A joint review between B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Families and the Representative for Children and Youth has found 117 youth in care were living in hotels over about a year.
It’s a far cry from the province’s earlier numbers, saying there were only 23 foster children staying in hotels during that time frame, November 2014 to October 2015.
The review was launched following the September death of 18-year-old Alex Gervais, an Aboriginal boy in care who died after falling from the window of an Abbotsford hotel where he’d been living for months.
Representative Mary-Ellen Turpel Lafond says she wants to see hotel use phased out entirely, but that it will take time.
“There is no way even with this report that I can provide assurance that we will not have another year with hotel use. I would like the government to have a complete ban and prohibition on the use of hotels, but at this time that is unrealistic and will not happen.”
MAP: Hotel stays by B.C. children in care by Service Delivery Area/Delegated Aboriginal Agency
Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux admits the discrepancy is disappointing.
“I’m really unhappy that it’s so different. The 23 was based on numbers reported to us by our service delivery areas, by the people doing the work on a daily basis. Those were the numbers they gave us.”
Cadieux says the lower number was the figure she had been given at the time, and that it was not until the review was conducted that they realized the scope of the hotel use.
READ MORE: B.C. minister Stephanie Cadieux says joint review into placing at-risk kids in hotels not a sign of crisis
Opposition weighs in
The leader of BC’s Official Opposition won’t go as far as saying children in care should be banned from being placed in hotels.
Instead, John Horgan says the foster care system needs to be properly funded.
“I think that you want to always be able to ensure that you are taking kids out of a challenging or crisis situation. But the solution over the long-term, you need to adequately fund the foster care sector, we haven’t been doing that.”
A second report into why one youth stayed in a hotel for 49 days is being conducted, and due back at the end of March.