Foster mother guilty of sexually exploiting girl

By Robert Koopmans Kamloops Daily News From National Post
15 March 2000

KAMLOOPS - A kiss between a woman and her foster daughter was sexual in nature, done for "the giving and receiving of pleasure," a judge ruled yesterday.

As a result, Valerie Hetu, 32, is guilty of sexually exploiting the 16-year-old girl the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Families had placed in her care.

Hetu was charged after government officials received a tip last summer about the woman's alleged relationship with the girl. Her trial was held in Kamloops last month.

Judge William Sundhu said the only evidence of a sexual or romantic involvement between the two was one incident of kissing witnessed by Hetu's husband, Doug Hetu.

While the circumstances suggest the two were likely involved in a relationship for a longer period of time, there was no evidence of other sexual acts or displays of affection, Judge Sundhu noted.

During the trial, Mr. Hetu told the court his relationship with his wife seemed to deteriorate once the girl came to stay. His wife and the girl first met at church in the fall of 1998. Hetu then approached the ministry and sought permission to become the girl's foster parent.

Pasquali Fontana, a social worker, testified the teenager had been in government care since June, 1997. She was considered a high-risk youth and was on probation for a car theft. There were also concerns that the girl was using drugs and alcohol.

Mr. Hetu said his wife changed after the girl arrived, staying up late and refusing to come to bed. One night in particular "sent his whole world crashing down," he had testified.

"I was thirsty so I got up. When I got to the kitchen, I looked out and saw Val and [the girl] out on the chesterfield kissing. I freaked out, I started hollering," he told the judge.

"I tried to explain to Valerie that this was a problem. If [the girl] doesn't leave, it's going to destroy our marriage," he added.

He made her choose between him and the girl and Hetu chose the girl. The couple separated in January, 1999.

Judge Sundhu said Mr. Hetu's recall of the kissing incident was believable, as he was remembering what was obviously a significant event in his life.

Judge Sundhu said this case is about "trust and authority," adding foster parents have a tremendous responsibility to care for children placed in their care. Whether the girl consented to the relationship was not relevant, he said.

Hetu will be sentenced in Kamloops on April 3.

They are a couple and proud of it Marriage broke up

By Ian Bailey National Post
26 April 2000

[Picture - FROM FOSTER MOTHER TO LESBIAN LOVER: Candice Prince, left, walks alongside Valerie Hetu as the two leave the Kamloops Law Courts yesterday. Hetu is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of sexual exploitation. She and Prince began a relationship while Prince was living in her home as a 16-year-old foster child.]

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Valerie Hetu did not realize she was a lesbian until a 16-year-old girl came to live in her home as a foster child. A relationship with the teenager led to the breakup of her marriage, a conviction for sexual exploitation and a new life with her former foster daughter.

"They are a couple and proud of it," said Alexander Watt, lawyer for Ms. Hetu, who is raising an eight-year-old child, the son of her former husband, with her new partner.

The judge, who heard sentencing arguments in the case yesterday, said he needs more time to decide what punishment the 32-year-old mother should receive for falling in love with the younger woman -- now 18 -- and put the case over until May 3.

Ms. Hetu was convicted largely on the strength of one kiss from her foster daughter, which was witnessed one night around Christmas, 1998, by her husband.

Doug Hetu, a logging truck driver, told his wife's one-day trial last month that he "freaked out" at the sight of the pair kissing on the couch of their home in this community about 400 kilometres east of Vancouver in B.C.'s rugged interior.

Doug Hetu said he gave his wife a choice: him or the girl.

Yesterday, Ms. Hetu left the court holding hands with Candice Prince, her former foster daughter, both dressed in similar black jackets and slacks. They smiled for photographers tracking their moves around the downtown court building.

"They have decided they can have a caring, loving relationship with each other -- raise Ms. Hetu's child," Mr. Watt told Judge William Sundhu. "They're tired of hiding, and they refuse to hide any further."

To Judge Sundhu, the 1998 kiss -- key evidence in the case -- was for "the giving and receiving of pleasure." The Crown's case was also helped by testimony from a friend of Ms. Hetu, who said the woman told her she was committed to the relationship.

As Mr. Watt explained, the kiss was the start of a new life for Ms. Hetu. "When the kiss took place, [it] became absolutely clear to Ms. Hetu that her feelings of sexuality were coming to the forefront and she wanted a relationship with [the foster daughter], and she wanted a relationship with her," said Mr. Watt.

He said Ms. Prince knew she was a lesbian, but Ms. Hetu did not.

Mr. Watt urged Judge Sundhu to grant his client an absolute discharge, noting that no one complained about the pair's conduct and that they refrained from entering into a full-fledged romantic relationship until the young woman was no longer under Ms. Hetu's care.

Ms. Prince left the foster home by April, 1999.

Jonathan Oliphant, the Crown prosecutor in the Hetu case, said it is wrong for teachers, foster parents or others with authority to enter into sexual relationships with youth in their care.

"This case is not about lesbian relationships or anything of that sort," Mr. Oliphant told Judge Sundhu. "It is purely about the abuse of a position of trust."

Mr. Oliphant has also ruled out jail time for Ms. Hetu, proposing a suspended sentence, probation and between 100 and 200 hours of community service.

In submissions to Judge Sundhu yesterday, he noted that Ms. Hetu does not have a criminal record and cannot afford to pay a fine.

Ms. Hetu declined to comment yesterday, but allowed her lawyer to explain that she lives on a pension and does not work.

Ms. Hetu and Ms. Prince first met at church in the fall of 1998. Ms. Hetu approached the Ministry of Children and Family Services seeking permission to become a foster parent to the girl, who had been in government care for more than a year. The ministry considered her a high-risk youth. She was on probation for car theft and officials feared she was using drugs and alcohol.

She moved into the Hetu household in November, 1998, and their relationship developed until they kissed at Christmas.

Judge Sundhu said the kiss was the only evidence of sexual involvement between the two, but added that circumstances described in court suggest they were in a relationship for a longer period of time.

Mr. Oliphant conceded that the teenager's behaviour improved while in Ms. Hetu's care. But while Mr. Oliphant acknowledged that the girl is now in a better situation, a crime had still been committed.

"Ms. Hetu's role was to provide guidance, not sexual gratification."

Back To Violent Women

This Page was created on 12th January, 2001