A foster care provider in Westman is adamantly denying allegations it engaged in questionable discipline procedures, allowed children to use illegal drugs and failed to provide appropriate supervision and security to kids in care — accusations it said were made in an attempt to ruin their reputation.
In a reply and defence to a counterclaim filed last month in the Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench, Jesse and Cristy Dourado, who formerly operated Specialized Foster Homes in Brandon and the surrounding area, denied the allegations filed as part of a counterclaim by Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.
The Dourados initially filed a lawsuit against DOCFS in November, suing the agency for more than $162,000 that they claimed they were out of pocket after DOCFS allegedly terminated foster parent licences, agreements and payments without warning.
Both parties agree the Dourados found placements for high-risk youth and received a per diem from the agency intended to cover all care costs — including food, clothing, shelter, medication, incidentals, travel and respite care.
The Dourados allege DOCFS breached the agreement in April 2016 by withholding 50 per cent of the per diems owed to them and revoking the licences of the foster parents shortly after, making "unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations of abuse and wrongdoing on the part of the foster parents."
DOCFS claimed the deal was terminated by the Dourados when they "advised that they were no longer prepared to care for the children and would be dropping them off at the (DOCFS) Brandon office the following day," according to the statement of defence, which left them scrambling to find 21 children emergency placements on such short notice.
The agency further claimed it only withheld funds when it learned the Dourados were allegedly breaching the agreement by billing for services that were not provided to children and refused to provide documentation showing how money was being spent, DOCFS’s statement said.
The Dourados said DOCFS didn’t have any reporting requirements put in place as per their agreement, but they regularly reported "any and all information regarding the children," as well as monthly schedules and respite hour forms, which DOCFS seemed satisfied with.
DOCFS then "imposed reporting requirements on (the Dourados) which had not previously existed" without warning, the Dourados claimed, as part of a plan to force termination of their relationship.
"(DOCFS) engineered the termination of that relationship in order so that they could remove children from the care of (the Dourados) and place them with another operator in an unlicensed facility," the statement reads.
Due to the per diem payments being retroactive, DOCFS’s refusal to pay for services forced the Dourados to provide care for free, they claimed, and resulted in a situation where they could no longer afford to provide care for the children.
The Dourados also denied claims they failed to ensure criminal record and child abuse registry checks on foster parents and respite workers, stating they only hired individuals who applied through DOCFS to be licensed as a foster parents and therefore it was their responsibility to conduct those checks.
It was also DOCFS’s responsibility to provide appropriate training, the Dourados claimed, but they failed to do so — forcing the Dourados to create their own training program.
The Dourados also denied the agency’s allegations the children in their care were
at risk of harm, disciplined inappropriately and allowed to engage in illegal activities, stating they abided by the Child and Family Services Act and "at all material times they acted honestly, ethically, and only in the best interest of the children."
"They did not discipline children … but utilized a system of withdrawal and rewards and utilized child management techniques that were consistent with the guidelines of the standard of care of a foster parent," the statement read.
The Dourados also stated that all homes were "intoxicant-free homes" and if children were found in possession of drugs or alcohol it would immediately be seized and DOCFS would be notified, as well as law enforcement if necessary.
"(DOCFS) had a dual mandate, both as a guardian and the licensor of the foster parents and the homes, and pursuant to that mandate they had every right to access both the children over which they had guardianship and the homes in which those children resided … they persistently failed to exercise that mandate on a regular and consistent basis," the defence to counterclaim read.
"As to the whole of the counterclaim, (the Dourados) say that the allegations therein are false, vexatious, and intended only to embarrass and disparage publicly the reputation of (the Dourados). … the allegations are not borne out of evidence."
Specialized Foster Homes is no longer in operation in the area.
Jesse Dourado is now the CEO of Brightscape Endeavours, a separate organization that provides group care for some of the highest at-risk youth in Manitoba.
The agency’s lawyer, Dean Kropp, once again said in a written statement to The Brandon Sun it would be improper to comment while there is ongoing litigation, but that "DOCFS takes very seriously its obligation to provide care and support to the families and the children for whom they are responsible."
"The actions of the DOCFS in this case were guided solely by the best interests of the children who were entrusted to their care," Kropp wrote.
Neither the Dourados nor DOCFS’s allegations have been proven in court.
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