Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Campbell's Election Slogan: All of what I've tried to do in Public life is about Children

The best of intentions
Sean Holman, Public Eye Online. January 26, 2009

Last month, during his year-end interview with The Canadian Press's Dirk Meissner, Premier Gordon Campbell said "all of what I've tried to do in public life is about children." This, in response to questions about his administration's commitment to protecting and improving the lives of the province's most vulnerable children. But his party isn't yet prepared to discuss what it would to meet that commitment if the Liberals win a third term in government. On January 14, the party declined an opportunity to discuss its platform with members of the First Call Coalition, which represents more than 80 organizations concerned with child welfare issues. The reason: the Liberals are "still in the process of formulating their policy platform for the election."

Continue reading "The best of intentions"

Posted by Sean Holman at 11:55 AM. Public Eye Online.
Permanent link | Comments: (1)

(Cough, cough, BS, cough).
Letter to the Premier from First Call requesting a meeting:

Dear Premier Gordon Campbell,

We are writing to you to regarding opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of our province's children...

First Call, read the entire letter here.
Job Posting:

Check Your Head is Hiring!!

Job Opportunity
Education Program Director
with Check Your Head: The Youth Global Education Network

The guiding principle of Check Your Head is to educate, empower and engage youth to act and make choices as active members of their local and global communities.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Time for Real Leadership and Action: No More BS for BC's Broken Child Welfare System

2008 Progress Report on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the BC Children & Youth Review
("Hughes Review"). Representative for Children & Youth.

December 11, 2008
Increased Collaboration, Accountability Essential in Tough Economic Times

The need for intensified government commitment to completing all of the Hughes recommendations is even more essential in challenging economic times, B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth said today.

VIDEO: Heather Robinson reports: B.C.'s child protection system still broken: watchdog (Runs 1:12) CBC News.

Government still has not completed child-welfare changes, children's representative says
Victoria Times Colonist. Lindsay Kines, December 11, 2008.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said today the children’s ministry has yet to complete 15 key recommendations in the damning review by Ted Hughes released more than two years ago.

“It’s concerning to me that the two recommendations that have little or no progress are among the most important in the Hughes Review,” she said in a news release.

Hughes had recommended that government transfer responsibilities to the regions and aboriginal authorities. He also wanted the ministry to do an external review of key programs, including kith-and-kin agreements.

B.C. failing on child protection: Watchdog
The Canadian Press. CTV. Thu Dec. 11 2008. Excerpts:

VICTORIA — B.C.'s children's watchdog accused the provincial government of spending more time working on plans to protect vulnerable children than actually implementing programs to protect them.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said Thursday the government is moving too slowly when it comes to fulfilling its promise to implement 62 recommendations from an April 2006 report that called for stability in British Columbia's child welfare system.

"We have significant challenges in British Columbia," she said. "When I engage with the ministry (of Children and Family Development), with the government, and say, `could you please tell me where you think you're going with this for the longer term?' I'm not hearing very much back."

Turpel-Lafond said she cannot understand why the government has not made significant progress on the Hughes report.

She said the government has made little progress in transferring child welfare responsibilities to regions and aboriginal authorities, and it has not developed a system of external evaluation of child service programs.

[MCFD Minister] Christensen said he disagreed with Turpel-Lafond's assessment that the children's ministry is spending more time making plans than implementing programs.

"As I talk to some of the recipients of our services around the province, what they are telling me is they are encouraged by the direction they see the ministry going," he said. "At the end of the day that's what's important, that we demonstrate that outcomes for children are improving."

Christensen: "I am confident this ministry is on the right path."
Watchdog takes another bite
Sean Holman, Public Eye Online. December 11, 2008. Excerpts:

[Christensen:]"I am confident this ministry is on the right path..."

"In respect to the process of establishing regional authorities - that is not a road the ministry is moving down at this point," said Minister Christensen.

And what about Ms. Turpel-Lafond's complaint that her office isn't "consulted regularly when major shifts in policy or changes" are contemplated or conducted? "The representative is an independent officer of the legislature," Minister Christensen responded. "Government is still going to develop policy. Government is still going to set the direction that any ministry of government goes. And certainly we welcome the representative's input and reflection on that."

"But, at the end of the day, government is still going to be making decisions about how it is this ministry should work, how it is other ministries should work, where additional investments should be made, how it is we want to be interacting with First Nations. And I don't think that should surprise anyone. I can't think of another independent officer that is in a position to sort of direct how government should operate."
From the trenches:

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?"

Walker was referring to a memorandum sent by the MCFD Deputy Minister to all employees warning about the steps government might take to cut staff in order to meet new budget reductions.

"I recently had an opportunity to discuss these issues with the Deputy Minister and I look forward to continuing that discussion in the new year," said Walker. "We must all work together to ensure our children are protected."

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.

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.
Federation urges less talk, more action on Hughes Report
BC Federation of Child & Family Service Agencies

The pace of meaningful change for B.C.’s most vulnerable children must speed up significantly to bring the important recommendations of the 2006 Hughes report to life, says the province’s largest coalition of child, youth and family services.

Federation board president Nanette Taylor welcomed Turpel-Lafond’s report this week urging immediate action on all aspects of the B.C. Child and Youth Review (dubbed the Hughes report after its author, retired Justice Ted Hughes). “We echo the concerns of the Representative about whether the Ministry’s current plan has the necessary focus and funding behind it to achieve the changes we all desire, particularly in times of budgetary restraint,” said Taylor.

Charlesworth notes five key concerns in Turpel-Lafond’s report that the Federation shares:

- The need for external evaluation to ensure all services and strategies are effective;
- Lack of oversight and performance measures for increasingly autonomous regions;
- Lack of progress on the aboriginal agenda;
- A lag time of three to five years before a new information system is in place that will improve services and decision-making at all levels;
- The province’s decision to eliminate the position of Provincial Director of Child Welfare, which could impact quality and consistency of services to children.
Aboriginal children's lives may be getting worse, says child advocate
The Province. Wednesday, November 26, 2008.

Turpel-Lafond ruffles feathers but wins funding
Vancouver Sun. Wednesday, December 03, 2008.

Province too slow on child protection, watchdog says
The Canadian Press. Globe & Mail. December 12, 2008.

The B.C. government is being accused of not moving fast enough on recommendations made almost three years ago on the province's child protection system. A report by Children's Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said yesterday that the province needs to speed up its work on the recommendations of former judge Ted Hughes. She examined 15 of Mr. Hughes's 62 recommendations, and found none are complete.

B.C.'s child protection system still broken: children's watchdog
CBC News. Canadian Press. Thursday, December 11, 2008.

Comments from BC citizens.

toobusy wrote:Posted 2008/12/11 at 5:45 AM ET

As a child protection worker, I have seen years and years of changes in policy, funding, "new directions" and none of it is suffient. There are high caseloads and Social Workers end of putting out fires rathe than being able to effectively deal with the root cause of the problems.

CaribooRose wrote:Posted 2008/12/12 at 12:45 AM ET

I have noticed a remarkable rise of foster children being adopted out to their grandparents ... sure, that's all well and good but there's a growing group of over-65 grandparent/parents.

Why aren't the children fostered on a Continuing Child in Care Order, to younger foster parents who must ensure the children visit relatives regularly??

A diminishing budget is my opinion.

Fellow Canadian wrote:Posted 2008/12/11 at 10:03 AM ET

To watch the Minister go on about how things are improving shows us that he simply tries to ignore the Child Commissioner. People believe the judge more than they do the Minsiter as the deputy keeps shipping out long memos with her latesrt restructure plans. Te Premier tells great stories abut agreeing with the Hughes report and then does little to implement the recommendations, and kids keep dying .

The Hammer Strikes!! wrote:Posted 2008/12/11 at 5:12 AM ET

Gee it took them how long to figure out what most of us in the field have already been stating for years? Our own personal experience at dealing with this problem with this ministry has now gone on for 10 odd years. Having been bounced from one case worker to another, each having their own philosophy as to how to deal with a given situation where children are put at daily risk in a home filled with drugs, alcohol and physical abuse. The ministry's approach is we have to catch them in the act. So they set up regularly scheduled visitations, where the "parents" put on an academy award performance and clean up just before the appointed workders arrive. Having complained to the workers and following up the chain of command and finally with local MLA, we are back where we started from. The amount of pain and frustration that we, as concerned relatives, have cannot be understated.

A system that is flawed and broken, absolutely. It is no wonder that parents and relatives bypass the laws that are put in place but not enforced and take matters into their own hands. Damn this ministry!!

JoePublic wrote:Posted 2008/12/11at 5:53 AM ET

Over the past decade, it has become obvious that the Gordon Campbell government has no desire nor intention to take care of the vulnerable children of this province.

It is time for a change of government.

p.j.floyd wrote:Posted 2008/12/11 at 6:33 AM ET

Child and Family services in this province have been a dysfunctional mess for at least 40 years. I know that from my own personal experiences. I didn't lose my kids to the system, I raised 3 kids whose biological mother lost them. I was appalled by what I learned. I spent the next 33 years working to improve the system, with limited success.

The government doesn't care because the voters of b.c. don't care. Children and families need affordable housing, affordable day care, access to training, a minimum wage a family can live on, and a community that cares enough to put the needs of families ahead of NHL games and rock concerts and the Olympics.

If you think - as I do - that billions on frills while children are cold and hungry is simply obscene, phone the Premier's office and tell him so. It's free - use the Access B.C. 1-800 number in the Blue pages and tell them to patch you through. I took all my Christmas money this year and gave it to our local food bank, for the same reason. Merry Christmas.
Contact your MLA, by phone, e-mail, or drop in to their local office and tell them you want action and you want it now for BC's children.

On May 12th 2009, remember to get out and vote for candidates in your ridings who will work hard to support BC's children, vulnerable people and families.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Staffing at MCFD Already Cut to the Bone

Fiscal restraint measures at kids ministry

Children and family development top bureaucrat Lesley du Toit has told staff her ministry will be looking at "fiscal restraint measures" in the coming weeks.

According to an email distributed on Wednesday, that means it may be "necessary to revisit" timeframes for some ministry initiatives. Although there will be no "across-the-board hiring freeze." We will manage some of this budget pressure through the natural attrition that will occur as people retire or leave their positions.

For example, I require you to consider ways to do your work that create efficiency with regard to travel, meetings and conferences. You will hear more details of these measures through your Leadership.

Continue reading "Fiscal restraint measures at kids ministry"

Posted by Sean Holman. Public Eye Online. December 04, 2008.
There is NOTHING "natural" about MCFD's attrition rate.

That's sick!
Sean Holman. Public Eye Online.

Children and family development employees took $7.3 million of sick leave in fiscal 2007/08 - costing the government more money than any other provincial ministry. This, according to documents exclusively obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request.

That money equals 47,313 sick days or an average of 12.39 days per employee - significantly more than the 8.55 day average across government. In fact, only the smaller ministry of employment and income assistance was sicker, averaging 12.89 days per employee at a cost of $3.2 million.

Nevertheless, the average number of sick days at children and family development has -for the most part - increased since the Liberals took office, starting at 10.97 days per employee in 2001/02 and reaching its highest level in the past fiscal year. By comparison, that average has decreased across government over the same period, starting at 9.45 days. So what action is the ministry taking to ensure its employees are healthier?

But British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union research, campaigns and communications director Mary Rowles said the Campbell administration should be doing more. "Everything the ministry spokesperson mentioned was all about attendance management - sending nurses to badger people who are at home. Where are the actions that will actually reduce caseloads, for example, with child protection workers, reduce stress and actually address the root causes of this?"

The following is a complete listing of the average sick days per employee at children and family development and across government by fiscal year.

Average sick days per person at children and family development

Fiscal 2007/08 - 12.39
Fiscal 2006/07 - 11.46
Fiscal 2005/06 - 11.71
Fiscal 2004/05 - 11.71
Fiscal 2003/04 - 11.52
Fiscal 2002/03 - 11.77
Fiscal 2001/02 - 10.97

Average sick days per person across government

Fiscal 2007/08 - 8.55
Fiscal 2006/07 - 8.37
Fiscal 2005/06 - 8.69
Fiscal 2004/05 - 8.31
Fiscal 2003/04 - 8.67
Fiscal 2002/03 - 8.88
Fiscal 2001/02 - 9.45

Read more.
Government must put funds into child protection services
BCGEU. May 7 '08

A growing cascade of independent reports on child protection show BC's
government is failing vulnerable children, says BCGEU President George Heyman.

Heyman adds, "Services are fractured and disconnected for families on and off-reserve. Communication within the ministries responsible must be improved. And considering the continuing high attrition rate of social workers, the Ministry of Children and Families is still not putting enough social workers needed on the frontlines."

Heyman notes that despite the BC Representative for Children and Youth's recent recommendation that BC government consult with stakeholders such as the BCGEU - it has yet to respond to our union's frequently-made offer to work together to address systemic problems in child protection.

The BC Government Must Demonstrate Leadership and Commitment To Resolve Crisis In Recruiting And Retaining Child Protection Social Workers
BC Association of Social Workers. September 22, 2008

The BC Association of Social Workers is delighted to learn that the BC government has decided to increase the salaries of correctional officers and sheriffs in British Columbia by 9.2 per cent as a market adjustment, in recognition of their challenging workload demands, high attrition rates and the difficulty recruiting and retaining them. It is now time for the Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen to demonstrate this kind of forward thinking and enlightened leadership in recognition of the serious workload demands, short staffing and the astronomical attrition rate of child protection social workers that is equal to, or surpasses, the annual loss of 12 per cent of correctional officers and sheriffs in BC.

Read more.

Representative Getting Grilled for Doing Her Job for BC's Kids

It looks like the Representative of Children & Youth is getting a taste of the kind of medicine quite a lot of people in the province get for telling the Liberals the truth about what they've done to citizens, in this case, our most vulnerable children & youth.

Think about it, one of the the BC Liberal appointees to the Child & Youth Legislative committee is grilling the Representative for needing to lease more office space because more staff are needed to do the work of reviewing, reporting and monitoring the abysmal job the government is doing on behalf of a growing and vulnerable generation of BC's children who have been sacrificed to stage the Olympics and so billions could be shovelled into real estate deals, construction projects and a million other things than investing in our children's futures.

Did you hear about this? While one in five children in BC live in poverty, leading Canada's child poverty rate for five years in a row, don't have food, or homes, or services Gordon Campbell was handing out gold medals that were engraved with "Presented by Premier Gordon Campbell" to Canada Line construction workers.

"The government couldn't say how many of the medals were given away or how much they cost... Yes, gold medals. Well, gold-coloured, anyway. And not just cheap little plastic knock-offs like the one my six-year-old got in a fun run a few months ago. "It's a good three inches across and weighs more than a quarter-pounder -- almost like a real Olympic medal. What a waste of money!"[Mike Farnworth - NDP house leader].

Premier's gold medals make NDP see red
Only name on construction workers' 'decoration' is Campbell's
Michael Smyth, The Province. Published: Friday, November 21, 2008.
81 children in B.C. killed themselves in last 4 years: report
CBC News, Canada. Tuesday, December 02, 2008.

Panel makes recommendation on child suicide prevention

BURNABY - A report on the lives and deaths of 81 British Columbian children who died by suicide — which includes the first published recommendations from a death-review panel appointed under the Coroners Act — was issued today through the BC Coroners Service.

The report from the Child Death Review Unit, entitled Looking for Something to Look Forward To, concerns 81 children who died by suicide between Jan. 1, 2003 and Dec. 31, 2007.

“Seventy per cent of these children had shown signs of suicidal behaviour and most had reached out to someone for help before their deaths,” said Kellie Kilpatrick, director of the Child Death Review Unit, in a press release.

Three main risk profiles:
-children and youth with chronic mental health problems (45 per cent)
- those who experienced ongoing family or relationship dysfunction (44 per cent)
- those who experienced a stressful event in the absence of chronic mental health problems and dysfunction (26 per cent).
-School challenges
- history of substance use were also identified risk factors.

What about being in, or or from foster care? What were the numbers on that?

Looking for Something to Look Foward To – A Five-Year Retrospective
Review of Child and Youth Suicide in B.C. – (Jan. 1, 2003 to Dec. 31, 2007)

Summary of the Five-Year Restrospective Review

The report is available online at www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/coroners/child-death-review/index.htm

BC Coroners Service - Child Death Review Unit

2007 Annual Report - Child Death Review Unit

The report looks at common risk factors among 395 deaths involving children and youth ages one day to 18-years-old that occurred between 1999 and 2007, and issues recommendations that aim to prevent future child deaths. The review determined 126 deaths were preventable.

The "955 Transition Files" of the former Children's Commission – November 2006

Child and Youth Deaths in B.C.Statistics, 1997 to 2004

How about 2004 to 2008?


Youth in BC website - Information on suicide and mental health issues.

B.C. Crisis Centres Distress line: Help is available 24/7
Greater Vancouver: 604 872-3311

Toll Free (Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast): 1-866-661-3311

Toll Free (B.C.-wide): 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

TTY: 1-866-872-0113

B.C. watchdog wants improved services for special needs children
CBC News. Thursday, November 27, 2008.

No improvements in care since deaths of 4 B.C. children: report
CBC News.

B.C. children's watchdog defends spending on new office space
Last Updated: Thursday, December 4, 2008 10:45 AM ET
The Canadian Press. CBC News.

B.C.'s outspoken representative for children and youth exchanged sharp words with the chairman of an all-party legislative committee that approves the annual budget for her office.

Children's watchdog defends leased office space
DIRK MEISSNER. Globe & Mail. From Print Edition, 04/12/08.


British Columbia's children's watchdog exchanged sharp words yesterday with the chairman of an all-party legislative committee that approves the annual budget for her office.Last year, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond battled with the same committee over her budget before eventually getting approval for a 36-per-cent increase.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond shot back, saying that Mr. Hawes appeared to want to micromanage her office. She also said it appeared Mr. Hawes was alleging some form of malfeasance on her part.
"We're not trying to micromanage," Mr. Hawes said.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond said it was never a clear policy that she should have to appear before the committee to discuss leasing office space.

Legislature of BC:
Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth
Reports of Proceedings (Minutes and Hansard)

Report of the Gove Inquiry into Child Protection in British Columbia

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Investigation into MCFD Handling of Child Protection Placements Decisions is Long Overdue

There are no other words to describe the latest mess in MCFD
than these - morally adrift, unconscionable, depraved, indefensible...

Here is the story as it is unfolding, you will hear little about this
from the corporate media:

A 10 week old baby girl has received injuries medically consistent with
shaken baby syndrome while living in a foster home in Saanich. She was
legally removed from her parents at birth and is reported to have been in
this home since she was born. A child apprehension at that tender age
indicates significant issues and challenges on the part of the parent(s).

On Wednesday, November 26th, the foster home called 911, to report
the baby was in distress and having trouble breathing. She was taken
to hospital.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development allegedly told police
medical tests showed the infant girl had a brain injury from an assault.
She is now in hospital and last reported to be in critical but stable condition
at Victoria General Hospital with a life-threatening injury, thought to be
shaken baby syndrome. A police investigation is underway.
Central Saanich Det. Paul Brailey said:

"Social services have got a lot of answers to some of the questions
we'll be asking them and we'll be gathering information," said Brailey.

There were also reported to be three other foster children in the home.
They were removed from the foster home and this is where things get
even more dicey.

According to ChekTV, one of the other children in the foster home was a 5
month old infant, who had also been removed from his parents and placed in
the home. According to the news report, MCFD called the parents, Michelle
and Dave Williams and told them there had been an emergency at the foster
home and requested they take the child back to live with them.

The parents allege that the Ministry told them to take their son to be seen
at a clinic, or hospital for a medical exam to check if he has any injuries.
The parents report their worry that something happened to him as well and
note he hasn't been the same since they got him back from the Ministry.

Top Story: Shaken Baby News video on CHEKTV.

If what the parents say is true, this constitutes one of the biggest cases of
negligence and liability that the province has ever undertaken, on par
with the death of Matthew Vaudreuil, five years old.
Read the missing chapter, in the print version, What the Ministry Did
After Matthew Died for some real insight into decision-making control in
child protection, to see how little things have changed and how these things
really work in BC, decade after decade.

Let's do the math here, the infant is in foster care, the BC government's
Ministry of Children & Family Development is his legal guardian. They return
the child to his parents, who were considered unable to care for him, at least
until the emergency occurred with the other child. MCFD apparently calls the
parents up, telling them they need to place their son elsewhere. So, what
happens: according to the parents, MCFD sent the baby boy home to his
parents, who reportedly told them to get him checked out at the hospital,
or clinic for any injuries. Here he is, he's all yours.

Can you just imagine what might have happened to these
parents if they took their child to the hospital and injuries were
found? Who do you think would be blamed? MCFD? The foster parents?
If you believe that, I've got some lovely swamp for sale in Florida for you.
It would be the parents, of course. Kind of begs the question,
are there more of these kinds of situations?

At this point, there must be a parallel investigation conducted into
the entire MCFD decision-making process and who the parties involved were
who called the shots in this whole situation. This includes the Executive
Leadership team. Enough is enough.

The results of this investigation must be reported publically, nothing less
will do in the interest of the children and parents involved. It is in the public
interest to ensure that someone outside of MCFD conducts the investigation.
They are incapable of effectively investigating themselves, in the same way
that the police are not credible, nor able to be counted on to do so in a fair
and unbiased, or self-interested way.

It is time for a comprehensive review of the decision-making process
regarding child protection placements of children. Social workers are the first
to get the blame, have a gag order on them and are often the last ones
calling the shots, but have to live with the results and consequences.
No more, its time for the truth to come out.

Foster parents under investigation in possible 'shaken baby' case

Police probe alleged shaking of infant
Brain injury in 10-week-old foster baby likely an assault,
investigators say
By Louise Dickson. Victoria Times Colonist.

Abashed minister admits error in censoring report
Privacy watchdog 'perplexed' by omissions in report on childhood sex abuse treatments. Lindsay Kines Times Colonist. November 05, 2008.

The B.C. Children's Ministry was wrong to censor a critical report on its sexual abuse treatment program before releasing it to the Time Colonist last year, an independent watchdog has found.

Even if it had been allowed, Loukidelis said the ministry didn't use the exception properly. He called it "perplexing" that the ministry chose to blank out negative comments, while leaving positive and neutral comments untouched.
"The result would leave a reader with the impression that the report was more positive than it actually was when read in full..."

The Times Colonist filed a complaint with Loukidelis last year after getting a censored version of the report from government, and obtaining an uncensored copy from a source. A comparison of the two documents showed that government had blanked out comments that agencies working with sexually abused children "were unanimous in their view that the program funding is insufficient," or that there was a "pervasive view among providers that the program has been neglected by government decision-makers over the past several years."

FOI cover up, or isolated mistake - your call Paul Willcocks: Paying Attention. Tuesday, November 11, 2008.

Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner - David Loukidelis Investigation Report F08-03: Ministry of Children & Family Development. November 4, 2008.

Loukidelis stated the Ministry believed they made an "understandable mistake," he further noted that "none of the evidence clearly establishes that the Ministry's head [in this case Deputy Minister Lesley Du Toit] considered the exercise of discretion in deciding to rely on s.13(1)to withhold information , as opposed to waiving that section and releasing the information, and if the head did exercise discretion, on what basis."

An opaque kind of transparency Sean Holman. Public Eye Online. May 02, 2007.

Writes Ms. du Toit, "to the extent that it is possible within law, MCFD and all service providers will be fully transparent with regard to plans, funding and achievement of principles and goals."
But a freedom of information request for the memo blanked-out any mention of her meeting with Premier Gordon Campbell, her intention to downsize the ministry's headquarters staff and instructions that managers must be at least 90 percent supportive of her restructuring plans.

Ten percent dissent okay with du Toit! Sean Holman. Public Eye Online.

In an email, sent to executive team members on January 28, deputy minister Lesley du Toit writes "if any of your managers…are not 90% of the way there and able to be genuinely positive and facilitating of change, then be very sure that you do not appoint them in this new structure."

I have held discussions with both the Premier and Minister on this matter and will have one more discussion with the minister before the 6th. At our meeting on the 6th will spend most of our time on discussing the regionalization of MCFD's services, decision-making, and community engagement. This will include how we intend to proceed with self governance in relation to Aboriginal services.

MCFD provincial office will logically over the next 4 years be downsized as we move to full regionalization. Therefore, please keep your teams lean and mean so that we do not end up having to move endless people later or find them new positions.

The Prairie Invasion Sean Holman. Public Eye Online.

Deputy minister Lesley Du Toit announces Marilyn Hedlund (pg. 5):

I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Marilyn Hedlund as Provincial Director of Child Welfare. Marilyn will serve as the statutory officer designated by the Minister, under the Child, Family and Community Service Act and Adoption Act.

Next thing we know, Marilyn Hedlund is no longer the Provincal Director, now she is the Assistant Deputy Minister for Early Education.

Must have missed a step in there, when did she stop being Director? Who is the current one? Was the current one involved in the decisions made in the cases mentioned above?

Approved and Ordered March 6, 2008
ORDER IN COUNCIL 130 Statutory Authority: Public Service, s. 12 Marilyn Hedlund is appointed Assistant Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Contact the Ministry of Children & Family Development

E-mail: MCF.DeputyMinistersOffice@gov.bc.ca

Minister Tom Christensen E-mail: tom.christensen.mla@leg.bc.ca PO Box 9057, Stn Prov Govt Victoria, BC V8W 9E2 Phone: 250 387-9699Fax: 250 387-9722

If you have a story you want to tell, contact:

Nicholas Simons, MCFD Opposition Critic

E-mail: nicholas.simons.mla@leg.bc.ca

Tel: 250 387-3655; Fax: 250 387-4680

Toll free: 1 866 373-0792

Shaken baby syndrome - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abusive Head Trauma (Shaken Baby Syndrome)

The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
Here is some real help for children & families:

Aboriginal child protection fact sheet series from Legal Services Society:

Understanding Aboriginal Community & Parents’ Rights

Understanding Court Orders and Hearings

Understanding Kith and Kin Agreements

Also: Family Law in BC website.

The cost of child abuse
Foster children being housed in hotels, daycare: NDP
CBC Saskatchewan.
B.C. dad accused of killing 3 kids agitated at hearing
Robert Koopmans. Vancouver Sun. December 1, 2008

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Community Living BC: Broke & Languishing

As we’ve written about many times before, services to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families are in severe crisis in BC, through the actions of the BC Liberal government. It is a travesty, gross negligence and a human rights violation of epic proportion, which brings shame to the BC government. Remember, they are the ones who wrote this:

Goal #3 - Build the best system of support in Canada for persons with disabilities, those with special needs, children at risk and seniors.

A recap. One of the brain trust involved in devolving Community Living services (part of MCFD) was Doug Walls, Gordon Campbell’s relative by marriage. Mr. Walls and his Liberal appointed Steering Committee created the blueprints for the Crown agency Community Living BC. Mr. Walls was awarded taxpayer money, which, by the way, has never been located, nor is it clear whether he provided the government any of the services he received the contract for. The audit by PriceWaterhouse Cooper has of course disappeared from the government website, but they of course they didn't find anything of a criminal nature, just that he had some "influence" on government officials. Hey, interesting, they're the same auditors for the ICBC scandal and a whole lot of others ones we've never even heard about.

At the time MCFD gave him the contract it was known to government officials he was being investigated by the RCMP in Prince George (since 1998) for fraud over $5000 against the CIBC. Gordon Hogg, then Minister of Children & Families resigned over this & Chris Haynes, Deputy Minister was fired, but I'm sure he received a sweet parting package. Walls was also quite close with Shirley Bond and was the former BC Liberal riding association president in Prince George. He pled guilty to fraud and was given a conditional discharge, isn't that meaningful? Has anyone checked to see whether he's gotten any new MCFD, or CLBC contracts since he was caught out? That might be an interesting Freedom of Information & Privacy request. Geeze, at one time all he had to do was write his own cheques and submit them to his buddies in the BC government and life was all good.

No jail for former B.C. official over bank fraud
Last Updated: Friday, March 9, 2007 11:57 AM ET
CBC News
A former senior provincial government adviser with close ties to the B.C. Liberals has been handed a conditional sentence after pleading guilty to bank fraud.

He admitted he defrauded the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce of more than $5,000 in a scheme that included writing bad cheques.

Premier Gordon Campbell's Liberal government later hired Walls to revamp B.C.'s interim Community Living Authority.

Another Special Prosecutor means More Questions for Campbell
David Schreck. Strategic Thoughts. January 17, 2004 .

Late on Friday afternoon, the time for "taking out the garbage", the Campbell government announced the appointment of another special prosecutor. This time the investigation involves Doug Walls, the Premier's relative by marriage, a former President of a provincial Liberal constituency association, and the acting CEO of the Interim Authority for Community Living.

Read more about the BC Supreme Court ruling against Walls, his relatives, his co-accused and all of the little companies they set up.

BTW, Rick Mowles, CEO of CLBC also wears the hat of chief bargaining agent for Community Social Services Employers’ Association (CSSEA). He was appointed by CEO, wait for it…by the BC Liberals to help devolve CLBC. Some of us might be forgiven for thinking he might have been in just a teensy little CONFLICT OF INTEREST when he was involved in negotiating infrastructure and operational funding for the new agency AND being an Employer representative. Doesn’t seem to have bothered Mowles, or the Liberals much, which kind of speaks volumes.

The parent in this media story hits the nail on the head about the ass backwards way child welfare is administered in BC (and other provinces). Instead of being proactive, providing adequate respite, in-home support and an adequate living wage to parents on income assistance (not this family) MCFD & CLBC pay foster parents thousands of dollars a month (which they deserve) but deny parents adequate financial, or caregiver support until the caregivers burn out and have no choice but to put their children in very, very expensive foster, or institutional care. It’s fiscal incompetence and systemic negligence and frankly stupidity which keeps the child welfare system in a crisis-driven state. Any business person reading this, or anyone with common sense would recognize that this is the kind of financial management that leads to businesses going under rapidly. CLBC's budgets are often shot at the beginning of their new fiscal year and we understand they may be cutting even more corners to keep afloat. If this was a business, it would have been bankrupt within a year of operating.

CLBC has been asked to keep waitlists since they began operating, July 2006 and here we are in 2008 and they are still unwilling to do so at all for some services and spotty ones at best for others. It is an unmitigated public services disaster and a gross failure of the governments' fiduciary duty to our most vulnerable citizens. This isn't even getting into the many, many systemic problems facing the agencies who recieve buckets of

Community Living discussion paper

The BCGEU, the union that “represents” CLBC workers held a forum and released a discussion paper, on the state of Community Living services in BC which was written with a great deal of stakeholder input.

Apr 7 '08
"Despite a strong mandate and shared vision, the system is failing."
That's one of the findings in a discussion paper on the state of community living services in the province of British Columbia that was produced by the BCGEU.

The paper, "Exploring Solutions," was prepared as a result of interviews and two separate dialogues bringing together workers, employers, advocacy groups, and family members to discuss their experience of community living services in B.C.

A key part of the paper was an analysis of the current situation involving people with developmental disabilities:

"The provincial authority (Community Living BC) provides support and services to only 28% of the 36,000 adults British Columbians with developmental disabilities. There are more than 1,300 eligible individuals on waitlists."

Community Living Forum - May 4, 2007
Representatives from unions in the community social services sector, family groups and employers attended this forum to look at issues around Community Living BC.
Click here for webcast.
B.C. cuts respite for family of severely disabled child:
Parents say Campbell government biased against families who look after their own
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 13, 2008 10:01 AM ET
By Kathy Tomlinson CBC News

The parents of a severely disabled B.C. girl are accusing the provincial government of neglecting the needs of disabled children and their families....

There is no way to tell how many parents are waiting for government help, because Community Living B.C. doesn't compile its waiting lists provincially. "We don't have any of that information," said Mowles. "The waiting lists would be kept in a local office — or local contractors would keep that — so we don't track that information."

Interestingly, David Schreck was calling on the Auditor General to review CLBC back in 2004. It doesn't look like that has ever happened and they are even in worse fiscal conditions these days. I hope stakeholders consider making a formal complaint and request for investigation into the fiscal and operational management of this Crown agency. I'm quite sure there are some interesting things to find that would be in the public's interest to have brought out into the open.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Liability Issues for MCFD: Placements with Relatives & Others

I suppose the public would be shocked to know that these kind of placements of children take place all the time. In 2004, when this child was initially placed with the grandmother, according to the media story, MCFD was doing virtually anything they could to prevent children from coming into care. There were way too many children "on the books" (over 10,000) and they needed to reduce the numbers in care and of course meet budget cuts set by the BC Liberals.
Out of Care Placements, Kith & Kin agreements, placement of children under Child in Home of Relative (CIHR) through the Ministry of Employment & Income Assistance became the goals of placement. And why not, MCFD doesn't have to pay a dime of the measly funds portioned out to relatives. Due diligence is often not really a factor, nor are issues of liability considered much at all. I don't think they are even really understood from an organizational risk assessment perspective. Lets face it, the BC government has "gotten away" with providing substandard child protection for decades, not just in the last 7 years, where it has been markedly worse and strategically defunded, deskilled and torn apart in the name of "alternative service delivery."

I agree that strong efforts should go into placing all children, not just Aboriginal, with relatives or others who the child knows, rather than foster care. However, there came a certain point where clinical judgment no longer mattered. Or, which sadly may have been another issue is that capacity within the system was so "dumbed down" that MCFD was unable to even recognize high-risk when it was staring them right in the eye. There is a lack of general experience in child protection throughout the organization now. I don't know too many industries, or fields where workers-in-training, or within their first year of employment are training brand new workers, or even students. Or, have been promoted to supervisory positions after two years. Or, managers who have never actually worked as frontline workers in child protection, or have any familiarity with the complexities of child protection (law, practice standards, policies, procedures, risk assessment, pesky little details like those). "Management" is often treated as a generic skillset, but a missing subtext to many of these tragic cases, is that management in child protection is not generic. The knowledge required is specific, crucial and can be a matter of life and death, or great harm that might be experienced by a child who has no-one else to watch out for their safety, or to protect them. In MCFD, once you've decided to play the "career track" game, more often than not, you will be willing to turn a blind eye and do what you're told, bring the numbers down etc. etc. It's a piece of the puzzle of the dysfunctional culture in MCFD that those outside rarely understand and it all leads to a general de-skilling of the entire workforce & culture.

It may be the case MCFD did not know the kind of harm that would come to this child, but I suspect this grandmother probably had her own child welfare file from her own years as a parent.
It's not common to do risk assessments, or dig very deep when there is anyone else around who might take the child off the system's hands. And I'm sure this grandmother really does love the child and wanted the best for her. The childhood trauma of many grandparents, especially those who were impacted by residential schools, is re-triggered when they are put into parenting situations beyond their capacity to deal with and provided little support, or resources.

For one home visit, a couple of references, a criminal record check & a check of the MCFD database, any individual can have a child placed in their home. For CIHR, none of that happens.
The parent/legal guardian (who has been deemed to have sufficiently poor judgement to retain care themselves) signs a paper, hands it to welfare & bam, that child is now in that relative's home, forever sometimes. See the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren legal research project for more details and to fill in their online survey.

This story, and so many others that have tragically come to light, is also about the responsibility and liability of MCFD in placing a child with a number of special needs with a family member who may not have what it takes to parent the child. One of the most difficult lessons of working in child protection is that just because a family member (parent, grandparent etc.) loves a child, does not mean they have the capacity, skills & knowledge to adequately (& in this case) to safely parent a child and provide them what they need for their health & wellbeing.

MCFD knew they were setting up some high-risk placements for children when they brought these alternative placements in. There were enough people at MCFD HQ who had the years of experience to know what was going to happen. It's no mistake the regions and MCFD in general did not and probably still don't keep statistics on child apprehensions from out of care, kith & kin & CIHR placements. Most family members offer the children a home out of love, but then find themselves with little financial, emotional, or parenting support, increased costs (food, medical, dental, clothing etc.) and a child who taxes every parenting bone in their body.
In the worst types of these placements, relatives, or others, are simply doing it for the money. It happens more than MCFD will admit. And the joke is on them, as they discover it's harder work than they thought and then they resent the child and if they can, get MCFD to take the child out so they don't have to deal with it anymore. More so, MCFD either outright refuses to provide funding for the children, or in some cases, they renege on that initial commitment and give families the run around.

Another issue in this situation is that I find it very, very difficult to believe that with this level of abuse occurring that other relatives, neighbours, friends and community members did not have some idea of what was happening for some time. Kudos to the anonymous reporter who finally did report, but everyone else who knew & kept silent should be very ashamed of themselves for allowing this to continue for so long, had they intervened earlier, this child would not have experienced this profound abuse, which will have additional lifelong impacts on her. It's not enough for anyone to turn a blind eye anymore. All of us are responsible, in every community,
for keeping children safe.

In some ways, MCFD is always in a Catch-22. They try to place with relatives, sometimes are even pressured and threatened into do so (think of the optics of a loving grannie threatening to "go to the media" if a child isn't placed with her). It happens and MCFD has so much bad press and can't speak to specific cases, so the threat and risk management is in overdrive when faced with these situations. So, sometimes in spite of the reservations, or even in the face of outright opposition, MCFD caves and places children with unsuitable, or inappropriate caregivers. It is often only a matter of time before the results are seen in those situations, sometimes so tragically.

I think it is important to understand that many times workers in the systems advise supervisors and managers they don't believe placement with particular relatives is a good idea and provide the reasons why, based on their clinical judgment. But, in the politicized child protection culture, workers are often pressured to place children in unsafe situations. It happens all the time in the interests of keeping kids out of care. Got to keep those numbers down. If this sounds callous & cynical, it is, because keeping the dollars down is the name of the "game" in the money pit that is MCFD. They don't cut corners on management breakfast & lunch meetings, retreats for the executive "leadership" team, but do what you can to keep those kids off the books.

With respect to internal case reviews, if they are even completed, they are vetted through the regional director of Child Protection office and pertinent details that impact practice and decision-making are not going to end up in the report. Things like workload, staffing and whether a manager actually made the decision to place a child into a situation like this. Frontline workers have so little discretion anymore, yet are the first to be scapegoated by their superiors, who are looking out for number one, too many bad things coming out is bad for their careers. And, I'm not sure if they train management in this, but they know not to right a lot down, wouldn't want things to be available under Freedom of Information requests, or to show up in the media. Bad optics and not "career enhancing." At least in theory anyways. I think if the truth were known, you would find far more frontline workers scapegoated, punished and even run out of MCFD than you will ever find a supervisor, or manager held to account. It's how things work. The attrition and illness leave rates in MCFD for frontline workers would astound most people, but it doesn't seem to phase the BC government one little bit.

I honestly don't think that the BC government is going to "get" their fidicuary responsibility, obligations & duty of care towards the thousands of children & youth they are supposed to be protecting, until they start to pay the price for their negligence and be held accountable in ways beyond public reporting. There have now been years worth of media and advocacy reports and they haven't made a damn bit of difference and in fact, things have never been worse inside the beast. I think there is very little understanding that the Best Interests of the Child legal and fidiciary duty extends across a child's life and circumstances.
Public still in dark 2 years after horrific abuse case
4-year-old girl was battered, starving after placement with unstable relative

Lindsay Kines, Times Colonist. Published: Monday, May 05, 2008

Two senior social workers said the four-year-old girl was the most abused and traumatized child they had ever seen. A doctor said she would have died if she'd remained in the care of her grandmother much longer. And a judge said child welfare officials probably shouldn't have placed such a high-needs child with a woman who drank too much, suffered from panic attacks and worked a night shift.

Yet, two years after the battered and starving girl was hospitalized in Prince George, the public still has no clear idea how such a travesty could happen, or what the B.C. government has done to prevent it from happening again.

"It was a situation which, with any involvement of professional people, [they] would have seen that there was something going to go wrong," defence lawyer H. Bruce Kaun said.

The horrific story only came to light after the Prince George Citizen reported on the provincial court case in January. The 47-year-old grandmother pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm to her granddaughter and was placed on three years' probation.

The Times Colonist has since obtained court transcripts and other internal documents from the Ministry of Children and Family Development in an effort to piece the case together.

Those records indicate that the girl was moved from a foster home into her grandmother's care in 2004 with the assistance of both the ministry and Carrier Sekani Family Services. The girl remained there until April 2006, when the ministry, acting on an anonymous tip, discovered that she was being horribly abused.

Reports from that time state the girl had two black eyes, which had been covered with make-up. There were bruises, old and new, all over her body. She had ligature marks on one forearm that suggested she had been bound. She was suffering from pneumonia, had severe head lice and was so malnourished that she ate until she vomited and had to spend more than a week in hospital. There was also evidence that she had, at times, been locked in the basement and possibly had her mouth taped shut.

"But for the fact that some anonymous complainant brought this child's plight to the attention of the authorities ... [the doctor's] prognosis would be that this child would have ended up dead," Judge Michael Brecknell said at the sentencing hearing.

He added: "These events have to be shocking to any member of the community that believes that children are entitled to be treated with love and respect."
The court case, however, offered the public little insight into how child welfare officials could have mishandled the file so badly.

The judge said he found it "unusual" authorities "didn't do much in the way of due diligence, once they assisted in the placement of the child."

Kaun, who defended the grandmother, added that his client "didn't get much help" from child welfare officials in caring for the child, who was born with a heart defect, has suspected Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and was developmentally delayed.

"There wasn't anyone visiting or helping out, so I would think when you're alerted to a high-needs child like this ... that if you're going to do that kind of placement, there should be ... some type of follow-up," he said.

Instead, the grandmother stopped taking the child to her medical appointments because she was afraid of "them seeing marks on her body," court was told. No one seemed to notice.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008


Child abuse case lacks answers
Lindsay Kines, Canwest News Service. Published: Sunday, May 04, 2008
Vancouver Sun.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Words Don't Fail: Governments Do

Comments from story When Words Fail, Public EyeOnline By Sean Holman.

Another piece of this that many would not know is that internally, there is little ability to build capacity & competency. Internal training is almost non-existent.

Professional development is crucial in this field. Although the training provided upon being hired is extensive, a missing piece is how people are trained to analyze risk in families. And, of course many communities just don’t have the resources and supports to be part of the solution for families.

Many individuals are promoted who lack the actual practice experience to have the clinical skills, knowledge & abilities required. And since the turnover of workers is so high, you have people becoming "senior" workers with a year under their belt and then they in turn begin "training" & "mentoring" other workers. Then they might get promoted to a supervisory role after a couple of years. This goes for managers too, many of whom haven't even actually worked in child protection, ever.

De-skilling the workforce is also a key piece of the ideology and in child protection, as this latest report suggests, this is lethal for some children & youth. It isn’t the fault of the workers, there are many secret decisions made and then workers have to carry them out. It happens all the time. If something doesn’t make sense on a file, ask who made the actual decision. Many people, internally and externally have been "speaking truth to power" since 2001 when the writing was on the wall and people could analyze that we would be arriving at the place we are today.

And it is an HR illusion & spin about staffing. The attrition & medical leave rates are so high and the initial staffing cuts so deep that they can't even hope to play catch up. And believe me, across the country the word is out that BC is NOT the place to work in child protection.

To bring this into clarity, there are two particular cases that help connect the dots.
One relates to Mr. Allan Dwayne Schoenborn, the man accused of killing his three children in Merritt, BC.

Nothing is yet known about his childhood, but dollars to donuts he was a victim/survivor of the child welfare system of the 80’s, the one that the BC Liberals brought back. This is a man who has a long history of mental illness and substance misuse/abuse, who has quite likely been failed by every system he has ever come into contact with – mental health, criminal justice, probation, education, child welfare, and health. Was he in care, it is quite likely he was, or perhaps should have been at some point as a child. One may also speculate as to whether his partner, Ms. Darcie Clarke might also have had her own history with the child welfare system as a child. There are reasons people choose each other and end up in these kind of relationships, where even more devastating things happen, such as in this case.

Another case is Luke Aday, on trial in Victoria for the random murder of a stranger, James Allanach. Court testimony has heard at length about the neglect and abuse he suffered as a child and his complex psychiatric conditions. These do not just develop on their own, this kind of damage starts in childhood and society pays the cost, as did the poor victim and his family and friends.

Psychiatrist: Accused not a psychopath: Defendant suffered from a 'cluster' of personality disorders, court told

These kind of tragedies don’t just happen for no reason. They aren’t random acts. If you neglect a wound and don’t give it the care, attention & first aid it needs, it becomes infected, sometimes gangrene sets in and you lose something valuable. Abuse, deprivation and neglect in childhood beget marginalization, mental illness, sometimes violence and devastation when people become adults. Then the cycle is repeated as these childhood victims/survivors become parents themselves. With support, timely and meaningful intervention from skilled, knowledgeable and caring professionals, including child protection social workers, therapists, family support workers, addiction counsellours, probation officers and many others tragedies can be averted. It is whether the system, the government itself, places a high importance on this.

From where we sit, we see the BC government pouring millions into the 10 day party that is the Olympics, multi-million dollar cost overruns on convention centres and other projects that will take decades for BC taxpayers to pay off. However, around the province, children are abused, neglected and BC leads the country in child poverty for the 4th year running. As the Representative’s latest report, Amanda, Savanah, Rowen & Serena: From Loss to Learning highlights, children are dying around the province. Those tragedies occur as a direct result of the BC Liberal government, no-one else is responsible for those public policy decisions, well except for the Canadian government.

As we head into another summer, where caseloads will sit in crisis and uncovered, it’s not too late to start the planning for improvements in child protection. The decision rests solely with the government. Here are the top 10 things the BC government could do right now to prevent even more tragedies from occurring to citizens of BC:

1. Simplify and clarify specific priorities and tasks – Ie. child protection activities over paperwork;
2. Decrease administrative burden & duplication of paperwork for social workers;
3. Hire additional social work assistants around the province for each office;
4. Re-deploy child protection trained senior workers & supervisors from specialty positions (family development response & family group conferencing, policy analysts and other “special projects”) into the field to lower caseloads and add practice experience to teams;
5. Hire retired social workers for part-time and short-term contracts;
6. Expand hiring of individuals with diverse bachelor & masters degrees and experience in the social services, train and have senior workers mentor them;
7. Create mentoring roles for senior staff for new workers;
8. Increase the work and utility of community services managers;
9. Put short-term funding into community support agencies to boost family support workers who work with families in their homes;
10. Halt all plans for continuing the devolution of services (Aboriginal child protection) for at least 2 years and provide additional funding to Community Living BC and Aboriginal agencies who are already performing child protection duties so they can begin providing more services to those in need.