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Lawyer says 'thousands' of B.C. children neglected or abused in foster care, launches lawsuit

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Warning: This story contains disturbing details. 

“I thought I was safe. I really, truly did.”

They are the emotional words of a woman whose traumatic experience in the foster care system in B.C. left her forever changed.

“To this day, I sleep with a knife under my bed,” she said, explaining she has also taken self-defence classes.

CTV News is not using her real name, but ‘Dawn,’ now 53, is part of a proposed class action lawsuit against the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

“You could write a horror show about what’s happened to some of these children,” said Dawn’s lawyer, Scott Stanley of Murphy Battista.

“It would be enough to curdle the stomach of every British Columbian who has any sense of a moral conscious,” he continued.

“It would horrify people to know of some of these extreme cases.” he explained.

Stanley said the abuse of children in care in B.C. has been widespread.

“I’m confident saying there have been thousands of children neglected or abused while in the care of the ministry,” he said.

Dawn told CTV News that as a child, she was forced to leave her parents’ home because of abuse. She was living on the streets at the age of 11, sleeping in clothing donation bins until eventually she was put in foster care.

But her life did not get better.

“I witnessed one of the young girls being beaten several times and when I tried to intervene, I would get it,” she said, describing how one of the adult children in her first foster home took a broom handle and beat his sister.

She said when she tried to help the girl, he turned the violence on her.

“I had bruises. She had bruises,” Dawn recalled.

“There was always threats, always physical threats,” she said, explaining that the foster parents were rarely around, and that’s when the abuse from their biological son would take place.

She said she was physically, emotionally and sexually abused in the home where she stayed for about seven months.

She said in her second foster home, she was not physically abused, but she was made to feel worthless.

“(The foster mom) told me that I was there so she could pay her rent,” Dawn said.

By 17, she was living on her own, receiving about $350 a month in financial support from the ministry. She said it wasn’t even enough to pay the rent, and she ended up becoming sick and severely malnourished.

“There was no food. I wasn’t allowed to get food stamps, that’s what my social worker told me,” she recalled.

“I dealt drugs. I ended up having a boyfriend who was a drug dealer. He had some pretty nasty friends and he would get me to deal drugs at school,” she said.

The trauma she experienced as a child has left her so fearful, she continues to barricade her bedroom door at night.

Stanley said B.C.’s foster system is mired in systemic problems.

“Systemic failures of which the government should have been aware for generations,” he said.

Stanley said he hopes the lawsuit “sheds a big bright light on the problem so that we can properly address it and I hope it offers some assistance to those who have been historically impacted.”

As for Dawn, who cried as she recalled the trauma of her childhood, she chose to speak out with the hope of bringing change.

“You’re taken away and put in a home and they’re telling you you’re safe, it’s going to be okay, and it’s far from it. And I really don’t want to see another young girl go through that,” she said.

CTV News reached out to the Ministry of Children and Family Development but had not received a response by deadline.

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