Aggressive teen to be released from secure facility and mom says there's no exit plan
'For the greater community's safety, having her in our home is not an option,' says mother
The mother of a 16-year-old Nova Scotia girl who requires significant care said she's been told her daughter will be released from the secure facility where she currently resides in two weeks, and there is no plan for her care.
The mother cannot be named because that could identify her daughter, whose identity is protected because she is under the care of the province.
The girl, who was adopted as an infant, has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and significant cognitive delays.
She lived at home with her family until October 2015, but her behaviour became so aggressive she moved into a small community home for people with disabilities in Yarmouth. That worked for a while, but she soon discovered she could easily leave the home.
"She left the house and ran away and caused a lot of damage to a vehicle," her mother said.
The girl was then arrested and the home deemed her needs too complex and high-risk to continue care.
Only 1 secure facility for youth in Nova Scotia
In February, the girl went to live at the Wood Street Centre in Truro, a secure treatment program for children and youth who under the province's care and have an emotional or behavioural disorder that requires them to be confined. It is the only secure facility for youth in Nova Scotia.
"Wood Street has been really good for her in the way that she knows she can't get out," her mother said.
"She knows that she is secure. She knows that she can't cause any harm."
Wood Street was supposed to be a temporary placement for a maximum of 60 days. The teen has now been there for six months.
Sept. 8 deadline looming
While the Department of Community Services has been searching for a permanent home, as of right now, there is no plan and her mother said she's been told her daughter will be released from Wood Street on Sept. 8, regardless.
The family currently has a voluntary care arrangement with Community Services, but the girl's mother said she's been told that could also come to an end.
"That agreement could be terminated with seven days notice, and at that point we would be expected to bring her home and be responsible for her," her mother said.
"For her own safety, for our safety, and for the greater community's safety, having her in our home is not an option."
She described her daughter as aggressive, even dangerous, toward her parents and siblings, and said two doctors have told her she is no longer a candidate for community living.
Similarities to Ashley Smith case
The situation reminds her mother of Ashley Smith, a young New Brunswick woman who took her own life in an Ontario correctional facility in 2007 after being arrested for minor offences like throwing crabapples at a letter carrier. Her death prompted an inquest that made national headlines.
"I see so many similarities ... with her involvement with the criminal justice system," said the teen's mother.
Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services said it can't comment on specific cases, but did answer some questions via email.
Spokesperson Heather Fairbairn said the Wood Street Centre can accommodate 20 residents and while the facility has been at capacity since March 1, there is one space becoming available this week.
There are currently eight children awaiting assessment for possible admission.
"While the Wood Street Centre is intended to provide short-term, crisis intervention supports and services to help children and youth transition back to community, the department is required to ensure that the appropriate supports, including placements, necessary to benefit the child are in place as part of the discharge planning process," said the statement.
Lack of options
The mother of the young girl in question said she and her husband have done what they can for their daughter and now they need help to ensure their child's safety.
She met with the executive assistant of her MLA, Tony Ince, and his office is now looking into what it can do to help.
The mother said the problems her family faces speak to a larger issue regarding a lack of care.
"Why is there no place in this province for a child with this many issues? I cannot believe that in the entire province of Nova Scotia, she's the only child whose needs are this significant," said the mother.