WATCH: Nick Lang’s parents call for action
15-year-old Nick Lang took his own life just six days after being placed in a drug treatment centre under government care.
His, just one in a disturbing string of deaths of youth in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
To his parents, a devastating loss.
Tonight on Drex Live, Nick’s parents Peter Lang and Linda Tenpas joined Drex in studio to share Nick’s story – who he was, how he got into trouble, and where the system failed.
— Peter (@Soulparole) December 9, 2015
A quick descent
But they describe a quick descent – a graduation from trying marijuana to doing methamphetamine in just a few months.
Peter says it was last January when he realized there was a real problem.
“I found evidence that there was probably more than pot – I found little tiny baggies, bits of tinfoil, broken lightbulbs with burn marks on them… and that indicated to me that there was more going on than marijuana.”
Things escalated quickly to an incident the pair aren’t allowed to discuss publicly. It crystallized things.
“That was the breaking point for us where Peter and I made a decision together to do something and move forward for our son,” says Linda.
But Nick’s parents say his caseworker was disinterested, insisted on communicating exclusively by text message, and at times tried to play them off against each other.
Peter was eventually able to get Nick into a local recovery centre, only to have his son kicked out within a day for smoking a cigarette.
From there, they found a program in Campbell River – one they say they were only able to get Nick into after putting pressure on the case worker.
But crucially, his son’s self-harm history wasn’t passed on to the program.
“We found out the medical document was shredded,” says Peter.
“Nick wouldn’t have qualified for this program had they had that information,” says Linda.
Nick got into the program. Six days later he was dead.
— Linda TenPas (@tenpaslinda) December 8, 2015
Nick’s parents say their son’s death is a clear call for change.
Peter says his son was a victim of institutional racism – his Metis heritage painting both the boy and his parents with a stigma.
He says the Ministry needs to stop treating parents as the problem, something to be frozen out – his experience when he was blocked from being involved in Nick’s admission to the Cambell River program.
“I think parents need to be a part of the process, and I don’t care if the parents are marginalized individuals, if they’re drug addicts, if they have mental health issues. They love their kids too, and they deserve to be included in the process.”
Linda says it’s time for independent oversight of the ministry, and new funding for BC’s Children’s Watchdog.
“These internal investigations through MCFD … it’s a whitewash, it’s full of inaccuracies and its very difficult to read. I don’t like how they’re hiding behind privacy, and that they’re trying to intimidate us. We won’t be intimidated, we’re going to go full force.”