BY KEITH LACEY
The executive director of a Sudbury group home now facing sexual assault allegations passed a government police check before being hired to work with children.
Roger Hawkins, 53, was charged earlier this week with one count of sexual assault and sexual exploitation following a complaint received last month. Greater Sudbury Police laid further charges of one count of gross indecency and one count of indecent assault on a male, dating back to the early 1970s.
Sgt. Bob Keetch of the Greater Sudbury Police Service said the police investigation started following the September complaint, which resulted in other complainants coming forward with allegations of improper conduct by Hawkins.
Hawkins was the executive director of Inner Sight Educational Homes, which operates two group homes located on Bloor St. The agency also
operated Grace House, a group home that opened in Gatchell last year.
Keetch would not comment if the recent allegations involve a young person under Hawkins? care at a group home.
The Ministry of Child and Youth Services conducts a police check of every employee hired to work in a ministry-approved group home, said ministry spokesperson Anne Machowski.
?Protecting youth in care is a priority and this ministry is doing everything it can to ensure the safety and well-being of young persons,? she said. ?The ministry requires all group home employees to undergo a criminal reference check as part of our licensing criteria.?
It?s just coincidence, but these charges were laid while the ministry is conducting a province-wide review of its group home and foster home programs, said Machowski.
David Rivard, executive director of the Children?s Aid Society Sudbury/Manitoulin, said his agency doesn?t operate the group homes, but uses their
services. All seven young persons under CAS care in these three facilities have been removed.
?They will be placed elsewhere in an alternative area of safety,? said Rivard.
Rivard calls the filing of criminal charges ?very upsetting? saying the CAS was involved in the police investigation since complaints first surfaced against Hawkins several weeks ago.
The ministry is responsible for licensing group homes and the CAS has a good working relationship with several group home operators in Greater Sudbury, said Rivard.
?The group homes we deal with on a regular basis do terrific work,? he said.
More than 75 percent of young people under the care of CAS Sudbury/Manitoulin are placed in foster homes with only 45 out of more than 450 clients currently in group home settings, he said.
This places Sudbury near the top in provincial statistics when it comes to placing young persons in foster homes over group homes, he said.
Hawkins was released on bail Wednesday following a night in jail. He?s under strict conditions. A court order was in place preventing the media from divulging evidence presented at the bail hearing.
Keetch said the police investigation is continuing and anyone who might have pertinent information is asked to contact the police service at 675-9171.