Children’s Ministry Refuses to Compensate Misinformed Youth: B.C. Ombudsperson

By | September 6, 2023

The provincial ombudsperson in British Columbia is deeply disappointed that the government has refused to compensate a former foster child for its mistakes. The ombudsperson believes that other young people may have also been affected by the government’s actions. The government is also refusing to investigate further. Vancouver Is Awesome reported

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government’s refusal to compensate a young woman for its mistakes has left the provincial ombudsperson deeply disappointed. The ombudsperson, Jay Chalke, expressed concern that the former foster child, identified as Alexandra, may not be the only one harmed by the government’s actions.

According to Chalke, Alexandra was given false information by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, leading her to believe that she would be eligible for government support for post-secondary education worth tens of thousands of dollars. However, when she applied for the support, she was denied.

Chalke criticized the ministry for not considering the possibility that other young people may have been similarly affected. He stated, “I’m deeply disappointed that the government continues to refuse to compensate Alexandra, but also that they are refusing to look to see if other young people were also not provided with correct information or legal advice.” He added, “Alexandra’s best interests were definitely not protected in this case, and I’m concerned there may be others who are in the same situation.”

These remarks were made following the release of a report titled “Misinformed,” which investigated Alexandra’s complaint. The report, which includes five recommendations, revealed that Alexandra was born in the 1990s in a small town in British Columbia and is currently in her 20s. The Ministry of Children and Family Development, which accepted two of the report’s recommendations, has not yet commented on the matter.

Chalke explained that Alexandra received incorrect advice from a social worker regarding her eligibility for post-secondary education supports and other funding if she transferred custody from government care to that of her aunt when she was 17 years old. Alexandra was not informed that transferring custody to her aunt would make her ineligible for the funding supports.

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Furthermore, Chalke highlighted that Alexandra was not provided with independent legal advice to understand the consequences of her decision. As a result, when she applied to a program of her choice, she discovered that the supports she had been led to believe were available to her were not. This denial of support, which included living expenses and tuition, resulted from the fact that she was in the custody of her aunt on her 19th birthday.

The report also revealed that Alexandra had previously lived in a family home where she experienced physical and emotional abuse. The ministry removed her from the home five times, starting when she was only three months old.

In a personal letter to Children’s Minister Mitzi Dean, Alexandra expressed her frustration and dismay at being denied financial support. She stated, “In terms of my placement, I was not made aware of the long-term effects my choice would have. I didn’t even really understand that it was completely up to me. I was given the option to ‘go with family who is willing to take you’ or ‘go back into the system.'”

Despite being denied funding, Alexandra took the initiative to enroll in an education program on her own, resulting in personal debt.

The report made several recommendations, two of which were supported by the ministry. These recommendations centered around developing strategies to ensure that government staff are aware of the benefits, limitations, and obligations in providing legal advice to youth. However, three recommendations were rejected by the ministry, including compensating Alexandra, conducting an audit to determine if other youth received misleading information, and involving the Public Guardian and Trustee of B.C. in custody transfer applications to add an extra layer of oversight.

The Office of the Ombudsperson in British Columbia is an independent organization that investigates complaints about local and public sector organizations, as well as reports of serious wrongdoing in the provincial government.

This article was first published on September 6, 2023, by Dirk Meissner from The Canadian Press..

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