Monday, December 6, 2010

MCFD: Cult of Secrecy and Disdain for Public Accountability

"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace." ~ Kofi Annan

You have only to ask those who have worked in the system, children, youth, families, foster parents and service providers about the deafening silence surrounding critical injuries and deaths of children in care, or those who've received services within the last 12 months. This is the biggest unsecret in BC.

What will it take for MCFD to do the right thing? The office of the Representative for Children & Youth was brought into force as a result of the significant and ongoing failures of the child protection system to meet it's mandate - the best interests and safety of BC's children.

From 2001 to the present MCFD's most basic mission has not been accomplished. The cult of secrecy and a profound disdain for public accountability and transparency of decision-making has become so entrenched that MCFD's senior leadership is routinely violating it's own internal policies and practice standards for reporting critical injuries and deaths of minors in receipt, or in the care of the state (MCFD) to the Representative for Children & Youth.

This simply cannot be allowed this to occur anymore. A civil society will not tolerate the intolerable, especially where the most vulnerable parties are the victims and where they have no-one else to render them and their lives and suffering visible, no-one to advocate for them in a broken system filled with self-serving incompetence.

It is time for a radical re-think of what BC's child protection has become and what is can be. It is time for a change in leadership in the child & youth-serving system in BC.


B.C. has serious gaps in reporting critical child injuries, deaths: report

By Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist, December 6, 2010

Victoria, B.C. - B.C.’s child watchdog demanded today that the provincial government plug holes in its system of reporting critical injuries and deaths.

In a special report to the legislature, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond slammed the Ministry of Children and Family Development for failing to alert her that a 15-year-old disabled girl had been left alone with her mother’s corpse for several days earlier this year.

Children's Minister Mary Polak said at the time that it was “premature” to report the matter to the Representative, because the ministry was still assessing the extent to which the child was injured. But Turpel-Lafond said the child's emotional trauma alone warranted a report.

“Even after a discussion with senior ministry officials about the case, no acknowledgment that this case should have been reported occurred; and no commitment to improve the reporting requirements or system was forthcoming,” Turpel-Lafond writes in a summary of her report, which was tabled with the Speaker of the Legislature today.


Summary: Special Report on the Reporting of Critical Injuries and Deaths by MCFD to the Representative for Children and Youth

December 2010. Excerpts;

"...entire categories of critical injuries that ministry staff know about have not been referred to the Representative for review."

Two recent examples of troubling cases in which the ministry would not report to the Representative:

- A child suffering serious sexual assaults and incest at the hands of her abusive father
- A youth in care who ended up severely disturbed and in a suicidal state after having been left with a caregiver who engaged him in sexual activity and shared drugs with him.

The Representative calls on government to immediately undertake the recommended changes to develop and implement a critical injury and death notification policy that complies with the RCY Act.

This new policy, to be fully implemented by March 1, 2011, will ensure the practice of reporting injuries and deaths is consistent, timely and effective.

Full Report: Reporting of Critical Injuries and Deaths to the Representative for Children and Youth

"If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much."
~ Marian Wright Edelman