A high-risk First Nations youth was abruptly removed from a “stable” foster home a day after the foster mother appeared in an APTN News story highlighting concerns within Weechi-it-te-win Family Services, a First Nation child welfare agency in Fort Frances, Ont.
And the removal happened after the 15-year-old’s mental health consultant advised against any move saying the youth should be kept in the foster mom’s home, which she had been in since January.
That’s because, for the first time, the female youth had developed a bond with her now former foster mom, Shannon Stone.
“I cannot believe they are doing that! That will be devastating for [the youth], and add to trust and trauma issues,” wrote Sirppa Sterling, of Sterling Counselling Consultants, upon hearing the news on Nov. 13 from Stone in text messages.
Sterling has long conducted psychoeducational/psychometric and parental capacity assessments for Weechi.
“They are not following my recommendation. It should mean something,” wrote Sterling. “I know we were making a difference, and saw gains.”
Sterling said the youth was just about to begin working on trauma that included going through 15 different placements before finding stability in Stone’s home.
Despite Sterling’s recommendation, and long history with Weechi, Stone received a call about mid-day on Nov. 13 from Tracy Hoey, the interim supervisor of the child protection team at Rainy River First Nations (RRFN).
Hoey said the youth was being removed because the nation didn’t have an official agreement to allow the child to be in the home, something Stone disputed, considering she had been living there for nearly a year.
Hoey also told Stone her home was closed, as of Nov. 12, the same day APTN’s story was published, according a recording of that call.
“This is wrong and you know it,” Stone says on a recording of the call, clearly emotional after the youth whispers in her ear ‘this is my home’ as Stone spoke to Hoey.
“Now all of a sudden this thing comes out through APTN and you guys are closing my home?
“You can’t say that,” says Hoey.
“It just came out yesterday. It’s pretty coincidental,” replies Stone. “I’m fighting this. I hope you guys know that. I am not just taking this lying down.”
Stone is the former child in care worker at RRFN, whose child protection team delivers on-the-ground care to children and youth from the community.
But it’s all done under the authority of Weechi, which is licensed, and mandated, by the province of Ontario.
It’s a quasi-devolved system, as Weechi’s executive director, Laurie Rose, is the legal guardian of every child and works out of Weechi’s main office.
RRFN is one of 10 nations under Weechi.
Stone quit her job at RRFN on June 1 while an internal panel was looking into complaints against Coun. Leona McGinnis, whose conduct impacted members of the RRFN child protection team, known as the community care program.
McGinnis used to be the supervisor of the program, but was fired a couple years ago.
She’s also the aunt of Chief Robin McGinnis.
The chief said in his interview with the internal panel that his aunt meddled in the affairs of the team, according to the panel’s final report.
One of the complaints against Leona McGinnis focused on her saying earlier this year she didn’t think it was appropriate for the female youth to be in Stone’s home because of her sons, who also lived there.
“Because of my forty years of child welfare experience I immediately seen red flags, oh my god, to me that’s not good because she had five boys in her home,” McGinnis is quoted as saying to the internal panel.
Stone told APTN her sons see the youth as their sister and objects to any suggestion otherwise.
Stone’s home was never actually closed
The youth was removed from Stone’s home Friday at approximately 3 p.m. Central time.
By the following Monday, Stone confirmed her home was, in fact, never closed.
At least not according to Carl Big George, the alternative care coordinator at Big Island First Nation.
Big George opened Stone’s home through his community, which is also under Weechi.
When RRFN needed a home for the youth in January they “borrowed” Stone’s home, which was supposed to be done in agreement with Big Island and Weechi, meaning all three parties would have a copy of the agreement.
Stone told Big George she was told her home was closed.
“OMG are you serious, who is saying that,” wrote Big George to Stone in text messages.
Stone told Big George she needed confirmation her home is open.
“As far as I know you’re still active … I don’t know why you would think I would lie about this. That’s as much as I’m allowed to say is that you’re an open home,” he wrote.
No one from RRRN or Weechi would respond to questions.
Big George and Sterling also didn’t respond to questions.
Since leaving Stone’s home Friday the youth has been moved twice.
Weechi won’t say why.
The youth has told Stone she is not doing well.
“She said she feels dead inside and this is killing me not being able to do anything,” Stone told APTN.
The biological mother is also upset her daughter was removed from Stone’s home. So much so she protested outside the child welfare office at RRFN on Monday.
“She’s been moved to  different homes and never felt safe or accepted or loved,” the mom wrote Stone in text messages. “They can’t just take her outta her home. That’s where she belongs. Your home is the only place she felt she belonged.”
It’s 18 different homes now.
The mother has hired lawyer Marco Frangione to revoke her consent to keep her daughter in care and plans to fight in court, if needed, to have her returned to Stone.