The boy who jumped to his death in 2015, breaking a window in a hotel in Abbotsford, B.C., at last has a name: Alex.
Bernard Richard, the acting Representative for Children and Youth in British Columbia, is the author of Alex's 70-page biography, a story of endlessly waiting for something good to happen that never comes.
Alex's parents were mentally ill, and they abused him. He never experienced anything of his Métis heritage; no one was there to interest him in any such matters. There was a fleeting opportunity to give him a home with his stepmother in B.C., or with an aunt in Quebec, but the B.C. provincial ministry didn't act. So, in effect, he had no family.
The social-welfare system tried to take over, but there was no stability. Alex went through 17 "care" placements in 11 years, with 23 different social workers and caregivers, in two different provinces. Among the few clear conclusions that come from this sad, tortured, short life is that "contracted residential agencies" – hotels, in this case – often don't work well. Some combination of family life and bureaucratic administration might have done better.
At the end, Alex was left dangling for months at a stretch, living alone in a hotel room while he hoped against hope that something might happen, and facing, as Mr. Richard puts it, "the frightening prospect of aging out of care."
"Aging out of care" happens when a child reaches 19 and is no longer eligible for care; in Alex's case, without skills or training, let alone education – as if the child could somehow reinvent him into an adult. Alex was rightly terrified about what would happen to him. He killed himself four months after his 18th birthday.
Alex's may be an extreme case, but the very fact that this could happen in an ostensibly enlightened age shows how easily youth can fall through the cracks, and how awful the consequences can be. The B.C. government needs to take Alex's story to heart, and finally start to do better.