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This article was published 14/10/2009 (2814 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
She is considered one of Winnipeg's most at-risk youths and has been the subject of three recent public alerts.
Now family members of a young teenager are speaking out, claiming Child and Family Services has exposed the vulnerable girl to even greater harm after they sought assistance and agreed to a voluntary custody order.
"I'm scared she's going to end up dead," the girl's mother told the Free Press this week. "In the beginning I went to CFS for help and they seemed to think they could get her back on track. But things have only gotten worse."
Her daughter -- who is under 15 and is not being named because she is under CFS care -- is among three- dozen teens who are being closely monitored by Winnipeg police officers as part of an initiative launched earlier this summer. Officers released the teen's name and photo in August, September and early October after she ran away three separate times from a CFS group home in St. Pierre, just south of Winnipeg. She was found safe and returned to CFS just days later in all three cases.
"My daughter is in major danger in the hands of CFS. This has to stop," the single mother wrote in a recent letter to her daughter's case worker and supervisor. "I reached out and asked for help when my daughter was not listening and getting into some trouble. Now her life is in danger. This was by far the biggest mistake I have made for her."
CFS has a policy not to comment on specific cases.
The woman says she first contacted CFS in 2007 after noticing major changes in her daughter. She was no longer the bright, outgoing girl who excelled in athletics and did well in school.
"She had been a really, really good kid. But all of a sudden she started doing things I'd have never imagined. She went all goth, dying her hair black, and I'd come home to work to find she was throwing parties in the house where they'd all be drinking," said the mother, who was working long hours at her full-time job.
Her daughter began acting out and running away from her River Heights home in response to the mom's attempts at discipline. The teen's drinking became more frequent.
"We wanted to get her some help, get her into a place where she would be locked up. So we called CFS and did a voluntary placement," the girl's grandmother told the Free Press. "This isn't a case of a mother having her child taken away or giving up responsibility. She asked CFS for help and this is what's happened."
Mom and Grandma say their hopes for a quick turnaround in the teen's behaviour were quickly dashed. The girl, then 12, was being moved between several group homes and even spent time living at a downtown hotel under CFS watch. She met like-minded teens and would come and go from her placements.
"We didn't know with these group homes that she would be able to just walk right out the door whenever she wanted," the grandmother said.
The teen began showing up at her mother's doorstep in the middle of the night, drunk and disoriented. The mother said she would take her daughter in -- only to be scolded by the CFS social worker for not showing "tough love."
"They told me I was enabling her," she said. "But I was scared. I just didn't want her out on the street."
The situation worsened earlier this year when the teen was put in the group home in St. Pierre. She frequently ran away, often hitchhiking 45 kilometres north to Winnipeg. Family members say she was physically and sexually assaulted while on the streets and friends recently found her passed out in a bus shelter.
"Alcohol has become a very big issue for her, much worse than it was when she was living at home," her mother said. "Thank goodness it isn't 40 below yet but what happens when it is?"
She believes her daughter has been experimenting with drugs and prostitution. Winnipeg police put the teen on their so-called watch list based on the belief she is a "child in need of protection and at high risk of being exploited or victimized."
To date, she is the only youth who has been featured in three separate news releases.
The girl was picked up by police on Saturday evening at the downtown YMCA following her latest flight from the group home three days earlier.
She is currently at the crisis centre at Marymound and has agreed to go to a secure Addictions Foundation of Manitoba treatment program.
"She wants to get help. Nobody is going to take it seriously anymore if she keeps running away," her mother said. "I just want people to know why her name keeps appearing in the news."
The temporary order of custody expires in April. She hopes her daughter can return home sooner for a fresh start.
"Every night I pray to God my daughter will make it, I pray she will be alive. I have nightmares of bad things happening to her, then I go to work and try to focus knowing that my child is in need of protection -- protection from Child and Family Services," the mother wrote in her recent letter.
"My daughter is far better off at home. She needs help and some discipline and rules. I have done a much better job at enforcing those than CFS has ever done. What is your plan? Just keep letting her run and risk her life until she listens? Pretty sure that's not going to happen.
"If something happens to my child, I will hold you responsible. She cannot be another statistic of the children that die in the hands of CFS."
"...All I ever wanted was my daughter to get some help. I never wanted her not to be at home. All we needed was some help. She needs help and she needs love, and she needs her family. She comes from a great family and anyone that actually knows us, knows that. There are actually a lot of people that are envious of our close, loving family. We are good people and we are amazed how we are being treated in this case because one of our family members is needing help."
"Now I fear for my daughter's life. My daughter means the world to me, she is the most important person in my life and always has been. I would do anything to help her, anything to keep her safe."
"Why was help never offered in a productive way to keep my daughter home? Why couldn't someone have just offered a helping hand? All we needed was for someone to maybe check in on her when I was at work, maybe someone like a truancy officer to make sure she got to school? I used to rush home at my break time to get her to school."
"This cannot continue. I will not let my child die. Put yourself in my shoes, really put yourself in my shoes. To you my daughter is just another troubled child. She means the world to me, I don't think you want to be the person who ends my world. This needs to go public, people need to know why my daughter keeps showing up in the news as a missing person."
-- Excerpts from a letter recently sent by the mother of a high-risk Winnipeg teen to her daughter's CFS worker and supervisor.