Chil­dren no­body wants

The Compass - - NEWS - Pat Cullen Pat Cullen is a jour­nal­ist and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer who lives in Car­bon­ear. She can be reached at 596-1505 or

Some chil­dren un­der the care of the Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment are at risk of emo­tional, phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse and could re­main so un­less they are given bet­ter care by the depart­ment en­trusted to look af­ter them.

When the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral Terry Pad­don sub­mit­ted a re­port to the house of assem­bly last month, he iden­ti­fied a num­ber of de­fi­cien­cies within the depart­ment’s child-pro­tec­tion ser­vices di­vi­sion which could lead to the fur­ther abuse of chil­dren.

His re­port, which cov­ered the pe­riod from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2015 made 27 rec­om­men­da­tions in this area and led to one chilling con­clu­sion: “There is an in­creased risk that chil­dren un­der the pro­tec­tion of the Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment will be mal­treated should our rec­om­men­da­tions not be im­ple­mented.”

One of these rec­om­men­da­tions, to make re­port­ing of pro­gram per­for­mance re­sults avail­able to the pub­lic, would go a long way in im­prov­ing the di­vi­sion’s in­ad­e­qua­cies. It would in­crease ac­count­abil­ity and al­low the pub­lic to not only see how their tax dol­lar is spent, but to make some judg­ment as to the qual­ity of pro­tec­tive ser­vices pro­vided to one of our most voice­less pop­u­la­tions.

“When you’re ad­min­is­trat­ing a few hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars of pub­lic money and you have a man­date to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety, then I think it’s im­por­tant that you have a level of re­port­ing that al­lows peo­ple to be able to make some de­ci­sions or some as­sess­ment for them­selves,” Pad­don said in an in­ter­view.

Both Pad­don and Carol Chafe, the prov­ince’s former Child and Youth Ad­vo­cate, who re­cently left the po­si­tion frus­trated by the depart­ment’s in­ac­tion to carry out many of the rec­om­men­da­tions she pro­posed dur­ing her six years as ad­vo­cate, are pretty con­sis­tent as to the for­mat the re­port should take.

Ac­cord­ing to Pad­don, the depart­ment should on its web­site or in a news re­lease with a link to that web­site, ex­plain each pro­gram and out­line what it hopes to ac­com­plish, how it mea­sures its suc­cess rate and if the ob­jec­tives set by the depart­ment have been met. If they haven’t, then an ex­pla­na­tion should be given as to how they will be met in the fu­ture. The re­port should also be writ­ten in a man­ner com­pre­hen­si­ble to the pub­lic.

Chafe said a pub­lic re­port, again re­leased on the de­part- ment’s web­site, ei­ther monthly or quar­terly, should name the re­gion, the num­ber of re­fer­rals in that re­gion, the per­cent­age “com­pleted in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner” along with the per­cent­age that was not and the mea­sures that will be taken to im­prove the lat­ter. Pub­lic re­port­ing would also give the me­dia the op­por­tu­nity to in­ves­ti­gate, should any red flags ap­pear.

I would like a re­port that also identifies spe­cific ar­eas where chil­dren are at risk, an ex­pla­na­tion of the mea­sures taken to mit­i­gate that risk and if the mea­sures have been suc­cess­ful. If they haven’t and chil­dren are left in a set­ting where they may be abused, then answers must be de­manded of child-pro­tec­tion su­per­vi­sors in that re­gion, or their bosses. We are deal­ing with a pop­u­la­tion that can­not speak for them­selves, so the press and pub­lic must do it for them.

In the au­di­tor gen­eral’s re­port, the depart­ment agreed with the pub­lic re­port­ing of pro­gram per­for­mance re­sults and said it was “com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing prac­tice in this area.”

A state­ment of Dec. 6 by Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment fur­ther sup­ports this. It reads in part, “A Qual­ity Com­mit­tee has been es­tab­lished and its first task is to over­see the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions in the AG’s re­view. We have de­vel­oped an action plan to re­spond to each of the rec­om­men­da­tions put for­ward by the AG.” We can only wait to see what action will be taken on this par­tic­u­lar rec­om­men­da­tion.

Carol Chafe was also keep­ing a keen eye on the merger last Au­gust be­tween the Depart­ment of Child, Youth and Fam­ily Ser­vices with the Depart­ment of Se­niors, Well­ness and So­cial De­vel­op­ment. The merger cre­ated the Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial De­vel­op­ment and was done to save money.

Asked if at-risk chil­dren were placed at fur­ther risk when the de­part­ments merged, she replied: “I wouldn’t say they were def­i­nitely put at risk, but it’s some­thing that (is) on my radar.” And it had been, since the day of its in­cep­tion. One group can be­come short-changed and Chafe, while sym­pa­thetic to the needs of se­niors, was adamant it would not be chil­dren and youth.

We should all be as adaman­tadamant in de­mand­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of a re­port that will tell us what is hap­pen­ing to those silent lit­tle peo­ple, too of­ten the tar­gets of bru­tal­ity and per­ver­sion, needed by far too many for the gov­ern­ment cheques they bring with them, wanted by no one.

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