(Pixabay)

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

The body responsible for advocating for children and youth is asking the province to overhaul how it cares for vulnerable youth with special needs.

The recommendations come in a report released Monday from the Representative for Children and Youth about a 12-year-old boy with “complex special needs” who was repeatedly overlooked by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The report told the story of “Charlie,” an Indigenous Lower Mainland boy who was removed from his single mother in January 2016 after suffering a “critical injury.”

He is now living in a supportive foster home and is “well nourished and healthy,” as well as being described as “affectionate, clever and observant.”

READ MORE: Indigenous children still being treated unequally by provinces, says advocate

He was not diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder till he was six, despite showing signs of the disorder at three years old.

When first responders found the child after reports of a “family argument” at the home, they found Charlie weighing 65lbs and with “signs of neglect so abhorrent that first responders who arrived at the home were traumatized.”

Charlie was “naked and filthy, severely underweight, unable to walk, and living in a bedroom covered in garbage and feces,” representative Jennifer Charlesworth said.

The boy, who is nonverbal, had been “screaming for a half hour” before police arrived.

Charlie was “terrified and clinging to the paramedics” when he was removed from the home.

Charlie’s removal came nearly 10 years after his family first came into contact with the ministry in what the agency called a “multiple system failure.”

Charlesworth said that despite eight formal reports to the ministry concerned about Charlie’s health and four separate child protection assessments by MCFD, no social worker ever laid eyes on Charlie until he was taken from his mother in 2016.

Charlesworth described a plethora of red flags that the ministry failed to respond to.

“Charlie was not yet five when doctors thought he was being neglected,” she said.

“But there was no medical reason for his failure to thrive.”

The child’s condition improved when he was in school, Charlesworth said, but both the school and social workers failed to follow up when he missed more than 100 days in two years before his mother withdrew him altogether.

Even though Charlie was found in terrible condition, Charlesworth said there was “lots of indication that this mom was doing the best she could.”

Charlie was being cared for by a single mom struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.

The ministry did not make any effort to connect Charlie, whose father is Indigenous, with his culture or extended family. Charlie’s father lived on-and-off at the family home until 2012. After he moved out, he resumed making monthly child support payments but Charlie’s mother did not allow him to see their son.

“It was more than a year [after his removal from his mother] before his file was transferred to an Aboriginal guardianship office that was more likely to recognize and take advantage of the protective factors of culture to Charlie’s benefit,” the report read.

Throughout his life, Charlie lived in poverty and had unstable housing.

Despite their circumstances, Charlie’s mother never received respite care, and any aid they did receive went away when “contract hours ran out” or the mom said she didn’t need it anymore.

Charlesworth said the stigma of working with MCFD caused the mom to shy away from asking for help.

The mom was “fearful she would be blamed for the child not doing well,” Charlesworth said, and was “terrified of her child being removed.”

The report made 11 recommendations, which were accepted fully by the province.

Chief among them was a “comprehensive assessment” of the Children and Youth with Special Needs division of MCFD.

The assessment is scheduled to be completed by fall 2019, with implementation to follow in the spring of 2020.

While the review is underway, the agency called on MCFD to take “immediate steps” to improve families’ access to services for their special needs kids, including respite care and medical benefits.

The ministry is also tasked with finding a way to improve information sharing between different people responsible for watching over a vulnerable child’s health.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rossland resident Aerin Bowers completes 19-km swim along Christina Lake

Bowers said her dad inspired her to complete the epic adventure

NDP acclaims Brittny Anderson as Nelson-Creston candidate

The provincial election will be held on Oct. 24

Nelson plans major renovation to Civic Centre as part of COVID-19 stimulus plan

Project would upgrade energy efficiency and provide a concourse to access all parts of the building

Without federal aid, the future of B.C. air transport is bleak

Air traffic remains down 75 to 85 per cent

Go By Bike Week hits the road in Nelson

The event runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 4

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Attorney General of Canada defends Kelowna Mountie involved in rough arrest

Tyler Russell filed a lawsuit against Const. Siggy Pietrzak in June of this year

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Refresh of Liberal government’s agenda comes amid new looming COVID-19 crisis

Lockdowns saw fed spending soar to historic levels in effort to offset pandemic’s blow to Canadians’ livelihoods

Most Read