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Oliver’s law: Victoria family calls for MCFD review amid drowning of son, 6

A statement released from the family called for a body to oversee the ministry

Amid the tragic drowning of six-year-old Oliver Ratchford while in foster care, his family is calling on the province to answer questions surrounding the boy’s death.

According to the family, the mother received a call explaining her son was found unresponsive after he had been playing unsupervised by a pond and fell, just four days after he had been placed in foster care. in Victoria. He was taken to hospital but died after two days on life support, in the early morning on Feb. 28.

Mother Jade Ratchford issued a written statement Friday (March 1), calling on the province to investigate the care of her son, as well as review the process required to remove a child from their parent or guardian’s care. Additionally, the family’s statement requested that an oversight body be made to hold the Ministry of Children and Family Development accountable.

According to Ratchford’s statement, a MCFD team lead and Victoria police officers showed up at the Apostolic Reformed Church in Victoria on Feb. 22 and handcuffed John Ratchford, who is the priest and father of Oliver. She claims that the MCFD did not give information as to why the children were being taken beyond citing Section 13 of the Child, Family and Community Service Act, which serves as a list of various circumstances where children are presumed to need protection from their parents or guardian.

READ MORE: 6-year-old drowns in Victoria pond while in MCFD care; fundraiser launched

In the afternoon of that day, Jade says the family received an email from the MCFD but didn’t disclose what was included in that information.

“The last image my son saw was his dad on his knees in handcuffs, I never got to hug him goodbye and now I will never get to hug him again,” the statement reads. “He never got to find out if his father was safe.”

Jade goes on to say the family is devastated, as well as confused and fearful, adding that their daughter who was also removed by MCFD that day remains in foster care.

Victoria Police confirmed that officers attended the church with the ministry but provided no further comment.

The family is demanding that the ministry should take responsibility for their son’s death.

“We are demanding a new law be created, called Oliver’s Law containing these stipulations.

“If the police can acquire a warrant within hours there is zero reason for the same level of accountability to be applied to child protection and the fact that this hasn’t been done despite the historic history of children dying in care is a travesty and immense oversight,” the statement reads, going on to call on the province “to revamp child protection laws, team leads clearly do not have the correct level of judgment for this kind of authority.”

Grace Lore, Minister of Children and Family Development addressed questions regarding the family’s statement that called for Oliver’s Law at a press conference on March 4.

“Our ministry’s work is that when children are not safe at home that is our absolute last resort. In cases where families have questions or where children are hurt or lost in care, it is my expectation and our ministry’s job to understand every part of what happened and why. So, that families both have the answers that they need and that we’re able to take all actions so that kids in our province are safe and protected whether they’re at home or in care.”

In B.C., the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth is a non-partisan, independent officer of the Legislature, which provides recommendations on how to improve the welfare system.

Representative Jennifer Charleswoth told Black Press Media that her office has been in touch with the ministry and the parents, adding that while she cannot directly comment about the case, it has raised some “red flags.”

“When we take a look at these situations, we would always hope that there would be really transparent communication with the parents, assistance to the parents to try and address any protection concerns that the ministry has before removal and that removal would be kind of a last resort after other efforts had not resulted in safety for the child.”

In 2023, seven children died while in Crown care. In 2022, there were 16 deaths.

“It does happen, children do die in care, and sometimes those are expected deaths,” said Charleswoth.

The ministry told Black Press Media in an emailed statement that they cannot provide specific details on individual cases.

“If a child dies in care, steps are immediately taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of any other children in the home, as well as provide them with supports,” the statement reads.

The ministry added that within seven days of being brought into care, the circumstances of removal are presented to a provincial court for further review by a judge. It is unclear if this review happened.

Premier David Eby has yet to comment publicly on this incident.

Leader of the Official Oppositin Kevin Falcon took aim at the ministry during a news conference earlier this week.

“This story of a child taken by the Ministry of Children and Family and then four days later found dead in a swimming pool, at a foster parent’s who were supposed to be looking after him, this to me doesn’t sound to me anything that looks remotely reflects looking after a child. This looks like child neglect,” he said.

Black Press Media has reached out to Eby for comment.

About the Author: Ella Matte

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