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

Pair of Rockets added to NHL team’s prospect showcase

Kelowna’s Kyle Topping and Lief Mattson were added to the Carolina Hurricanes prospect roster

B.C. Culture Days hits Kelowna next month

The event will offer a variety of free activities in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Lake Country

Vernon man facing drug trafficking charges in Kelowna

The man was found with suspected cocaine, heroin and fentanyl and thousands of dollars in cash

Lawyers to hold pro bono ‘advice-a-thon’ in Kelowna’s City Park

Free legal advice will be given to low-income Kelowna residents from 10am-2pm on Sept. 10

Hell’s Angel prospect back in custody after being charged with assault

The 30-year-old man now faces several additional charges

Grass fire breaks out on highway south of Vernon

Highway 97 traffic slowed as firefighters snuff grass fire

Wildfire sparks beside Highway 3 west of Keremeos

A wildfire on the side of Highway 3 just west of Keremeos… Continue reading

Summerland relaunches net metering program

Event open house will be held Aug. 27 from 3 to 6 p.m in Arena Banquet Room

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Jaws of Life used to rescue driver in North Okanagan crash

Single-vehicle MVI causes traffic delays on Highway 6

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Most Read