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'Kids need us to get this right': B.C. minister responds to CTV News investigation into disturbing case of child neglect

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“This story is beyond heartbreaking.”

Those are the words of B.C.’s minister for children and family development after CTV News went to Grace Lore looking for answers in a disturbing case of child neglect.

The case involves three young siblings who were allegedly neglected in both Fort St. John and the Southern Interior, then found living in filthy conditions and isolated from the outside world.

“They were utterly, 100 per cent neglected and locked in their rooms,” said their foster mom, who is also a relative. She can’t be identified to protect the identity of the children.

“The children, when found, they were covered in feces, urine. They literally were feral and I’m not exaggerating,” she said, explaining that the kids are non-verbal, not potty trained, and scream and cry for hours without reason.

Their extended family told CTV News that at least seven calls were made to social services and police over the years, but the children, who are Indigenous, were only removed after the mother herself contacted the ministry saying she could no longer cope.

“When concerned family and community reach out to our ministry, it is absolutely essential to make sure we are doing everything to make sure those cases and calls are properly screened. Kids need us to get this right,” said the children's minister.

Though Lore would not speak directly to the case, citing privacy, she said her ministry has been making important changes.

“In January, we made some changes to practice so that in cases of multiple calls from concerned family, from community members, that we are taking another look,” she said.

But the foster mom said government failings involving the three siblings didn’t end when the children were taken into care. She said at first they were put in a resource home where they did not get the follow-up care recommended by doctors. Since they’ve come to her, she said she’s had to constantly fight to get them the help they desperately need.

 “It’s just ridiculous. These children need life-long therapies and care,” the foster mom said.

“It is absolutely our responsibility as a ministry to ensure that care providers have what they need to make sure kids are safe and getting the care and love they need. It’s also absolutely critical that kids are getting those services,” Lore said when asked about this.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development has been plagued by failures for years. And in too many cases, those failures have led to tragedies, including the death of Dontay Lucas from Port Alberni. Just six years old, he died from blunt-force trauma shortly after being returned to the care of his mom and step dad, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter. In May, Rykel Frank and Mitchell Frank were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Last June, the foster parents of a boy from Chilliwack were sentenced to 10 years in prison for the torture and manslaughter death of the child. Ministry staff had not checked on the boy for seven months prior to his death. They can not be named due to a court ban.

The minister said that in every case of neglect and abuse, understanding what happened is a top priority.

“And that takes the form through practice audits and reviews, it can take the forms through additional training,” she said.

Lore also said her ministry has increased staff and is in the process of hiring an Indigenous child welfare director.

When asked if she would personally look into the most recent case of neglect involving the three children, she said, “Every time we have concerns about the safety and vulnerability of kids, I am connected to that case. I am connected to our teams.”

“In every case where we have concerns, I will continue as minister to make sure we understand what happened and how so we can take the actions necessary."

“There aren’t words to speak to what sometimes happens to vulnerable kids in our province,” she said, adding that as minister she is doing everything in her power to help those who are most vulnerable.

RCMP in B.C.’s Interior said they could not comment on the case involving the three neglected siblings, but said the extended family could file a complaint. The family said they have already done this. RCMP in northern B.C. did not respond to a request for information from CTV News.

Meanwhile, the children’s foster mom said the children remain deeply traumatized by what’s happened.

“They were failed in every way,” she said through tears.

Failed, she believes, for life.

This is the second in a three-part exclusive investigative series. The third part, which takes a closer look at B.C.'s foster care system, will be published Wednesday. 

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