I’ve been writing about child protection issues since 2004 when I got interested in the story of a Halifax couple embroiled in a highly publicized, 67-hour, shots-fired standoff with police. The issue: Children’s Aid had seized their five-month old daughter, not because of anything the couple had done to the child—in fact, evidence indicated they were loving, capable parents—but because they’d each been accused of abducting children during acrimonious custody battles in previous relationships.
Their story didn’t end well. The parents ended up in jail. Their daughter disappeared into the often self-serving anonymity of the province’s foster care system.
Then there was the story of the 16-year-old girl whose mental health issues were never addressed in foster or group homes. She ended up in court. The frustrated judge ordered the then-minister of community services—the girl’s legal guardian—to explain the mess. The minister never testified. Instead, the case was shuffled to the sidelines.
I caught up with the girl—now 18—last year. She told me she didn’t get any more help after her court case; instead, as soon as she turned 18, she was spit out into the adult welfare system. Good riddens.
Through her, I met a young man who’d been shipped off at the age of 12—against his parents’ wishes—to an Ontario residential treatment centre called Bayfield where he spent five years. Bayfield, he says, didn’t help. Instead, they prescribed drugs: he was on 13 medications at one point. Like the girl, Bayfield and child welfare washed its hands of him as soon as it could. The last I heard, he was living on the streets.
Which brings us to the current case: the 15-year-old Cole Harbour boy who was also sent to Bayfield. He didn’t do well either. Bayfield has now dumped him, but not before squeezing his grandparents/guardians out of his life—leaving the province, which claims it doesn’t have the facilities to treat him, to decide what to do next with him.
Whatever it does with the boy, the province should do something else; call a public inquiry into how we deal with troubled children and families. Something is clearly wrong.