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Old 08-05-2005, 03:18 PM   #1
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Angry Uncensored report cites agency's errors in tot's death

Uncensored report cites agency's errors in tot's death

Lindsay Kines
Victoria Times Colonist
Friday, August 05, 2005

VICTORIA -- B.C.'s Children's Ministry was trying to cut costs and reduce the number of children in care at the time social workers placed 19-month-old Sherry Charlie with a relative who later killed her, a government report says.

The report also says that social workers knew within days of Sherry's death at Port Alberni in 2002 that "there were issues regarding other injuries found during the autopsy," but the aboriginal child protection agency elected to leave Sherry's two-year-old brother in the killer's home for another five months.

The budget pressures, the early suspicions about the cause of death, and the often blunt language used in the report were all omitted from an earlier summary released by the government last month.

The government faced criticism for the lack of detail in that summary, prompting Children's Minister Stan Hagen to release a censored version of the full report Wednesday.

Hagen said there was no attempt to mislead the public about the contents of the original report, which was written by Nicholas Simons before he became the new NDP MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast.

"Our objective here is to learn from this tragedy," Hagen said.

Sherry was killed by her uncle, Ryan Dexter George, on Sept. 4, 2002, just weeks after being placed in his home. George, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 10-year prison sentence, admitted kicking the toddler and slamming her head on the floor because she wouldn't stop crying. He was on probation for spousal assault at the time, but a criminal record check wasn't completed before Sherry moved into his home.

The Nuu-Chah-Nulth child protection agency, Usma, placed Sherry with George using a "kith and kin" agreement, in which children are housed with relatives rather than taken into foster care and placed with strangers.

Kith and kin agreements were included in child protection legislation in 1996, but didn't officially become part of the law until 2002, the report says.

"It was introduced in 2002 as an element of (the ministry's) new strategic shift, placing more onus on communities (families, informal support networks) to care for children, to reduce the number of children in foster care by a specific percentage and, in the opinion of the review, to reduce costs," the report says.

The report says that social workers shoulder more responsibility when using kith and kin agreements and need "significant training."

But, even though the concept had been around for six years, the ministry didn't provide aboriginal agencies with any training and simply faxed them a six-page list of draft guidelines in July 2002.

The guidelines were general, and stated that social workers "should" do criminal record checks, instead of saying they "shall" or "must," the report says.

Hagen denied that cost-cutting was a factor in Sherry's case. He said the provincial government actually spent more money placing Sherry in a kith and kin agreement than if she had been placed in foster care with a stranger, which would have been covered by the federal government.

The ministry also says that, according to research, children who are placed with relatives do better than with strangers.

"It had nothing to do with budget or saving money," Hagen said.

WHAT THE REPORT FOUND:

- The agency's response to child protection concerns was "not fully consistent with established standards."

- Agency staff did not meet ministry guidelines for aboriginal agencies.

- The process to share information between children and family ministry and the local native family services agency failed.

Ran with fact box "What the Report Found", which has been appended to the end of the story.

The Vancouver Sun 2005
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Old 08-05-2005, 04:23 PM   #2
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Aww thats so sad
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