The Child and Youth Advocate has come out with her report on one of the worst cases of child abuse the province has ever seen. Jackie Lake Kavanagh says the system established to protect the children failed them.
“Seen But Not Heard” makes six recommendations to prevent similar incidents for children in the future. It focuses on several systemic areas for improvement including early intervention and prevention, mental health responses, services for children in care, as well as permanency planning for children and youth in care.
Lake Kavanagh says she did everything possible to protect the identities of the children, and she asks readers of the report to respect the privacy of the children as well.
Some of the horrific details of what happened are contained in the report. Disclosures by the children led to the criminal conviction of family members.
The parents confined the children to high-chairs, playpens, couches or bedrooms and simple hygiene practices, such as toothbrushing, were forbidden. The Department once received a report that the children were prevented from using the bathroom at night, something which was later confirmed.
There was a series of systemic failures over a long period of time. Complaints of sexual abuse, the report says, went unexplored by the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development.
The children got up in the middle of the night to look for food and stole food from other children at school. They said their parents would go into a restaurant, eat, leave them in the car, then tantalize them with food.
An external consultant hired by government two years before their removal from the home recommended that they be returned to their parents.