Former foster children may be able to claim as much as $250,000 in a class action settlement over allegations that social worker Robert Riley Saunders defrauded Indigenous foster children and others while under the watch of the B.C. government.
Individuals who can benefit from the settlement agreement with the province include those who were placed in Saunders’ caseload for more than 90 days while under the age of 19 and a resident of British Columbia. Class Members must have been subject to a continuing custody order, a temporary custody order, an agreement with a youth, a voluntary care agreement, or a special needs agreement between April 1, 2001 and 2018.
Social Worker Preys on Indigenous Foster Children
CBC News reports that dozens of lawsuits were filed by defrauded Indigenous foster children in British Columbia. The lawsuits alleged that Robert Riley Saunders, a social worker in Kelowna, B.C. ripped foster children from stable homes and forced them to live on their own. The plaintiffs say that Saunders used money provided by the province’s Children and Family Development agency through joint bank accounts he set up with the children.
According to CBC News, many of the children were left homeless as a result of Saunders’ draining of their benefits through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The majority of the children that Saunders took advantage of are Indigenous. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said that there are at least 102 potential victims.
Class Action Lawsuit Says Ministry Negligent
The cases were organized into a class action lawsuit that named both Saunders and the government of British Columbia as defendants. The defrauded Indigenous foster children class action lawsuit alleged that Saunders had stolen from foster children using Ministry policies from 2001 until he was fired in 2018.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Saunders’ employer, the Ministry of Children and Family Development reprimanded the social worker at least once for a conflict of interest regarding funds meant for foster children. In addition, despite records showing that Saunders was insensitive to the unique needs of the culture and history of Indigenous children in foster care, many of these children were assigned to his caseload, alleged the complaint.
The class action lawsuit accused the Ministry of failing to properly supervise Saunders, as well as failing to implement policies that would protect foster children from fraud and neglect. According to the plaintiffs, it is difficult to determine who Saunders defrauded and by how much because of the Ministry’s failure to keep proper records.
“The high-risk Aboriginal division of the Kelowna office of the Ministry of Child and Family Development was notorious for poor record keeping,” a lawyer representing the plaintiffs told CBC News reporters.
Province to Pay Millions in Class Action Settlement
According to CBC News, the province of British Columbia may pay up to $15 million in the defrauded Indigenous foster children class action settlement. Class Members can claim $25,000, plus additional amounts if they endured homelessness and/or sexual abuse for a maximum total compensation of $250,000.
“The settlement agreement itself … is a well structured, trauma-informed, process designed to avoid re-injuring class members that have suffered a great deal,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs told reporters.
Social Worker on the Run
While the province has settled claims, Saunders reportedly remains at large. CBC News reports that he has not responded to any court actions and cannot be found in British Columbia. There are reports that he has been seen working at golf courses in Winnipeg and Calgary.
“He appears to be working his way east to escape his infamy,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer told CBC News. “He’s behaving like a fugitive.”
The RCMP has reportedly said that it is assessing criminal charges against Saunders.
Those who were in the care of Saunders are asked to come forward to take part of the settlement. The deadline to file a claim is Oct. 23, 2022.
Class Members include those who were placed in Robert Riley Saunders’ caseload for more than 90 days while under the age of 19 and a resident of British Columbia.
Class Members must have been subject to a continuing custody order, a temporary custody order, an agreement with a youth, a voluntary care agreement, or a special needs agreement between April 1, 2001 and 2018.
Up to $250,000.
- All Class Members can claim a $25,000 award
- Class Members who are Indigenous can claim an additional $44,000
- Class Members who experienced homelessness can claim an additional $25,000
- Class Members who experienced self-harm, substance use disorder, psychological trauma or analogous symptoms can claim an additional $45,000
- Class Members who were sexually exploited can claim an additional $75,000
- Class Members can claim between $20,000 and $50,000 if their education was delayed
- The maximum award is $250,000
Proof of Purchase
A list of Class Members is available. Those who believe they are Class Members should contact the class action lawyer at email@example.com. The lawyer can help Class Members establish their claims, including claims for additional payments due to homelessness, sexual abuse, and/or other damages.
There is a list of Class Members who are eligible for Basic Payments. To find out whether you are on the list, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org, register online at www.gratlandcompany.com or contact Class Counsel by telephone at 604-694-1919/1- 866-230-2752
NOTE: If you do not qualify for this settlement do NOT file a claim.
Remember: you are submitting your claim under penalty of perjury. You are also harming other eligible Class Members by submitting a fraudulent claim. If you’re unsure if you qualify, please read the FAQ section of the Settlement Administrator’s website to ensure you meet all standards (Top Class Actions is not a Settlement Administrator). If you don’t qualify for this settlement, check out our database of other open class action settlements you may be eligible for.
Claim Form Deadline
T.L. v. Her Majesty the Queen, et al., Case No. S1811960, in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Canada
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