Inquest into14-year-old’s suicide to spotlight flaws in Manitoba’s child-welfare system — (The Winnipeg Sun)

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The Winnipeg Sun

By DEAN PRITCHARD, SUN MEDIA

An inquest into the suicide death of a 14-year-old Winnipeg girl promises to cast a harsh spotlight on Manitoba’s child-welfare system and the care it provides its most vulnerable charges.

Tracia Owen was found dead Aug. 24, 2005, after hanging herself in a Victor Street garage.

SEIZED

From the time she was two months old, the Little Grand Rapids native spent her short life in and out of foster care, said Crown attorney Larry Allen. Owen was seized from her parents and returned 18 times before becoming a permanent ward of Child and Family Services.

When the end came she was selling herself on the streets, addicted to crack.

A friend who found Owen’s body told an inquest yesterday both she and Owen were forced into prostitution by an older woman who threatened to hurt them or their families if they didn’t comply.

“(The woman) said if I didn’t she would beat me up or go after my mom,” said the 16-year-old girl.

The girl, who, like Owen, lived in a group home, said she didn’t tell group home staff of her troubles because it was “embarrassing.”

“I don’t really tell adults a lot,” she said. “It takes a lot to make me trust anybody.”

The inquest will also examine how appropriate it is to prescribe anti-depressants for children, Allen said.

In the months leading up to Owen’s death she was prescribed large doses of Prozac.

The inquest, which will include testimony from the provincial children’s advocate, is set to run off and on until late April.