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

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Steven Brown is running for Penticton city council in the June by-election. (Contributed)
Penticton race director throws hat into city council ring

Steven Brown will run with a focus on small business

Penticton Vees celebrate a goal in their second win to start their season on Saturday night at the SOEC. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Penticton Vees head into final weekend tied for first in league

The Vees have two games to take the top spot

Kelsey Johnson, the City of Penticton’s manager for parks and recreation, was recognized by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association as an emerging leader for her work. (Submitted)
National recognition for Penticton’s head of parks & rec

Kelsey Johnson was deemed an emerging leader by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association

Coronavirus 3D illustration. (CDC photo)
Two Summerland businesses closed due to COVID-19

The businesses are listed on the Interior Health website

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

City of Vernon Coun. Dalvir Nahal proposed two blocks of Main Street be closed to bolster recovery for downtown businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Caitlin Clow - Vernon Morning Star)
Vernon’s ‘support local’ Main Street closure would cost city $24K, staff say

Bylaw costs, loss of parking revenue and equipment logistics behind price tag

Five properties have been added to the Lake Country fire protection zone, after council moved to expand the local service area Tuesday, May 4, 2021. (Google Maps)
Lake Country expands fire protection zone, covering 5 exposed properties

The properties petitioned to join the local service area after being left out ‘for reasons unknown’

VSAR’s Air Rescue One unit assisted in a rescue in West Kelowna May 3, 2021. (VSAR screenshot)
VIDEO: VSAR’s Air Rescue One team assists in West Kelowna Rescue

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter team pulled off a successful rescue Monday

Peachland resident and cleanup volunteer Lloyd Stinson Sotas holds up a discarded TV riddled with bullet holes. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
PHOTOS: Peachland residents clean up community watershed

More than 70 people gave back to Mother Earth by assisting with the cleanup

Officials are surveying the streets of Vernon to get a better sense of the issue of homelessness in the city, as part of the province’s point-in-time homeless count for 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Province conducts homeless count in Vernon

It’s the first time Vernon has been included in the provincial homeless count

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Most Read