Record check misses 'shocking revelations' in B.C. Children's Ministry file

A Kamloops judge is asking why a Ministry of Children and Family Development record search failed to reveal a history of domestic violence associated with a child's guardian.

Kamloops judge asks why record search on guardians failed to reveal history of domestic violence

Kamloops Judge Stella Frame expressed astonishment that a record check of B.C. Children's Ministry files failed to turn up a lengthy history associated with the guardians of a vulnerable child. (CBC)

A Kamloops judge is asking why a Ministry of Children and Family Development record search failed to reveal a history of domestic violence associated with a couple caring for a vulnerable child.

The issue arose as part of a guardianship application filed by the girl's grandmother — known only as N.A.H. — which showed no criminal record, no ministry files and no protection orders.

In fact, the physical file contained reports dating back years in relation to the woman's own children. In one of them, N.A.H.'s husband was alleged to have greeted social workers with a shotgun.

'Astonishing' lack of records

"There are some shocking revelations arising from the evidence related to this record check," provincial court Judge Stella Frame wrote in her decision.

"While the purpose of this hearing is not to determine whether that did occur, it is critical that a history of domestic violence be disclosed. It is astonishing that the record review of ministry files did not produce any information in relation to these investigations."

A Kamloops judge has rejected a grandmother's application for guardianship of the child she has cared for since the age of two months. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

Frame rejected N.A.H.'s application for guardianship of the child, L.M.H., who she has raised from the age of two months.

In doing so, the judge noted the importance of the role the grandmother has played in the child's life, but also the "insidious actions" she has taken to make it difficult for her daughter to care for the 12-year-old.

She also queried the social worker with conduct of the physical file about the information missing from the record check.

"(She) ... could not explain why the record search did not produce the history that she clearly had when she testified," Frame wrote.

"While she observed that older records had not yet all been placed on the system, those records are still available to the people who do those record searches from a central location."

Friends are online players of Minecraft

The decision details the sad life of a child played out against a backdrop of family feuds and tragedy.

N.A.H. and her husband stepped in to raise L.M.H. at a "very difficult time" for the child's mother. But N.A.H. has since told doctors, teachers and social workers not to speak with her daughter about the child.

Frame also noted that N.A.H. had previously withheld another grandchild from his biological parent, only giving up that child when forced to by court order.

L.M.H. considers her friends to be online game players who have "a common interest in Minecraft." (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

N.A.H. has withdrawn L.M.H. from school, teaching her at home instead. Frame said "her reports to her online instructor lack proper punctuation, grammar and sentence structure."

According to documents filed in the case, L.M.H. is out of shape and spends a lot of time on her computer.

"L.M.H. does not have friends where she lives in relative isolation," Frame wrote. "She considers her friends to be online game players with a common interest in Minecraft."

Domestic violence continues to be an issue

The judge was particularly concerned about the living arrangements involving the grandparents, who are estranged. N.A.H. and the child sleep in a trailer on the same property where the grandfather lives in a house.

The trailer has water access issues and was full of rodents after a fire evacuation.

"Perhaps most concerning is that N.A.H. testified she lives in a separate home from her estranged husband. However, it is clear that L.M.H. spends time in that home both in and out of the company of her grandmother," Frame wrote.

"The evidence is that L.M.H. keeps to her room when her grandparents are fighting, and only comes out when she hears her grandmother crying. L.M.H. believes this does no harm to her, which could not be further from the truth."

Given the evidence from social workers found in the ministry's physical file, Frame said it was "clear that domestic violence continues to be an issue, with or without the physical aggression."

Frame dismissed N.A.H.'s application for guardianship, giving the mother primary care of L.M.H. The grandmother will continue to see her for a week at spring break, one month in the summer and one half of Christmas break.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development would not speak to the details of the case, but a spokesperson said the ministry "completes criminal records checks and reviews any relevant historical information when assessing the safety of where a child may live or who may have access to that child."

The ministry said it would look into any instance where a proper review of files appears not to have taken place.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.