A special inquiry tasked with looking at Quebec’s youth protection services is recommending an overhaul of the beleaguered provincial system and calling for immediate action to better serve children and their families.
The highly anticipated report on the protection of vulnerable of children was released Monday after delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Laurent Commission’s list of recommendations ranges from bolstering prevention services and strengthening collaboration of different players — such as social workers and police officers — involved in youth protection services.
André Lebon, vice-president of the commission, said the system has a “strong basis” but that a “severe shift” is needed.
“It’s a lot of small things to do differently but it will make a big change,” he said.
The recommendations include creating a commissioner responsible for children’s welfare and rights, as well as the adoption of a charter for children’s rights in the province.
“In Quebec, no matter their age, every child should be considered a person,” said Régine Laurent, the nurse and former labour leader in charge of the commission.
The commissioners also recommend creating the position of an assistant commissioner for Indigenous youth. They say, “First Nations and Inuit are best placed to determine and meet the needs of their children.”
Services should also be adapted and made accessible to the different communities that live in Quebec, the 552-page report states.
The review found that more support is needed to help Quebecers when they age out of the youth protection system. It proposes allowing young adults to stay in foster care until 21 if they so choose and creating a post-placement support program.
The report also suggests better funding for several community organizations and reviewing the workload of employees on the front lines of youth protection.
Social workers also need better support and better training. The findings say that those workers on the front line are suffering and they feel their practice conditions “do not allow them to provide quality services.”
“Their safety should be assured and their workload shouldn’t be so heavy so they can adequately work with children and their families,” Laurent said.
The review, which was launched in October 2019, was prompted by the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby who had been followed by youth protection services. She was found in critical condition in her family home in April 2019 and died the next day.
Laurent said the young girl’s death was a “collective failure.”
“We must move from a Quebec that is crazy about children is to one that is worthy of its children,” she said.
The commission said it heard from more than 300 witnesses during its probe. It also held 42 “regional forums” across Quebec, where it heard from more than 2,000 citizens and other stakeholders.
Lionel Carmant, Quebec’s junior health minister, is expected to hold a press conference Tuesday morning to address the commission’s findings and recommendations. He will be joined by Mathieu Lacombe, the province’s families minister.
— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press