B.C.’s representative for children and youth has issued a scathing report on provincial spending and services for aboriginal kids in care.
“There could not be a more confused, unstable and bizarre area of public policy than that which guides Aboriginal child and family services in B .C.,” the report, released today (November 6) by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, reads.
According to the representative, the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development has spent roughly $66 million over the last 12 years on discussions and initiatives aimed at improving the aboriginal child-welfare system.
In her report, she writes that the area is “rife with perverse performance measures, the absence of any real incentives for change and no end-state goals on how services to Aboriginal children and youth will be improved”.
“To be blunt, a significant amount of money has gone to people who provide no program or service to directly benefit children,” she states.
“The expenditure of $66 million – and maybe more – during a time when the most vulnerable Aboriginal children could find few appropriate residential services and supports, and few therapeutic child and family services to address their significant and known needs, is a colossal failure of public policy to do the right thing for citizens.”
An example she cites is the expenditure of nearly $35 million to discuss regional aboriginal authorities, without addressing issues facing children and youth, such as parental addiction, domestic violence, poverty, and the need for mental health supports.
Turpel-Lafond makes five recommendations in the report, including a call for the Ministry of Children and Family Services to develop “a clear plan” for the province to close the outcomes gap for aboriginal children and youth, to ensure that aboriginal leaders with expertise in effective child welfare service be represented on the ministry's senior leadership team, and that B.C. begin reporting twice a year on the safety and well-being of aboriginal children in care.
The full report, titled “When Talk Trumped Service: A Decade of Lost Opportunity for Aboriginal Children and Youth in B.C.,” can be viewed online.