Staff members at the British Columbia Children’s Ministry who failed to check on two Indigenous children who were systematically abused by their foster parents have lost their jobs, the government says.
A judge sentenced the foster parents this month to 10 years each in prison for the death of the 11-year-old boy and the serious injuries to his eight-year-old sister, saying it was incomprehensible how someone could inflict such pain, suffering and violence on an innocent child.
While the Ministry of Children and Family Development did not provide the names or the number of people involved, it said in a statement “the staff who were directly involved in this case are no longer employed by the ministry.”
Children’s Minister Mitzi Dean was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
The statement said the ministry conducted a review of its involvement with the children and implemented changes to existing practices that include regular, in-person, private meetings with children in care, and reviews to ensure care providers are properly assessed.
The statement said ministry staff did not follow its policy that children in care should be seen regularly by a social worker.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, policy required that children and youth in care and or those who were the subject of a child protection response were seen in person,” said the statement. “Under ministry policies, children who are in care are to be seen regularly by a social worker. In this specific instance, ministry policy was not followed by the staff involved in this case.”
The statement also said the ministry’s review of the case included that the office involved have timely completion and review with staff of child protection incidents.
The ministry review also said cultural plans must be done for Indigenous children in care and staff must ensure children get access to appropriate medical care and support services.
“The changes outlined above have been fully implemented at the office that was involved in this incident,” said the statement.
B.C. Indigenous groups have called for the resignation of Children’s Minister Mitzi Dean and the overhaul of the province’s foster care system, with one leader saying the horrific abuse suffered by the two children left him “nauseous.”
Provincial court Judge Peter La Prairie in Chilliwack, B.C., sentenced the foster parents after they pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and manslaughter of the boy, and aggravated assault of his younger sister.
Content warning: material that some may find disturbing follows.
La Prairie said in his ruling that the children were tortured, starved and forced to eat their own feces, vomit and dog food. They were forced to undertake excessive exercise routines for hours, often with their eyes taped shut, while in diapers or naked.
They were also slapped, punched, kicked and whipped, with much of the abuse captured by video cameras inside the home.
The boy died in February 2021 after suffering a traumatic brain injury during a beating by the woman, documents say. His sister was later examined and found to have multiple abrasions and bruises all over her body and injuries to her wrists and ankles from zip ties.
The B.C. Green Party also called for Dean to resign Thursday.
“I stand with the First Nations Leadership Council and echo their call for minister Dean to step down or be fired, and for Premier David Eby to empower a new minister to begin the transformation in the British Columbia child welfare system immediately,” Green MLA Adam Olsen who is a member of Tsartlip First Nation, said in a statement.
The Opposition BC United also called for Dean to quit.
“Offering condolences and assuring it won’t happen again is simply not good enough,” said BC United childcare critic Karin Kirkpatrick on social media. “Minister Mitzi Dean must resign.”
Eby said earlier the child protection system “failed these kids,” and the ministry is conducting a review of the case under Dean’s leadership.
Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, said this week her office is conducting an investigation, calling the case “one of the most egregious situations” she had ever seen in the 46 years she has spent helping children.