'I want to be independent': 16-year-old foster child living in Victoria's tent city

A 16-year-old foster child in Victoria, B.C. who has bounced around group homes since she was 13, is supposed to be under provincial care until she is 18, but instead, CTV News has found her living in a commune of tents on the lawn of the Victoria courthouse.

See Full Article

The teen, who CTV News won’t identify because of her age, has been living since October in a large tent city that was the scene of a stabbing and a fatal overdose just last month.

The girl is supposed to be under government care but says she wants nothing more to do with group homes.

“I’m in the care of the MCFD (Ministry of Children and Family Development), but they didn’t do a very good job of taking care of me, so I decided to take care of myself,” she said.

The girl says her birth mother was a drug addict so she was placed in ministry care and then adopted at four years old. But she claims her adoptive parents kicked her out when she was 13.

“Things don’t work out and they’re like, ‘No, we don’t want to deal with her anymore so let’s just throw her back,’” she said. “It’s kind of like a return gift almost. It’s kind of hard to deal with.”

Since then, the girl says she has been shuffled from foster homes to group homes. Her social worker knows she lives at the tent city, the girl says, but she refuses to go back into care.

“I’d rather be here in tent city than in any care homes,” she said.

“… I don’t want to be reminded daily that I’m owned, and I don’t want that monitored living. I want to be independent,” she said.

The girl now lives in the camp at the Victoria Courthouse that residents have dubbed “Super InTent City.”

She also said she recently received her certification for Narcan treatment, a chemical used to reverse drug overdoses before they turn fatal.

“It’s a very close-knit community and everybody’s really caring,” she said. “It’s nice to be part of something that’s bigger than I am.”

The camp exists in a legal loophole. While municipal parks in Victoria have a rule that campers must pack up and move along by 7 a.m. each morning, the courthouse land is owned by the province, which has no such bylaw.

Since last fall, its population has exploded to about 100 campers.

B.C.’s children’s watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said she’s disgusted by the number of kids under government care who are living in homeless camps or in hotels. She says the system has failed kids like this teen.

“I really worry about how well they’re being supported because a lot of things are happening there that present potential harms,” she said.

“…Any of us who have raised teenagers know a 16-year-old can have needs as significant as a two-year-old.”

The province’s Ministry of Children and Family Development wouldn’t comment specifically on the girl, but said in cases such as this, social workers would collaborate with local law enforcement to encourage the youth to leave the camp and return to a safe environment.

“Efforts to return children and youth to safe environments often require continued attempts and engagement on the part of social workers,” the statement said.

The teen says outreach workers visit her every day but she has no desire to return to her group home and just wants to be left alone.

“It’s not fun having [outreach workers] show up every day at my door,” she said. “It reminds you that you’re owned by a government corporation, and other people at the camp don’t understand it.”

In a report she released Wednesday, Turpel-Lafond said the housing of foster youth in hotels is more widespread than many might believe. Between November 2014 and October 2015, 117 foster children were placed in hotels in B.C., the report said.

The issue gained media attention after it was revealed that Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old in government care, was found dead outside of an Abbotsford hotel he was checked into. It is believed he committed suicide.

“I think British Columbians need to open their eyes and realize that there are kids living on the fringes, feeling rejected and spit out,” Turpel-Lafond said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island’s Robert Buffam



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • German police: man attacks people with knife in Frankfurt

    World News CTV News
    In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, people under umbrellas on the square in front of the Old Opera in Frankfurt, Germany, on a rainy. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File) Source
  • Official: Troops withdraw from home of Uganda's Bobi Wine

    World News CTV News
    KAMPALA, UGANDA -- An attorney for Bobi Wine says Ugandan soldiers have withdrawn from the opposition presidential challenger's home the day after a judge ruled that his house arrest was unlawful. But attorney George Musisi told The Associated Press that security forces could still be seen in the village near the candidate's property outside the capital, Kampala. Source
  • Troops withdraw from home of Uganda's Bobi Wine: official

    World News CTV News
    KAMPALA, UGANDA -- An attorney for Bobi Wine says Ugandan soldiers have withdrawn from the opposition presidential challenger's home the day after a judge ruled that his house arrest was unlawful. But attorney George Musisi told The Associated Press that security forces could still be seen in the village near the candidate's property outside the capital, Kampala. Source
  • Italy's Conte to resign, seek nod to form new coalition

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte was meeting Tuesday with his cabinet before heading to the presidential palace to offer his resignation after a key coalition ally pulled his party's support over Conte's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Source
  • Estonia's new government sworn in with first-ever female PM

    World News CTV News
    HELSINKI -- Estonia's new two-party coalition government has been sworn in with the first female prime minister in the Baltic country since it regained independence in 1991. The 15-member Cabinet of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas -- a 43-year-old lawyer and a former European Parliament lawmaker -- was approved Tuesday in the 101-seat Riigikogu legislature, after President Kersti Kaljulaid had first appointed it. Source
  • Quebec media must be allowed to show the ravages of COVID-19

    Canada News CBC News
    Editor's note: Nineteen media outlets in Quebec, including the CBC, have signed an open letter today calling on the Quebec government and public-health authorities to give journalists access to the province's health institutions. In March of 2020, the world started to grasp the magnitude of the developing public health crisis when disturbing images began to emerge from Italy. Source
  • Indian police fire tear gas in clash with farmers in Republic Day protests

    World News CBC News
    Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades and clashed on Tuesday with police in the capital, who fired tear gas to restrain them, shortly after a convoy of tractors trundled through the city's outskirts. Growers, angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, have camped outside New Delhi for almost two months, posing one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014. Source
  • Family of mentally ill Ontario man who killed his mother day after seeing psychiatrist says doctors failed him

    Canada News CBC News
    Family members of an Ontario man diagnosed with schizophrenia say his doctors didn't do "their due diligence" when they failed to admit him to a hospital after he called a crisis line the day before stabbing his mother and setting her house on fire with her inside. Source
  • Plan to rebuild defence early-warning system means political, fiscal headaches for Trudeau government

    Canada News CBC News
    It's not the SHIELD you're probably thinking of — the one with the super-spies and flying battleships from Marvel comics and movies. In fact, the SHIELD at the centre of the upcoming evolution of NORAD — the six-decade-old North American defence pact — shares nothing with its fictional counterpart but the acronym. Source
  • Inside Canada's largest COVID-19 outbreak in a federal prison

    Canada News CBC News
    During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alex Doyle was doing his best to follow public health orders and keep himself and his young family free of infection. But last November, Doyle ended up back in Manitoba's Stony Mountain Institution north of Winnipeg after violating parole conditions for a drug trafficking and break and enter conviction. Source