Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development issued the following statement in response to the representative for children and youth's Dec. 10, 2018, investigative report:
“I want to thank the representative for children and youth for this comprehensive report. My heart goes out to Charlie. Like anyone who reads this report, I was horrified to learn of what he went through and the ways he was let down by a system meant to protect him.
“This report also shows the importance of having an independent representative to examine and shed light on systemic issues. We accept the intent of each and every one of the representative’s recommendations, and there’s much more work we will do to address the challenges they highlight.
“As the report documents, families seeking support for children with special needs face a fragmented system. Our government is developing a children and youth with special needs (CYSN) services framework to guide the delivery of these services to better meet the specific needs of children and their families. This framework will address some of the key challenges outlined in this report. Early on, Charlie’s mother needed respite care but couldn’t get it because of policy and service barriers. That will change. We acknowledge that families are asking for more resources and respite services and that our policies need to be more flexible to respond to the unique circumstance of each child and family.
“This case also highlights what can happen when the CYSN and child protection systems don’t work closely together. Assumptions are made, and children fall through the cracks. That’s why, beyond the recommendations in this report, the provincial director of child welfare is making collaborative and integrated practice a priority across all ministry service lines.
“One of the most disturbing parts of the report was the admission by social workers that they were unable to meet the most basic requirement of their job. Time after time, red flags were raised, the ministry was called, and still no one checked in on the child in question. After the final protection call was made, nearly two months went by before anyone from the ministry physically saw Charlie. During that time, he suffered unspeakably.
“It's simply inexcusable. The failings outlined in this case must be addressed. They are against policy and the province needs a system that ensures social workers are able to put eyes on kids who are the subject of protection concerns. Investigations must be complete, including seeing the child of concern, before closing a file.
“With respect to staff involved in this case, while the ministry conducted a review, the representative’s report has brought forward additional information that I insist be followed up on. The provincial director of child welfare has a range of options available when taking a second look at situations where policy was not followed. These can include everything from providing enhanced training, to extra supervision and oversight, to placing conditions on a social worker’s authority to practise child protection.
“It’s incumbent on government to resolve issues of practice, oversight and policy direction to support social workers to be able to perform their job duties. I’ve tasked the provincial director of child welfare to determine what steps will be taken to ensure social workers on the frontlines are able to respond to the urgent needs of kids and families.
“When mistakes are made, we need to collectively step up and be accountable.
“It is appalling to read about Charlie’s circumstances. He and his family clearly did not get the consistent service and support they needed, when they needed it most. Worst of all, and in spite of a wealth of information about his particular vulnerability, the child protection system failed to act when this boy’s life was in critical danger.
"These problems were compounded by a lack of communication between ministry programs and between child protection workers and the various medical and educational professionals this family was in contact with.
"We must do better, and we will.
"I am happy to say that Charlie is doing well now. This is a testament to his strength of spirit and to the fact that he's getting the medical, educational, CYSN services and care supports he needs.”