Government has accepted all of the recommendations in the representative for children and youth’s (RCY) latest report and has committed to additional actions to further strengthen the contracted residential care system and improve planning for all children and youth in government care.
The report makes four recommendations themed around:
- Connecting kids with extended family.
- Ensuring plans of care are complete and up-to-date for each child and youth in government care.
- Making child and youth mental health services more available and accessible.
- Strengthening quality assurance, oversight and accountability for all contracted residential agencies.
“I completely agree with the findings in the new representative’s first report,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux. “The report is fair, balanced and its call to action achievable. I’ve told the RCY that I believe more can and should be done, and I hope that his office and the ministry will support each other, in our respective roles, on delivering the additional measures I’m announcing today.”
Government has allocated $2.7 million to help in the development of culturally specific plans of care that are responsive to the specific community and culture of each child. Government is working with a number of Indigenous organizations to assist in the distribution of those funds.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development is mandating 100% compliance with the requirement to have a plan of care in place for all children and youth in government care. Those plans must include considerations around permanency, and cultural components if the child is Indigenous.
“The state of our relationship with the agencies that screen, approve and hire their own caregivers must and will change,” said Cadieux.
Child welfare background checks and criminal record checks for all residential caregivers – whether they work directly for the ministry or for a contracted agency – will be brought in-house as a ministry accountability. This will help ensure that all those who work with vulnerable children and youth in government care have the necessary security clearances and skills to properly support them.
The ministry is working to standardize contracting and increase its financial and practice oversight of resources and homes run by contracted agencies. Government welcomes the input of the office of the auditor general, which has signalled its intent to audit the ministry’s oversight of contracted services for at-risk children and youth.
Ultimately, the ministry aims to limit the use of such contracted agency resources. Their purpose will be to help children and youth get stabilized and returned to a family-based setting.
“We know that a caring family member is better than a contracted caregiver in almost every instance,” said Cadieux. “We’ve been making progress on this front, bringing fewer kids into government care and placing more with extended family. Our task is to make it even easier to identify extended family members who can step in. We need to properly train those folks and give them appropriate financial support and access to services, like counselling and respite, to help them succeed as long-term caregivers. As a government, we have prioritized supports for vulnerable children, something that will continue to be reflected when the minister of finance tables his budget later this month.”
- There are approximately 7,100 children and youth in government care at any given time.
- As of Dec. 31, 2016, there were 699 children and youth placed with 93 contracted residential agencies. Between November 2016 and January 2017, social workers visited each and every one to verify that their living conditions and quality of care met or exceeded ministry standards.
- When appropriate, out-of-care options – such as placement with extended family, friends or community – are a best practice. To help ensure the well-being of children and youth are, these options are pursued as a substitute for admission into government care.
- Over the past 10 years the number of children and youth in care has declined by more than 2,000 (20%) while the number of children and youth in out-of-care options has increased six-fold to 1,200.
- Social workers are required to develop a plan of care for every child or youth who is in government care. This plan is developed cooperatively with the child and family, and documents the services and provisions needed to keep a child safe. It must be updated every six months and also include considerations for the child’s medical, educational and cultural needs.
A backgrounder follows.