British Columbia

Death of Oak Bay sisters can be 'life-changing event' for any child protection staffer

Tragedy like this is not the mistake of any one individual social worker, says UBC professor

Clare Hennig - CBC News

January 02, 2018

The bodies of Chloe Berry, 6, and her 4-year-old sister Aubrey were found in an Oak Bay, B.C., apartment on Christmas Day. (Submitted)

The community of Oak Bay, B.C., is still mourning the deaths of two young sisters found dead in their father's apartment on Christmas Day and the impact of the tragedy is being felt far beyond just friends and family.

The deaths of Chloe Berry, 6, and her sister Aubrey Berry, 4, can have an huge impact on the social workers and court workers who dealt with the family, says Grant Charles, an associate professor at UBC's School of Social Work.

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"It can be a life-changing event for the child protection worker," he told CBC host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn.  

Social workers can sometimes feel like they missed red flags and blame themselves when a child is harmed, Charles said. 

"It's almost impossible to predict this," he said. "But at the end of the day, people hold themselves accountable for having made a decision that ends in tragedy."

Police are treating the deaths as homicide. No charges have been laid and no suspect has been named.

If warning signs were missed and contributed to the girls' deaths, Charles emphasized, it reveals a systematic problem with child protection services and not any one individual social worker's mistake.  

A mother and her children listened to speeches and held candles at the vigil for the Chloe and Aubrey on Saturday. (CBC)

The family was known to child protection services. 

Court documents from a November 2016 custody dispute in B.C. Supreme Court show that the girls' father, Andrew Berry, had twice been investigated by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

According to those documents, he allegedly touched one of the girls inappropriately, drove erratically with them in his vehicle and once threatened to "blow up the house" during an argument with their mother.

Bernard Richard, the Representative for Children and Youth for B.C., said a number of decisions were made from the courts to social workers that allowed Berry visitation rights with the girls on Christmas morning.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

Click to show more
Bernard Richard, the Representative for Children and Youth for British Columbia, on the death of two young sisters on Vancouver Island.  7:25

With files from The Early Edition.

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