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Canada - Still no answers for Sexual Crimes Against Foster Children

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Lukes Dad's picture
on Mon, 04/15/2013 - 10:00
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Canada - Still no answers for Sexual Crimes Against Foster Children

They were horrific crimes—vulnerable children victimized and abused by the people entrusted to care for them. Put in harm’s way by a government agency and its officials whose job it was to protect them—to look after them.

Two foster parents are already in jail; another has been sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence pending appeal. Others are charged awaiting trial. The leadership and governance of the Children’s Aid Society of Prince Edward County have departed the agency.

Now some of the victims are fighting back—suing the Children’s Aid Society and the foster families for $14 million. Five plaintiffs, now young women, are seeking $2.8 million each in damages for abuse suffered at the hands of foster parents, while under the care of the Prince Edward County CAS.

Three of the plaintiffs lived for a time with Joe and Janet Holm. Justice Geoff Griffins described the foster home as operating under a cult-like atmosphere in which foster children were manipulated to benefit Joe and Janet Holm. The couple received four and three-year prison sentences respectively for a series of sexual crimes against the girls, who were teens at the time the abuse took place.
“What took place here is so outrageous that it boggles the mind,” said Griffin during sentencing, according to a report in the Intelligencer in November 2011. “This is so troubling that it becomes difficult to put into words how horrendous it is.”

He pointed an accusing finger at the Children’s Aid Society of Prince Edward for allowing this to happen. He found it hard to comprehend how someone at CAS was unaware of what was going on in the home—with the children they were responsible to care for.

“I hope the public demand an inquiry into what happened in that home,” said Justice Griffin.

But the worst was yet to be uncovered.

Another Bloomfield couple had been bringing foster children into their home for about a decade. Early on there were signs of trouble in the home. In 2005 one foster child accused the foster father of sexual crimes. The CAS removed foster children from the home. The police investigated. The Crown concluded that a conviction was an unlikely prospect and feared further traumatizing the child by requiring her to testify. The Crown elected not to press charges.

Then a terrible thing happened—life went back to normal. “Normal” at least, in this appalling home. Foster children were once again sent to live with this family with this predatory and manipulative man. The CAS knew this was a bad man—they had heard the words from the tiny victim. Yet they decided to send kids back to him.

It would take another five years for one of the girls to summon the strength to break away from the grips of this man, who was by then 71 years old. She had spent her entire teen years as a sexual slave to this monster—under the watch of the local CAS

The man was sentenced to nine years in prison last summer—but has been out since then, awaiting an appeal.

The correctional system will deal with these folks—perhaps not as harshly as some would deem appropriate—but they will be punished for their actions.

The victims are now beginning what will likely be a long process to seek some form of redress for the wrongs that have been done to them.

But what of the CAS—of the folks whose job it was to care and protect these children?

Foster children are among the most vulnerable people in our society. They are dependent on strangers for everything—food, clothing, shelter. They arrive in the system already damaged. Alone. Frightened. Hard.

It is the CAS’s job to ensure life isn’t made worse for these children.

So what happened here? How did the agency entrusted with their welfare fail so badly? How did it do so repeatedly? How did the CAS allow vulnerable children to live in these poisonous homes?

After several years of asking these questions—we are sadly no closer to answers.

The administrator is gone, and the agency has been swallowed by a larger regional agency. New administrators have apologized for what happened in Prince Edward County and have taken steps to enact more rigorous procedures to protect the children in their care.

But we still don’t know what happened. Were these isolated cases? Are there other crimes yet to be uncovered? Was it a systemic breakdown? An administrative one?

Are foster kids safe in our community?

Until we learn the answers to these questions— we will never know for sure.