May 8, 2014 7:44 pm

Improving the lives of Saskatchewan children

Watch above: Saskatchewan children falling through the cracks

SASKATOON-  Dozens of academics and professionals packed into a room at TCU Place for  “The Best Interest of the Child” (BIC) conference on Thursday.  It’s aimed at working together to improve the lives of all children.

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“Too many children continue to fall through the cracks,” was a comment echoed by many, on the heels of a report saying high caseload levels for protection workers were to blame for the death of two infants in the province.

“Certainly poverty is a big deal and it’s not a matter of blaming, it’s a matter of looking at systemic issues in terms of making sure that children are well fed, well housed and well parented by whatever means as possible,” said Dr. Keith Walker, professor of educational administration and Johnson-Shoyama graduate school of public police at the University of Saskatchewan.

“One of the problems is that programs don’t fix things people do.”

During the one-day conference, Walker said while the focus was on education and the well-being of children, attendees were  reminded of the realities associated with the best interest of children how much still needs to be done.

“We’ve got a long ways to go, we’re a so called first world country but we have third world experiences on the part of some of these children and youth and their families, we need to do better and we can do better and we will do better.”

On Tuesday , the province’s children’s advocate released it’s annual report. In 2013, there were 26 child deaths; two-thirds of those children were under five.

The report also profiled an investigation into the deaths of a seven-month-old and a 16-month-old. The conclusion? Our child welfare system failed them.

Children's-Advocate-Deaths-

At the time of the release, Bob Pringle, Saskatchewan’s Children’s Advocate, said if the case workers had spent more time with the families, they would have realized there were serious issues in the home.

“Where there are very good policies in social services there is not 100 per cent compliance,” said Pringle on Thursday.

“The key is having properly resourced all the staff who are working with families not just terms of the case work but another big issue is the lack of accessible, available services which we highlight in our annual report related to things like good assessments for mental health issues and addictions support.”

Pringle continued to stress how important it is for Saskatchewan to have an antipoverty strategy, adding that our province and British Columbia are the only two provinces in the country that don’t have one.

“There are too many children in crisis because we’re not getting supports to them soon enough,” said Pringle.

Walker said the statistics released this week should move people to do something about it and said those children paid the ultimate price of our neglect.

“It’s not up to government, it’s not up to all of the well trained educators and social workers. Every single citizen needs to be on the look out for our children,” said Walker.

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