B.C. representative releases report on “lost opportunity” for aboriginal children in care

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      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.




      Nov 7, 2013 at 1:25pm

      Once again the bureaucracy wastes millions with no services delivered and the drones will blame the government. Our Provincial budget may be voted on by politicians but how the money is spent is determined by bureaucrats and their interest is in limiting frontline services. Doing so maintains pressure from the public blaming the government for being cheap or the unionized frontline workers for being greedy: the bureaucrats get off without notice.

      This debacle is similar to how money is spent in Vancouver's downtown east side. Over the last decade approximately $2 million per week has been transferred from public coffers into private "non-profit" pockets with little oversight and certainly no performance standards. The DES poverty industry is a "public service" in the sense that more is spent on management salaries and other bureaucratic concerns than on delivering services. There are people running some DES groups who are members of the 1% thanks to public money.

      The predicted end of our system of "professional" government is bureaucratism. The system collapses because the few services delivered by the government are ultimately sacrificed for administration. No matter which party is elected and what ideology they espouse the fact is that their policies are irrelevant: bureaucrats control the system and have a brilliant "strategy of tension" that keeps the bulk of the voting herd blaming government or unions whilst remaining ignorant of the real power in government.

      The minister will resign but those responsible for this criminal mismanagement of public funds will remain. The over-paid, under-worked administrative class will continue to grow even if the government specifically freezes wages & jobs and all they face is momentary outrage. "Public servants" in Fraser Health decided that paying for their salary and bonus increases was more of a public service than maintaining the community nutrition program: @30 nutritionists lost their jobs and the program was eliminated without any media attention.

      Cull the bureaucrats. There are millions of dollars that should be going towards frontline public services in healthcare, education and other areas which are being misappropriated to pay for more managers & administrators. 2 entry level management salaries are equal to 3 full time clinical positions near the top of the salary grid.


      Nov 7, 2013 at 2:46pm

      Oh, it's a can of worms, this report.

      The report has plenty of information which indicates that there are reasons to abandon the treaty-agreement decision regarding the different treatment of Aboriginal children in the protection system.

      The author is very tactful and sensitive and respectful and does not make that conclusion herself. The report though is extremely damning of the current situation.

      - MCFD is required to stream Aboriginal children into a different process

      - The Aboriginal child welfare system has been under a number of revisions in the past decade including 'nation to nation' approaches starting in 2008

      - MCFD thought somehow it could fund 20-100 separate Aboriginal processes

      - there has been basically no progress on service delivery problems with the delegated Aboriginal authorities, who have an average completion rate of ***5%*** of plans for care

      - funding seems to disappear into "governance" not the children

      - the Aboriginal agencies are overburdened with roles and responsibilities and suffer from lack of clear direction

      - responsibility is handed off from agency to agency and no one steps up to focus on the big picture, which is that these are kids and the government (whatever that means) is supposed to provide the safety net.

      I suppose that to some people, the notion of cultural identity is very important. In theory, how nice it would be if children in care could have culturally appropriate placements.

      But if there is bad service delivery, how important is culture really? These kids wind up in non Aboriginal foster homes and then get booted out at 18, so how are they being served by all of this painfully politically correct focus on their DNA?

      They are kids. They should not be getting worse service because of goodwill and political correctness.

      But that's just one internet ranter's view. Please tell me I'm wrong, and why.


      Nov 8, 2013 at 7:32am

      Overshadowed in this is the matter of how Aboriginal and other agencies have been held public accountability by Turpel-Lafond and by journalists. If there had been consistent public oversight since 2001 and public officials and orgs were held accountable sooner then we'd be reading about success stories, but more importantly kids in care would have received better services. There is a difference between being held publicly accountable and being picked on. This isn't being picked on.

      Ernie Crey

      Nov 9, 2013 at 5:03am

      There is no defence against this report by either the MCFD or First Nations. It's time to restore some sanity and get on with fixing the situation. No more consultants pay cheques & honoraria cheques for "leaders" while Aboriginal foster kids organize suicide pacts, go hungry, & roam the streets at night for want of a place to sleep. And don't pretend that Ms.Turpel Lafond got it wrong.


      Nov 9, 2013 at 12:04pm

      Mr Crey, you're one of the respected Aboriginal elders in this province. What do you think of the streaming of Aboriginal children and youth into separate processes? My feeling is that we should not put the cart before the horse - the separation for cultural reasons is, clearly, not benefitting kids at risk. Do you agree? If you don't agree, why? I'd like to be wrong here....