Foster-care system improved following Abbotsford teen’s 2015 suicide, province says

Alex Gervais was placed in motel by ministry, not checked on by caregiver in 10 days prior to death

Following the suicide of an Abbotsford teen who was in the care of the government in 2015, the province say they have better equipped the Ministry of Children and Family Development to manage the foster system.

The death of Alex Gervais, the 18-year old Métis teen who jumped from the fourth floor window of an Abbotsford’s motel, prompted a 2017 report entitled Broken Promises by B.C.’s child-watchdog, Children and Youth. The report found that Gervais hadn’t been checked on by his caregiver in the 10 days prior to his death.

The province had put up the teen in a Super-8 motel and paid the caregiver $8,000 a month to look after him while a more permanent home was found. He had been staying there for 49 days.

Now, the ministry says it has hired more staff, social workers, and increased compensation for foster parents. They also say they have talked with First Nations across the province in hopes of shrinking the number of Indigenous youths in the system.

The practice of placing displaced youth in motels has been stopped outside of emergency situations.

The ministry erred in never attempted to reunite Gervais with a stepmother in B.C. or his aunt in Quebec, according to the 2017 report. He had been moved through 17 different placements with 23 different social workers.

The ministry claims it has been able to return 91 per cent of children placed in the foster system to their families. These returns are the result of more parenting classes, counselling, and mental health and addiction support.

The 2017 report called for the ministry to provide proper support to youth in the foster system who couldn’t return to their families. It detailed how Gervais suffered from abuse, anxiety, depression and attachment issues.

RELATED: Alex Gervais died alone after years of instability, neglect: Child advocate report

Foster careProvincial Government

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