Shipping off troubled kids not a solution

The real question, Dr. Charles Emmrys testified, is, “What works?”

What doesn’t work—what research shows doesn’t work, he adds—is shipping troubled kids out of their home provinces, away from family and community, and into residential institutions where they are more likely to be warehoused than treated.


Emmyrs, a Moncton-based clinical psychologist and court-recognized expert in adolescent behaviour disorders, is an advocate for what he calls the “messy stuff.” He argues governments should invest scarce resources in family, school and community supports instead of more buildings. Community-based care, he acknowledges, is “a long and tedious process, but it works.”

Emmrys was testifying earlier this week in the case of a 15-year-old Cole Harbour boy currently in Bayfield, a long-term Ontario treatment centre “for boys experiencing difficulties.” This boy had been diagnosed with myriad psychological disorders: attention deficit hyperactivity, alcohol-related neural development, impulse control. Mostly, he ran. He ended up selling his body, stealing cars, doing drugs.

His grandparents, who’d raised him since he was a toddler, couldn’t cope on their own. In October 2008, they asked the Department of Community Services for help.

Community Services’ idea of helping was to make him a ward of the province and ship him off to Bayfield last June.

When his grandparents tried to visit him in September, they say they were shocked by Bayfield staff’s hostility and unwillingness to let them spend time with their grandson.

They’re now asking Family Court here to order Community Services to bring him back to Nova Scotia.

The real question, of course, is whether the boy is benefitting at Bayfield.

My own anecdotal experience isn’t encouraging.

Two years ago, while researching a story on children who slip through the social welfare cracks, I met a local street kid I called Carl. Carl had spent five years—from age 12—in Bayfield for problems that sound remarkably similar to this boy.

As do his treatments, which included a lot of drug therapy.

At one point, Carl says he was on 13 different psychotropic drugs. “I was like a zombie.” Bayfield officials also discouraged Carl’s mother from visiting or talking with her son on the phone.

Did it work?


After Bayfield spit Carl out at 17, he wound up as a psych patient in Nova Scotia where doctors finally took him off all the meds Bayfield had prescribed. When I met him, Carl was living on the streets, and didn’t have much hope for himself or his future.

What works—and what doesn’t? Good questions. It’s time the government started asking them.

  1. My grandson has now been in Bayfield for nine months, I feel he is deteriorating. Already my calls are monitored, my hands are tied. No one will listen. Any suggestions, please.


  2. My grandson is about to face this same faith and advice on keeping him out of Bayfield and home with us his grandparents…thanks


  3. I have just got out of bayfield and im a wreck I have nightmares of that place you people dont know what its like yeah, they abuse the kids there physically, mentaly, emotionally but no one gives a crap they think the kids are lying, well no they arent


  4. I have developed a program called NPE.I worked successfully with the most exotic youth in the social systen in BC.I am capable of consulting to or setting up a facility to handle these youth so that they are safely managed in the community.I adopted a holistic approach embraceing the medical community as well as the parents or primary caregivers.Contact me at if you have questions or would like to read my work.


  5. Hello Mr. Kimber. I couldn’t agree more with your article and in particular, Dr. Emmrys.

    I was sitting beside you in court the other day. I was there to support the family. What a tragic situation for all involved!

    I would like to read your article about “Carl”. Might I find it online?

    Thank you,



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