Top News

A duty to protect

['Frankly Speaking with Frank Likely']
['Frankly Speaking with Frank Likely']

Frankly Speaking with Frank Likely

Just what are the duties of the state when a child is placed in the custody of the government? The answer may become better defined if a law suit filed in British Columbia is allowed to proceed.

Two young people, both with extensive criminal records, have filed claims against the Provincial Ministry of Children and family Development claiming their time in government care set them up for their lives of crime. They are claiming they were placed in unsafe houses with no established plans made for their protection and continuing well-being.

It is easy to respond to the news of this claim with the classic Flip Wilson line “The Devil made me do it” but I don't think the claim should be dismissed as just someone trying to get something out of the taxpayers. Governments do have a duty to protect those at-risk people put into their care.

A second part of the claimants’ case is that the government did nothing to help them once they had “aged out” of the system. This is apparently a problem with child welfare systems across the country. The resources are there until you reach that certain age and are then dropped from the system to fend for yourself. Indeed, there are anecdotal stories of children literally being thrown out of their foster homes when they hit that age and the support cheques were no longer coming into the foster family. In many jurisdictions there is an age gap between when child protection services end and one can apply for benefits as an adult, leaving vulnerable young people all the more vulnerable.

I'm not sure these two claimants should be the poster children for the plight of those in foster care, but it is encouraging to see the issue will have to be addressed.

It's a case I'm sure all jurisdictions across the country will be watching with care.

Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister who lives in Springhill.

Recent Stories