The B.C. government has hired three caregivers who used to work for A Community Vision, a group-home operator shut down earlier this year over safety concerns.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development signed new contracts with the workers because of the relationships they had with the children in their care and after extensive screening, a ministry spokeswoman said.
"In a few circumstances where an established and safe relationship and rapport had been established between the child in care and his or her caregiver, caregivers were provided with the opportunity to be vetted to the same standard as ministry foster parents," the spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
That vetting included criminal-record checks and screening by senior management, she added. The three workers were hired as 'restricted' foster parents – typically friends or relatives who have a significant relationship with a child. (British Columbia's system also includes 'regular' foster parents, who can care for up to six children of varying needs and ages and usually have no previous relationship with the children.)
The ministry would not say whether the three caregivers are operating in the same houses in which they previously worked for ACV, citing privacy concerns.
The three rehired workers make up only a small percentage of the more than 50 who used to work with ACV as full- or part-time caregivers. And their contracts are a blip in a system that involves more than 7,000 children and hundreds of providers, including several classes of foster parents and private, for-profit companies such as ACV.
But the workers' hiring relates to stability for youth in government care – an issue that has been in the spotlight since the death of Alex Gervais in September. Mr. Gervais, who was 18 when he died, had been living in an ACV home before he was placed in an Abbotsford hotel after his home and others operated by ACV were closed in the wake a government investigation.
That investigation resulted in the ministry ending all of its contracts with ACV, which affected 23 homes and 33 youth.
Through its lawyer, ACV has said it followed all ministry protocols for screening caregivers and that the province had cleared its employees.
Under provincial law, people who work with or may have unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults are required to undergo a criminal-record check. People whose records suggest they could pose a risk of physical or sexual abuse to either of those groups are not supposed to have access to them.
In December, 2014, just before launching an investigation into ACV, MCFD updated its screening policies for caregivers, adding a home study and additional criminal-record checks, including from caregivers' prior home jurisdictions if they were new to British Columbia.
With those policies in place, the investigation found caregivers involved in the investigation had criminal records featuring offences such as domestic violence and assault and that two faced outstanding criminal charges. It also found issues such as a caregiver with weapons in the home and children being verbally abused.
ACV maintains it was not given a chance to respond to the ministry's concerns.
The ministry says children's safety was at the centre of its decision to terminate its contractual relationship with ACV. The ministry also says it developed care plans for every child affected and that none of those care plans included hotel stays.
Allen Hoolaeff, who left ACV in April to take a new job, says he was a caregiver to Mr. Gervais for about seven years. None of the concerns identified in the investigation was an issue in his home, which was not part of the investigation, he says.
"When I left the agency in April, that was the best Alex has ever done," Mr. Hoolaeff said in a recent interview. "He seemed content – or as content as anyone in foster care could be."
The ministry is investigating Mr. Gervais's death.