(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

BC Liberal candidates Michael de Jong (left) and Bruce Banman are projected to win in Abbotsford West and Abbotsford South, respectively. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News
Abbotsford BC Liberals de Jong and Banman heading to Victoria, say Highway 1 widening will be focus

In Abbotsford-Mission, BC Liberal Simon Gibson in close race against NDP’s Pam Alexis

Simon Gibson watching the vote count at the Best Western Hotel in Mission. With 98 polls reporting, Gibson leads NDP challenger Alexis by 188 votes. / Kevin Mills photo.
Abbotsford-Mission riding too close to call, mail-in ballots will decide

98 polls reporting: BC Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson leads NDP challenger Pam Alexis by 188 votes

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Simon Gibson watching the vote count come in at the Best Western Hotel in Mission. Kevin Mills photo.
Abbotsford-Mission riding one of the closest races in the province

BC Liberal incumbent Simon Gibson leading by under 100 votes

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

BC Hydro map showing where power has been knocked out is dotted with over a dozen outages. (BC Hydro map screenshot)
Thousands without power in Lower Mainland on election day

One outage in Langley and Surrey is affecting over 4,000 customers

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

Most Read