Representative for Children and Youth Bernard Richard. (Black Press)

B.C. youth agency closes after staff member gave teen drugs

Minister Katrine Conroy says criminal record checks, audits underway

B.C.’s child and youth watchdog says he is “gravely concerned” about the operation of some residential agencies contracted by the province after a Lower Mainland agency was closed in May due to drug involvement by a staff member.

“I was shocked and disappointed to learn that, in May of this year, issues at yet another Lower Mainland residential agency had resulted in its closure by the ministry,” Bernard Richard said in a statement Tuesday.

Richard said a youth in care at the the unnamed agency came forward with information that a staff member was gang-affiliated, had taken him and others on drug drops, had smoked marijuana with a youth and offered him cocaine.

Richard said that through an investigation by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, it was found that only 10 of 33 staff and caregivers had completed criminal record and other security-screening criteria.

Nine of the employees have since been barred permanently from further such work and 13 others are being further screened due to concerning information.

Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy said in a statement she has ordered a full review of the situation for each of the more than 800 children and youth currently placed in contracted residential agency homes. More staff have been assigned to make sure criminal record checks are done for all staff, and social workers have to “regularly visit” the young people to check on their safety and well-being, she said.

“It will take time to get where we need to be,” Conroy said. “In the meantime, there can be no excuses in situations where children in our care are not looked after properly.”

Richard said that in his 2017 report on the tragic suicide of Abbotsford teen Alex Gervais, one of the key recommendations to the ministry, now led by Conroy, was to allocate necessary resources to enhance the review process and background screening of staff that work in agencies contracted by the government.

Katrine Conroy (Black Press Media files)

But while the ministry created a centralized screening hub, Richard said only half of B.C.’s residential agencies have yet to screen their staff.

“Sixteen months after the release of Alex’s Story – and nearly three years after his death – MCFD has still not reviewed the backgrounds and qualifications of all staff who are currently providing care to children and youth in contracted residential agencies in B.C. Children and youth in these facilities continue to be exposed to risk,” Richard said. “This is clearly unacceptable.”

In a letter to Conroy, Richard detailed other incidents, including a staff member fired in 2016 for smoking crack cocaine with a youth resident present, then threatening the youth for reporting the incident.

Just Posted

5-foot-long snake reported lost in Rutland

Buddy the snake is reported to be harmless and was reported missing May 22

Rockslide closes one southbound lane 2 km north of Summerland

DriveBC reported the slide just after 6:30 a.m.

Kelowna parents attend gang information session

Safer Schools Together trainers and former Hells Angel spoke to parents on May 22

RV trailer fire suppressed in West Kelowna late Thursday night

West Kelowna Fire Rescue aided BC Wildfire Services near Bear Creek Park

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: weekend rain

Environment Canada forecasts continuing bad weather for the start of the weekend

BREAKING: Court says B.C. can’t restrict oil shipments in key case for Trans Mountain

A five-judge Appeal Court panel agreed unanimously that B.C.’s proposed legislation was not constitutional

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Last call for contestants in Teen Band Contest

Winners will play on stage at Penticton Peach Festival in August

Hope grows for Shuswap foodbanks thanks to modest volunteers

Secret garden donated 1,100 pounds of vegetables produced last year

Salmon Arm seeks to borrow $845,000 for Shuswap Regional Airport runway

Residents have until June 24 to voice opposition to bylaw

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Court to rule on B.C.’s pipeline permit law in crucial case for Trans Mountain

A panel of B.C. Court of Appeal judges has been mulling B.C.’s constitutional reference cas

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

B.C. man who fell off cliff returns there to rescue eagle from vulture attack

Nanaimo’s James Farkas, who broke his hip in a fall, saves eagle on same beach months later

Most Read