Friday, June 08, 2007

Government failing sexually abused children

So how do you feel, as a British Columbian, knowing that your government thinks it costs too much to ensure children who have been sexually abused get quick access to counselling?
It’s hardly a frill. A little boy or girl is abused. Somehow the abuse is uncovered. Maybe the child works up the courage to tell.
You know that child needs help now, not in weeks, or months. Delays are terrible. Children wonder if the abuse is their fault. They withdraw. Sometimes, they even become abusers. The abuse looms over every hour of every day, for the child and family.
But the government has decided it’s too expensive to make sure children get quick access to counselling and therapy.
Instead, they wait while it considers whether there is a cheaper, better way to deliver the services.
This is not a Liberal thing. The first time I wrote about this problem, the NDP was in government. The situation was the same. The Mary Manning Centre in Victoria took the lead in raising the issue that time, as it has again.
Government funding for child sex-abuse prevention and counselling has not been increased in 17 years. Other programs might help children who have been abused. But the funding focused on the problem has been froze since 1990.
The Mary Manning Centre said it has had to lay off three part-time therapists this month because provincial funding wouldn’t cover their salaries. As a result children will wait longer for help in dealing with their sexual abuse.
And it’s not just the Victoria centre. Other agencies in Victoria and Nanaimo report waits of four to six months. One Nanaimo agency has just given up and quit offering support for sexually abused children. There are similar stories of waits across the province.
So why is government letting this happen to little children?
First, Children and Families Minister Tom Christensen said urgent cases would still get help quickly. Only “non-urgent cases” would wait.
But those on the front lines said that wasn’t true. And they added that until children began treatment, it’s impossible to determine how serious the abuse was. They might be reluctant to reveal everything, keen to minimize what happened.
Then Christensen said Mary Manning, which got a $25,000 funding increase this year, wanted too much money — another $150,000. (Enough for the equivalent of about two full-time counsellors.)
The government could afford the money, Christensen said. But it needed to do “due diligence” first, “to ensure that the delivery of sexual abuse and intervention services is being delivered in the most cost-effective way possible while at the same time providing the best outcomes for children.”
I haven’t heard any allegations that Mary Manning and the other centres are wasting money or performing poorly. Maybe there are savings - each child could get fewer counselling sessions or something. If the ministry has a plan, excellent.
But until it does, the obvious obligation is to fund the service adequately, so children don’t wait.
Especially because it’s unclear when the government will unveil it’s new, more cost-effective treatment model.
In a letter to the Victoria Times Colonist, Christensen wrote as if things were well under way. “An examination of the Sexual Abuse and Intervention Program has provided information that will allow us to strengthen and improve services for children, youth and their families in a diligent and thoughtful manner,” he said.
But the ministry says that examination has not resulted in a report, or memo or any paper record of recommendations.
The sensible and compassionate thing to do is clear. While the government is working to figure out if there’s some better, cheaper way to help these children, put up the money to ensure they get prompt treatment.
They shouldn’t suffer because the government is uncertain about the best way to help them.
It’s baffling. These are all decent people.
How can they think it’s acceptable that boys and girls who have been sexually abused go to bed night after night, waiting for help?
Footnote: Christensen said the ministry will work with the centre on a “case-by-case basis to ensure children requiring assistance get appropriate services in a timely manner.” Presumably, the centre is supposed to call the ministry when there are too many victims, plead for funds and then try and find counsellors. The result, of course, is delays in treatment.


Anonymous said...

It really is about a government that has not changed their stripes though they have gotten better at perception managament.The cuts from 2003 have meant that laying off workers, losing expertise, blaming families and workers and doing everything they can to avoid responsiblity has come back in the form of not enough workers, workers quiting or going off on stress leave and children and families being left at risk.Sopme agencies are refusing to play along anymore in the Fiberal vison of better services as they have now compromised their own integrities and also they are not able to do the job the Fibs brag about that they are doing as a cover up.They do have some interesting changes but these changes are draining away resources and services to the other aspects of MCFD such as money for children in care, foster home, and services in the community. And the only reason they are doing these new services are thatr they envision they will save them money in the future.This may be true but it is not ethical to withdraw other services in the mean time.And if you are an adolescent thye are really not interested except for minimal and marginal services. Wake up BC, there is a scam going on.And it is about supporting liberal friends at your expense. Oh well, you can go gambling at the tax free buidings that they have fostered to take your money away and create even more misery.

Anonymous said...

The present government has no qualms about jacking their pay, attempting to build another convention center about 400 millions over budget and who knows what other boondoggles they are pouring in the case.A surplus in the billions.

But look after sexually abused children! Heck no, there is no money. Just leave them fend for themselves, end up in hospitals, or on the streets. The money is needed for the big 2010 circus. We live in a sick society dl

dawn Steele said...

Children with special needs are waiting *years* on waitlists to access a wide range of vitally needed therapies that can make an equally important difference in coping with their own particular challenges, a situation that sometimes results in disastrous impacts on the entire family.

I could cite a dozen other shocking examples of where we as a province are failing vulnerable kids--from sending them to school in our province's most seismically unsafe buildings, foster care arrangements that put some of our most fragile kids on the street as teenagers, child care cuts, school closures, underfunding of special education, the appalling status of most Aboriginal children, etc, etc.

Let's face it, we as a Province do not really value the importance of investing in kids. We elected this government. After the Auditor General revealed in 2003 that they were seriously considering budget cuts that would leave kids exposed to "moderate" sexual abuse, we turned around and re-elected them.

As individuals, we may place tremendous value on our own children and grandchildren, but as a society have not demonstrated that we value our children collectively--at least not to the extent that we value our economy, tax cuts, jobs, real estate values, etc, etc.

Anonymous said...

It's not just sexual abuse cases where children suffer. Without an oversight agency MCFD is an agency out of control. They are systematically destroying one family after another with impunity. Of course, Tom Christensen doesn't have the money to set up such an agency. Remember : Power corrupts; Absolute power corrupts absolutely.