Where Were Child Protection Services?

by Darlene Barriere - Webmaster
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

Two senior social workers in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada said they had never before seen such an abused and traumatized child. When the 4-year-old was removed from the care of her 47-year-old grandmother two years ago, she had two black eyes, both of which were camouflaged with make-up. She had bruises of varying stages of healing all over her body. Ligature marks on one forearm indicated she had been tied up. The girl was suffering with pneumonia and she had a severe case of head lice. She was so malnourished that when given food, she ate until she vomited, which resulted in her being hospitalized for over a week. There was further evidence that she had been locked in the basement, and that she had had her mouth taped shut.

The doctor who examined the 4-year-old girl said she would have died had someone not intervened and removed the battered and starving child from the home. Yet the grandmother, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to only three years probation.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Michael Brecknell said he found it "unusual" that officials "didn't do much in the way of due diligence, once they assisted in the placement of the child." He further stated that child protection officials probably should not have place the high-needs toddler in the care of someone who was known to be a heavy drinker, known to suffer panic attacks, and who worked nights.

The toddler was born with a heart defect, suffered from suspected fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), and was developmentally delayed. In 2004, she was moved from foster care into the care of her grandmother. The girl remained in her grandmother's care until April 2006, when the Ministry of Child and Family Services, acting on an anonymous tip, removed the abused child from the home. Reports indicate that no follow up was done during the two years the girl was living with her grandmother, despite the fact that officials knew of the grandmother's emotional problems.

Without follow up, no one noticed that the grandmother had stopped taking the child to her medical appointments because, according to court records, she was afraid of "them seeing marks on her body."

The case came to light only because the local newspaper reported on the provincial court case in January. From there, another community paper obtained court transcripts in order to determine the details of the case and to discern the extent of the 4-year-old's injuries.

The girl, who by Canadian law cannot be named and by association, neither can her grandmother, is now in care.

Read Darlene's comments "A system in need" on this Child Abuse Article titled "Where Were Child Protection Services?" below. Feel free to add your own comments.

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May 07, 2008
A system in need...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

The grandmother received what amounted to a slap on the wrist for brutalizing and torturing her granddaughter. Particularly disturbing was the fact that the grandmother admitted she knew what she was doing was wrong when she said she didn't take the 4-year-old to the doctor because she didn't want to be exposed as a child abuser. Yet her admission does not appear to have been taken into account in the sentencing phase of this case.

There was a lack of what many would consider an appropriate sentence for the actions and inactions of this grandmother, but the underlying issue in this case is that of a system that is woefully lacking.

The court case and media attention around it resulted in little insight as to how it is that child protection officials failed to identify this girl as high-risk in the hands of her emotionally troubled grandmother.

There should have been follow up by child protection services. But even now, three months after court was held and the grandmother was sentenced, two years after the 4-year-old was removed from the abusive home and hospitalized, the only public accounting of this horrific case of abuse and the child protection system failures surrounding it, has been through the newspapers.

Without a public inquiry, without recommendations for procedures to follow to ensure this does not happen again, this WILL happen again.

Without adequate human and financial resources, children will continue to fall through the cracks of a system intended to protect them, a system that cannot be relied upon for even its known-to-be-high-risk children. What does that mean for abused children who are identified as not high-risk? What does that mean for ALL abused children?

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jun 14, 2008
More of the same
by: Anonymous

It means more child abuse, that's what it means. So sad that nothing has changed and that children are still ignored. When will we learn? I fear the answer to that is "too late".

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