hotels are not a good place for teenagers to live.” But the sector would be leery of a hard ban on their use, said Virginia Rowden.
Since children in Ontario can legally leave foster care at age 16, agencies don’t have many options to help if a child that age doesn’t want to go to a group or foster home setting, she said.
“You try to steer them to the best possible resource, perhaps a family member or a responsible adult they know,” she said. “But if nothing is going to work and the hotel is no longer a resource, are you saying go out and live on the street?
“I’d rather be able to offer a kid a hotel or motel room with a worker coming in or staying nearby or in the same suite than have the kid walk out.”
Source: Toronto Star