'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

  • Special prosecutor to advise RCMP on B.C. political donations

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - A special prosecutor has been appointed to provide legal advice to the RCMP over possible violations of British Columbia's Elections Act. A statement from the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch says David Butcher's appointment is in the public interest and he'll help the Mounties with legal advice in an investigation into contributions made to B.C. Source
  • 'Read my lips': Putin denies U.S. election hacking allegations

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin on Thursday emphatically denied allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and said Moscow would maintain hopes of improving relations while waiting for political infighting in Washington to stop. Source
  • Florida man sentenced to five years for DUI crash that killed wife as they had road sex

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Florida man has been sentenced to five years in prison following a booze-fuelled car wreck in 2014 that killed his wife as they had road sex. Matthew Notebaert, 33, told authorities he remembers his wife, Amanda, sitting on his lap before waking up inside their totaled vehicle beside her lifeless body. Source
  • 'I've missed her very much': Ontario man plans reunion with mom after winning lottery

    Canada News CTV News
    An Ontario man is planning to use part of his $12M lottery winnings to reunite with his mother, whom he hasn’t seen in 11 years. Sheba Sheba, who lives in Woodbridge, Ont., hasn’t seen his mother, who lives in Lebanon, in 11 years due to distance, health issues and a lack of funds. Source
  • Bombardier under fire for $32.6M US given to executives while taking government cash

    Canada News CBC News
    Bombardier is being slammed for its "sense of entitlement" after awarding $32.6 million US to senior executives even as it laid off thousands of workers and sought government aid. The payout represents an increase of nearly 50 per cent for its top five executives and board chairman, compared with 2015. Source
  • UBC researchers discover marijuana flavour genes, aim to create standards for taste

    Canada News CBC News
    Consumers can trust what varieties of wine taste like regardless of the store they buy it from, and they could soon have similar expectations for strains of marijuana, say researchers at the University of British Columbia. Source
  • 'Angel of Death' serial killer dies after attack in Ohio prison

    World News CTV News
    TOLEDO, Ohio -- A serial killer known as the "Angel of Death" after he admitted killing three dozen hospital patients in Ohio and Kentucky died Thursday, two days after investigators said he was attacked in prison, Ohio's prisons department said. Source
  • Trump takes 1st step in NAFTA renegotiation: Sends draft letter to Congress

    World News CBC News
    The Trump administration has taken an early step in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, sending the U.S. Congress a draft list of priorities for the negotiation that expresses hope for change in a broad range of areas. Source
  • Toronto police charge self-professed psychic with practising witchcraft

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Police in Toronto say they've charged a 37-year-old man with practising witchcraft. Investigators say the accused advertised his services as an astrologer and psychic in February and March. They allege a 44-year-old man who consulted the accused for psychic services earlier this month was told a sick family member had been the victim of an evil spirit. Source
  • Psychic hit with witchcraft charge after man pays $101K to remove evil spirit: police

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Police in Toronto say a psychic has been charged with pretending to practise witchcraft after a customer allegedly paid more than $100,000 to have an "evil spirit" removed. Investigators say the 37-year-old accused advertised his services as an astrologer and psychic in February and March. Source