Thursday, July 22, 2004

Watchdog sounds children and families warnings

VICTORIA - It's a remarkable disgrace, the way the children and families ministry has been mismanaged.
The people the ministry serves rely on us. Some 9,000 children are in our care. We - not the government, but you and I - said OK, we'll take care of you. Your parents can't, so we'll get you through the perils of childhood and launch you into the world.
It's not just those kids. The ministry helps families in trouble, mentally disabled adults. Their counting on us. Not because they want to, but because they need us.
I'm not keen on this. I've got my family, my work, my worries. But they're counting on us, these children and families. And we're not such jerks that we can tell some four-year-old, lugging her plastic bag of possessions to a new foster home, that she should just shape up and make her own way. We're not ready to say 'Sorry, little one, need to trim the budget a bit, better in the long run. Try and cry quietly while you go off to sleep in a strange bed.'
I have children. I know how hard it is for them to make their way into this life even with lots of advantages - enough money, good schools and parents who, in their fumbling way, are trying hard to do the right thing. That means I know how much harder, and sadder, it must be to make your own way without those things.
I'm not always a great parent, but I've tried. Governments haven't tried with these kids.
This isn't about the bad Campbell Liberals. The NDP turned indifference and incompetence into an art when it came to the ministry of children and families.
But the Liberals promised better. More money for the ministry, more commitment, stability, competence. And they have betrayed that promise, and those children and families.
Instead of providing more money, they tried to impose a ridiculous 23-per-cent budget cut. When that blew apart, they settled for a 12-per-cent cut. Instead of more stability they opted for a bungled restructuring effort.
There was lots of talk, about moving to new regional authorities, supporting families and giving communities control. There was a great deal of volunteer work done by people across the province to help prepare for the transition, which makes sense.
But there wasn't competent management. The first regional authorities were supposed to be operating now. Instead they've been pushed off to 2006 or 2007. Community planning committees for the five non-aboriginal authorities have been shut down; aboriginal committees have had their budgets cut.
Child and Youth officer Jane Morley has just looked at the ministry's efforts in her first real annual report. The title - Stay the Course - and the tone are upbeat.
But the warnings are stark.
Many people no longer believe the changes are even going to happen, and feel betrayed. "The trust and engagement of those who have put energy into the transformation cannot be turned on and off like a tap," she reported.
Many on the front-lines believe the government plans are really about cutting costs, not providing better care. "My team and I have heard from many service providers as well as service users and their advocates that budget cuts have reduced communities’ capacity to provide needed services," she found. "Many believe that talk of shared responsibility with communities is code for downloading government financial responsibility."
Unless "real authority and resources continue to be devolved to the regions and through them to communities" the whole process may fail, she warns.
We had a right to expect better. The Liberals called for more money for the ministry when they were in opposition. Their election platform promised an end to constant bureaucratic restructuring.
Instead, they ignored warnings and launched a reckless, mismanaged plan to cuts spending while totally restructuring the ministry.
And children and families across the province have paid the price.
Footnote: From the report: "Sufficient resources are a prerequisite for an effective service delivery system. Yet there is never enough money to fund health, education and welfare needs . . . . In this competition, the voices of children and youth are not loud; they need champions to ensure that they are not forgotten when scarce resources are allocated."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is incredible that you let the Liberals off so lightly when what they have done in Social services has meant that children have died and mismanagement abounds in ways that make the NDP comparison apple and oranges. There is no similiarity except that both NDP and the Liberals have both have run an administration. The MCFD management were bragging that they had only brought one child into car in the last three months in the North East side of Vancouver because of community supports.The real truth is they look the other way as they have left children in dangerous and unsafe situations.In total 360 million dollars worth of services have been cut, the majority for foster and guardianship of children.Many of these children have been off loaded on to welfare. VACFAS has just declared bankruptcy and are under trusteeship.Families have ben left without services for over six months in Vancouver. The new services are a waste of money as they are only an excuse for not taking children into care and cutting sefvices under the guise of better practice.They harp on about services to our childrern while the line for who are their children have been set by accountants and socipathic bureaucrats and politicians.Your sappy and apologist column belies a vacous middle of the road stance which hides the real ugly facts.There is no excuse for what they have done, especially considering the hypocrisy they displayed in opposition.The NDP had a lack of leadership. The liberals have a lack of ethics and morality. You whining is a little too late and alittle too convenient.I am looking forward to real investigative journalism which looks for the truth irregardless of political ideology instead of third rate journalism which is what you Paul Willocks represent.