For years, the governing party in British Columbia has nurtured a broken child welfare system. It doesn’t matter if it was the BC Liberals, or now the BC NDP.
The BC Green Caucus has been raising issues related to the Ministry of Children and Family Development for years. We have provided ideas to improve the system that there is much agreement with, government has ignored them and failed to deliver them.
Only after years of patience, listening to many apologies and excuses from multiple Ministers responsible for this file, we have called on the Premier to replace the Minister with somebody who is not the chief apologist of the Ministry someone who is up for the task of transformational change!
Rest assured, the Premier will have his opportunity to continue, but on a different topic.
Perhaps with all the exercise the Premier has been getting today, he will finally — finally —answer a question on behalf of the most vulnerable children in our province. For years, we’ve heard tragic stories. We’ve read the Ministry of Children and Family Development audits and the damning reports from the Representative for Children and Youth. All have painted a picture of a broken child welfare system in British Columbia.
This session I have clearly outlined the hypocrisy of this B.C. NDP government who can’t even hold themselves to the same basic standards that their former leader, John Horgan, had when he demanded the minister protect children and not protect the institution. After hearing yet another tragic story in the Fraser Valley, reading another pathetic ministry audit, I’ve had enough, and for the first time, and only time, I call for the resignation or the firing of a cabinet minister.
There is another story, this time of a judge, Kimberley Arthur-Leung, who excoriated this ministry for failing to deliver the basic standards of social work while holding parents accountable. The judge called for “ethical, moral and legal consequences for the level of neglect.”
To the Premier: what more is there to say? How many more stories do we need to hear and read before this Premier will finally stand up, as he’s been doing all morning, and seriously take action for a serious problem?
Hon. M. Dean:
Thank you to the member for the question. I absolutely understand his passion. I understand where the question is coming from. When I hear of examples where basic practice and policy are not being followed, I also have the same response. I also ask those questions, and I give direction to staff to make sure that, actually, policies and procedures are being followed…
Mr. Speaker: Shhh.
Hon. M. Dean:
…and that I know that there is good quality oversight of all of the practice of all of our front-line workers. Having been a front-line worker myself, I know how important it is to follow basic practices and procedures to make sure that children are seen, that they are supported and that they receive…
Hon. M. Dean:
…all of the services that they need.
Let the answer stand to provide the example of why we need a new Minister of Children and Family Development. When we are reduced to talking about the most basic level of service not being delivered over and over and over again — not one audit, not one report but multiple, over and over again — and then that’s the response…. It’s astonishing.
We have been raising policy, good policy ideas — policy ideas that aren’t necessarily ours — they’re shared by the social work community — that can improve the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
We suggested that instead of apprehending children and dooming them to this broken child welfare system this minister is managing, why not put the $135,000 into a fund, make it accessible by the family, get them food and clothing for daycare and other social services that they need? Instead of having the social workers…. Why not have them support the family, not destroy them?
We made basic suggestions that social workers in this ministry be required to be members of the College of Social Workers. It protects them and the children from the broken, bureaucratic child welfare system. The B.C. NDP — they’re studying it. The report —unavailable.
It’s clear the Minister of Children and Family Development is totally incapable of the transformational change that her ministry needs.
To the Premier: one more chance to stand up and answer this question, Mr. Premier — one more chance. When is he going to replace this Minister of Children and Family Development with a serious person, someone who is going to take the job seriously just like they did in the 1990s, maybe with someone from outside of government, and create a child welfare system in this province that we can be proud of?
Hon. M. Dean:
Since 2017, we have been making very significant changes in the ministry. This chamber unanimously supported significant legislative change to support Indigenous child welfare jurisdiction.
We have also introduced historical legislation leading the country to support young people who are leaving the care system and transitioning to adulthood. We have harmonized the rates for in-care and out-of-care, and we’re changing the whole of the in-care system. We’re working on the system and services to support children and youth with support needs.
We have the lowest number of children and youth in care in over 30 years. We have the lowest number of Indigenous children in care in over 20 years.
I know there is a lot more work to do, and I am absolutely determined to continue to make improvements and to change the child welfare system.