Friday, May 06, 2011

Tasering incident brings many more layers to light


Update Oct. 18, 2011: More details from police on the tasering of an 11-year-old boy with severe developmental disability

All the world’s an onion. Peel back a layer on any issue and a dozen more await, each more intriguing than the one before.
An example: The Tasering of an 11-year-old boy in Prince George last month. I went digging around for information this week on that troubling incident, only to end up puzzling over how a company with a history of running bars and liquor stores ends up in the group-home business.
The lowdown on this particular case will ultimately come from B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. Her office is reviewing the incident and other issues at B.C. group homes for children in care, and we’ll all know more when her analysis and two separate police reviews are complete.
But even a cursory look at the Prince George situation raises questions about how B.C. contracts services for its most at-risk children.
On the surface, the April 7 incident in Prince George is about a boy stabbing a group-home staffer after the worker pursued the upset boy into a trailer on the property. The boy was then Tasered by police.
But in the early days of her investigation, Turpel-Lafond discovered another layer to the story after learning that some group homes call police when a child gives them any trouble, even if it’s just refusing to go to their room.
“The incidents are numerous, and they aren’t related to criminal activity by the child or youth,” she said, expanding the scope of her review to include investigating how often police are called to resolve group-home problems.
And there are more layers than that in the Prince George case.
The owner of the group home, Taborview Programs, is a home-grown Prince George entrepreneur, Jordy Hoover. He’s better known in the region for the many bars and liquor stores he owns.
Hoover also owns 30 greenhouses, a nursery growing three million seedlings for the forest industry, and a gravel operation. A 2009 story in the Prince George Citizen described him as having “a diversified portfolio of business in the city.”
That portfolio includes 26 beds for youth with profound behavioural problems, disabilities or other special needs. Hoover received almost $3 million from the Ministry of Children and Family Development in 2009-10 to provide those services. (That same year, he and his companies donated more than $32,000 to the B.C. Liberal Party.)
Hoover didn’t return my call, so I couldn’t ask how he got into the youth-care business. But the fact that he did underlines not only that it’s common for MCFD to contract with private companies for specialized foster care, but that the process for awarding contracts has some interesting wrinkles in it.
None of this is to presume there’s something wrong with Hoover’s group-home services.
In the business world, you don’t have to be a youth-care specialist to own a group home any more than you have to be a miner to own a mining company. JC Hoover Holdings certainly isn’t the only private company doing this work, as a browse through the public accounts confirms.
Contractors receiving more than $500,000* a year from MCFD also have to be accredited. Taborview is.
Still, it’s definitely a new day when running group homes for high-risk kids is now just part of a diverse business portfolio. Call me old-fashioned, but I can’t shake a nagging concern about what it means when the provision of child and youth services is just another business venture.
How did Jordy Hoover get into this? In theory, creating 26 beds for high-risk, high-needs youth - a big project - requires going to tender, and the successful bidder would probably need significant expertise in the field to land the contract.
But the reality is that MCFD regularly enters into short-term contracts for a particular child or youth who can’t be placed at an existing group home. (The government still calls them "specialized resources" when only one child lives there, as was apparently the case in Prince George.)
Those short-term contracts have a habit of being renewed automatically if all is going well, for years in some cases. One “emergency” contract begets another as MCFD and the contractor grow familiar with each other. Next thing you know, you’re a bar owner with $3 million in MCFD contracts and responsibility for 26 fragile lives.
And when the flash of a Taser brings it all to light, surprised British Columbians can only wonder what else we don’t know. Plenty.
*This figure was wrong in my original column, but has been corrected here.

21 comments:

G West said...

Thanks Jody...I hope you'll follow up when you get more information about the situation in Prince George.

piker said...

Excellent piece!

Anonymous said...

If you intend to look further into this, you may want to ask questions about organized crime.

Dave Killion said...

[Paterson does a nice job at looking at the way expediency and incentive causes short-term emergency service provision to sometimes extends to years, but she fails to see the source of the problem because she’s looking in the wrong direction...]

http://www.libertarianbookclub.com/2011/05/08/how-did-government-care-for-foster-kids-before-tasers/

Anonymous said...

The reality is that MCFD regularly enters into short-term contracts for a particular child or youth who can’t be placed at an existing group home. (The government still calls them “group homes” even when only one child lives there, as was apparently the case in Prince George.)

If a private for profit contractor has even a small modicum of skill they structure the MCFD/CLBC payments to generate a tidy profit, AND pay off the full cost of buying the real estate that the program is located on.

Dawn Steele said...

Excellent investigative reporting, Jody - this is a frightening story.

It resonates with what we are hearing from many non-profit community groups that operate group homes and other supports for adult community living.

Bascially CLBC is bullying them into accepting contract reductions that force them to try to care for more people with less money. The clearly-stated threat is that if they speak up to complain publicly or challenge the cuts, CLBC will simply put their care contracts out to tender to companies like this that care nothing about the vulnerable people being served and simply see this as another way to make a profit.

It's deeply disturbing, and the public doesn't have a clue what's going on because there is no independent rep like Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond with the authority to investigate and report on what is happening in the group homes etc for adults.

Dave Killion said...

[It is hard to imagine a crueler, less sustainable system. What I would like Paterson to know is that it cannot be fixed. It can only be replaced.]

http://www.libertarianbookclub.com/2011/05/12/charity-by-force/

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing this into the light Jody. This has been an ongoing systems issue for some time now, no standard set for how group homes or "private contracts" need to be run. They can say all they want that the homes are accredited but this fails to cover some major things that effect the care these children receive and also a safe and supported work environment for the staff. Accreditation does not require the staff to come from a background of working with vulnerable people. All they require is for these "youth workers" to attend a couple of one day trainings such as ASIST or TCI and they are apparently trained to work with the most high risk people in the province. This leaves Jordy open to hire the same people he has working in his liquor industry to apparently "help" kids in his "specialized" homes. How can these home be called "specialized" when the staff are not trained or supported to properly offer help to these youth. This is not anything against the staff, many of them are coming in with the best of intentions and do care about the kids. However, many are just there for their pay cheque. If Jordy offered a better work environment for the staff and other benefits he would be able to hire qualified staff, not just the next bartender who needs to make some extra money. Another thing not followed by accreditation is having more than one staff on at a time. The group homes say they do this but rarely is there more than one in the home at a time. No wonder the police are constantly being called for issues, how could one person deal with 4 or 5 angry or drug induced teens that may be physically bigger than them. Maybe the police should be asking this question since they had to use a tazer on one child.
Just a few thoughts around a few issues people wouldn't know about unless they work in the helping profession. I hope you are able to dig around and find more of this information that needs to be brought to the public and Marry Ellen's attention.

jay said...

perhaps jody you could shed some light on how media works regarding this issue as i've been following it with great interest, being a former employee of said group home.
I heard on good authority, that there were 'allegations/concerns' of Taborview's business practices to a PG based reporter back in the fall of 2010.
His response was that they (the newspaper) couldn't run or investigate any type story regarding concerns over the MCFD and Taborview's relationship unless it was brought forth in the provincial legislature by a member of the opposition, at which time it could be reported.
Is that true?

i found that after the tazoring, most information was better found in larger newspapers, the local paper even deciding to keep Jordy's name out of it until it couldn't be helped. Any negative comments regarding Hoover was also struck from the comments section of the article itself, leaving only a general 'positive' feedback defending Hoover's operations.

Truth is, that incident was bound to happen; I was told by the Children's Rep that they had a long list of complaints regarding Taborview, and that they knew that there was a very tight non-business relationship between Jordy and a previous head of Northern BC's MCFD director. That these concerns were either ignored or filed under 'anecdotal' kills me; how can something be investigated if it's not told to someone? Isn't that how an investigation starts, by having someone actually tell someone in authority?
Apparently not, an 11 year old needs to be tazored first.

anyways, i digress. the reality is that there aren't 26 bed openings in the North for these kids to be reassigned. They come from all over the north, and perhaps more money could be assigned to recruiting services in their home towns. The staff and kids of Taborview are all well-meaning and of good hearts, but that doesn't make it a good place to grow up.

And i agree with the previous post; just because you take a few 1 or 2 day courses doesn't necessarily mean that you should be qualified to be a youth worker, working by yourself with up to 4 teenagers w/ 'behavioural difficulties' under your supervision.
But in my experience, more than a few companies are ok with that, including the gov't.

Jody Paterson said...

To Jay: I'm going to respond to your question about the media on the main part of my blog, but just wanted to flag that here in case Blogger sends out updates to people who post comments. Thanks to all posters for creating such an interesting comment stream on this one - there are obviously a lot of people with much more expertose on this issue than I have, and I appreciate seeing their comments here.

Anonymous said...

Jody, your coverage of this piece is just as sloppy and inaccurate as your coverage of the Judge Ramsay victims.
Relying on sources like the Representative for Children & Youth is like accessing tabloid grade information.
Turpel Lafond's comments to the media on this case was sheer embarrassement because of her lack of accurate information.
Jody, you need to stop writing these types of stories. You rely on other reporters to supply the content and you don't dig deep enough to get your own. Pathetic journalism. You might as well write for the National Inquirer.

Anonymous said...

Jordy has been given the ability to conduct himself in a manner that puts youth at risk. Given that he has been under scrutiny for many years and allegation after allegation has been directed at him such as ties to gangs, physical abuse on youth in care and unqualified staff. I wonder what it will take to have his contracts examined and removed. He is a danger to the youth of this province and next time a child's life may be the result of his incompetent organization.

Anonymous said...

while the concern may be justified. the exploitative charactor assassination agenda in this inadequate reporting is sophmoric and reactive bordering on irresponsible.
I spent years as a Director of large non-profit Youth Rsource agency. I have extensive experience staff training and crisis response. I am very familiar with contract negotiations and the process through which they are awarded. This article is rife with inaccuracy and misleading conjecture. It would be helpful for the reporter to perhaps adhere to some of the tenants of investigative journalism..such as say "checking facts before publication" Sad example of flinging feces.

Anonymous said...

Jody did you not previously work for Mary Ellen Turpel-Lapfond?
Is this article and blog not a conflict of interest?
Just saying.

Jody Paterson said...

I'm responding to the person asking if I used to work for the Rep's office and if that means it's a conflict of interest for me to write about this issue. I've been self-employed since 2007 but did do two short stints of contract work for the Rep's office - one to organize a reception for the Rep, the other to gather four young people's stories for a report the office was putting together. Both were 2-3 years back, though. Yes, I would definitely be unlikely to write about something involving an organization that I was doing work for at that time, or regularly did work for - not so much that it was a conflict of interest, necessarily, but because I would feel like I was taking advantage of my position as a columnist to bring profile to something that I was too close to in a personal way. But in this particular column, I don't think it's got much to do with promoting the Rep's office, and the bulk of the information in my column didn't come from them.

Anonymous said...

You've been self employed since 2007, but having a previous working relationship with the Rep's office appears suspect. How do we know where you received your information from? You are not obligated to tell us so we can only guess.
Friendships and working relationships can run deep.

Jody Paterson said...

Well, that is true, Anonymous. I don't have that kind of relationship with the Rep's office, but you're right - how do you know that for sure? All I can tell you is that I really did dig that info up piece by piece, using newspaper archives and the government's own database to search out big donors and big contracts. But you're going to have to take my word on it.

Anonymous said...

I was actually in this group home and have many stories of jordie and his staff.some good some bad-but either way not the best enviroment to be brought up in,escpecially as a teenager.

Anonymous said...

hey there all, well i all can say i was a youth there in one of his group homes, for 4 years almost, and honestly, after being in care for more then 10 years, his was the best, he worked very closely with us back then and i was with him almost everyday, hes a very kind soul and you people shouldn't judge unless you know him personally, he treated me like a son and sure there was some wild ass kids compared to me, i mostly behaved and tried to respect him, i knew a good thing when i saw it, most other places treated me like a meal ticket, after all is said and done, i have learned many life lessons from him, ive built a house from the ground up with him and other youth, he paid us also, takes us out for dinner and lunch all the time, movies, field trips, hes an amazing person, hes had the most positive influence on my life in the greatest way, i've since grown to do many amazing things in my own career after i left the his home at 18, its a shame so many people judge, and honestly, alot of those kids never appreciated a good home anyways, i've seen it all. Jordan Hoover is a good man and one of my personal heroes. thanks all. cheers.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you can tell who Jordy and Maria have "paid off" with some of these comments! These people are the lowest forms of human I have ever encountered. They are thieves, bullies, and are just simply without conscience. They are on a freight train to destruction in this city with very few friends left. Jordy has DUI's,and involvement with gangs, Maria's son (Drew) is a thief who over-served an older gentleman who later died driving home, and routinely steals and other staff have to make up the shortages. Wow! This is just scraping the surface, people! They only have ANYONE around them simply because they "own" them. Even the people they think are their friends hate them and are just there for the money. The people of PG need to start a revolution and get these horrific people out of town. PG is filled with awesome people and we have had enough of these BULLIES!!! Come on people let's drive these creeps outta town!

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't write about things you know nothing about. The government will only give you the info you want to see. You have no right to judge Jordy. Look into his original businesses, ask him why he ended up owing liquor stores and bars. Or better yet, take down this inaccurate blog article.