Friday, October 30, 1998

Kathy Tait
Children and Families Reporter

p. A1.

Forced rescue may save troubled kids

B.C. task force recommends giving police and protection workers authority to save children from drugs and pimps

Police and social workers need new powers to rescue children from drugs, alcohol and pimps, a government task force says in a controversial report to be released today.

It recommends that specially designated police and protection workers be given the power to remove children from situations of extreme danger — even against their will.

Children could be held in designated facilities for up to 72 hours while other, longer-term solutions are found.

Currently, there is no legal way to hold children at risk unless they are charged with a criminal offence or meet the criteria for hospitalization under the Mental Health Act.

p. A4.

Task-force member Diane Sowden, whose daughter took to drugs and prostitution at age 13.  Les Bazso - The Province

Task force seeks law to rescue children

Parents complain 'it's illegal to save your kid's life'

The report, by the Secure Care Working Group, follows years of calls from desperate parents and social workers for new legislation that would let them help kids in danger.

Today's report will be distributed for public debate, said deputy minister Mike Corbeil. "It is under active consideration in the ministry but it would require legislative changes and I don't know if it would be part of the legislative calendar next year. The report shows we need a continuum of care so we need to look at how we beef up resource requirements."

He said the number of children eligible for the proposed safe care would be "about 20 at any one time, according to service providers, or a lot more if parents were deciding."

Andrew Irvine, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he agrees with the report "in principle."

"We are pleased to see government taking a pro-active role to protect children. We think children do deserve special protections. But we can't comment further until we see the report itself."

The report says children and youth at risk are younger and more out of control and their numbers are growing.

"In the Vancouver downtown east side, the number of 12-year-olds on the street has increased alarmingly in the last two years, and there are even some 10-year-olds," the report says. "Victoria service providers reported that high-risk activities are starting at age eight and service providers in Prince George reported six- and seven year-olds coming to agencies for service related to alcohol and other drugs."

The task force emphasized that safe care must not be "the last stop" but rather "a bridge to other, longer-term services."

"Security in such safe care should be based more on intensive supervision of staff, rather than locks and bars, and the capacity to lock doors should be used as little as possible."

The report says children who are being sexually exploited may need to be protected from their pimps more than from themselves and suggests a voluntary, specialized service.

Safe care must be available in communities across B.C., the task force said, and not in the form of a particular building but in small, cost-effective specialized foster homes or even by detox services brought to the child's home. Parents told the task force that it's illegal to save your kid's life" and said they fear criminal charges for breaking the law to rescue their children. Many said their children threaten to report them to police for abuse or assault.

"One mother described having to hire a bailiff to kidnap her daughter; another used handcuffs to keep her daughter in the car on the way to a remote family cabin, where she held her — in midwinter — until the extended family was able to find a place to take her for treatment."

Service providers told the task force: "We literally have stand by and watch our kids die."

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Created: November 6, 1998
Last modified: June 7, 2001
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