December 09, 2015 - 9:30 AM
VICTORIA - Newly released government documents say drugs and weapons were among the concerns at former private group homes operated by a company that cared for an 18-year-old before his death.
Alex Gervais fell from an Abbotsford, B.C., hotel window last September, and his death has prompted a review by the government and the province's independent representative for children and youth into the placement of foster children in hotels.
Gervais was sent to live in the hotel after the Ministry of Children and Family Development shut down several group homes operated by private-care provider, A Community Vision for Children and Families.
Documents obtained through a freedom-of-information request indicate B.C.'s director of child welfare received allegations last January of caregivers using drugs and possessing weapons, which resulted in four people losing their jobs.
But the company issued a statement Tuesday, saying it followed government protocols when screening caregivers.
The Jan. 15 investigation report noted complaints by several people "who allege numerous child protection, quality of care and operation concerns involving" the company.
"The initial allegations involve five youth, seven ACV homes and implicated four ACV contracted caregivers," said the report.
The allegations were of "suspected drug use by caregivers, unsanitary conditions of the resource, caregivers having weapons and caregivers framing youth with weapons," it added.
Criminal-record checks and prior-contact checks were conducted on the caregivers involved and revealed histories of domestic violence, physical violence, fraud, theft, weapons and possession of drugs for the purposes of trafficking, said the report.
The report said two individuals faced outstanding criminal charges.
The documents did not name the individuals involved or their outstanding charges.
A criminal record does not prevent somebody from being approved as a caregiver, and in some cases can help with the often difficult work, the company said in a statement.
"An individual who has made a mistake, been charged, and been fully rehabilitated is often in the best position to understand and relate to a child facing similar challenges," it said.
The company also said it has a 20-year history of successfully housing B.C.'s most troubled youth and accused the Children's Ministry of moving too quickly to terminate its contracts rather than protecting youth like Gervais who lived in the company's private homes for seven years.
"Sadly, one of the vulnerable children, Alex Gervais, died within weeks of being moved out of the ACV home," said the company.
Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux has said the policy review will examine the use of hotels as placements for children in care.
It will include information about the demographics of the children, the reasons behind hotel placements and the potential risks associated with hotel stays.
Opposition New Democrat children and family development critic Doug Donaldson said hotels are not appropriate places for vulnerable children.
He said the review must put measures in place to ensure children receive the help and attention they require.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015