Sunday, July 19, 2009

Broken Child Welfare System Will Sustain even More Job Cuts

The cuts to frontline social workers has also begun. The BCGEU announced 6 Child Protection Social Work jobs will be slashed in the NorthWest (Kitimat, Terrace and Prince Rupert).

I understand there may be cuts to positions in other regions as well and MCFD is transferring positions (FTE's) to Aboriginal agencies.


Child welfare report points to broken system, say social workers

Garrett Zehr. The Hook/ July 17, 2009.

VANCOUVER - A recent report revealing high levels of critical injury and death of children and youth under the watch of the B.C. government highlights a system that is understaffed and inadequately funded, says the province's social work association.

“The system is in absolute crisis and this has been coming for some time,” said Tracey Young, chair of the Child Welfare and Family Committee for the B.C. Association of Social Workers.

The report from the province’s Representative for Children and Youth found 49 critical injuries and 30 deaths of children in provincial care or receiving reviewable services over a four-month period ending May 31.

Twenty-six of the injury cases and 12 of the deaths are being investigated by the representative’s office to determine any role played by the welfare system.

“Unfortunately I’m not terribly surprised that children are not faring well at this point in time in B.C.,” said Young.

Child advocates and social workers have been telling the government for years that the child welfare system is understaffed, she said.

“There are mistakes that are made, there are tragedies that occur, because people are absolutely just taxed to their limit.”

The problems include offices that are often extremely short-staffed and a lack of backfill for people on vacation or medical leave, she said, which all create huge gaps in service provision. “These are not expendable roles in our society or province.”

Young acknowledged that the rate of injury and death of children in government care is higher because of the increased fragile health of these children when entering the system.

But she said this only emphasizes the need for a comprehensive plan from the provincial government to combat poverty, since the vast majority of child protection cases are related to family-poverty issues.

These systemic problems are often forgotten and ignored, Young said, with social workers then being unfairly scapegoated by the public.

“It’s really, really easy -- and I find particularly in this area of child protection and child welfare -- to want to blame somebody,” she said.

“But [social workers] work within this vast underfunded system and they are trying their best each day.”

She said the association lauds the work of the Representative for Children and Youth and is calling on the provincial government to provide even greater accountability and transparency on child welfare issues.

“When tragedies occur, a healthy, responsible system will use that to look at what went wrong and what went right, instead of 'how do we fix the optics of this,'” she said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.


Systemic Improvements Are Required to Decrease Critical Injuries and Death’s of BC’s Young People - the BC Government Must Act Now


The latest report from the Representative for Children and Youth reveals that there were 49 critical injuries and 30 deaths of BC children and youth who were in care or receiving MCFD services between February 1, 2009 and May 31, 2009.

We commend the Representative and her staff for their commitment to bringing transparency, visibility and recognition to the lives, injuries and deaths of our most vulnerable young people. Their injury or loss is a tragedy for them, their families, communities and to all of us. We will never know what kind of contributions these citizens could have made had they been better supported, protected and enabled to reach their potential.

As the Representative notes, in spite of a focus in recent years on children in care who died, her office has not detected any significant reduction in deaths.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development continues to suffer from gross underfunding and is failing to adequately and safely staff its frontlines with social workers who can make a real difference in the lives of at risk young people and their families. It is also very discouraging to learn that the BC government may be looking for cost cutting measures by slashing budgets of community social service agencies. These structural deficiencies impede the child welfare system from meeting its core mandate – protecting and increasing the safety and well being of at risk children and youth in British Columbia.

With more and more families being plunged into poverty and struggling to meet the basic necessities of life, it is time for the BC government to offer strategic, solution-focused, timely intervention and to adequately fund child and family serving systems. Other jurisdictions, most notably Quebec, Newfoundland & Labrador, Ontario and Manitoba have shown strong leadership in introducing strategies to reduce child and family poverty and improve circumstances that arise out of systemic conditions of vulnerability and risk. This kind of progressive vision and leadership and commitment to BC’s children and families is what is required in BC right now.

As the BC government continues to prepare for its September 2009 budget we strongly encourage them to demonstrate compassionate, progressive and caring leadership and commit to improvements to the social infrastructure in BC. Social workers, along with all our fellow citizens, must continue to press our elected representatives to make the investment in BC’s children, youth and families a priority.


Tracey Young, MSW, RSW

Chair ~ Child Welfare & Family Committee

BC Association of Social Workers


Linda Korbin, MSW, RSW
Executive Director

402 - 1755 West Broadway
Vancouver BC V6J 4S5
T 604 730 9111/ F 604 730 9112
Toll free in BC 1 800 665 4747

30 Deaths of Children Under Watch of Province in Four Months
Ann Hui, Times Colonist.
July 11, 2009.

B.C.'s Office of Representatives for Children and Youth released a report this week revealing that in the past four months, 30 children or youth died and 49 suffered critical injuries while they were either in the care of, or receiving services from, B.C.'s child welfare system.

Job Cuts on the Way: Unions
John Bermingham, The Province. July 16, 2009.

Darryl Walker, president of the 60,000-member B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, said he’s already heard of hundreds of eliminated positions in a range of government ministries.

Budget-linked layoffs hit child protection workers in North West B.C.
B.C. Government and Service Employees Union. Jul 16 '09.
Representative for Children and Youth

Representative's Report #6 - Critical Injuries and Deaths: Reviews and Investigations

RCY reviews and investigations of critical injuries or child deaths from February 1, 2009 to May 31, 2009.

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