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In November, 1998, 13-year-old Stephanie Jobin died after being physically restrained in an Ontario group home. Stephanie suffered from autism and additional mental disorders. On the day of her death, Stephanie was attending a specialized school for specially challenged children. That day, the school used a method of “restraint therapy.” Stephanie was physically retrained for 90 minutes. Before returning to the group home that day, the school staff contacted the home and advised the staff that the child had been in restraint therapy. After returning to the group home, Stephanie was seated for supper. During the mealtime, she threw an article of food from her plate.

Three group home responded by using restraint therapy on Stephanie. Again, as she had been restrained during school, she was in restraints for 90 minutes. Three group home staff then placed the child in room for “time out.” After her time out was served, the group home staff came to retrieve Stephanie. As the group home staff approached her, Stephanie reacted to them as if they were a threat. The three group home staff members then forced her face down onto a large beanbag inside the living room of the group home.

One staff member sat on Stephanie’s ankles, another on the center of her back and the third held the child’s head down with their hands. After 15 minutes had passed, the staff members noticed that the 13-year-old’s body had fallen limp and her head had turned blue. Stephanie Jobin had died from asphyxiation.

A series of court hearings were held, and her death was ruled “accidental.” A trial held under jury yielded a new ruling. The jury ruled the girl’s death “undetermined.”

In March 1999, four months after Stephanie’s death, 13-year-old William Edgar died from asphyxiation because of a physical restraint in another Ontario group home. A coroner’s inquest was called to investigate the events surrounding this death. The inquest ran from June to August 2001. Evidence was presented on issues like the use of restraints, training for group home staff, and provincial standards for group homes in the province of Ontario. The jury’s verdict ruled William Edgar’s death a homicide, and made 60 recommendations to improve quality and safety of group home care in Ontario.

As we mourn lost lives, we also measure how our response can affect that human tragedy. The time to effectively respond to this tragedy is now. The Federation shall be ardent and resolved in these endeavors until it has found a peaceful resolution.

© Copyright 2003 Internations' Justice Federation