Campbell administration risks another tragedy
Sean Holman, January 08, 2009. Public Eye Online.
In April 2006, an independent review judged the Campbell administration of having mismanaged the ministry of children and family development - which some said contributed to the deaths of two toddlers. "I don't think there's any doubt" government cutbacks "took the knife too far," said former Justice Ted Hughes, the man appointed by the administration to make sure such a scandal didn't happen again. But 33 months later, the status of the 62 recommend-ations included in Hughes' independent review of British Columbia's child protection system is in the doubt. And Premier Gordon Campbell is again to blame.
The premier needed to create a clear process and chain of command to right this badly-listing ministry. Instead, the two powerful child protection officials put in place by his government - Lesley du Toit, the deputy minister of children and family development, and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the province's children and youth representative - have become, in effect, rivals.
But Ms. du Toit, who would later be named the deputy minister of children and family development, seems to have had her own future vision for the ministry. After all, three months prior to her hiring, she had been in Victoria delivering a presentation to senior bureaucrats and community members entitled "Transforming the Child Welfare System."
But Ms. du Toit's transformative vision - which, according to her, was "strongly influenced" by the Hughes Review - appears at odds with the report's recommendations.
Mr. Hughes wanted to repair the ministry - stressing a need for "equilibrium and stability." By comparison, Ms. du Toit appears to want to remake it - changing the ministry's culture and structure.
The Campbell administration was wrong to have appointed both Mr. Hughes and Ms. du Toit to do what became the same task - envisioning a future for the ministry of children and family development.
Ms. du Toit's poorly-articulated vision may indeed improve the province's child protection system. But to-date, there's little evidence that's the case. Nor has the representative found any - perhaps because there is none, perhaps because of her own belief in the Hughes Review.
Meanwhile, many of the review's recommendations have gone unfulfilled - perhaps because they are unnecessary, perhaps because of the deputy minister's equally strong belief in her own vision.
And, in the end, it is the children who will suffer as a result of this in-fighting.
VIDEO: Heather Robinson reports: B.C.'s child protection system still broken: watchdog (Runs 1:12) CBC News.
Christensen: "I am confident this ministry is on the right path."
Watchdog takes another bite
Sean Holman, Public Eye Online. December 11, 2008.
Children’s Ministry requires progressive, clear and decisive leadership in a time of economic uncertainty
BC Association of Social Workers
It is time for some sober second thoughts on the state of BC’s child protection system as we head into an unparalleled economic crisis.
BC is in desperate need of strong, clear and decisive leadership. There is arguably nothing more important than keeping BC’s children safe and it is the paramount legal mandate and moral imperative of the BC government to do so.
The MCFD Deputy Minister’s recent statement that one option for MCFD to address the need for fiscal restraint measures would be not to replace child protection workers who leave by “natural attrition” through retirement or other means, causes us deep concern. This is not the way to strengthen the child welfare system.
BCASW offers these recommendations for the BC government, MCFD and other stakeholders to shore up the child welfare system and to be proactive in planning for the days ahead:
Read more here.
Representative warns children may pay the price of new Liberal cuts
BC Government & Service Employees Union.
"Front line workers see first hand the impact these cuts had on families and children," said Walker.
"I am particularly concerned over reports that the Ministry of Children and Family Development will be looking at "fiscal restraint measures" in the coming weeks," said Walker. "Has the government learned nothing?"
The BCGEU represents 4,200 employees who work in the Ministry of Children and Family Development and over 10,000 who work in front-line community social service agencies.
An oversight oversight
Sean Holman, January 08, 2009. Public Eye Online.
Earlier, we argued the differences between former Justice Ted Hughes and deputy minister Lesley du Toit's visions of the ministry of children and family development might not have become apparent if the Campbell administration hadn't appointed an a children and youth representative to oversee that ministry. But what you might not know is the representative's oversight function may not exist after November 2011.
The creation of such an office was Mr. Hughes's first and foremost recommendation in his independent review of British Columbia's child protection system. But, in that review, the former conflict of interest commissioner acknowledged the representative's power to "monitor, review, audit and investigate the performance and accountability" of that system may not "be a permanent aspect of its mandate."
The reason: "it is unusual to have an external body overseeing the functioning of a government ministry." As a result, Mr. Hughes suggested "that this area of responsibility be reviewed in five years time." And if public confidence in the ministry has been restored by that time, the representative's mandate may be revised to "include only its advocacy functions."
So the question is will the Campbell administration, if it remains in power after the May 2009 election, act on this suggestion to neuter the representative - whose present officeholder Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is seen as more of a critic than a watchdog.
2008 Progress Report on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the BC Children & Youth Review ("Hughes Review"). Representative for Children & Youth.
Let's be clear, those who work in child welfare and social services know that tragedies are happening every day. There is a reason those caring, dedicated and committed professionals are getting sick, burnt out and quitting in droves.
The tragedies are small and big. We have only to look at things such as the recent report completed by the Child Death Review Unit of the BC Coroners Service on the 81 young people in BC who committed suicide.
What about all of the kids who have child protection reports called in who don't get seen because the caseloads continue to be just too damn high for workers to manage, year after year, decade after decade? Child protection Intake wait lists. Opening and closing cases. Keeping kids out of care who should be there. Children farmed out to relatives who can't afford to care for them, but hey, at least they're not one of the over 9000 children in care. As the Representative has touched on, there are two populations of children in BC with little, to no, oversight whatsoever, children living with family under Child in Home of Relative (CIHR) and children living on reserve with family under the federal Guardian Financial Assistance. This has been allowed to go on for decades.
These are all tragedies and failures of the BC government and these are our childrens' lives and in denying them adequate protection and care, we are breaching their human rights and BC and Canada's commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. And I think it's time we stopped doing that. The kind of real world circumstances a government creates for its' children speaks to the core of the value that administration holds for them. It speaks to whether they are considered as having inherent human rights, are thought of as precious and cherished individuals and resources for the future health of a society.
Why put a "sunset clause" in the recommendations. Other provinces have Child & Youth Advocates with a longstanding function to monitor, review and critique government provision of child welfare services and outcomes for young people, why would that be any different in BC?
Clearly BC has always struggled to create an adequate and ethically managed and conducted child welfare system, under many different administrations. Perhaps, the argument might be made that it has never botched it's provision of child welfare like it has under this administration, which is ideologically bent on privatization and "devolving" the entire government. MCFD has quite arguably never spent so much money and had so few results and so little protection and safety for BC kids. Time, effort and money can be put into window-dressing, but the outcomes remain the same, or actually worse.
If MCFD was a corporation (and the BC Liberal government uses a corporate model) there would be no question that an ongoing and continuous lack of concrete results, objective measures and improvements in outcomes would inform decision-making as to the viability of the leadership and management of the organization. BC's young people and families have been waiting long enough for improvements, over 8 years now, with their circumstances in many respects getting worse, year after year. Fundamentally, it is time for a change of leadership.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.