North Okanagan woman faces trial over sexual abuse of young boy at ministry-funded home | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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North Okanagan woman faces trial over sexual abuse of young boy at ministry-funded home

Tamara Nicholls is accused of sexual assault, sexual interference with a minor and invitation to sexual touching.
Image Credit: Facebook
August 13, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - A former youth worker faces allegations of sexual assault and sexual touching against a minor in relation to an incident that occurred during her employment at a government-funded care home.

The offence is alleged to have happened over the span of roughly three months last year at a residential facility in the North Okanagan funded by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The mother of the complainant says he was 15 years old when he went to stay at the residence. Due to his complex mental health challenges and violent behaviour, it was no longer safe for him to stay at home, she told iNFOnews.ca in an exclusive interview. 

She says it was several weeks after he started living at the youth home that police and a social worker came to her door to inform her an investigation was underway into allegations of sexual offences committed against her son by a staff worker.

“It makes me feel absolutely disgusted,” she says.

iNFOnews.ca is not naming the mother in order to protect the identity of her son. Other details, including exact dates and locations, have also been omitted to preserve the confidentiality of the youth’s identity.

Tamara Marie Nicholls, born in 1991, is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 16 and invitation to sexual touching under 16. Nicholls was ordered to stand trial following a preliminary inquiry earlier this year. Her trial by judge alone is set to begin March 4, 2019. The charges have not been proven in court. 

She declined to comment when contacted by iNFOnews.ca. According to her Facebook page, she now works at a seniors home.

The Ministry of Children and Families refused to answers specific questions about the case due to privacy reasons, but a spokesperson provided a written statement about how it deals with allegations of misconduct.

"In any situation where a youth in the care of a contracted residential resource appears to be at risk of harm or has disclosed information that indicates they have been harmed, a full investigation is conducted by senior Ministry of Children and Families staff in the region where the home operates," the ministry states. 

The investigation includes interviews with children and youth in the home to ensure no other allegations surface, the ministry says. When allegations of misconduct by staff involve suspected criminal actions, staff work with police to assist with the gathering of information necessary to lay charges where warranted.

"During an investigation, the ministry will bar the staff member in question, where appropriate, from having any contact with children in ministry care, and the contracted agency (which has been contracted to provide care on MCFD’s behalf) may suspend the staff member with pay. On conclusion of an investigation, where appropriate, the individual may be fired by the agency," the ministry says. 

The ministry goes on to say that it enhanced its internal electronic database last year to ensure the names of staff contracted by an agency who have been the subject of an investigation where kids' safety and well-being were at risk, are recorded.

"This ensures that staff person is unable to be hired by another agency," the ministry states. 

The contractor that delivers the residential service also declined to address questions, instead directing us to their website. Due to the small size of the residential facility, iNFOnews.ca is not naming it for risk of identifying the victim.

According to the boy’s mother, he has a processing disorder that makes it difficult for him to differentiate right from wrong and to know when a relationship is inappropriate. Despite being a teenager, she says his cognitive ability is closer to that of a 12-year-old, leaving him particularly vulnerable.

Following the incident, the boy’s mother says the ministry told her Nicholls was no longer employed at the facility. The ministry would not confirm that directly.

The court process has been difficult for the entire family, the boy’s mother says, but they are eager to resolve the matter next spring after months of waiting.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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