Government fails to submit report on child protection system

NDP wants to know if government is taking its foster system problems seriously

The government has failed to hand in its first report on the activities of the Social Services Ministry when it comes to caring for foster children.

The reports, due every three months, were called for by the Children’s Advocate after six-year-old foster child Lee Bonneau was murdered by another child, a 10-year-old also receiving services from the ministry. Bonneau was killed one year ago, and the Children’s Advocate released recommendations in response on May 14. One of those recommendations required reports from the ministry – the first due Aug. 14.

“Is the government taking its problems with child protection seriously?” asked David Forbes, the NDP critic for social services.

From 2010 to 2013, 81 children in the care of the government died. That number does not include a number of foster children who died from natural causes.

“We know the government’s cuts have left too few front-line case workers with an extremely heavy workload,” said Forbes. “We don’t know if the government is taking any steps at all to follow the Children’s Advocate’s recommendations and stop putting foster kids at such risk.

That’s why it’s necessary for the government to file that report with the Children’s Advocate.”

In May, the Children’s Advocate called on the ministry again to address a short-staffing practice that’s putting children at risk.

"If workloads aren't addressed, and workers are saying we didn't do this because they didn't have time, that's a non-compliance issue. If workers don't get the training some of them are saying they need, if the quality of supervision doesn't improve, if the oversight doesn't get better, if we don't start measuring the quality of casework, then bad things are going to happen," Children’s Advocate Bob Pringle told the media in May.

In 2012-13, the government hired 90 social services employees, but laid off more than 100 full-time employees.