Monday, November 23, 2009

BC Kids - Living in Poverty - Little to Celebrate on the 20the Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

I am surprised that the ministry hasn't adopted more of a poverty strategy that they want to be very public with and say: "We are going to tackle poverty. We're going to tackle it in first nations communities" — where it is often the most deeply felt, and it is intergenerational poverty — "and we're going to tackle it for the working poor. We're going to look at transitional poverty, and we're going to actually make that part of our mandate: to provide the best care for children and families in the province of British Columbia — and that we would actually address that." I haven't heard that from government, and it's too bad. I would hope that they would see that part of their responsibility is to address that.

- M. Karagianis, MCFD NDP Opposition Critic
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BC HAS LITTLE TO CELEBRATE ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UN CONVENTION OF THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

BC Association of Social Workers, November 23, 2009

On November 20th 1989 Canada ratified the historic UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) with other State parties of the United Nations. The UNCRC was the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights for young people.

The four core principles of the Convention are: non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.

Read the whole release here.

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Article 3 (1) In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Ratified November 20th 1989)

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BC Continues Dismal Child Poverty Rate: Report
Lindsay Kines, Canwest News Service.
November 23, 2009
B.C. needs to follow the lead of six other provinces and adopt a clear plan for reducing child poverty if it hopes to shed its reputation as the worst performer in the country, says a report due out Tuesday.

First Call B.C.’s Child Poverty Report Card says the province posted the highest rate of child poverty for the sixth straight year in 2007 — even before the current economic recession.

The report, commissioned by the child and youth advocacy coalition First Call, says 156,000 children were living in poverty in B.C., a number “greater than the combined population of Nanaimo and Prince George.”

“We have failed a generation of children affected by poverty by our failure to keep the promise made in 1989,” the B.C. report says. “Now is the time for British Columbia to make the necessary commitment to a provincial poverty reduction plan with clearly defined targets and timelines.”

2008 BC Child Poverty Report Card

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Official report of Debates of the Legislative Assembly

Thursday, November 5, 2009.
Hon. M. Polak: I want to emphasize that contrary to some of the statements that have been made both in that report and in other places, the ministry does not ever remove a child as a result of low income. We remove a child when it is felt that they are in unsafe circumstances.

M. Karagianis: I take it from the minister's comments that there's not a poverty plan. There is no specific focus on looking at intergenerational poverty and how we resolve that for aboriginal communities primarily, but not exclusively. Certainly, the minister sees that poverty issues will not affect the number of children in care.

Certainly, in the case of the family that I referenced, the child was removed from those parents because they were in unsafe housing. The reason they were in unsafe housing is because they couldn't access housing and adequate funding in order to live in a safer environment.

So the issues around poverty are certainly complex, and we can't isolate simply the ministry's role in the apprehension of a child to say: "Well, the child was in an unsafe environment, and that's why the child was apprehended." You have to actually look one step broader than that and say: "That family was in an unsafe situation because they were poor, and they couldn't access adequate resources to find safer housing for themselves at that point in time."

I'm just really disappointed that the government hasn't picked up the issue of child poverty as part of the ongoing, multi…. If we want to talk about across all ministries….

We want to talk about how we look at children through the lens of not being siloed, look at all of the ministry responsibilities in the various ways that children in care or families needing assistance at some point touch on the government and make contact with the government and why poverty and the reduction of poverty…. Deep intergenerational poverty is, I think, the most challenging. But, certainly, the issue of poverty and the growing concern about the working poor... When we have a government that actually directs families to food banks as a way to make income assistance stretch from one part of the month to the next, I think we've failed miserably in our ability to come to grips with the reality for families. So it is very disappointing.

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Leaked MCFD Memo Reveals Plans for Cuts

MOMS in the Move. 11/07/09

Leaked MCFD documents obtained today by MOMS describe a process that has been underway since August 2009 to achieve "baseline funding reductions" for contracted agencies that deliver most of the Ministry's front-line services and supports - with a focus on cuts to community-based intervention and early intervention.

The "North Region STOB 80 Reduction Planning Process and Principals" (sic) document refers to a process for "cost recovery" for the current year and outlines planning, roles, principles and provincial direction guiding a second process that is also now underway to determine further reductions for 2010-11 in order to meet Ministry budget targets.

Children's Minister Mary Polak has confirmed that this is a Ministry-wide initiative that affects all regions.

Minister Polak told Public Eye Online today that there were no targets and that this was just a discussion document, which is not consistent with what the Ministry document itself states (the Minister has also repeatedly claimed that there are no cuts, which is not consistent with any grasp of reality).

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After an Exhaustive Search

Public Eye Online. November 17, 2009.

Ministry of children and family development's contractors could be forced to reduce the social service they provide as a result of government budget pressures... reductions will affect "community based intervention and early intervention services" and only happen if "all other opportunities for savings have been exhausted."

Asked for comment, Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak stated, "This is a discussion document that seeks input from contracted agencies on the 2010/11 regional budget and is part of ongoing consultations with our agencies to find efficiencies and new ways of delivering services."

"Non-residential services continue to be the focus of this process, so areas like child protection and children in care are critical front line services that will continue to be protection [sic]..."

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Children's Advocate Pulls No Punches

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says B.C. is weak in addressing the needs of its most vulnerable children

Jonathan Fowlie, Vancouver SunNovember 21, 2009.

"I would say British Columbia, particularly around the child-welfare and the child-serving side, would be in the mid-to-low rank," she said when asked about how well British Columbia protects vulnerable children.

"I'm not even sure it's a system," she added. "I think it's weak. It's still weak."

She was highly complimentary of front-line workers who she said often come to her with concerns and ideas about how to make things better.

But when addressing how well the system deals with children, she consistently returned to the same answer: more needs to be done.

"Government has challenges to speak with confidence about the outcomes it achieves for some of the most vulnerable children," she said, "because in fact they're not graduating. A lot of kids in British Columbia live in poverty.

"I'm not confident we are doing everything we can."

Minister of Children and Family Development Mary Polak said the relationship between Turpel-Lafond and her ministry is an "evolving" one.

Polak acknowledged there were challenges in the early days, especially developing lines of communication between Turpel-Lafond's office and the ministry, but said that has since changed.

"There's been some major progress in terms of the way the ministry interrelates with her office," Polak said.

"I thought I was moving to one of the wealthiest provinces in Canada that had significant investment in kids," she said.

"I was really surprised to learn through the work to date how vulnerable those children are in British Columbia and how the systems do not meet their needs.

"A lot of these kids are in grinding poverty and really, what is there for them is limited."

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