THE CHILDREN – UPDATE

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is no longer B.C.Representative for Children and Youth in B.C. What a loss for the people and children of B.C.  The position has, not surprisingly, been given to a politician (1).

The care of The Children did become an election issue. The BC NDP and Greens have made promises, in their election platform, to help the children.  The BC Liberals don’t have anything specific to the children in care but have made promises (see below).  It is good that the children became an election issue.  BUT, this is only the first step.  Because, as we know, politicians will say anything to get elected and frequently afterwards, partially or totally ignore the promises.   SO, after the election the people and media, will have to hold the politicians accountable, make sure any changes are beneficial to the children, demand constant updates on the welfare of the children and keep demanding the truth so the children get the care they need.  The Children only have YOU, the people, to look after them.   As Stephen Gantz says: “If children in foster care are wards of the state, we’re all their parents”. (13)

Katie Hyslop, at TheTyee.ca, has written a series of articles on The Children in government care and youths at risk. Go to TheTyee.ca, enter, in the search box, Katie Hyslop to read these articles. Be prepared, some will just break your heart.

B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux had a complaint:

  1. “Shortly after the first article appeared, I received an email from a ministry spokesperson that challenged one statement in one article. The sentence in question describes “Michie,” a young woman who found, as we reported, ‘that all the supports she and her foster parents had been receiving from British Columbia’s Ministry of Children and Family Development disappeared’ on her 19th birthday. “(4) The government states that there are a range of supports. “Two programs top the ministry’s list of services they want you and youth leaving care to know about: Agreement with Young Adults, and the Youth Educational Assistance Fund.” (4)  ”But youth workers and the acting provincial Representative for Children and Youth interviewed by The Tyee emphasized there are barriers to accessing and benefiting from these supports that vulnerable youth can’t overcome.” (4)   Katie Hyslop also found that the programs had restrictions which eliminated many youth.  Even for those who could qualify the government had barriers; for example, you must be in rehab but there aren’t enough rehab spaces.  Or, the youth could qualify if they were in a life skills program but there is a long waiting list for this program. “So, yes: everything the ministry says is true: YEAF, AYA, and other programs do exist to maintain support for youth leaving Crown care at age 19. But our earlier reports were also accurate: many youth find those supports hard-to-impossible to access. None picks up automatically when youth age out of care; individuals must find and apply for each one separately. All impose some sort of qualifying restriction. And even when youth do qualify, actual help may not be ‘available.’” (4)  “Some are available only for former foster youth and not for others in distress (the wider focus of my reporting).“ (4)  Children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond called Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) a smokescreen that is not helping these vulnerable teens. (19)   This is a common tactic of the government – look at this great program we are offering, but if you look closely at the program you will see all the holes, all the barriers that prevent the targetted people from using the program.  I doubt programs will ever be ‘perfect” but some (many?) of the government programs are so badly designed/implemented that it looks like they were intended to fail all but a few. Is it a case of the government getting credit because they have a “program” without actually giving much (money saved to go into the pockets of “other people”)?

The government is also complaining that they are not getting credit for PROMISING to implement Grand Chief Ed John’s 85 recommendations and the “significant funding increase the ministry received under Budget 2017 to help improve outcomes for Indigenous families”. (2) Maybe that’s because they haven’t actually done anything yet except make promises.  Maybe they will get credit when the 85 recommendations are actually implemented and not, as so often happens, forgotten or only a few recommendations are implemented.  Maybe they will get credit when the money actually reaches the children and is not spent on meetings trying to decide how to spend the money (as has happened).  But, maybe before giving credit we need to ask why “so many children had to die and youth in care had to suffer neglect and abuse for the government to be shamed into acting finally on child protection services,” as pointed out by senior economist Iglika Ivanova of the BC Centre for Policy Alternatives.  Maybe, before giving credit, we need to ask why the Ministry of Children and Family Development budget will increase 10 per cent this fiscal year (an election year) only to be followed by two years of spending freezes; in other words, the government is giving and then taking away as the Ministry will have less money in future years because the funding won’t keep up with even the rate of inflation.  Maybe we have to ask why, after all these years of having children in government care, the system is still such as mess.  (20)

I am also concerned that Christy Clark has said that additional funding is being provided to address recommendations in Bob Plecas report. (7) Some of his recommendations, supporting recommendations made by Turpel-Lafond, I believe are good and I am glad that there will be money, hopefully to implement them.  But some of his recommendations, as identified in a prior post (Children Hurt, Dying in the Care of the Politicians, 2014/04/12), I believe will undermine, even more, the care of the children; in particular, eliminating the oversight function of the Representative of Children and Youth.  Will eliminating the oversight function be just a means of hiding what is happening to the children?

Katie Hyslop tried repeatedly for the past three years to get an interview with B.C. Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux, including when she was preparing her series. (6)  She also tried to get an interview with Minister Terry Lake. (6)  She is still waiting. (6)  Cadieux did, however, send another email to criticise her series: “Ministry of Children and Family Development sent emails asking why I had not included additional details about education funds offered to youth aging out of care. Those funds are not available to all youth with care experience, do not provide mental health or addictions help, and are not substantial enough to cover household and school expenses on their own. (6)  Unfortunately, I have learned that this is another common tactic of the government.  They will respond if they think it makes them look good but will not answer questions that presumably would be incriminating. So, with the government, not answering a question, provides it’s own answer, they have something to hide.  But, as Katie Hyslop says:  “I’d really like to speak with either of them. More to the point, I think, B.C.’s citizens deserve to hear from them, outside of canned media events, on matters as important as the well-being of the province’s most vulnerable youth.” (6)  And, citizens do have a RIGHT to hear the truth about how the government and it’s programs are run, even if it doesn’t make the politicians look good; this is supposedly the people’s government with the people’s money paying for it.  The people have a RIGHT to know what is going on so they can decide if it is acceptable, and if something is not acceptable, the people can help find solutions.

Paul Willcocks article (9) also has some good suggestions.

“Linda Reid, now the Speaker, then the Liberal critic for children and families, demanded a needs-based budget. Figure out first how to meet the needs of children and families, and what that would cost. Build the budget around that (even if some hard choices might be needed). Instead, the Liberals have treated the ministry like any other, imposing arbitrary and damaging cuts or freezes.”

“Look for a party that doesn’t just promise more money, but a new model.” (9)

“Another simple test is the parties’ positions on aging out. The current policy of basically cutting kids adrift at 19 is destructive and costly. Parents know teens, especially teens who have often experienced difficult childhoods in care, are not magically ready at 19 to survive, let alone thrive, on their own. Look for a party that will increase that age, with phased support that lasts four or five more years, perhaps decreasing as the youths find their way. Polls have found broad public support for increasing the age at which youth lose supports.” (9)

Stephen Gantz has also suggested some good ideas, such as:

  • “Ensure youth have at least one adult in their life, family or not, whom they can rely on” and I believe he means even after exiting the system;
  • “If they leave care early, let them come back whenever they need to.”(13)

So, no matter which party “wins” the election, whenever the politicians say they are spending money on “fill in the blank” (but especially their own raise and putting money into the fake “prosperity fund” (3)), ask them if they have taken care of the children. Are the children living in a safe, stable home (10, 15, 16), is enough effort being put into finding them permanent homes, are there enough substance abuse beds (4, 12, 14, 16, 17), are there enough mental health services (11, 12, 15, 16), are there sufficient housing and other supports when they leave government “care” (dropping the youth at a homeless shelter should NOT be an option) (4, 13),  are there sufficient staff to adequately look after the children (9), have all the children leaving government had a complete, current “aging out” interview and plan (4), so the children/youth can leave government “care” as healthy individuals.  Or, to slightly rephrase Paul Willocks, will the government continue to have an underfunded, dysfunctional system that fails the children repeatedly, even when the need for help is obvious. (9)

 

  1. Bernard Richard, Office Representative of Children and Youth
  2. Minister’s statement on representative’s report – BC Ministry of Children and Youth, 2017-03-30
  3. 117 BC Liberal Falsehoods, Boondoggles, and Scandals: The Complete List – TheTyee.ca, 2017-04-10 – FALSEHOOD: No LNG Funds Funding LNG Prosperity Fund
  4. Ministry Says Supports ‘Available’ to Youth Exiting Province’s Care. How Available? – Katie Hyslop, 2017-02-06, TheTyee.ca
  5. Number of drug treatment beds for youth down 25% despite fentanyl crisis – Eric Rankin, 2016-09-27, CBC News
  6. Getting BC Ministers to Talk about Struggling Kids Proved Impossible – Katie Hyslop, 2017-02-06, TheTyee.ca
  7. Budget Shortchanges BC Kids And Youth, Say Critics – Katie Hyslop, 2017/02/22, TheTyee.ca
  8. Absentee caregiver was receiving $8K a month before teen’s suicide: report – Andrew Weichel, 2017-02-06, CTV
  9. It Didn’t Have to Happen is Way: Government Still Failing Vulnerable Youth – Paul Willcocks, 2017-02-10, TheTyee.ca
  10. British Columbia Children and Youth In Care At Risk Of Sexualized Violence – RCY Report – Office of the Representative For Children And Youth – 2016-10-04
  11. Long Waits For Mental Health Services Persist Despite Tragic Death Of First Nations Teen – Office of the Representative For Children and Youth, 2016-08-08
  12. For Some Kamloops Youth, It’s Easier to Get High than to Get Help – Katie Hyslop, 2017-01-23, TheTyee.ca
  13. Shutting Down the ‘Pipeline’ from Foster Care to Homelessness – Katie Hyslop, 2015-09-15, TheTyee.ca
  14. Number of drug treatment beds for youth down 25% despite fentanyl crisis – Eric Rankin, 2016-09-27, CBC News
  15. Absentee caregiver was receiving $8K a month before teen’s suicide: report – Andrew Weichel, 2017-02-06, CTV
  16. Paige’s Story Prompts Representative to Call For New Approach to Helping Vulnerable Aboriginal Girls – Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, 2014-05-14
  17. Dead boy’s dad says he’ll push for services for kids before B.C. election – Camille Bains, 2016-10-21, Vancouver Sun
  18. Kamloops ‘Wrap Force’ Fights Youth Homelessness – Katie Hyslop, 2017-01-18, TheTyee.ca
  19. B.C. minister, representative disagree on ‘aging out’ fixes – Tracy Sherlock and Lori Culbert, 01 JAN 2016, Vancouver Sun
  20. Rcy-pg-report-final.pdfPaige’s Story – Abuse, Indifference And A Young Life Discarded – B.C. Representative For Children and Youth, May 2015,
  21. Near Daily, a Child Dies or Is Hurt in Care of Province – Pieta Wooley, 2013-03-11, TheTyee.ca

 

 

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