Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, has issued the following statement in response to the representative for children and youth’s latest investigative report:
“I want to thank the representative’s office. I appreciate the thought and insight contained in this detailed report, and we accept all of the recommendations.
“Every child in care who is in B.C. — regardless of which province is acting as their legal guardian — needs and deserves timely support from my ministry. It should not matter whether the child is from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan or anywhere else in Canada. If they are in B.C. and my ministry is involved, it is our responsibility to get them the help they need, to plan and connect them with the right resources, and to fund those supports until the jurisdiction of origin steps up.
“Interprovincial cases are admittedly complex. They involve rare practice for our staff who seldom, if ever, deal with this type of scenario. At any given time, there are roughly 100 such children and youth throughout the province. This means that staff on the ground were handling a challenging, multi-dimensional case that required co-ordination between service providers in both jurisdictions.
“Work is already underway to address several of the key issues raised in this report. Going forward, each and every interprovincial case will have centralized oversight. This is in addition to the creation of a comprehensive interprovincial case management network. Also, as of fall 2019, our government has funded a dedicated interprovincial co-ordinator to assist, guide and provide oversight to regional offices whenever children in care are transferred to B.C.
“My expectation is that the interprovincial co-ordinator will be informed and consulted on every interprovincial situation involving a child in care. In addition, we will assign point people in each of our service delivery areas who will meet every two months at a minimum and will liaise with the co-ordinator so that interprovincial information on children and youth in care is shared and up to date. This will help ensure timely data and support, as well as consistency of practice.
“In addition, we are enhancing our data management system to ensure better quality data on interprovincial children and youth in care, and we will diligently track this information.
“The complexity of interjurisdictional cases demands rigorous oversight from the provincial director of child welfare’s office. It is clear to me that there must be greater accountability centrally and more hands-on support from this office to assist staff on the ground when it comes to managing interprovincial cases, developing plans and following through to put the right resources in place in a timely manner.
“The accountability lies with that office, and I know the provincial director of child welfare's office has reached out to its counterpart in Alberta to discuss the report.
"Circumstances like those outlined in the representative’s report highlight that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every child is unique. We must ensure more effective resources are available to meet their specific needs. This includes cultural planning and considerations for children and youth with particularly complex needs, like Romain.
“Young people with mental health and addictions challenges do not have their best interests served when they bounce back and forth between youth custody, hospitals and ad hoc group homes. It is unacceptable. It is why we are working to design a system of contracted residential care that meets the needs of children and youth in a planned, strategic manner.
“What is most disheartening for me as minister is to be making changes after the fact, in the wake of a young life that was filled with trauma and abuse. As we move forward and collectively look for solutions to ensure other youth will not fall through the cracks, let us not forget that a ‘sweet and loving’ young man ‘with an infectious smile and engaging personality’ will never have the chance to grow up and realize the great promise he showed.
“My deepest condolences to the family and friends who knew and loved Romain.”