'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

  • Brampton man convicted of sexual assault has left the country

    Canada News CBC News
    A Brampton man convicted of sexual assault and possibly facing years in prison has managed to slip out of the country before being sentenced.Man found guilty of sexually assaulting woman in Toronto hotel roomMoazzam Tariq, 29, flew to Pakistan from Montreal on Nov.18, a Toronto court heard on Thursday, two weeks before his scheduled sentencing hearing. Source
  • 'Catwoman' Jocelyn Wildenstein clawed Canadian boyfriend's face: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    "Catwoman" Jocelyn Wildenstein -- notorious for her plastic-surgery produced feline-like features -- is charged with slashing her Canadian boyfriend. Cops say that Wildenstein, 71, and known in the New York tabloids as the “Bride of Wildenstein,” used a pair of scissors and her talons to gouge Lloyd Klein. Source
  • Suspect in Georgia police shootings dead, likely by own hand

    World News Toronto Sun
    A man wanted for killing a Georgia police officer and wounding another was found dead Thursday, apparently fatally shooting himself before a SWAT team stormed a home where a tipster reported the suspect was hiding. The manhunt for 32-year-old Minquell Lembrick ended a day after a gunman killed Americus police Officer Nicholas Smarr and critically wounded Officer Jody Smith of Georgia Southwestern State University. Source
  • First Nation files claim for downtown Ottawa land -- including Parliament Hill

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - An Ontario First Nation is seeking aboriginal title over much of downtown Ottawa, including Parliament Hill. The claim was filed yesterday in Ontario's Superior Court. The Algonquin Anishinabe First Nation says they've never ceded control over what they consider their traditional lands. Source
  • Canada to use economic levers to push Trump on climate change, says Dion

    Canada News CTV News
    "We were able to agree with a lot of initiatives with the current administration, the Obama one. We will work with the Trump administration," Dion told The Canadian Press in an interview from Hamburg, Germany on Thursday. Source
  • Chechnya's leader says troops would fight happily in Syria

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Chechnya's strongman leader said Thursday that troops in the Russian province would be happy to fight the "scum" in Syria if they receive the Kremlin order. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov reacted to Russian media reports claiming that two battalions of military police from Chechnya were preparing to leave for Syria to protect the Russian air base there and perform other tasks. Source
  • Former astronaut, U.S. Sen. John Glenn dead at 95 [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    Former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn has died in Ohio. He was 95. Glenn became a national hero in 1962 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. Hank Wilson with the John Glenn School of Public Affairs says Glenn died Thursday afternoon at the James Cancer Hospital in Columbus. Source
  • Murder-for-hire retrial: Wife on video '5,000 per cent sure' she wanted husband dead

    World News CTV News
    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Millions of people have seen a secretly recorded video of Dalia Dippolito telling an undercover police officer she was "5,000 per cent sure" about hiring him to kill her husband. Source
  • Chief of staff Priebus? Some Trump loyalists still dubious

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- When President-elect Donald Trump tapped Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, Republican leaders cheered the prospect of a close ally having a top White House job. But as Priebus tries to wield his influence and bring more structure to the president-elect's freewheeling political organization, he's frustrating some longtime Trump allies who see him as too conventional a pick for an unconventional president. Source
  • The popular comeback of populist politics

    World News Toronto Sun
    The silent majority, tired of entrenched political correctness and being looked upon as an inconsequential nuisance by political elites, is finally being heard. A comeback is underway. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seen as a guiding light and powerful defender of liberalism, announced this week she is seeking a fourth term and promised a ban on publicly wearing the face-covering Muslim burka and niqab wherever legally possible. Source