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Advocate says boy, 10, suspected in death of six-year-old needed supervision

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REGINA - Saskatchewan's children's advocate says a 10-year-old boy, who police say killed a six-year-old boy, probably should not have been in the community unsupervised.

Bob Pringle says the 10-year-old, referred to as "Derek" in a report, was getting help from Social Services because he has complex needs. Derek was diagnosed with a developmental disorder shortly before the six-year-old was killed last August.

But Pringle says there were significant gaps in aid provided by the local child welfare agency on the case.

"It's a disaster," Pringle said at a news conference Wednesday.

"I mean a child died and another life is changed forever and the families are involved here. But I would certainly say that the casework around the services provided to Derek were absolutely, fundamentally unacceptable. The quality was just atrocious."

Pringle says his investigation found nine child protection concerns reported to the Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services, but as far his office could determine, two concerns were never even investigated. Investigation on some of the others was delayed by months, he said.

"File documentation was incomplete and a clear lack of supervisory oversight was evident. There were significant communications issues within the agency itself," said Pringle.

"Community members were deeply concerned about Derek's unmet needs and where this would lead in the future."

The advocate notes that the boy's school pleaded for help. At one point, the school asked that he be kept at home until the issues could be addressed.

He also says the RCMP had alerted the agency to Derek's behavioural issues. Mounties believed Derek was involved in a break and enter in May 2011 when a pregnant dog and her unborn pups were killed.

"We could find one documented incident in 4 1/2 years ... of agency involvement with the family when a staff member actually spoke to Derek," said Pringle.

"Once in 4 1/2 years — we find this a travesty."

Legislation prevents Pringle from naming the boys, but the RCMP said at a news conference last September that Lee Bonneau was found injured in a wooded area not far from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation community centre where he was last seen.

Lee was not a member of the First Nation and was visiting the reserve with his foster mother, who had gone to play bingo.

The report says the little boy was by her side all evening. She gave him some money to purchase a treat at the canteen inside the recreation centre. When he didn't return about 15 minutes later, the foster mother began looking for him. Community members joined in the search.

Lee was last seen walking with the older boy outside the reserve's recreation complex.

He died in hospital from head injuries that police say were consistent with an assault.

The advocate makes 18 recommendations, including that the Ministry of Social Services immediately strengthen its oversight of the Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family services agency. The agency's services must meet provincial standards, he says.

Raymond Shingoose, director of the Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services, says his staff is capable, but acknowledged that more resources are needed.

"I believe that we have the skills and the expertise within my staff and the communities," said Shingoose.

"Mr. Pringle's report may speak to some of the gaps in our system. My role is to actually look at the accuracy and the inaccuracy of what is mentioned in the report, understanding that we have multiple systems of care for children and families that we work with, including the Ministry of Social Services and band resources, education, health and also professional services."

Shingoose suggested there was contact with Derek's family that the advocate may not have accounted for.

Social Services Minister June Draude says the findings broke her heart.

"I've asked what we can be doing more when it comes to hearing from the education system speaking to the health system speaking to social services. That's the kind of gap that is so obvious in this report that all of us are just overwhelmed, saying that there is not just a gap but it was a breakdown," said Draude.

The minister says changes have been made in policies and practices. For example, she says there's better supervision and annual file audits, rather than every three years.

Derek is in care now and Pringle says he is likely to require close supervision for many years to come.

He is too young to be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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