Significant steps have been taken to ensure more children like Adam Scott Williams-Dudoward do not fall through the cracks, according to Children and Families Minister Stephanie Cadieux.
The 13-year-old boy died in January 2000, about two to three days after his hands and feet were bound and he was left in a bedroom of the Prince George home where he was living with his mother, stepfather and younger brother.
In issuing a verdict Feb. 8 against the stepfather, Lloyd William Cook, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett took to task the Ministry of Children and Families and social workers involved with the family.
Parrett concluded that "no timely and effective action was ever taken" by ministry officials that could have saved the boy's life and added that he is "at a loss to understand how it is that case after case similar to this has surfaced in this region over the years."
A ministry spokesman said Cadieux cannot comment on specific cases due to privacy issues but a statement was forwarded to The Citizen in which she said that while providing services in rural and remote areas "is an ongoing challenge for the ministry, a number of steps have been taken to enhance and improve services."
"Since 2006 the Ministry has implemented 127 actions to improve practice and service delivery in response to audits and case reviews conducted in the northern region alone," Cadieux said.
Since coming to the ministry two years ago, the deputy minister has reestablished the Director of Child Welfare to strengthen oversight, introduced a new child protection assessment and planning process and completed a review of foster and group care services, Cadieux said.
Sherry Ogasawara, the NDP candidate in Prince George-Valemount, said Parrett's comments along with Turpel-Lafond's recent report "speak to a larger issue and bears asking the question how did these children fall through the gaps?"
Under the governing Liberals, Ogasawara said there has been a "revolving door of ministers and ever-changing policy directives."
She said the government poured $200 million into an inadequate computer system at the ministry.
"We must invest in our children, in keeping them healthy and keeping them safe," she said. "The priority must be in people, not computer systems, stadium roofs, ad campaigns and legal cases."
Parrett provided his comments just a day after Children and Youth Representative Turpel-Lafond issused a report highly critical of the treatment an 11-year-old Prince George boy had received while under the ministry's watch.
In reference to Adam's death and the subsequent trial, Child and Youth Representative spokesman Jeff Rud said the office "is aware of the case and will be reviewing available records and court transcripts to see if there is anything more to be gained by looking further into this."
Cook, 55, was been found guilty of unlawful confinement and indignity to a dead body in relation to the boy's death and is facing a sentencing hearing today at the Prince George courthouse.
Adam's mother, Judy Elaina Williams, 52, is currently serving two years house arrest for interference with a dead body. She was sentenced last March after pleading guilty to the charge.
According to court testimony, Adam's body was kept in a car trunk for about a month and then buried in a shallow grave in a wooded area outside city limits. Only when Williams went to police nearly for years later that authorities learned what had happened to the boy.
Over that time, social workers had contacted Williams and Cook on at least two occasions.