Mother of attacked teen speaks out
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/04/2015 (2971 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The mother of a teen girl who was assaulted downtown after leaving her CFS hotel placement made an impassioned plea for privacy just hours after the girl was taken off life-support.
The mother, who can’t be identified because her daughter, 15, is a ward of Child and Family Services, said she is upset with reports, including those circulating on social media, that she didn’t authorize and won’t confirm.
“It’s just waiting and that’s all I can say about my daughter,” the mother said outside a Winnipeg hospital late Wednesday night.
She said she’s also upset with Child and Family Services.
“They were asked for help. I’m definitely pissed off at them. I reached out, I had my mom, my daughter was in my mom’s care and we tried support workers, everything we could except for CFS, but it came down to the point where we needed to ask them for help and this is the help we got,” she said.
“I would strongly advise people not to ask CFS for help,” the mother said.
The teen was viciously assaulted April 1 and was found early that morning near the entrance to the Cityplace parkade on Hargrave Street. She was taken to hospital in critical condition, placed in an induced coma and has remained in the same condition for the past two weeks.
By turns distraught and almost angry, her mother began the roughly 20-minute interview by delivering a statement from handwritten notes and then she briefly answered some questions.
With the family’s pastor at her side, the mother said the only thing she can do now is wait to see what happens to her daughter now.
“She’s a very good kid and somebody seriously hurt her. I’ve been with her since Day One. It’s every mother’s worst nightmare,” the mother said.
She said her concern with publicity is to protect her two other children, both boys, who hear the reports about their sister.
“Right now I want respect, to have people not talking,” she said.
“It’s devastating. Every day is harder and I have other children and they hear this and it’s not fair,” she said.
She described her daughter as an athlete who plays basketball and volleyball and loves life.
“My daughter is a good kid, she’s a teenager, athletic, loves life, received plenty of awards, scholarships, played violin really well.”
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief David Harper said the girl’s parents decided to take her off life-support Wednesday. The girl and her family are from a northern Manitoba community.
“They took her off life-support today,” the grand chief said. “We were with the family earlier and we’re just heading back to there, to the hospital, now,” he said earlier Wednesday.
A 15-year-old boy who knew the victim is charged with aggravated assault and aggravated sexual assault in connection with the attack.
Police were not available to comment on whether the criminal charges would be upgraded.
The boy was also under the care of Child and Family Services and was staying in the same hotel as the teen girl. He has been detained at the Manitoba Youth Centre.
The attack prompted the province to announce it will end the practice of using hotels as last resort for CFS wards June 1.
“We have a responsibility to protect children in our care and provide them with places of safety,” Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said following the assault.
“I’m saddened and outraged by this attack on a vulnerable child,” she said at the time, reading from a prepared statement.
“I’m deeply troubled that this would have happened to a child in the care of Child and Family Services.”
Irvin-Ross said the incident served as a catalyst for the government to move faster on its plan to phase out the use of hotels as shelters for at-risk children.
Late last year, Irvin-Ross said the province would phase out the use of hotels, but gave no deadline.
The plan included the creation of 71 emergency foster-home spaces and the hiring of 210 child-care workers over two years to reduce reliance on hotels as emergency shelters and use of private contractors to staff hotels and emergency shelters.
As part of the plan, Marymound in West Kildonan is building a residential unit for girls aged 12 to 17 in a house at the riverbank complex.
Regarding the province’s promise to end the practice of placing CFS wards in hotels, Family Services critic Ian Wishart responded earlier in April that this is not the first time the government has promised deadlines and not delivered.
“They’ve made commitments to this before and not followed up,” Wishart said at the time. “Because this particular (case) turned out so badly, (Irvin-Ross) is finally taking action. Does it always have to be a crisis before this minister takes action?”
Wishart said the province also has to put more focus on supporting children and their families in their own communities rather than remove kids from the home to be placed wherever space is available.
In January, 10,673 children were in care — a jump of more than 400 compared with the previous year. It’s the highest proportion of children apprehended in the country, with the vast majority of them being aboriginal.
Irvin-Ross said the department will conduct its own internal review of what happened as will the agency tasked with caring for the teenager. The Office of the Children’s Advocate will conduct its own review.
The death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine last August first influenced the province to react, although Irvin-Ross said the province was beginning to address the issue of hotel placements prior to her death.
Tina was in foster care for less than two months when she ran away from her temporary placement in a Winnipeg hotel in August. She was being supervised by contract workers who had little or no training. Her body was found in the Red River nine days later.
No one has been charged in Tina’s death.
In response to the girl’s death, Grand Chief Derek Nepinak announced the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs will hire its own family and child advocate.
The advocate will work exclusively with First Nations cases starting May 1, Nepinak said.
Updated on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 8:14 PM CDT: Updates with writethru.
Updated on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 9:02 PM CDT: Updates with more background details.
Updated on Thursday, April 16, 2015 12:46 AM CDT: Updates with comments from teen's mother; changes headline.