The grieving grandmother of a child who died in foster care in a small eastern Fraser Valley community has received an apology from the provincial government.
“If she’s watching this now, I send to her and all the family my deepest apologies and condolences,” Mitzi Dean said in a TV report that aired on CTV News Aug. 10. “This has been a terrible, terrible tragedy. I can’t imagine the heartbreak that the family and the community have been going through.
Dean, B.C.’s Minister of Children and Family Development, has also agreed to meet with the grandmother of the 11-year-old boy who was horrifically abused before dying in 2021. Between December 2020 and February 2021, two foster parents inflicted severe physical and psychological abuse on the boy and his sister. During their sentencing hearing in June, the court heard that the abuse included restraints and weapons. Items used to hit the children included a two-by-four piece of wood, a broom handle, a belt, a shoe, kitchen utensils, keys, a cell phone, a bucket, the butt end of an axe and a can of Lysol spray.
They were choked, gagged, blind-folded and bound with zip ties and duct tape. Both children were forced to do jumping jacks, squats and other physical activities barefoot for hours on end, sometimes naked and often wearing a diaper.
The grandmother said she told the ministry she would take both children before they put into foster care, and she was never told why the offer was refused. She said she wrote to the ministry after the foster parents were sentenced in June, and never heard back. A man and woman who can’t be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban each received 10 years for manslaughter and six years for aggravated assault, served concurrently.
The grandmother is now asking for a public inquiry. Dean, who previously said the children “were failed at every level” isn’t willing to take that step, but Jennifer Charlesworth, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, has launched an independent review.
Two ministry workers who were involved with the children’s’ care were either fired or resigned. Dean admitted policies and procedures weren’t followed, and the last in-person visit to the home by a ministry staffer was months before the child died. The minister said changes have been made to prevent anything like this from happening again, and she understands that everyone wants more answers. She said the Charlesworth review will play a role in that.
“They have the expertise and experience to do a comprehensive inquiry,” she said. “If they find that there are issues in the ministry operations that can be immediately fixed and immediately improved, they will tell us.”