B.C.’s child protection workers are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate. For the children and families most impacted by the system, these front line workers are the face of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (“MCFD”). Their jobs involve the critical tasks of assessing immediate child safety concerns, connecting families with support services, and deciding when a child needs to be removed from a home. For children and families involved with the child protection system, turnover means building new relationships, unpredictability and delays.
Social workers who took part in this study indicated that they are often unable to perform their job in accordance with the guiding and service delivery principles set out in the Child, Family and Community Services Act (“CFCSA”). The guiding principles and service delivery principles in the CFCSA promise a family-centred approach to child protection that supports parents, extended family networks and communities to care for children safely while respecting the inherent value of Aboriginal traditions and cultural diversity.
Nearly half of respondents indicated that there are “rarely” or “never” adequate preventative or supportive services for families. Only 29 percent of respondents indicated that they could “always” or “usually” fully explore options for less disruptive measures before the removal of a child. The concern over the lack of services was most pronounced among respondents from Aboriginal service teams, 63 percent of whom indicated that there were “rarely or “never” adequate services. The findings from this study are not unique. Instead, they once again illustrate the government’s failure to create conditions that will ensure that the child protection system can live up to its responsibility to children and families in B.C.
In 2008, the MCFD released Strong, Safe and Supported: A Commitment to B.C.’s Children and Youth. This document, outlining the MCFD’s new approach to supporting children and families, is the most recent in a long line of vision documents committing the Ministry to important principles such as prevention, family support, and integration of Aboriginal perspectives into planning and decision making. Like many that have come before, this document is heavy on lofty principles but lacks a clear strategy for implementation. The respondents in this study have made it clear – if the provincial government intends to live up to its latest commitment to B.C.’s children and youth, the MCFD needs the resources to reduce caseloads, increase preventative and supportive services for families, and support leaders who instill confidence in workers.