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MCFD Canada Child protection eats up $500 million yearly in B.C.

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on Wed, 11/27/2013 - 16:49
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MCFD Canada Child protection eats up $500 million yearly in B.C.

Service providers defend their agencies in face of critical youth advocate’s report B.C. MCFD child welfare expenses

More than half-a-billion dollars is spent each year in B.C. on child protection services — an important system that was harshly criticized last week by the province’s youth advocate.

The provincial budget earmarked $500 million for the 2012/13 year — and for the next two fiscal years — to pay for child-welfare costs such as social workers, foster parents and supporting troubled youth to live independently.

The federal government also gave an estimated $57 million in 2012/13 to Delegated Aboriginal Agencies (DAAs) for child welfare in B.C., according to the report by children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

Those 23 DAAs, which mainly operate on reserves, also get $90 million from the provincial government, roughly one fifth of B.C.’s overall child-welfare budget.

And yet, 13 of those DAAs — more than half — do not have the authority to do full child protection services, so Ministry for Children and Family Development (MCFD) social workers are still being paid to work on files on those reserves.

In an interview Tuesday, MCFD deputy minister Mark Sieben said some of those agencies are content to deliver voluntary support services to families and a few others have the increased authority to oversee guardianship services.

Only 10 of the DAAs provide full child protection services right now.

Turpel-Lafond’s report admonished the province for wasting an additional $66 million over 12 years on planning a new protection system for aboriginal children without spending a dime of that money on helping families.

While one plan — creating regional aboriginal authorities — was shelved, another plan called Indigenous Approaches, which aims to transfer child-welfare authority to First Nations communities, is still slowly moving forward.

In the meantime, Sieben defended MCFD’s $90-million price tag for these DAAs, arguing the provincial money is spent on helping children and mainly focuses on preventing kids from going into care in the first place. The federal government’s $57-million contribution is for the care of children after they have been apprehended, he said.

“On the federal side, they do not pay for prevention and family support style services,” Sieben said. “They pay money for when a child comes into care. And that is, in B.C.’s view, a crude measure and approach to child welfare practice.”

Sieben allowed that Turpel-Lafond’s report left the ministry with some things to consider, such as offering to help the DAAs increase their level of child protection services and/or assist them to better recruit and train staff.

Turpel-Lafond’s report found some DAAs were “fraught with staff turnover and ongoing struggles to find qualified staff.”

She also said the DAAs were “mostly ignored and sometimes undermined” by the province as they “struggled” to provide services.

Sieben said the province has had the “best intentions” to revamp aboriginal child welfare in the province and has engaged over the years with First Nations to try to get fewer kids in care.

This is crucial in B.C. where, as of March 2013, more than half — or about 4,450 out of 8,106 children in care — were aboriginal, according to Turpel-Lafond’s report, When Talk Trumps Service.

The DAAs represent almost 47 per cent of the aboriginal children in care, noted the report.

Fully one-third of the province’s $90 million output for DAAs is spent on one Vancouver agency, which gets $30 million annually and is handling more than 900 child welfare files this year.

The Northwest Inter-Nation Family and Community Services Society (NIFCS), on the other hand, received $1.5 million in provincial funding and had just 34 open children-in-care files.

NIFCS board president Patricia Starr said her DAA, which is located in Terrace and serves nine Northern B.C. reserves, shouldn’t be criticized for carrying a small number of files as that is a sign it is doing its job well.

In other words, it is doing prevention work to keep kids in family homes, rather than provide services after there is a crisis and they have been apprehended.

“NIFCS places social workers in the communities and they can work more closely to identify families at risk,” Starr said.

Her DAA does not have full child protection authority, so when a child apprehension takes place its staff accompanies an MCFD social worker to the home.

NIFCS has applied to get full child protection designation, and Starr said the delay has mainly been around finances. She believes more money is needed for prevention services.

It has also been a challenge to find and retain staff, but Starr said that is a challenge in the north and is confident it can be addressed.

“That’s our goal, to move toward full child protection,” she added.

B.C. spends $500 million a year on child protection services.

• $215 million for foster care, guardianship, delegated Aboriginal agencies and other in-care services

• $106 million for family support programs

• $23 million for youth services

• $30 million for alternatives to foster care and post-majority supports

• $125 million for child welfare program delivery

Source: MCFD

By Lori Culbert

The Vancouver Sun