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Group home failed to protect child from harm, Newfoundland judge rules

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Judge Harold Porter denies request from province to continue temporary custody of child

A provincial court judge has denied an application from child protection authorities for a temporary custody order of a young teenager, saying the group home in which the child has been placed has failed to protect them from harm.

Judge Harold Porter of Grand Bank noted that during one incident involving the child, group home staff had locked themselves in a room to hide while waiting for police to arrive.
Porter granted a temporary custody order of the child, whom he called “A,” to the child’s grandparents instead.

The judge said A is clearly in need of protection due to a history of violence, aggression and self-harm, but staff of Blue Sky Family Care — which is contracted by the provincial government to provide housing, care and other supports to children who have been taken into the custody of the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development (CSSD) — has proven it is unable to provide it in this case.

A was taken into the care of CSSD earlier this year and has been housed by Blue Sky in different group homes since then. The child has a number of mental health challenges, including oppositional defiance disorder and borderline personality disorder, and due to a history of violence, a psychiatrist advised CSSD staff A should not be housed with other children and should be accompanied by two caregivers at all times.

“This has not happened,” Porter said on Monday. “Blue Sky are not following the recommendations of the psychiatrist to separate A from other residents.”

“The Blue Sky staff are incapable of preventing A from causing harm to him/her self and are incapable of preventing A from harming someone else.” — Judge Harold Porter

The judge said there have been 89 reported incidents involving A since the child was taken into care, most of them involving A’s aggressive behaviour. During one incident, Blue Sky staff locked themselves in a room to hide from A until police arrived.

“Despite the direction from the psychiatrist that A should be constantly monitored by two caregivers, A was able to hide a sharp object, take it to bed and cut his/her self with it,” Porter said. He noted the child has also pierced their own lip and ingested nail polish remover while in the Blue Sky group home, and has managed to cut themselves with the blade of a pencil sharpener, a thumb tack, and broken glass from a destroyed cell phone and iPad.

“The foregoing evens persuade me that the Blue Sky group home is not the place for A,” Porter said. “The Blue Sky staff are incapable of preventing A from causing harm to him/her self and are incapable of preventing A from harming someone else.”

Porter said the child had done well while living with their grandparents a couple years ago, and granted a six-month custody order for A to them instead. The judge said he was leaving it to CSSD to ensure the family is provided with the necessary supports.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Children, Seniors and Social development declined to comment directly on the judge’s decision, but told The Telegram there are standards in place for staffed residential facilities to ensure quality of care. Staff are trained to provide specialized care for children with complex needs, she said.

“Placement providers must comply with the provincial standards and placements are monitored, at minimum, on a monthly basis by professional social workers who complete reviews to ensure compliance with each standard and quality care,” the department spokeswoman said in an email. Social workers have regular contact with each child, she explained.

Asked whether staff are required to follow the recommendations of a psychiatrist in the case of a child in care, the spokeswoman said psychiatrists are part of a team of people who address children’s complex needs.

“In addition to family members, this team may include social workers, mental health professionals including psychiatrists, educational supports and other professionals as deemed necessary,” she said.

Twitter: @Tara_Bradbury


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