Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Another Indigenous foster child sues Kelowna social workers over misuse of funds, neglect

Robert Riley Saunders is facing another lawsuit for allegedly stealing money from foster children

Another Indigenous woman is alleging she was neglected, abused and defrauded while in B.C. foster care.

The now 19-year-old filed a civil claim on Dec. 20 naming Kelowna social workers Robert Riley Saunders, Siobhan Stynes and Terra Plut; the director of Child, Family and Community Services; two people only identified as Jane Doe and John Doe; Interior Savings; and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The Capital News has decided not to name the plaintiff due to the nature of the allegations.

She claims she was harmed by the defendants’ negligence and breach of trust, and by a misappropriation of funds and benefits meant for her care. As a result of this negligence the woman was subjected to homeless, sexual exploitation and substance abuse.

Saunders is the subject of several other suits of a similar nature in which he allegedly set up joint bank accounts with children in care, allegedly taking some the funds for his personal use.

History of physical and sexual assault

“The plaintiff’s physical and psychological health suffered as a result of the defendants’ acts and omissions,” read the suit.

“The plaintiff was sexually exploited and operated from and deprived of a relationship with her children. The plaintiff’s trust and confidence in parental and authority figures has been severely compromised.”

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker sued again for allegedly stealing from foster children

READ MORE: Judge orders credit union’s bank records for Kelowna social worker facing theft allegations

The victim claims she experienced multiple incidents of sexual, physical and emotional abuse since she entered the system after being taken from her mother at three years old.

In March 2016, the woman gave birth to her first child, who was apprehended by the province and placed in another home on the basis the woman was homeless and “lacked the resources to care for her child.” The woman requested to live independently with her child, citing the placement family had “serious drug and alcohol problems.” That request was denied and she moved in with the family her child was placed with.

At this time, she came into contact with several of the people and entities named in the suit.

In October 2016, the placement family’s father figure overdosed on injection opioids in a child’s bedroom at his residence. A paramedic reported that he was resuscitated with Narcan.

This incident prompted the province to cancel the woman and her child’s placement with that family but again would not approve an independent living arrangement and failed to provide suitable food, clothing or shelter until February 2018.

Without appropriate living arrangements the woman claims she was essentially homeless, causing her to develop a substance use disorder and subjected her to sexual exploitation.

Saunders alleged theft occurs

In March 2017, Saunders and the woman allegedly opened a joint bank account or trust account, under the pretext that Saunders would give the plaintiff funds using the account.

“Saunders used the account to deposit cheques made out to the plaintiff that were intended to provide the plaintiff with funds for food, clothing and shelter,” read the suit. “Saunders then transferred the plaintiff’s funds to his own account and used the funds to pay for trips, vehicles and his own mortgage for himself and his family.”

The woman had another child in June 2017. The child was apprehended by Saunders, on behalf of the province, and removed from the woman’s custody again due to her living situation.

In Dec. 2017, the alleged theft was detected by the director of Child, Family and Community Services. Saunders closed the account on Jan. 8, 2018 and allegedly took the remaining funds for himself.

Saunders is accused of being engaged in “similar unlawful and inexcusable activities in respect to dozens of children in his care, most of whom were Indigenous children.”

MCFD accused of failing the plaintiff

The shortcomings of the director, the province, Saunders, Stynes, Plut, Jane and John Doe are also described in the suit, alleging they all knew the woman was effectively homeless at 15 and failed to take action to secure a safe shelter for her.

“The director failed to implement adequate systems, restraints and controls to detect and prevent Saunders’ misappropriation of funds and benefits,” read the suit.

“(They) failed to conduct reviews of Saunders’ files to detect whether Saunders was carrying out his duties appropriately and in accordance with the plaintiff’s best interests.”

The director of Child, Family and Community services is accused of failing to effectively communicate “the dysfunction of the aboriginal/high-risk division of the MCFD office in Kelowna to the assistant deputy minister.”

None of the suit’s allegations have been proven in court and no responses have been filed to the claim.


@michaelrdrguez
michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The CVRD introduces new app to contact residents during emergencies, a tool that chairman Aaron Stone says will improve communications. (File photo)
CVRD launches new app to spread information during emergencies

Cowichan Alert is a free app that can be downloaded onto smartphones, computers

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

FILE PHOTO
Editorial: Time to roll up our sleeves and pitch in

They’re just not quite sure they want to get a vaccine — yet

Brian Thatcher, owner of Cowichan Bay’s Pacific Industrial & Marine, is disappointed the province didn’t provide funding for a proposal from PIM, in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes, to remove derelict boats from local waters. (File photo)
Application for funding to remove derelict vessels in Cowichan area fails

Province announced $4.5 million for new program on April 28

Cowichan Valley Capitals forward Sean Ramsay comes away with the puck after a battle along the boards during a game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on May 1, 2021. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Three wins in a row for Cowichan Capitals

BCHL team enjoying best stretch of the season

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

Most Read