what’s best for the child.
So it’s tough to put a public, human face on what is a real and troubling problem. The child protection system itself is complex and multi-layered.
But at least we can get a grasp on the scope of the issue.
“As at March 31, 2015, there were 6,252 children, or approximately eight per cent of the child population of the province, under the protection of the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development,” auditor general Terry Paddon reported last month.
That’s one in every 12.5 children.
And $74.5 million was paid out in financial support for children in various forms of care and custody last year.
That’s a huge problem that carries a huge price in many different ways.
Either one in 12.5 children in this province is being maltreated in his or her home or else we are too quick to remove children without helping parents find ways to make the home a safe place for the family to be.
The end goal of the system is undoubtedly the child’s wellbeing. But reading the AG’s report, it’s clear that appropriate measures are not always taken in a timely manner, whether it is removing children who are in actual harmful situations, reuniting them with their family when it’s safe to do so, assessing whether placement homes are safe, offering consistent care, documenting and sharing the results of assessments, and determining whether the sys- tem as a whole is doing what it should.
I certainly don’t have the answers, and in a system that places emphasis on child protection at all costs, there will always be cases of children being removed from homes because someone erred on the side of caution and families who suffer needless anguish, shame and separation.
But would you want to be the social worker whose assessment resulted in a child being left with their parents and then being neglected or abused? No one would.
One only has to consider child and youth advocate Carol Chafe’s report last week about the death of Matthew Rich and the unsafe environment he shared with his older brother to see what can happen to children, even when there is intervention from the system.
But the AG’s report makes clear that the department, despite its massive reorganization four years ago, is still not working effectively, whether because there aren’t enough staff to handle caseloads or there are not enough hours in a day for social workers and supervisors to keep up with the massive amounts of paperwork required.
The department has said it will act on all 27 of the AG’s recommendations for improvement.
Given the province’s limited financial resources, you have to wonder if that’s even possible. One thing is certain, though: for every problem that doesn’t get fixed, there is potentially a child out there in harm’s way or else a painfully fractured family that should never have ended up that way. Pam Frampton is an editor and columnist at The Telegram. Email pframpton@ thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton
As we Christmas shop for the kids, Sue and I endeavour to keep holiday spending equal across the board.
When they were youngsters, it was simple and straightforward – the same number of gifts regardless of investment. As presents were unwrapped, Simon would sit in the corner keeping count with his abacus.
These days, it’s the actual dollars that matter. The children hire KPMG to study receipts and ensure equity.
I don’t judge them for these calculations. I totally get it. When I was a boy, it was much the same for my siblings and me.
My mother, no matter our family squabbles or state of finances, always knew how to keep Christmas. Her force of will shines this time of year. We may have been tiptoeing upon eggshells, with wolves at the door to collect overdue bills, but nothing would get in the way of her family’s festivities.
Decorations filled the home, gifts were numerous and, just like my children, we were hypervigilant over the fairness of it all.
One Christmas morning, while my father treated his Yuletide headache with some hair of the dog, we settled into position around the tree – presents sprawled around the living room. Some had already been partially unwrapped by Gretchen, the oddball dog, who, when faced with wintry chills or drifts of snow preferred to do her business under my sister’s bed. How’s that for a lump of coal in your stocking?
Mother made sure that on top of a great number of small packages – whose pleasure was more in the mad ecstasy of the unwrap than the content, each child was sure to receive a bigger bounty – one meaty present that would be the standout of the season.
For my older sister, appropriate for her non-conforming spirit, it was a collection of obscure LP’s. My brother would receive a gift that would today provoke calls to Children’s Aid – a lovely crossbow, complete with razor-sharp arrows. For my younger sister, it was a hand-decorated, three-storey dollhouse.
I opened the last present tagged for me (the climax of my haul) with nervous optimism. The soft texture hinted at clothing. Could it be at last my longedfor #14 Dave Keon Maple Leafs sweater??? I stopped breathing momentarily as I tore open the wrapping paper and gazed upon eight pairs of jockey underwear – powder blue.
Desperately trying to stop the pre-sob twitching in my face, I slowly rose and shuffled toward the stairs to retreat to the bedroom I shared with my brother. There I would weep in solitude at my mistreatment.
As I opened the door, I saw my father standing and smiling (a stubby of Labatt’s 50 in his hand). My brother was kneeling on the floor, having just connected the last piece of track in a Lionel “O” scale electric train set.
This was quite the shock, for up to that point in my life, my brother had yet to do anything nice for me. My suspicion quickly gave way to pure Christmas joy. I wiped away my tears of self-pity and within minutes my tin train was occupied by plastic army men plotting violent collisions and derailings.
No Christmas recollection can compare. Ted Markle, a media industry veteran of more than 30 years, is a keen observer of the humorous side of the human situation. He appears in this space every Monday. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter : @tedmarkle