Wednesday, February 4, 1998
'Glitch' blamed for children's 4 a.m. releaseB.C. Minister for Children and Families admits the youngsters were at risk.
The B.C. Minister for Children and Families admits there was a "glitch" and that three children found in the home of an alleged sex offender in Richmond should never have been released on the street in the middle of the night.
Penny Priddy said the children -- one as young as 12 -- were at risk and, as such, it was her ministry's responsibility to ensure there was a safe placement for them.
Richmond RCMP officers said they were forced to let the children leave the police detachment around 4 a.m. on Jan 2 after attempts to get help from a social worker from Afterhours -- the ministry's emergency services -- failed.
"Obviously, it didn't work the way it should have worked. Obviously there was a glitch," said Priddy on Tuesday. "My goal is what do we do to make sure it doesn't happen again. What do we do to make sure kids are safe?"
Under the Children and Family Service Act, Priddy added, police can apprehend children until social workers find the children a safe placement.
However, in an earlier interview, Richmond RCMP Inspector Al MacIntyre said police do not have the facilities to hold children and were not going to put them in a jail cell.
He said the RCMP would have taken the children to a social worker at Afterhours themselves but it was made clear that staff there "weren't going to take them."
On Tuesday, MacIntyre said he didn't want to comment further about the case publicly. But, he noted, a meeting has now been arranged for Monday between senior members of the RCMP, the manager of Afterhours and the regional director for the ministry's child protection branch.
Also Tuesday, B.C. Children's Commissioner Cynthia Morton released her annual report into child fatalities.
Fifty-four of the deaths she investigated were youths between the ages of 13 and 18.
Of these deaths, 10 were youth who were living on the streets in the six months prior to their deaths and four were involved in the sex trade.
Morton's report called for a more coordinated approach to Afterhours emergency services for youth.
After hours has 60 social workers assigned to it and last year took 83,495 calls. (One-quarter of these calls did not relate to emergencies but rather calls concerning income assistance.)
Community workers in the Downtown Eastside said they would prefer all calls concerning youths be handled by the ministry's Adolescent Services Unit.
However, they noted, that unit shuts down at 11 p.m. and any emergency concerning youth would then be handled by a social worker at Afterhours.
Deb Means, of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Safety Office, said the social workers at Afterhours wouldn't have the same level of specialized expertise in dealing with youths as the 16 social workers (11 work full-time) at the Adolescent Services Unit.
John Turvey, of the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society, said the seven youth workers from his organization have a good working relationship with the unit. But he says he finds that Afterhours isn't responsive to youths.
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