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Montreal youth protection program dealing with increase in demand, lack of staff: report

Click to play video: 'Youth protection directors facing worker shortage,  alarming waiting lists' Youth protection directors facing worker shortage, alarming waiting lists
WATCH: The annual report from Quebec's directors of youth protection reveals that 323 incidents of child abuse were reported every day. In Montreal, directors say the pandemic presented its challenges, but staffing shortages are the biggest struggle. As Global’s Olivia O'Malley reports, some critics say that problem wouldn't exist, if services were more inclusive. – Sep 22, 2021

There were 323 incidents of child abuse reported every day in Quebec from 2020 to 2021, according to the annual report from Quebec’s directors of youth protection.

“Some of the calls that we’re getting are more complex and the gravity of the situation is worse,” said youth protection director Linda See with CIUSSS de L’Ouest-de-L’île-de-Montréal.

The report, released Wednesday morning, said 741 children are currently stuck on the youth protection wait-list in Montreal, with close to half of those children in the English system.

Read more: Group of Quebec ministers to review report on youth protection reforms

See said that list has been steadily climbing over the past six months, in part due to an increase of the most severe cases, classified as code 1 and 2, that take immediate priority over Code 3 cases. Adding to the difficulties, the number of Code 1 cases recently doubled.

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“That has been an increase with regard to the pandemic where we’ve seen a lot of families in distress and it comes out through marital issues and conjugal violence and also neglect,” said See.

Coupled with urgent issues, the West Island’s health agency’s director is dealing with a lack of staff able to deliver services. There are presently 26 job postings.

“It’s not a job that’s very attractive for people to come. So I think that that’s where we have an issue. And there’s a lot of jobs open in other areas where social workers can work,” she said.

Read more: Quebec’s youth protection system needs ‘severe shift’ to help vulnerable children, inquiry finds

Director of the Native Women’s Shelter, Nakuset, argued that they would be able to attract staff, specifically Indigenous people, if the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres were a more inclusive place to work. She says there is only one Indigenous employee and that has to do with a lack of understanding of Indigenous culture.

“If the culture is oppressive. Why would anyone want to work there if you have social workers that are really comfortable talking negatively about Indigenous people?” she said. “That’s a problem.”

In 2019, Nakuset co-authored a report on Batshaw. The report detailed problems with the youth protection service and offered solutions aligned with the Viens Commission, none of which she said have been implemented yet.

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“Everyone is knocking at the door for them to do better. But concretely, steps, nothing has happened,” she said.

Despite the criticism, See insists there have been numerous successful interventions during the pandemic.

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