B.C. youth advocate refutes ministry's reassurances of help for at-risk youth

B.C.'s advocate for children and youth stands by her accusations that some youth in Prince George, B.C., frequent drug houses because they don't have a safe place to live, despite the province's reassurances to the contrary.

Province stands by Stephanie Cadieux's comments that at-risk youth in Prince George are getting help

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she stands by her comments that at-risk youth in Prince George are not getting appropriate help. (CBC)

B.C.'s advocate for children and youth stands by her accusation that some youth in Prince George, B.C., frequent drug houses because they don't have a safe place to live, despite the province's reassurances to the contrary.

A week after CBC News reported that youth were "effectively living" in a Prince George drug house, Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux said there was no shortage of group homes or foster beds for at-risk kids in the northern B.C. city.

But Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, said staff on the ground know that's not true.

"We have been told explicitly they have a number of youth they're trying to place," she said.

"They have offered to assist the young people by placing them three to four hours outside Prince George because of the absence of resources."

Turpel-Lafond said the lack of assistance from MCFD means young people are being found in places where there's active drug use or being left with parents who have addiction issues.

Documents Turpel-Lafond shared with CBC show ministry staff couldn't find a safe place in Prince George for five children, aged 11 to 17, as late as last week.

"Some of those young people are AWOL and street-involved, and getting them placed again is a big issue," she said. "I basically stand on that. and I'm prepared to bring that out into the open."

When CBC asked MCFD about Turpel-Lafond's allegations, a spokesperson said Cadieux's comments still stand. 

"If there is a child or youth in Prince George in need of a placement or ministry services, the MCFD resources in that region will work to provide them that support," said MCFD issues manager Bill Anderson. 

With files from Betsy Trumpener and Andrew Kurjata