B.C's representative for children and youth has released a scathing report into the deaths of Kaitlynne, Cordon and Max Schoenborn, saying the family "fell through the cracks" and the province needs to do more to protect children in homes with domestic violence.
An investigation led by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found the 2008 deaths could have been prevented.
Her report details how the family was involved with police, the mental health system and the Ministry of Children and Family Development over a nine-year period as Allan Schoenborn's common-law wife, Darcie Clarke, struggled to deal with his mental health issues.
Schoenborn admitted killing his children, Kaitlynne, 10, Max, 8, and Cordon, 5, in Merritt, B.C., in April 2008. He was found not criminally responsible for the slayings and remains in a psychiatric hospital, although his case is due for its regular review next month.
The report says the family came in contact with 14 different professionals during the week of the killings. During that time, Schoenborn was arrested three times, yet the report says nothing was done to stem repeated domestic violent incidents.
Turpel-Lafond calls the children's deaths alarming, heartbreaking and preventable — saying professionals in two different communities didn't take appropriate action.
Confusion reigned among ministry professionals
The report says upheaval in the Ministry of Children and Family Development was a contributing factor in the deaths.
"Nothing short of confusion reigned" in how social workers were supported. The report cites confusion, overwork and a lack of clarity throughout the system.
"This family fell through the cracks."
The report makes several recommendations to improve the system and suggests government "must demonstrate a renewed commitment to protect children living with domestic violence."
Turpel-Lafond also notes recommendations from a review two years before the Schoenborn children's murders dealt with similar circumstances but were not implemented by government.
Province agrees 'much more must be done'
Responding to Turpel-Lafond's report Thursday morning, Mary McNeil, the minister of children and family development, apologized to the children's family and said her department would immediately create a domestic violence unit to deal with problems identified by the report.
"It is clear that much more must be done to improve the system of supports for families dealing with complex issues like domestic violence and mental illness. There also needs to be greater focus on integrating and co-ordinating the system of supports," McNeil said in a written statement.
It goes on to say the unit will put together a "comprehensive, co-ordinated action plan to strengthen supports to children and families who are impacted by domestic violence."