For years, my colleague Sonia Furstenau, MLA (Cowichan Valley) and I have been asking for the Minister of Children and Family Development to require social workers to be members of the College of Social Workers.
They have failed to make this a basic requirement and it is hard to imagine another industry where government would allow professionals with such incredible power and responsibility, to do their work in a regulated environment. In this situation the BC NDP government has failed to protect both social workers and children/families. Who does it benefit? Only the politicians in Cabinet and government!
The Ministry spends $135,000 per child, per year, in care and yet poverty is a main driver of child apprehensions, separating children from their families and destroying their bonds in the process. Wouldn’t it be better to invest that money into keeping children and families together?
Yesterday my colleague asked about the lack of accountability and oversight in the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Child welfare workers in this province have extraordinary powers to remove children from their families. Based on an allegation, they can walk into anyone’s house and decide to remove children. This B.C. NDP government doesn’t even require the MCFD social workers to be regulated under the College of Social Workers, protecting the families, protecting the social workers.
British Columbians have reason to be deeply concerned. The public needs to have trust in the system, and the minister and the senior staff continue to fail us.
We spend $135,000 per child per year in care. Poverty is a primary driver of children being removed from their families. To the Premier: wouldn’t it be more compassionate and make more economic sense to spend the money on keeping children in their homes with their families and diverting these funds to the families in need?
Hon. A. Dix:
This will give me an opportunity to respond to the questions raised by the Leader of the Green Party yesterday, as well, that were referenced in the member’s question.
As the member will know, changes were made to raise standards in 2019. All people working for the ministry are expected to live up and work to the highest standards as public servants and under the Child, Family and Community Service Act.
In addition to that, the members will know…. I know this is an issue in particular of interest to the Leader of the Green Party. I know, because she has raised it with me in the past — the regulation of social workers in British Columbia. I’d say that there is a broad engagement going on right now around the oversight of all social workers in British Columbia. That included over 200 participants in 32 sessions, with 1,700 survey responses. We should expect a response and information about that early in the new year from the Minister of Children and Families.
The issues raised by the members around those questions of qualifications and of social workers and of colleges, those issues that are part of…. Part of how we’re responding to that is reaching out and talking to the community of social workers.
I appreciate the minister’s response. But in the response, there is an expectation that social workers meet standards, paraphrasing what the minister just said. However, by our own audits, by the own audits of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, by the reports, the constant reports, from the Representative for Children and Youth, we’re not meeting those standards. We haven’t been meeting those standards for five, six, seven — for decades.
Rather than creating layers of transparency and accountability, this government has failed to give social workers, and to give families that are impacted by the decisions that social workers make, a basic level of protection.
What other industry in this province, where we would put the care of our children, the care of our people, the care of our seniors, without a regulated industry…? Only the most vulnerable children in our province get that kind of special treatment. It’s not a kind of special treatment that we need to be celebrating in this House.
You know, when a social worker walks into a family’s house, they’re given basically one tool, and that is to remove the child. Yet we know that $135,000 is invested in each child per year per care.
When is this government going to provide child welfare workers with a more diverse set of tools so they can actually support the families that are in need?
Hon. A. Dix:
Well, I would argue that we are doing that, and we must do that. The very significant investments and supports provided in the system, the profound and historic work that is being done and must continue to be done with Indigenous communities show that.
I think in this process, and these are issues…. I’m very respectful of the questions provided, because these are issues.
The member will know that social workers are, obviously, important workers in health authorities as well as in the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The expectation of high standards of front-line workers, all frontline workers whether they’re social workers or not, is an expectation.
We have to do exactly the kind of things the member is talking about. We also have to engage with our community of workers to make sure that they have the skills necessary to do the work. That’s what this process is about. I think it’s what the process that we’re engaging in right now is about. I expect that there’ll be a role for members of the Legislature. I will endeavour to ensure that the member and his colleague are kept fully informed about what happens. I know that the Minister of Children and Families will do so as well.