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Metis teen abandoned by the system before suicide: BC youth watchdog

Last Updated Feb 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm PST

Alex Gervais with girlfriend Arianne Dickson (Courtesy Facebook)
Summary

BC youth watchdog says teen neglected by the province before suicide

Victoria accepts recommendations made after teen dies in ministry care

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – He was tossed around and neglected by BC’s foster care system and ultimately took his own life. That’s the story told by a new report from BC’s acting children’s watchdog about 18-year-old Alex Gervais.

According to Bernard Richard’s investigation, the Metis teenager had been sent to 17 different care homes and was seen by 23 different social workers and caregivers over the span of 11 years.

Alex claimed some of his caregivers misspent the funds that were supposed to help him, and that others sexually assaulted him, and denied him food and clothing. Throughout his time in care, Alex was also denied access to mental health care or any meaningful connection to his family and Metis culture.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development had opportunities to place Alex in the care of his stepmother in BC, or his aunt in Quebec, but opted not to.

“In a way, he was set up to fail in the system,” Richard says.

At the end of his life, Alex was placed alone and unsupported in an Abbotsford hotel room for 49 days. He ultimately jumped out the window of that room on Sept. 18, 2015.

“I do have a greater concern for the hundreds of other kids who are in the system who are served in exactly the same way,” Richard adds.

A number of recommendations are made in the report, like ensuring plans of care are up to date for each foster child, making youth mental health services more available, and strengthening quality assurance and oversight.

Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux was conciliatory as she responded to the report Monday morning, saying she accepts all of the report’s recommendations.

“There are no arguments with the facts in this report. If I had written the report, it would say the same thing,” Cadieux says.

“We can’t go back and seize the opportunities to help (Alex) that were lost. But what I can offer is change to the system: more social workers, strengthened oversight, and increased accountability. It’s what we’ve been doing, and what we will continue to do under my watch.”

The province says it has allocated $2.7 million to help develop specific care plans.