Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Boy sexually abused while in grandmother's care, despite repeated CFS warnings about her pedophile boyfriend

It took six warnings from Child and Family Services workers and a sharp-eyed corrections officer to end the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old boy by a convicted serial sexual offender — abuse that happened under the watch of his grandmother, say recently unsealed court documents.

Child welfare officials failed to protect 10-year-old victim of convicted sexual predator, advocate says

Repeated warnings from child welfare officials did not prevent months of abuse of a 10-year-old boy by a convicted sex offender. (HumsterAnna/Shutterstock)

It took six warnings from Child and Family Services workers and a sharp-eyed corrections officer to end the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old boy by a convicted serial sexual offender — abuse that happened while the boy was in the care of his grandmother, who was dating the man, according to recently unsealed Manitoba court documents. 

Child and Family Services removed the boy from his grandmother's home in September 2018, after an off-duty corrections officer saw a 27-year-old man he recognized as a high-risk sex offender touching and kissing the boy in a Winnipeg ice cream shop. The officer reported the incident to police. 

In less than 24 hours, the convicted sex offender was behind bars. The 10-year-old boy disclosed that the man was his grandmother's boyfriend and had first sexually abused him at the age of eight, court transcripts say. 

"This is unacceptable," said Natasha Reimer, a former foster child and an advocate for children in care. "The kid's safety should've come first. … That kid was failed."

Reimer says this case shows that despite their warnings, Child and Family Services didn't do proper home assessments, nor did they accurately assess the risks to the safety and security of the boy.

Natasha Reimer is an advocate for children in care. She says child and family services failed the 10-year-old boy. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

In October 2019, the man was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual interference against the boy and breaching a probation order. The CBC is not naming the man to protect the identity of the child.

The 53-year-old grandmother openly wrote posts about her relationship with the man and her grandson on social media, according to court records. She posted pictures of the three of them on her Facebook page.

In one of the photos, the boy is seen lying on top of the pedophile on a couch. There is also a photo of the boy with his pants pulled down, exposing his midriff and underwear. 

The grandmother had also commented on her social media page that the trio slept together in the same bed.

Court records show the woman had been caring for her grandson since 2015, when he was seven. It's not clear when she started dating the convicted sex offender but court records say he moved into her home in March 2017. 

Grandmother warned 6 times

All Nations Coordinated Response Network — the child welfare agency that investigates child abuse in Winnipeg — first warned the grandmother that her boyfriend was a risk to children in June 2017. 

The sex offender had previously been convicted for abusing eight other boys before the 10-year-old, racking up more than a dozen convictions throughout the province in the last decade. Those convictions include charges of sexual assault, forcible confinement, sexual interference and impersonating a police officer.

He spent several stints in jail and in 2014 was banned from having contact with children under 16. 

Court records say Child and Family Services started looking into the case after a family member reported concerns about the man's relationship with the boy.

Three months after Child and Family Services first warned her about the man, the grandmother registered the boy for school, listing the convicted sex offender as the boy's father on the paperwork.

In January 2018, Child and Family Services contacted the man's probation officer after social workers suspected the offender had contact with the boy. That triggered a Winnipeg police investigation. 

As officers investigated, Child and Family Services workers continued to caution the woman that her boyfriend was a danger to children and couldn't be in the home.

If there were six times, I'm going to assume that the concerns that were brought forward were either not able to be validated or that there were other safety plans … in place.- Sandie Stoker, All Nations Coordinated Response Network

Over the course of six days in January 2018, Child and Family Services contacted the grandmother three times and told her the boy was at risk of being apprehended if the offender was found in her house. The grandmother agreed that she would keep the offender away from the boy. 

The man was arrested on Jan. 31, 2018, for disobeying the court order banning him from being around children after police got a security video showing he picked the boy up from school.

The child remained in his grandmother's care, and Child and Family Services workers warned her twice more about her boyfriend. 

According to court documents, after the man's arrest, the woman was told he had multiple victims and was on the child abuse registry. Child and Family Services also explained to the 53-year-old that sometimes men target women to gain access to children. In at least one of his previous offences, the man became involved with an older woman to get close to her boy. 

The grandmother assured the Child and Family Services worker her boyfriend would not be allowed in her home. 

Sandie Stoker, executive director of the All Nations Coordinated Response Network (ANCR), says the provincial Child and Family Services Act prevents her from talking about specific cases. But she said that generally speaking, the primary responsibility for keeping children safe falls on the legal guardian.

When the guardian is a grandparent, agencies need to do a thorough assessment and weigh the harm of removing the child against the safety risks, she said.

"We try [to] make the … least disruptive plan for the child and the safest plan for the child. Removing a child from their home, from their family, is done as a last resort when we cannot come up with a reasonable safety plan with the child's family and community," said Stoker.

In some cases, the safety plan includes bringing another person into the home to ensure the child is not left alone, or with someone who poses a risk, Stoker said.

If a guardian violates a safety plan, they normally get one warning, she said.

"If there were six times, I'm going to assume that the concerns that were brought forward were either not able to be validated or that there were other safety plans, measures in place that aren't in the court documents."

ANCR conducted more than 2,200 abuse investigations last year — 900 of which involved sexual abuse allegations.  Less than 20 per cent of all abuse investigations were substantiated, according to Stoker. 

Southern First Nations Network of Care, the authority that oversees ANCR, refused an interview, stating CFS records are confidential. 

Pedophile talked to boy 56 times from jail

Following his arrest, the man was at Headingley Correctional Centre from Jan. 31 to Sep. 7, 2018. 

Less than a month after his release, he was back in custody after being spotted with the boy in the ice cream shop.

Winnipeg police say even while he was locked up, the man was able to talk to his young victim. Officers got a court order for recordings of the man's jailhouse conversations and learned the boy's grandmother allowed the sex offender to speak to the child 56 times in a 2½-month period.

According to the police affidavit, in one conversation the man asked the boy, "Do you remember everything?" 

"Mm hm," the boy replied.

Man: "Everything that me and you used to do?"

Child: "Mm hm."

Man: "You're never too old to do that with your dad."

The man pleaded guilty to the charges of sexual interference and breaching his probation order.

At his sentencing hearing, the Crown said the phone calls showed ongoing manipulation of the child and that the man was continuing to groom his victim.

Grandmother not charged

Police also named the grandmother in their request for phone recordings. Investigators believed that she failed to provide necessaries of life to the boy — a criminal offence which can carry up to a five-year prison sentence — because she let the sex offender have contact with the boy.

The boy told investigators his grandmother "probably knew" about the assaults but ignored suspicious actions by the man, according to a court document.

Winnipeg police said they took the case to the Crown for consultation.

Prosecutors came back with no charges against the woman and the allegations against her in the documents have not been proven in court.

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