Turpel-Lafond, media and opposition blamed for problems at Ministry of Children and Family Development
A long-anticipated report into the troubled Ministry of Children and Family Development acknowledges problems in how vulnerable children in B.C. are cared for, and recommends $50 million more in annual funding.
But it also places much of the blame for the current situation with external forces causing “an avalanche of criticism and calls for change, that ironically, leads to even greater instability and loss of confidence in the work of the ministry.”
Former civil servant Bob Plecas, who was appointed to lead the independent review of MCFD in July, says there are several problems with how the ministry is currently organized and that the pay for frontline workers is too low.
“In the future, we must accept and act on a simple principle: child protection is one of the most difficult jobs in government and it should be recognized and rewarded with higher compensation. Higher compensation should apply only to the position of child protection worker. I am not advocating that it be applied to non-child protection social worker jobs,” he writes.
WATCH: A new report calls for extensive and expensive changes to B.C.’s child protection system. Keith Baldrey reports.
Plecas says independent representative for children and youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, should not be re-appointed when her second five-year term expires next year.
“Sadly, the relationship between the representative and the ministry has become strained,” Plecas writes.
“I believe it is time to follow the advice Ted Hughes gave in [a previous review of MCFD] when he recognized how rare it was, and how unhealthy, to have a single Ministry under external oversight continuously and for long periods of time. External oversight should end when the Ministry is capable of carrying out these functions, and the Representative’s role should become one focused on advocacy.”
Turpel-Lafond has been critical of many cases where children have died in government care, or soon after aging out of the system.
In May, she highlighted the case of Paige, a 19-year-old legally blind aboriginal girl who overdosed in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
And over the past few months, several families whose children died under ministry care have been critical of the government’s oversight of MCFD.
But Plecas said the reports undermined the good work being done by MCFD in scores of unreported cases.
“Where are the stories about all the successes that go along with the work that MCFD does?” he asked.
However, he says privacy guidelines could be loosened so that the public could have a better understanding of the ministry’s work.
“The Legislature could consider changes to the privacy restrictions that surround cases to permit more fulsome debate in the Legislature. Consideration should be given to allowing confidential background briefings to Opposition members on specific cases, and to have a Ministry spokesperson,” he writes.
In a brief statement, Turpel-Lafond defended the need for her position.
“Independent oversight of B.C.’s child welfare system remains a necessity. In the absence of such public accountability, Paige’s story and the stories of other vulnerable children would never be told, leaving significant problems in the child protection system unaddressed,” she wrote.
Turpel-Lafond also said she would have more to say when the report is officially released tomorrow.