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2019 - EXCLUSIVE: Convicted group home owner moves operations to Oshawa.
The man at the centre of an in-depth CityNews investigation into illegal group homes is now accused of moving his operations to Oshawa.
Authorities in Oshawa believe Winston Manning is in breach of probation and say more charges are pending, adding that vulnerable people have been put in danger.
In 2016, Manning was a key figure in an Ontario Provincial Police probe into illegal group homes. The investigation found that people with physical and mental health issues were living in deplorable conditions: mattresses on the floor, inadequate food, mouse feces and the smell of urine in the homes.
The findings were corroborated by a former tenant at the time, who was identified only as Dave.
“[It was] filthy. Turn on a light in the middle of the night and you could see the cockroaches moving, almost like a carpet. There were thousands of them,” he told CityNews.
Just 11 months ago, Manning plead guilty to to multiple fire code violations in relation to several illegal group homes in Toronto. He and his company, Comfort Residential Group Homes, were fined more than $80,000, put on probation and ordered not to operate any illegal homes.
Shortly after, Manning was charged again after a fire broke out at an illegal rooming house in the Victoria Park area in November 2018. Fire officials believe it was around the same time he started operating in Oshawa.
On Tuesday, authorities removed nine tenants from a residence in Oshawa — the fourth illegal home operated by Manning in that city. Three staff members were also in the home.
Carson Ryan, Fire Prevention Inspector with Oshawa Fire, says fire safety is one of the main issues in the home.
“We’ve had problems with fire separation issues, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms — which are all required in any home. And there is a higher requirement in vulnerable occupancy care in these homes, for them to be compliant,” he tells CityNews
“What’s concerning the most is a large number of residents there don’t know where they are, how they got there, how long they’ve been there or how to contact anybody,” he adds. “They lose all their documentation coming into the house, they lose their cellphones, their medications are dispensed for them, allegedly, and they don’t have anybody to turn to.”
Oshawa fire officials say the house is in violation of the fire code and vulnerable residents, who Carson says have both physical and cognitive limitations, would not be able to get out safely in an emergency.
“Not only are [illegal group homes] a danger to the people within, they are a danger to first responders going into the homes, not expecting typically 12 people inside of a single detached dwelling. It’s also an issue for neighbours for fire exposures,” says Carson.
The residents are allegedly being cared for, but Carson says from what he’s seen, he doubts they are receiving the level of care they need. He describes an upsetting scene the very first time he stepped into the home.
“The first time I walked into this home there was an adult male wearing a soiled diaper, wearing only a t-shirt, wandering around the house trying to find his way and how he got there. He was brought there the night before. A lot of questions that he asked, I unfortunately didn’t have an answer for. He did look like he was in a bit of a desperate situation,” he says.
Officials are also concerned that residents, who pay about $1,000 per month to share a bedroom, aren’t being fed properly. Carson says he’s never seen any nutritious food in the home, only instant pasta and noodles. A resident who lives nearby told Citynews a woman from the home would often knock on neighbours’ doors, asking for food and cigarettes.
The condition of the home is described as relatively clean, except for the smell of urine and feces throughout the home.
CityNews reached out to Manning several times via phone but did not get a response.
Carson says charges are pending in one of the other three cases of illegal group homes run by Manning in Oshawa – including enforcement of the probation orders obtained by Toronto Fire.
Officials in Toronto do not believe Manning is currently operating any illegal group homes within the city.
Teen’s death in unlicensed Oshawa group home raises questions about secrecy surrounding kids in care. NEWS Dec 10, 2015.
DURHAM -- Justin Sangiuliano, who died on April 21, 2015, at age 17 at Lakeridge Health hospital in Oshawa. Justin, who had developmental disabilities,was rushed to hospital without a heartbeat on April 16, 2011. He never regained consciousness after being restrained by two workers at his group home and was declared brain dead on April 21, 2015.
DURHAM -- On a late afternoon in April, Justin Sangiuliano put on his helmet and gloves to go for a bicycle ride.
But staff at the unlicensed Oshawa group home where the 17-year-old developmentally disabled teen lived were planning to take him fishing instead. They locked the bicycle shed to be sure the energetic six-footer got the message.
Justin was furious. He stormed around the home, swinging his fists until staff grabbed his arms to restrain him. Kicking and screaming — and still in the clutches of two staff members — the teen fell to the living room floor, where he reportedly rubbed his face back and forth on the carpet until his forehead, chin and cheeks were raw.
Some time later, he stopped struggling and staff released him. But Justin never got up. He was rushed to Lakeridge Health Oshawa and arrived without a heartbeat, according to a serious occurrence report filed by Enterphase Child and Family Services, the private company that runs the group home.
Justin, a ward of the children’s aid society in Timmins, Ont., never regained consciousness and died five days later.
Under Ontario’s current child protection system, his story might never have been told, because authorities concluded that neither criminal charges nor an inquest were warranted.
“It is stunning to me how these children... are rendered invisible while they are alive and invisible in their death,” said Irwin Elman, Ontario’s independent advocate for children and youth. Mr. Elman was unaware of Justin’s death until informed by the Star. Between 90 and 120 children and youth connected to children’s aid die every year.
Durham Regional Police investigated the April 16 incident and laid no charges. Dr. Jennifer Arvanitis, the regional supervising coroner, said her “investigation is complete and there are no plans to call an inquest.”
Although the results of coroner’s investigations in Ontario are private unless there is an inquest or a trial, a source close to the case has said an autopsy showed Justin had an undiagnosed heart condition.
Enterphase’s executive director, Harold Cleary, declined to discuss the case due to the company’s privacy policies.
However in an emailed statement, Mr. Cleary noted that a Durham Children’s Aid Society investigation of the incident concluded “there are no current child protection concerns that require ongoing involvement... staff administered (the physical restraint) appropriately.”
Physical restraint, which can include immobilizing a child or youth by holding the child by the shoulders and wrists with their arms extended, as happened with Justin, is controversial in group homes. The practice resulted in two high-profile inquests into the deaths of two children restrained in Brampton and Peterborough-area homes in the late 1990s.
A Star analysis of serious occurrence reports filed to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services by Enterphase shows the agency’s use of restraints in 2013 and 2014 is about twice the provincial average of 36 per cent for that time period.
According to documents obtained through freedom of information requests, restraints were used in 451 of the 633 serious occurrence reports filed by Enterphase during this time — a rate of 71 per cent.
From January to mid-May 2015, there were 84 cases of restraints out of 152 serious occurrence reports, for a rate of 54 per cent. Mr. Cleary, whose agency has a capacity to serve 47 children and youth in nine licensed homes in the GTA and Peterborough area, said he does not think his restraint rates are excessive.
“However, Enterphase is always looking for ways to further reduce the use of restraint,” he said in his email to the Star. “The goal of reducing restraint is part of our agency culture.”
Children’s ministry officials met with Enterphase in 2013 “to discuss expectations around serious occurrence reporting requirements relating to physical restraints in their licensed sites,” a spokeswoman told the Star in an email.
“Following the incident of April 2015, the ministry has undertaken a full licensing review for this location, given the type of service provided there,” said Aly Vitunski, spokeswoman for Children’s Minister Tracy MacCharles, referring to Justin’s death at Enterphase’s home on Centre Street South in Oshawa.
Mr. Cleary noted that under current ministry regulations, group homes like the one Justin was in — with fewer than three children or youth — do not require licences. Enterphase is also an accredited children’s mental health centre, he added.
Regardless of credentials or number of children served, Mr. Elman said he wants the ministry to ensure all group homes are licensed.
As a provincially appointed panel reviewing residential services for children and youth prepares to report at the end of the year, Mr. Elman and other advocates say Justin’s death raises serious questions about the use of restraints on vulnerable children and youth in the care of children’s aid. The secrecy surrounding the incident, they add, is even more alarming.
“I think there should be an inquest in this case — in all cases when children die in the care of the government,” said Mr. Elman, who has called for the province to reduce the use of physical restraints to zero. “We need to have a public, open discussion about how we cared (for) and protected that child.
On Monday, the Legislature passed a private member’s bill introduced by NDP children’s critic Monique Taylor that will require children’s aid societies and other agencies to inform the advocate’s office when a child or youth in care has died or suffered serious injury. The law will come into effect next year.
Mr. Elman, who has been seeking this information since he was first appointed in 2008, argues it will help him in his duty to investigate and report concerns to the Legislature.
“It’s no longer OK for the coroner to go behind closed doors with the ministry and perhaps a representative of the child welfare agency involved and say: ‘Nothing to see here. Move along’, ” he said.
Justin’s death comes amid an ongoing Star investigation that has revealed an unaccountable and secretive child protection system and the recent auditor general’s report, which outlined a litany of problems including improperly conducted investigations into child abuse and the government’s failure to fully enforce standards.
An analysis of serious occurrence reports in Toronto group homes in 2013 found one in three involved the use of physical restraints.
From 2010 to 2015, data recently obtained by the Star shows there were about 45,000 physical restraints in Ontario, according to reports filed to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. That is about 36 per cent of the 126,400 serious occurrences reported to the ministry by agencies serving vulnerable children and youth, most of them referred by children’s aid societies.
Under provincial regulations, physical restraints can be used only to prevent a group home resident from injuring themselves or others, or from causing significant property damage.
They can be used only when less intrusive methods have been tried or deemed not to be effective.
As a result of deaths in the late 1990s, provincial regulations were changed to require ministry-approved training in physical restraints for all front-line staff.
However, the children’s ministry does not know how many children or youth have died after being physically restrained in group homes since those measures were introduced.
Coroner’s reports are generally confidential and released only to family members upon request. Since most Crown wards don’t have family who would notify the media or seek help from the provincial advocate, it is difficult for the public and those working in the field to know what is happening, Mr. Elman said.
Although the government lists six approved training programs in the use of physical restraints, no one has looked at which techniques are best, said Kim Snow, an associate professor at Ryerson University’s School of Child and Youth Care.
“Is one safer than the other? Should one be used in certain situations and not others? Should we only use this type of restraint on little kids versus another type of restraint on big kids? Sometimes staff can’t contain kids using a restraint. So what happens when those situations occur,” she said.
“Until we can answer those questions, the risk of harm as a result of restraints is quite high. For staff and kids.”
Ms. Snow, who has worked in the field for more than three decades, including several years in the 1980s running group homes, also wants the Province to track the use of restraints more closely.
“We can’t continue to have these things hidden and continue to practice these interventions and not expect further injury,” she said. “These are our most vulnerable children... If we don’t have mechanisms to review this, the cycle is going to continue. If anything, it’s going to get worse.”
With files from Sandro Contenta and Jim Rankin
2016: An expert panel has delivered a report to the Ontario government on the troubled state of residential care for our most vulnerable children. It will soon be made public. Rarely heard are the voices of the youth themselves. Here are the stories of Simon and Lindsay.
Simon’s story: Staffer ‘would try to pick fights’
Simon came home from high school on a fall day in 2013 to find police cars in front of his east-end Toronto home. His mother was “crying her eyes out.” Children’s aid, backed by police, had come to take Simon and his two younger sisters.
The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto had placed the family under supervision that April. Six months later, it decided matters had not improved.
In documents, the society said the children had missed about two years of school. Their home was a mess and the society feared for the children’s health. Parents were considered negligent, allowing their 12-year-old daughter to stay out until 1:30 a.m. and blocking attempts to help the children deal with “self-destructive” behaviour.
Related: Children's aid societies urge Ontario group-home overhaul
Simon calls the allegations “bizarre and false.” He blames a child protection worker he describes as inexperienced.
On one point, however, Simon and the society would likely agree: when children are taken from parents deemed neglectful or abusive, their group home care should be better than the care they left behind. Simon insists his was worse.
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He was 16 and bounced to four group homes in one year. He says he saw staff repeatedly bullying and verbally abusing residents. “It was very scary,” says Simon, now 18. (The Star is not using his last name because his sisters remain in care.)
Simon’s longest stretch was at a Hanrahan Youth Services group home in Scarborough. He says he was so frightened by what he saw that he began to secretly record incidents with his iPod. One recording, which he posted online, captures a man — Simon identifies him as a Hanrahan staffer — shouting at a young male resident. The dispute began, Simon says, because the youth refused to respect house rules and go to his room at 9 p.m. It escalated, the man accusing the youth of telling housemates he would head-butt him. His voice full of anger and menace, the man dares a calm-sounding youth to do it.
“Head-butt me!” the man shouts. “I’m right here in front of you. Head-butt me! Do it! Do it!”
“You going to call the cops on me,” the youth says.
“Who will call the cops on you? For what? Head-butt me!” the man insists.
“You are a problem,” the youth replies.
The staffer, Simon says, “used to have these episodes every day with the kids. He would try to pick fights. He knew that if these kids punched him he would have the right to restrain them, and he would use excessive force. He would bang their head up against the floor and they would be bleeding.”
Simon also describes often being locked out of the home when he arrived after curfew.
Bob Hanrahan, who owns and operates Hanrahan Youth Services, said in an email he could not comment on Simon’s allegations “due to confidentiality restrictions.” Training for home staff, Hanrahan added, includes a course on managing aggressive behaviour.
Simon was moved to two other group homes, where he says bullying and the physical restraint of young residents were common. A third was the only one he could stomach.
On Oct. 27, 2014, a judge agreed to return him to his mother’s care.
“Kids suffer more damage in group homes than they do when they’re living with their parents,” Simon says. “That’s one thing the government and the public should know about group homes.”
Lindsay’s story: Enters home at 12, pregnant at 14
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Lindsay’s family asked York Region Children’s Aid Society for help when she became too much to handle.
Lindsay, who is autistic, was “aggressive, specifically towards myself and her father,” says Elizabeth, Lindsay’s grandmother and primary caregiver at the time. “We were afraid that somebody was going to get hurt.”
In a voluntary arrangement, Lindsay was placed in a foster home, but her foster mom couldn’t deal with her either. Three months later, at age 12, she was moved to a co-ed group home in Scarborough, run by East Metro Youth Services.
Lindsay, now 15, was placed in a co-ed Scarborough group home when she was 12. Here, she looks at a serious occurrence report from the home that involved her.
It would be home for 21 months, until March 2015. Lindsay “grew up really fast,” says her father, Eric, whose struggles with depression made it impossible to be her main caregiver.
Lindsay says she was exposed to “drugs, parties, alcohol, abuse, self-harm. People with mental disabilities who weren’t being treated right.” (Names have been changed for this story because, by law, a minor in care cannot be identified.)
The group home accommodated eight young people up to age 18. Lindsay was the youngest. The kids often got in trouble with staff, says Lindsay, and punishment included extra chores and being “isolated in your room.” Lindsay and her family contacted the Star after Lindsay recognized an incident in a Star story. In that incident, Lindsay and another girl, upset with staff, left without permission and bounced a basketball down the street. “We weren’t doing anything illegal.”
They returned but were locked out. It was cold, so the other girl made a small fire in the backyard. Staff ordered it put out. The other girl complied, says Lindsay, and the two pounded on the door.
“It had been almost an hour,” says Lindsay. “I couldn’t feel my face. So we just kicked in the door.”
Police took the girls away in handcuffs. Lindsay was not charged; she says the other girl never returned.
Lindsay says police were often called when kids broke house rules. She describes most staff as yelling a lot and unable to properly deal with kids with mental health and behavioural issues.
In a statement to the Star, East Metro Youth Services said staff are yearly “offered specialized conflict resolution and de-escalation training,” which results in “minimized” need to call police. They are only called “if there is a danger of harm to residents or staff.”
A Star analysis of Toronto serious occurrence reports from 2013 shows that of 41 reports filed by Lindsay’s home, 13 involved police, or 32 per cent. That is below the average of 39 per cent for Toronto group homes that year.
Lindsay says the kids were unwatched for long periods at night and could sneak out, claiming “a lot” of sex among residents when she arrived in 2013. She says she was 13 when she first asked staff about getting birth control pills, which would require an appointment with a doctor. The appointment, she says, was never made.
At 14, Lindsay got pregnant by a fellow resident. In its statement, East Metro said condoms were always available, and all prescription medication requires signatures by resident and family or guardian. The agency would not comment on her case, but said: “Ultimately, it is an individual’s choice to use birth control measures. When a young person is worried she might be pregnant, pregnancy tests are provided in all cases, without exception.”
The home closed in March 2015. The agency says it was due to “reduced demands” driven, in part, by a greater push by children’s aid societies to find alternatives. It runs a second group home.
The closure disrupted the school year for Lindsay, who, earlier than planned, moved back home to live with her grandparents and father. She gave birth to a girl. The baby was adopted in a private arrangement and is doing well says Lindsay’s grandmother, Elizabeth.
Lindsay, however, “is struggling” with both school and post traumatic stress brought on by her experience at the group home, says Elizabeth. She also moved schools last fall after a student “grabbed her phone” and discovered photos of her with the baby. In the past three years, she has been to five different schools.
Elizabeth calls her granddaughter “one of the fortunate ex-group homers,” with a supportive family.
Although the family encountered some good people after calling on children’s aid for help, they say they would never ask for such help again.
“The children’s aid society,” says Lindsay’s dad, “sent me home a pregnant 14-year-old daughter.”
‘No one listened’: How reports of sexual abuse in an Ontario foster home were allegedly dismissed for years..
Global provides a quote from one of the victims demonstrating that neighbours wondered how Joe and Janet Holmes were able to receive and care for children. The same victim had her contact information distributed by her abusers to people in the town, who then sent her sexually inappropriate messages and contributed to her abuse.
Tragically, foster home scarcity may have contributed to the ongoing neglect of the Holms’ crimes. One victim, whose name was redacted by Global to protect their identity, said her attempt to report her foster parent, Joe Holms, forcing her to “cuddle” on the couch simply resulted in him being told “to stop cuddling the children.” Revelation like this may have led to Justice Geoffrey Griffin, the judge who oversaw the conviction of the Holms to comment “The idea that the Children’s Aid Society didn’t know or, or shouldn’t have been aware that something was going on, is hard for me to accept.”
While both Joe and his wife Janet were sentenced to jail time in 2011 for their various, horrific abuses of children, they were far from the only ones. Global reports the last foster family to be convicted with the abuse of children in their care in the Prince Edward county system was in 2015.
Some say the abuse discovered in foster homes across the county went undetected for so long due to systemic failures at the Prince Edward County Children’s Aid Society. The judge who presided over the Holms’ criminal case called the abuse so outrageous that he hoped a public inquiry would be launched.
In April 2018, three years after the last conviction in the Prince Edward County abuse cases, OPP charged the former executive director of Prince Edward County Children’s Aid Society, Bill Sweet,
Bill Sweet, the executive director of the Prince Edward County Children’s Aid Society, was charged in 2018 with 10 counts of neglect, and 10 counts of failing to provide the necessities of life. His preliminary trial begins in July 2019, and his lawyer asserts that he will defend himself against the charges.