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Report reaffirms urgent need for B.C. government to transform Aboriginal child welfare system

Report reaffirms urgent need for B.C. government to transform Aboriginal child welfare system

BURNABY – A report released today by the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY), Bernard Richard, exposed once again the systemic complexity and dysfunction of B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system and the urgent need for reform. The report, Broken Promises: Alex’s Story, details the tragic death of the 18-year-old while in B.C. government care and makes important recommendations with the goal of preventing other children and youth from experiencing a similar fate.

“The RCY has identified multiple failures to provide proper care on the part of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) prior to Gervais’ death,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. “Gervais was truly adrift within a broken system where he was placed 17 times and had 23 caregivers and social workers throughout his short life – he experienced a complete lack of permanency which as the report points out, is a top priority for child and youth care as called for in the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCS Act).”

Insufficient mental health supports, lack of financial oversight, and a failure to provide culturally appropriate care are also cited in the report. These findings reveal a patchwork system that is largely under-resourced, severely under-staffed, and with no comprehensive plan or strategy in place to properly deliver services in Aboriginal child and family welfare.

“Frontline workers caring for Aboriginal children and youth face these deficiencies on a daily basis and are forced into a situation of triage where only the most critical cases can be attended to” says Doug Kinna, BCGEU vice president Social Information and Health – Component 6. “The provincial government must step up to address unmanageable caseloads, constant staff turnover and provide training and support before another tragedy occurs.”

The report also calls on MCFD to create a robust support model that enables children or youth in care to be placed with extended family or another adult with a positive connection, an annual review of Care Plans to ensure Indigenous children or youth are connected to their Indigenous heritage, and that those with mental health needs receive timely and uninterrupted mental health services – all of which the BCGEU applauds.

Many of the recommendations in the RCY report align with the recommendations the BCGEU proposed in its 2015 report Closing the Circle which called on the B.C. government to make major investments in resources, staffing, and cultural training with better oversight and reporting mechanisms. Click here to download the BCGEU report Closing the Circle.

Click here to read the Representative for Children and Youth’s report Broken Promises: Alex’s Story, released today.