Excessive caseloads putting children at risk, frontline child and family workers say

November 6, 2014

B.C.’s child and family welfare system is at breaking point, with excessive caseloads putting vulnerable children, youth and families at risk, frontline workers reveal in a report released today, titled Choose Children

Eighty percent of frontline child, youth and family workers in B.C. have caseloads beyond the recommended best practice of 20 child protection cases per month. Nearly half reported working on over 30 cases, and ten percent of workers reported caseloads exceeding 70 per month. A third of surveyed workers were also carrying someone else’s caseload over and above their own, the Choose Children report reveals. 

“In British Columbia, the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children and families is being compromised because frontline workers are buried under massive caseloads and constrained by severe staffing shortages,” says BCGEU President Stephanie Smith. 

The Choose Children report gives voice to the concerns of B.C.’s children, youth, and family services workers, through surveys from 3,418 frontline staff as well as face to face meetings with 412 workers in 14 communities. 

“Frontline workers can’t always get those who most urgently need help. Quite simply, there are neither enough resources, nor enough staff; and the volume of work—measured by caseloads—is intolerable. That’s wrong,” says Smith. 

“British Columbia cannot continue to do child and family welfare on the cheap. Before long, another child or youth is going to get hurt or die,” says BCGEU Vice President Doug Kinna, who represents child and family welfare workers in B.C.’s public service. Between 2007 and 2013, 598 deaths and 1,453 critical injuries were reported to the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth. 

The Choose Children report includes six recommendations directed to government, including:

  • Restoring $44 million in MCFD funding cut between 2008/09 and 2013/14, adjusting this amount for inflation;
  • Adopt frontline worker caseload standards based on best practices;
  • Fill existing staff vacancies and hire an additional 100 FTEs per year over three years to address caseloads and to guarantee a service improvements for at-risk children.  

““It’s time government gives back what it’s taken from children at risk. British Columbia’s political leadership must take responsibility for the proper functioning and resourcing of the child and family welfare system, or carry the shame of failing to help the most vulnerable,” says Smith. 

More information


Frontline worker quotes

"We don't know what we don't know, and someone's going to get hurt or die." Team lead, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Interior 

"It basically comes down to the funding, or lack thereof." Administrative service worker, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Northwest B.C. 

"If we're this stressed, how are the families coping?"  Child protection worker, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Vancouver Island

“It's not about the job; it's about not being able to do the job." Child protection worker, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Vancouver Island

"I have always loved being an employment assistance worker and helping people. Now I'm a data entry clerk. Someone will die from the lack of service and I sincerely hope it is not one of the clients through our office."  Employment assistance worker, MSDSI, Interior


Media: contact Oliver Rohlfs – oliver.rohlfs@bcgeu.ca - (778)318-9164