B.C. child rep has ‘grave concerns’ about contract homes for foster kids

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B.C. Children’s Representative Bernard Richard speaks to media from the Grand Pacific Hotel in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, October 4, 2017. British Columbia’s representative for children and youth says the province’s Ministry of Children and Family Development is failing to adequately screen or oversee contractors who house children in care. Bernard Richard has released a letter addressed to Minister Katrine Conroy in which he describes his “grave concerns” about contracted residential resources.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

British Columbia’s children’s representative says the province’s Ministry of Children and Family Development is failing to adequately screen or oversee contractors who house children in care.

Bernard Richard has released a letter addressed to Minister Katrine Conroy in which he describes his “grave concerns” about contracted residential resources.

He says he was shocked to learn that 18 children and youth recently had to be relocated from a Lower Mainland residential agency because a youth claimed a staff member was gang-affiliated, smoked marijuana with youth and offered them cocaine.

Richard does not name the residential agency but says an investigation by the ministry found only 10 of 33 staff and caregivers were cleared as risk-free by criminal record checks and other security screening criteria.

The representative says he cannot help but conclude that the ministry’s inaction has exposed children and youth in its care to unacceptable risk and harm.

Minister Katrine Conroy says in a statement that the representative rightly outlines a number of flaws in the system, and she has ordered a review of the circumstances of the more than 800 children and youth currently placed in contracted homes.