The life and death of a 17-year-old First Nations girl is the subject of a new ‘disturbing’ report released by the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth.
The report titled In Need of Protection: Angel’s Story documents the teen’s, who is only referred to by her first name, involvement with Child and Family Services beginning at the age of one and ending with her tragic death in 2015.
“From the time she was an infant Angel was exposed to persistent abuse, neglect and violence,” Daphne Penrose told reporters Thursday.
The report provides a harrowing timeline of Angel’s involvement with the child welfare system.
It paints a picture of a short and tragic life grounded trauma and the series of systems who failed her.
The first time Angel was sexually assaulted she was just 21 months old.
The assaults would continue until her death.
By the age of 12 she was apprehended 14 times, and she went through 46 different placements in her life.
The report documents she used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain.
She was 11 when she first attempted suicide.
In fall of 2015 Angel died from an accidental drug overdose.
She was in care at the time of her death.
“Her story as you read it is one that stands out as a shocking reminder that too many children and youth in our communities are subject to immense trauma and are taken too soon,” said Penrose.
Throughout her life Angel was allowed to return to live with her mother but Penrose’s investigation found the mother was not provided any supports to help care for Angel as she was suffering from her own traumas.
“There wasn’t enough assessment done to determine whether or not mom had the capacity to safely parent and then to find an alternative permanent family placement or alternative placement for her,” said Penrose.
Penrose makes six recommendations in the report including the need for specialized mental health and addiction supports for youth.
She said her office found 24 instances where outside agencies determined Angel required mental health support but found child welfare workers didn’t follow through.
She also expressed the need for more protection for youth at risk of being sexually exploited as it is a ‘right now’ problem.
Her investigation found Angel started seeking help when she was eight-years-old but everyone around her were unable to recognize the signs.
The report also featured the stories of seven exploited youth Penrose’s office is currently dealing with.
“It wasn’t a situation that happened just to Angel. This is happening to hundreds of young girls in our province right now,” said Penrose.
Penrose said she presented her report and recommendations to department officials a few weeks ago but the office of Manitoba’s Families Minister Heather Stefanson said they weren’t “privy to those discussions.”
In a statement Stefanson wrote, “MACY’s recommendations require a whole of government response and senior officials from multiple departments will develop responses and discuss options to collaborate on a sexual exploitation public awareness campaign.”
“They plan to meet with the advocate to discuss ways to collaborate.”
This is the second child death report publicly released after the province made changes to the child welfare legislation allowing the advocate to release her reports.
The advocate’s office is working on another eight cases.