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Inclusion BC: Children and Youth with Special Needs Must be Protected from Abuse

Recent reports that a child with special needs was discovered in the care of accused sexual offender Russel Olvena Torralba in Vancouver highlights the need for a higher level of scrutiny of those who provide care for children and youth with special needs.

This was said by Inclusion BC, a provincial federation that advocates for the rights and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities.

Torralba, a fugitive from the United States accused of sexually assaulting a 98-year-old woman in his care in California, was arrested in Vancouver, where he was found caring for a child with special needs. Reports indicate that this child may have been in foster care at the time when Tortalba was arrested.

“Children and youth with special needs are particularly vulnerable to abuse,” said Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of Inclusion BC. “The statistics are shocking - the rate of sexual abuse alone for girls with disabilities is four times that of the national average. Because of this, additional background checks, monitoring and scrutiny of care providers is called for by MCFD. As the Ministry responsible for children in care, there is an even greater duty required given what we know about the high rates of abuse of our most vulnerable children.” said Bodnar.

MCFD’s current policy on children in care requires live-in caregivers and other adults living in the home with a child or youth in care to undergo a criminal records check, as well as respite care providers and foster parents themselves. However, criminal records checks are not required for “babysitting” or “child-minding.”

“Fundamentally, it is the responsibility of the Ministry to protect all children in their care. It is urgent that regulations are tightened and enhanced policies implemented in order to protect children with special needs,” said Bodnar.

Inclusion BC calls for immediate action to ensure the safety and support of this child, a full investigation at the highest level into this case and that all necessary measures be taken to strengthen the regulations, policies and protocols to prevent harm to children with special needs in the care of the Ministry.

Inclusion BC is a provincial advocacy organization with over 70 member agencies dedicated to building community and enhancing the lives of children and youth with special needs, adults with developmental disabilities, and their families by supporting abilities, promoting action and advancing rights and social justice.

Faith Bodnar, Executive Director
604.777.9100 x. 516 (office)

C. Lynne Kates, Communications Coordinator
604.777.9100 x. 527 (office)