Children nobody wants
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.