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Vancouver teenager dies by suicide in foster care



Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health issues, help is available through Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566.

A grieving Vancouver mother is searching for answers after learning that her 16-year-old son committed suicide while in foster care.

Erin Wyatt, 46, told CTV News she learned of her son Ocean’s death from police on Sunday, but has yet to receive any further information from the Department of Child Development and of the family.

“The police came to my house and told me Ocean died by suicide,” Wyatt said. “The MCFD never contacted me, and they still haven’t.”

Wyatt said when she contacted the department on Monday, she was told Ocean’s social worker was on vacation.

The teenager was removed from Wyatt’s care about a year ago. The mum said Ocean has been diagnosed with autism and will occasionally have episodes at home where she still raises her six siblings.

“Home isn’t dangerous, I don’t do drugs, I have all the siblings, I don’t abuse Ocean,” Wyatt said Wednesday.

She last saw her son on Saturday and said he appeared to be in good spirits, although he texted her later that night to reveal he had made a formal complaint about her his care in the ministry. Wyatt was sobbing as she read the last message she received from her son:

“I am alone. The host family does not drive me to school. It does not help me with homework. It does not provide me with good food. It never provides enough funds. It does not make me nothing.”

Wyatt said her son stopped responding to his text messages the next morning, but she was not initially concerned as he is a teenager who likes to sleep and also goes to church every Sunday.

Police arrived later to deliver the heartbreaking news.

In an email to CTV News, the Department of Child and Family Development said it could not comment on individual cases – including whether it had received reports of care issues. Ocean.

Instead, the ministry offered answers regarding its procedure for handling deaths by suicide in foster care.

“In the event of a sudden or unexpected death, the police and the authorities are informed and react. As soon as ministry staff are notified, and as soon as it is appropriate to do so, ministry staff will reach out to the family to offer support,” the ministry wrote.

Wyatt said she had been calling the ministry daily since Monday but had not been offered any support.

The department also undertakes a child and family medicine review in the event of the death of a child or youth in care.

“Practice reviews include a summary of the family’s involvement with the ministry or other service providers and an analysis of the information and findings. The review may result in action plans to address practice issues that have been identified,” the department said in its email.

The BC Coroners Service has confirmed it is also investigating Ocean’s death.

The teenager’s suicide while in foster care could be the only one recorded this year. The Office of the Representative for Children and Youth told CTV News there were no confirmed ones between January and November.

Since 2012, when the bureau began collecting data on deaths in provincial care, the annual toll has reached 15.

In the past fiscal year, however, 510 cases of suicidal ideation or attempted suicide were recorded, according to Representative Jennifer Charlesworth. Of those cases, Charlesworth said 275 were related to cisgender women, 131 were gender-diverse youth, and 104 were cisgender men.

“We call these cases of not belonging – they feel like no one cares about them, like they have no meaning or purpose, they’re not connected to the people who love and care for them. support,” Charlesworth said. “It’s a trauma that speaks, it’s a pain that speaks. It reminds us all that if we see young people struggling or hurting themselves, we shouldn’t be appalled or reactive, we should be supportive and compassionate.

In his experience, Charlesowrth said, foster homes rarely face consequences for suicide deaths because there are rarely cases of neglect.

Wyatt said Ocean’s death surprised her, especially just a week before Christmas – a holiday she said he was very excited about.

“He made a lot of plans with us,” Wyatt said, adding that his son loved his siblings, visited his family twice a week, and was always involved in birthday parties and vacations.

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