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.

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