CFS chaperone snoozes in hotel
Video shows man snoring while responsible for boy
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/10/2014 (2915 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A 13-year-old boy is watching television in a Winnipeg hotel room, unimpressed with the man lying on the bed next to his.
He has trouble hearing the program because the man is snoring.
It’s not his dad who is ruining the show. It’s a chaperone provided by a company under contract to the provincial Family Services Department to supervise kids in CFS care when they are placed in hotels.
The incident occurred on May 3 just before 9 p.m. We know that because the boy sent his grandmother a 23-second video he shot inside the room with an iPod.
“My grandson and I are very close,” said the woman the Free Press is identifying only as Marilyn because her grandson has the same last name.
“We were talking on the phone. When he sent me that I said to him, ‘This is ridiculous. What is he being paid for?’ “
After days of revelations about the government’s use of private firms to supervise kids in care — revelations about questionable care, poor staff training and inadequate backup in case of emergencies — a short video made by a frustrated boy for his grandmother may come to symbolize an apparent weak link in Manitoba’s CFS system.
“It has to be fixed,” said Marilyn, who shared the video with the Free Press after reading stories about using private companies to supervise kids in hotels. “These kids, no wonder they’re running away. They have nobody looking after them.”
On the evening he shot the video, the boy, now 14 and living with his stepdad, said he was angry with his social worker for placing him in the hotel. He said he wanted the social worker to see the video.
“They are stupid, and they’re making me stay here,” the boy said to his grandmother.
Marilyn said her grandson stayed in the hotel for about 10 days. The man in the video did not supervise him again. He has since been barred by Family Services from working with kids.
The grandmother did not know the name of the private company that employed the man, and the province would not reveal it on Wednesday. More than one firm is contracted to supervise CFS hotel placements.
The boy wound up in the hotel, supervised by a man he thought was “high,” following a difficult year in which he was removed from his mother’s care, placed with his grandparents, then in foster care and back with his grandparents.
But Marilyn, who is physically disabled, said she and her husband, who frequently works away from the city, could not cope. The boy did not attend school for about five months — not out on the streets, but at home riveted to a computer.
“He’s the kind that likes to get up on the couch and cuddle with his grandpa,” his grandmother said.
Marilyn said the fact a chaperone fell asleep while he was supposed to be watching her grandson wasn’t the only thing that troubled her about his hotel stay.
While the teen’s social worker had cautioned her she was not to leave him alone for even an hour while he was in her care, the supervisors supplied by the company appeared to give him free rein during the day. He was given a bus pass, $10 and allowed to roam virtually at will, she said.
The private company looking after the kids in the hotel did have someone there during the day — but, so it seemed, mainly at the insistence of the hotel managers, who didn’t want CFS wards running around their establishment unsupervised, Marilyn said. “I guess they’ve had some children that have caused damage,” she said.
One night, while in the care of a different chaperone, another boy was placed in the room along with her grandson. Her grandson said the newcomer acted strangely, opening up packages of coffee and playing with the grounds. That night, the supervisor did not fall asleep — but neither did Marilyn’s grandson, who felt uncomfortable with the other boy in the room. The other boy had his own room the next evening.
Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
Rachel Morgan, a government spokeswoman, said the incident came to the attention of Winnipeg CFS just days after it occurred. Marilyn had sent the video to the boy’s social worker.
“It is unacceptable for a worker to sleep while supposedly on duty supervising a child in care,” Morgan said in an email. “Since then, the worker in the video has not worked in any Emergency Placement Resources (EPR) program. We are ensuring that he never works in any other Family Services programs.”
Effective immediately, Morgan said, the province will increase monitoring of all private-company employees working alone in its EPR program. “Manitobans must have confidence that vulnerable children are being properly cared for,” she said.
On Wednesday, the Free Press reported Irvin-Ross had launched an internal review of the contracts of service providers that support kids in hotels and group homes to ensure they are providing quality care, their staff are properly trained and taxpayers are getting good value for their money. Morgan said the case of the sleeping supervisor will form part of the review.
Shown a copy of the video Wednesday, Conservative family services critic Ian Wishart could only shake his head.
“That’s not supervision. There’s a body in the room, but it’s not supervising.”
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Thursday, October 2, 2014 6:14 AM CDT: Replaces photo