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BC's child protection system needs stability.

Upheavals in British Columbia's child protection system have "stretched it far beyond its limits," Ted Hughes said as he released the final report of his independent B.C. Children and Youth Review. "The need for equilibrium and stability is a central theme of my report." The provincial government has responded to this and other reviews with a number of measures.

Hughes, a former B.C. Deputy Minister of Justice and former Saskatchewan Justice, stated that "A revolving door in senior leadership positions, major shifts in practice, functions, and processes, and significant funding cuts have created a climate of instability and confusion that has only detracted from the Ministry of Children and Families work on behalf of children."

Hughes is calling for creation of the post of Representative for Children and Youth for a five-year term, reporting to an all-party Standing Committee of the Legislature. The Representative would have the authority to advocate for individual children and families, advocate for systemic change, monitor and report on the child welfare system, and review child injuries and deaths.

The focus of the Represenative's office would be in examining patterns and trends of injuries and deaths in the child welfare system, and less on individual child death reviews, to improve policies, practices and services to children and youth.

Hughes recommends that at least one of three senior positions at the office of the Representative should be held by an Aboriginal, and the Ministry for Children and Family Development should find ways to recruit more native employees. Among the 62 recommendations is a call for the appointment of a new, independent body to oversee the child welfare system.

The Hughes report highlights the situation of Aboriginal children and families who are the largest group served by B.C.s child protection system. He points to the high rate of suicide among young Aboriginal people and the growing numbers of Aboriginal children taken into care. Measures are recommended to strengthen current Aboriginaldelegated agencies, so that they are able to carry out their child welfare responsibilities more effectively.

Hughes calls for a regular, coordinated program of public reporting on its activities and the results achieved for children in care and children at risk.

The report recommends government commit itself to decentralization, involving local communities in service delivery and resource allocation, to address the needs of children and their families. A decentralized system must have adequate resources, time, a dedicated team, and budget stabilization behind it. The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development is responding to the Hughes review with a $273 million allocation for child protection.
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Title Annotation:CHILD & FAMILY
Publication:Community Action
Date:Apr 24, 2006
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