'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

  • Financial sector needs to step up on climate change, Mark Carney warns

    World News CBC News
    Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, is urging the financial sector and, in particular, central banks to play an increasing role in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Writing in the Guardian in a piece co-authored by François Villeroy de Galhau, the governor of the Banque de France, he urged banks to find ways to protect their portfolios from the impact of climate change. Source
  • Fredericton to hit flood stage on Saturday, says province

    Canada News CBC News
    River levels along the lower St. John River are continuing to rise as residents brace for flooding that experts say could be as bad as the historic flood that hit parts of New Brunswick in 2018. The river sits at 5.6 metres on Thursday morning in Fredericton, but the forecast level was only 5.2 metres. Source
  • Short-circuit 'likely caused' Notre Dame fire

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- The latest on the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and its aftermath (all times local): 6:15 p.m. A French judicial police official said investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused Notre Dame Cathedral fire. Source
  • Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante faces online threats over secularism stance

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec's premier is speaking out against online threats levelled against Montreal's mayor over her stance on Bill 21. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante has said she's been the target of increasing threats since making known her opposition to the provincial secularism bill. Source
  • Gunmen kill 14 bus passengers in southwest Pakistan

    World News CBC News
    Gunmen wearing Pakistani police and paramilitary uniforms ambushed a bus before dawn Thursday and killed 14 people after going through their ID cards and forcing them out of the vehicle on a remote part of a coastal highway in restive southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said. Source
  • Trump declares 'a good day' following Mueller report release

    World News CTV News
    U.S. President Donald Trump says he's "having a good day" following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report. And he says that no president should ever have to go through what he did again. Source
  • Mueller report: What you need to know

    World News CTV News
    Nearly two years after former FBI director Robert Mueller was tasked with looking into allegations of links between the Russian government and the electoral campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump, the public now has a chance to see most of Mueller's findings. Source
  • Quebec public security minister warning flood zone residents not to take chances

    Canada News CTV News
    Quebec's public security minister is urging people in regions at risk of flooding not to take any chances and to follow the advice of civil security officials. Genevieve Guilbault spoke today as two days of heavy rain were forecast for the province, aggravating the danger in areas where water levels are already high. Source
  • Two more men from same Ontario family charged in historical sexual assaults

    Canada News CTV News
    Police in eastern Ontario say they've charged two more members of the same family in a series of historical sexual assaults alleged to have occurred between 1974 and 1991. Provincial police said earlier this month they had charged four relatives, all men aged 57 to 67, in various incidents involving multiple victims. Source
  • Supreme Court of Canada sides with police in internet child luring case

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The Supreme Court of Canada says undercover police officers do not need to obtain a judicial warrant before using email or instant-message services to communicate with someone suspected of child luring. The ruling today comes in the case of Sean Patrick Mills, a Newfoundland man who was convicted of internet luring after a police officer posed online as a 14-year-old girl named "Leann. Source