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This article was published 14/3/2018 (1234 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON – A foster care provider in western Manitoba has been accused of allowing children to use illegal drugs, while engaging in questionable discipline procedures and failing to provide appropriate supervision and security to children in care.
The allegations are part of a counterclaim filed in court last month by Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services (DOCFS) against Jesse and Cristy Dourado, who formerly operated Specialized Foster Homes in Brandon and the surrounding area.
The Dourados initially filed a lawsuit against DOFCS in November, suing the agency for more than $162,000 they claimed they were out of pocket after it allegedly terminated foster parent licences, agreements and payments without warning.
According to the statement of claim, the Dourados found placements for high-risk youth and received a per diem intended to cover all care costs, including food, clothing, shelter, medication, incidentals, and travel. However, the Dourados allege DOFCS breached the agreement in April 2016 by withholding 50 per cent of the per diems owed, and revoked the licences of the foster parents shortly after, making "unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations of abuse and wrongdoing on the part of the foster parents."
In its statement of defence, DOCFS acknowledges it entered into a foster agreement with the Dourados, but claims the agreement was terminated by the couple when they "advised that they were no longer prepared to care for the children and would be dropping them off at the (DOCFS) Brandon office the following day."
DOCFS claims it was left scrambling to find emergency placements for 21 children.
The agency further claims it only withheld funds after it learned the Dourados were allegedly breaching the agreement by billing for services that were not provided to children.
In an additional counterclaim provided by DOCFS, the agency alleges, "The children placed in (the Dourado’s) care were at risk of harm as a result of (their) failure to abide by the Child and Family Services Act and regulations, and had failed in their duty and obligation to act in the best interests of the children."
The Dourados also failed to ensure criminal record and child-abuse registry checks were conducted on foster parents and respite workers, and also failed to provide proper training, the counterclaim alleges, in addition to disregarding the Workplace Health and Safety Act.
Children were disciplined inappropriately in the Dourados care, didn’t have appropriate supervision, and were allowed to engage in illegal activities, the counterclaim says.
Neither the Dourados' or DOFCS allegations have been proven in court.
In the legislature Wednesday, New Democrat MLA Bernadette Smith accused the province of failing to deal with the situation.
"These individuals are still working with children," she said.
Families Minister Scott Fielding countered, it’s yet another example of the Tories having to clean up a mess left by the former NDP government.
The province referred the issue to the Manitoba children’s advocate, Fielding said. "I can guarantee you, the children are safe."
Jesse Dourado is now the chief executive officer of Brightscape Endeavours, an organization that provides group care for some of the highest level at-risk youth in Manitoba.
"We are disappointed that these allegations have resurfaced," Dourado said in a written statement. "We are confident in the way we provide care and the case we presented to the court. We trust in the process of the courts where facts are presented.
"We continue to be confident in the care we provide and so are others who entrust children in our care… The first priority for us and our teams has always been the safety and well being of the children."
DOCFS did not respond to an interview request. However, the agency’s lawyer, Dean Kropp, said in a written statement to the Brandon Sun it would be improper to comment while there is ongoing litigation, but "DOCFS takes very seriously its obligation to provide care and support to the families and the children for whom they are responsible."
"The actions of the DOCFS in this case were guided solely by the best interests of the children who were entrusted to their care," Kropp wrote.
– with files from Nick Martin– Brandon Sun