Top News

‘It was absolutely horrible’

Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram<br />Donald and Jackie Tizzard at their Hillview Terrace apartment Friday.
Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram<br />Donald and Jackie Tizzard at their Hillview Terrace apartment Friday.

Part 2 of 2 In the year since her son Chazz’s death, Janet Petrella-Ashby has told his story in the media many times. It’s clearly not an easy task, but she takes to it with passion and fervour. She’s remembering the child she loved; the child for whom she and her husband had fought so hard; the child they believe was let down by the system.

Read Part 1: Family fighting to stay together

Petrella-Ashby and her family live about an hour and a half outside Toronto. Starting in Grade 1 or 2, she says, teachers began calling home, reporting problems with Chazz’s attention span and incidents of aggression. Eventually, he was climbing out school windows and leaving the school.

“It progressed to the point that by the time we hit Grade 4, they said they couldn’t keep him safe,” Petrella-Ashby told The Telegram. They said, ‘We can’t deal with the flight issue.’

Chazz was having issues with impulse control and violent outbursts; many times he’d cry with guilt afterward. Over the years, different diagnoses were thrown around, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and anxiety. Medication wasn’t really working, and he never really had a clear treatment plan.

Petrella-Ashby has spoken about Chazz not being able to shut his brain off or articulate what he was feeling, and things got worse as he got older. In episodes of rage, he would threaten to hurt himself or others, break things and run away from home.

Petrella-Ashby and her husband reached out to Children’s Aid — the Ontario equivalent of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS)— along with a number of other organizations, for help when Chazz’s behaviour became too much to manage.

“I would say, show me how to do a restraint. Teach me. When Chazz was at a point where he was smashing things, I needed to be able to provide safety to myself and my family.”

Chazz was hospitalized multiple times, and sent to a residential treatment facility, where his mom says he was bullied. His doctor at the time recommended tests, but they never happened, and Chazz returned home after about six months.

“These are private agencies being funded by the government,” Petrella-Ashby said of care homes. “For us, it was absolutely horrible.”

After that, Chazz went to different schools, group homes and a psychiatric crisis centre, but testing was never done. Funding had been requested, but denied. Early last year, he was placed at a private school specializing in children with behavioural issues, and he began to thrive, but after the school year was over, his funding — which had been approved as an exception for emergency purposes — was cut off. It would cost the family $21,000 a year to keep Chazz at the school, and they say they weren’t in a position to pay it.

After a particularly difficult night in August 2014, during which Chazz had been in a emergency room twice, having punched a wall in a rage and broken his hand, he took his own life in a tree outside his home.

 

Should not have happened

Petrella-Ashby and her husband say Chazz’s suicide should not have happened, and Irwin Elman, the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth agrees — he has joined the family in calling for an inquiry into Chazz’s death. Petrella-Ashby says since Chazz’s death, many families have e-mailed her about their own similar situations, including families from Atlantic Canada.

Jackie and Don Tizzard of St. John’s understand the struggles the Petrella family had with Chazz. As reported in the Weekend Telegram, they currently live in separate houses at the direction of CYFS: Don and 14-year-old son Christopher at home; Jackie and 12-year-old daughter Emma in a rented furnished apartment paid for by the government, at a rate, they say, of $1,200 a week.

The children’s names have been changed by The Telegram.

Christopher has a diagnosis of autism with symptoms of ADHD and general pervasive development disorder, and is prone, like Chazz, to aggression and fits of rage. It’s something the family has been dealing with since he was a toddler, and reached out to CYFS when Christopher was around seven for help, eventually getting approval for a behavioural aide in the home around the clock. He has a history of destructive behaviour, kicking, punching, throwing things, breaking toys and furniture and punching walls. Emma is often on the receiving end of his aggression, and it’s for this reason CYFS has forced the family to live apart. They’re afraid Emma will be seriously injured, and, Jackie and Don say, are threatening to take both children into care if they are brought together under the same roof.

Like the Petrella family, Don says he and Jackie have asked CYFS workers to show them how to properly restrain their son.

“They won’t do it,” he says.

The family has been living apart since Aug. 27, and Jackie and Don have agreed to transfer Christopher into a care home temporarily. They have requested a referral for neuropsychiatrist Dr. Hugh Mirolo, and are hopeful Christopher will be able to see him soon. In the meantime, they have plans to potentially renovate their basement to include an apartment where Christopher can live, keeping him and his sister separate.

Last week, Don says, CYFS presented the couple with a document: a protective care agreement, officially transferring the care and supervision of Christopher to a CYFS manager.

“We’re not signing it,” Don says, adding he and Jackie want to transfer Christopher to the care home on their own terms and in consultation with their doctors, given issues they’ve have with CYFS in the past. Those issues, he says, include an unqualified aide assigned to their home and removed days later, and Christopher’s condition worsening when he was  previously removed from his home and spent three months in a care facility, back in 2009.

A CYFS spokeswoman told The Telegram a protective care agreement doesn’t transfer custody of a child from the parents, and the parents can revoke it at any time. CYFS has a policy of not speaking about specific cases.

“A PCA can only be activated once in the life of a child and is generally put in place when a family needs significant support,” she said in an e-mail.

If a family revokes a PCA, social workers must then determine if the child must be removed from their care — and this is what Don believes will happen. He says once he and his wife informed CYFS they wouldn’t be signing the agreement as of the deadline set for them, they were informed CYFS had applied to the court for an order of protective intervention for Christopher and Emma. The hearing will be held in front of a judge later this week.

According to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador’s website, the judge will make a decision as to whether or not a child is in need of protective intervention, considering factors like the child’s cultural heritage, developmental needs, and the importance of stability and continuity in the child’s care. The judge will consider the child’s current situation as well as advantages and disadvantages of the proposed plan of care, and will then decide to implement either a supervision order, a temporary custody order, or an ongoing custody order.

“They’re saying (treatment) can’t be done in the home,” Don says of CYFS. “I thought it was being done. We’ve been living home together and have had (Christopher’s aides) all this time. There was a point in time when there were behavioural incidents every day, but they were ignored. It’s only when I started to speak out that this all started happening.”

Read Part 1: Family fighting to stay together

Petrella-Ashby and her family live about an hour and a half outside Toronto. Starting in Grade 1 or 2, she says, teachers began calling home, reporting problems with Chazz’s attention span and incidents of aggression. Eventually, he was climbing out school windows and leaving the school.

“It progressed to the point that by the time we hit Grade 4, they said they couldn’t keep him safe,” Petrella-Ashby told The Telegram. They said, ‘We can’t deal with the flight issue.’

Chazz was having issues with impulse control and violent outbursts; many times he’d cry with guilt afterward. Over the years, different diagnoses were thrown around, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and anxiety. Medication wasn’t really working, and he never really had a clear treatment plan.

Petrella-Ashby has spoken about Chazz not being able to shut his brain off or articulate what he was feeling, and things got worse as he got older. In episodes of rage, he would threaten to hurt himself or others, break things and run away from home.

Petrella-Ashby and her husband reached out to Children’s Aid — the Ontario equivalent of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS)— along with a number of other organizations, for help when Chazz’s behaviour became too much to manage.

“I would say, show me how to do a restraint. Teach me. When Chazz was at a point where he was smashing things, I needed to be able to provide safety to myself and my family.”

Chazz was hospitalized multiple times, and sent to a residential treatment facility, where his mom says he was bullied. His doctor at the time recommended tests, but they never happened, and Chazz returned home after about six months.

“These are private agencies being funded by the government,” Petrella-Ashby said of care homes. “For us, it was absolutely horrible.”

After that, Chazz went to different schools, group homes and a psychiatric crisis centre, but testing was never done. Funding had been requested, but denied. Early last year, he was placed at a private school specializing in children with behavioural issues, and he began to thrive, but after the school year was over, his funding — which had been approved as an exception for emergency purposes — was cut off. It would cost the family $21,000 a year to keep Chazz at the school, and they say they weren’t in a position to pay it.

After a particularly difficult night in August 2014, during which Chazz had been in a emergency room twice, having punched a wall in a rage and broken his hand, he took his own life in a tree outside his home.

 

Should not have happened

Petrella-Ashby and her husband say Chazz’s suicide should not have happened, and Irwin Elman, the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth agrees — he has joined the family in calling for an inquiry into Chazz’s death. Petrella-Ashby says since Chazz’s death, many families have e-mailed her about their own similar situations, including families from Atlantic Canada.

Jackie and Don Tizzard of St. John’s understand the struggles the Petrella family had with Chazz. As reported in the Weekend Telegram, they currently live in separate houses at the direction of CYFS: Don and 14-year-old son Christopher at home; Jackie and 12-year-old daughter Emma in a rented furnished apartment paid for by the government, at a rate, they say, of $1,200 a week.

The children’s names have been changed by The Telegram.

Christopher has a diagnosis of autism with symptoms of ADHD and general pervasive development disorder, and is prone, like Chazz, to aggression and fits of rage. It’s something the family has been dealing with since he was a toddler, and reached out to CYFS when Christopher was around seven for help, eventually getting approval for a behavioural aide in the home around the clock. He has a history of destructive behaviour, kicking, punching, throwing things, breaking toys and furniture and punching walls. Emma is often on the receiving end of his aggression, and it’s for this reason CYFS has forced the family to live apart. They’re afraid Emma will be seriously injured, and, Jackie and Don say, are threatening to take both children into care if they are brought together under the same roof.

Like the Petrella family, Don says he and Jackie have asked CYFS workers to show them how to properly restrain their son.

“They won’t do it,” he says.

The family has been living apart since Aug. 27, and Jackie and Don have agreed to transfer Christopher into a care home temporarily. They have requested a referral for neuropsychiatrist Dr. Hugh Mirolo, and are hopeful Christopher will be able to see him soon. In the meantime, they have plans to potentially renovate their basement to include an apartment where Christopher can live, keeping him and his sister separate.

Last week, Don says, CYFS presented the couple with a document: a protective care agreement, officially transferring the care and supervision of Christopher to a CYFS manager.

“We’re not signing it,” Don says, adding he and Jackie want to transfer Christopher to the care home on their own terms and in consultation with their doctors, given issues they’ve have with CYFS in the past. Those issues, he says, include an unqualified aide assigned to their home and removed days later, and Christopher’s condition worsening when he was  previously removed from his home and spent three months in a care facility, back in 2009.

A CYFS spokeswoman told The Telegram a protective care agreement doesn’t transfer custody of a child from the parents, and the parents can revoke it at any time. CYFS has a policy of not speaking about specific cases.

“A PCA can only be activated once in the life of a child and is generally put in place when a family needs significant support,” she said in an e-mail.

If a family revokes a PCA, social workers must then determine if the child must be removed from their care — and this is what Don believes will happen. He says once he and his wife informed CYFS they wouldn’t be signing the agreement as of the deadline set for them, they were informed CYFS had applied to the court for an order of protective intervention for Christopher and Emma. The hearing will be held in front of a judge later this week.

According to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador’s website, the judge will make a decision as to whether or not a child is in need of protective intervention, considering factors like the child’s cultural heritage, developmental needs, and the importance of stability and continuity in the child’s care. The judge will consider the child’s current situation as well as advantages and disadvantages of the proposed plan of care, and will then decide to implement either a supervision order, a temporary custody order, or an ongoing custody order.

“They’re saying (treatment) can’t be done in the home,” Don says of CYFS. “I thought it was being done. We’ve been living home together and have had (Christopher’s aides) all this time. There was a point in time when there were behavioural incidents every day, but they were ignored. It’s only when I started to speak out that this all started happening.”

Recent Stories