The pathetic performance of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) Minister Paul Davis in the House of Assembly Wednesday helps explain why the governing PCs are at a paltry 29 per cent in the polls.
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball asked Davis when he had received child and youth advocate Carol Chafe’s report about a 16-year-old boy who in November 2011 burned down the Springdale Street rooming house he lived in, killing a 54-year-old fellow resident.
Davis, in an obvious effort to waste time in question period and avoid followup questions, gabbed and wheezed without answering the question, until Ball’s seventh attempt finally coaxed out a reluctant, “Last week.”
Far more important is the fact that it took the advocate two years to produce a report about the incident.
The report is titled “Sixteen,” which is how old “John” was when he committed the arson and manslaughter, for which he was later convicted.
Davis apparently doesn’t want to talk about it, but the first and most obvious question people wanted answered since the day of the incident is, “How does a 16-year-old kid end up living unsupervised in a rooming house?”
Excerpts from “Sixteen” explain a lot more than Davis is willing to.
• “In June 2009, Mom called the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) as John, who was fourteen (14) years old, had been reportedly beaten up. The RNC responded and as part of their investigation, the police officer documented the following comments: ‘(John) has been the victim of bullying at school for a while now. There have been incidents where other kids have spit in (John’s) face and called him names’ (RNC File). The investigative outcome produced no charges and the file was closed.”
• “Mom … stated to Intake Social Worker (#1) that she wanted her son removed from her home. Mom reported that John had continued to use drugs and had other young people in her home using drugs. In addition, Mom informed Intake Social Worker (#1) that John had recently put his ‘knuckles prints in the walls.’ She said he was staying out overnight, coming and going through the windows and he often ended up sleeping in the nearby tunnels.”
• “Mom stated that she believed she was no longer able to keep him safe and putting him in care was the only thing she could do. The next day, Mom called the CYFS Intake Program again and spoke with Intake Social Worker (#1). Mom advised that John was sleeping in tunnels, using drugs, and as a result she was seeking immediate action for John. On the (Child Protection Report) John was categorized as a homeless child; he was fifteen (15) years old.”
• “Assessment Social Worker (#1) stated in the letter: ‘It should be noted that there are concerns regarding (John’s) mental health which are being explored at this time due to drug use and a strong family history of schizophrenia.’”
• “John had been kicked out of his home the previous evening. John had what appeared to be a broken nose and two (2) black eyes. He (said) he had been involved in a fight the day before. … John was not planning on returning home but was wearing heavy clothing to ‘spend the night outside.’”
• “Mom was adamant that she could not do any more for her son and she refused to ask her friends or family if they could take him. … Assessment Social Worker (#3) then spoke directly to the grandfather who confirmed what Mom had said; they were unable to care for John.”
Chafe reported John told her, “I just hope this doesn’t happen to somebody else, really. It sucks.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.