Calgary foster parent faces sex charges

A Calgary man has been charged with several sex offences involving three foster children under the age of 18, police said.

Boys allegedly offered money

In a Calgary and District Foster Parents Association newsletter article, Garry Prokopishin said he had no intention of fostering until his wife suggested it. (CBC)

A Calgary foster parent facing several charges allegedly offered three boys money in exchange for sexual acts, police said Thursday.

Garry Prokopishin, 51, is charged with one count of luring a child via a data device, three counts each of obtaining or attempting to obtain sex from a person under the age of 18, and sexual contact with a youth by a person in authority.

He faces the charges in connection with incidents alleged to have occurred between January 2006 and April 2008.

Prokopishin was released on bail, and is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 19.

The Calgary Police Service child abuse unit received a tip in June 2009 that a man was allegedly engaging in sexual acts with underage boys.

At the time, the man was a foster parent and primary caregiver for his three alleged victims, police said. The abuse is believed to have occurred over a span of several months to several years.

Police believe that 55 foster children, all boys, have lived under the care of the man and his wife over the past 20 years.

At any given time, police said, between one and five boys lived in the home, and they ranged in age from 14 to 17.

Review ordered

Children and Youth Services Minister Yvonne Fritz has ordered a review of the situation surrounding the foster home.

"I was devastated to hear of this, deeply saddened. It's a terrible situation, I've acted immediately, I've closed that home and also there will be an investigation," she said.

"I learned about this incident this morning and I can tell you that I've ordered an immediate closure of this home and, as well, I've ordered an immediate review and when that review is complete ... I will be acting on those recommendations as quickly as possible, if there's any recommendations that are made for change.

"If change is required, the change will happen quickly."

Fritz said the foster parenting system works well.

"We have over 4,000 youth in care. I also know this is very rare to have this type of situation, I've been told that by department officials, and that we have excellent foster care," she said.

"I know that foster parents are well screened. I know that there are opportunities for the staff to meet with foster parents through the Children and Family Service Authority."

Cellphone images alleged

Police said the man allegedly used his cellphone to take several sexual images of the children.

The man is also alleged to have had, or attempted to have, sexual intercourse with the children, police said.

Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said the charges are disturbing.

"Some of these acts, you know, when you're being charged with obtaining sexual acts or favours by a person of authority … it's always disturbing," he said.

All of the foster children were at-risk youth, Brookwell said.

"I know they were high-risk kids. They had had some trouble with the law and they had some issues with substance abuse, so they were placed in this home and given care in this home," he said.

Brookwell said the foster home was suspended in June 2009 when the investigation was launched. There are no children in the home now.

The Calgary Police Service has spoken to 13 of the 55 boys who lived in the home. But the investigation is ongoing and interviews have been conducted across Canada.

Brookwell said more charges could be laid if any new victims come forward.

The Alberta Foster Parent Association named Prokopishin and his partner one of the foster parents of the year for 2006.

Prokopishin served as a director of the Calgary and District Foster Parent Association.

He was profiled in the association’s April 2009 newsletter.

In the article, Prokopishin said that he had no intention of being a foster parent until his wife suggested it because he "did not like children at all."

"Garry has been serving on the CFP Board for six years and is the much loved co-ordinator of the LASER TAG. We extend a thank you to Garry for his service over the last six years," it read.

Anyone with information on these or other related incidents is asked to call police at 403-206-8783 or Crime Stoppers at 403-262-8477 or 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tips can also be made online.