Social workers who placed B.C. children in hotels instead of foster homes over a nearly one-year period reported reasons ranging from serious behavioural concerns to a lack of any other options, according to documents released under a freedom of information request.
The documents include details of hotel placements for children in care from Nov. 7, 2014, to Oct. 31, 2015.
"Has violent and non-compliant behaviours," one entry states in a column headed "reason for hotel stay."
"She was a risk to other children in her previous foster homes. She is currently in an emergency relief home but that caregiver has another child coming back to the home from a visit and he would be at risk from [name redacted] so [name redacted] has to move today," the entry continues.
"We have called all resource offices in the Lower Mainland and no one has a suitable placement. We will call around again on Friday, Jan. 2 in the event that something has changed."
Another entry states, "parents refusing to have her home, discharge from hospital due to suicidal ideation" and yet another simply says: "adoption placement breakdown." Several entries note "removal over weekend" or "after hours placement."
The details cover hotel placements in the Vancouver region.
The documents shed more light on a practice that burst into public view last September following the death of Alex Gervais. Mr. Gervais, 18, died after falling from a fourth-floor window of a hotel in Abbotsford, east of Vancouver, where he had been placed by the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society.
Mr. Gervais had been placed in the hotel against a government policy, introduced in November, 2014, which required hotel placements to be cleared by senior ministry officials.
He had also been placed there despite assurances provided by the ministry to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s independent children's representative, that no children would be placed in hotels as a result of several group homes – including one where Mr. Gervais used to live – closing over several months preceding his death.
The ministry ended its contracts with the group homes' operator over safety concerns.
In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Gervais's death, there was disagreement between the ministry and Ms. Turpel-Lafond about exactly how many children in care might be staying in hotels. The ministry put the number at about two dozen over the preceding year but Ms. Turpel-Lafond estimated the number could be as high as 50.
The issue was deemed pressing enough for a joint special report by the representative and the ministry. Released in January, that joint report found 117 children in care had been placed in hotels between November of 2014 and October of 2015. Some of them had been placed in hotels more than once, bumping the total number of placements up to 131.
Agencies with the greatest number of children in care – including the ministry's North Fraser and South Fraser service-delivery areas and two delegated aboriginal agencies in the Lower Mainland – accounted for the majority of hotel placements.
The report found the ministry and delegated agencies have used hotel placements going back to at least the 1990s and that it has had the ability to track hotel stays on its electronic database since 1996. But because there were no clear policies in place, such stays were not necessarily being recorded. A manual review of records came up with the tally of 117 stays.
The report included several recommendations, including more residential resources to fill the gap in emergency placements, "with priority to be given to those [service delivery areas] most frequently utilizing hotel placements."
The province has also said it will publicly report on hotel stays. The first report is scheduled for June 1, 2016.
Mr. Gervais's death remains under review by the coroner and by the province.