Report of the Gove Inquiry into Child Protection in British Columbia
Volume Two: MATTHEW'S LEGACY
DESIGNING A NEW CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM
The Inquiry concluded from its investigations that British Columbia's system for ensuring the safety and well-being of children and youth needs to be fundamentally reformed. Child protection cannot be dealt with in isolation; it is only a narrow band within the broad spectrum of child welfare services, all of which must be delivered in a multi-disciplinary, coordinated manner.
In a new child welfare system, decisions about services, management and governance must be based on what will best serve the needs of children and youth. Four principles should guide the development of a new child welfare system:
- Universality: child welfare standards must apply equally across the province, and every child and youth should have realistic access to needed services, regardless of geography, ethnicity or other personal characteristics;
- Responsiveness: child welfare services must respond to the needs of children and youth, which may vary among communities;
- Accountability: child welfare service providers must be accountable for their actions, and managers must use quality assurance findings to effect improvements in the child welfare system; and
- Efficiency: the child welfare system must provide a high quality of service, while spending public funds responsibly.
Matthew was typical of children and youth who have multi-dimensional needs. Such needs are best met when services are delivered in a multi-disciplinary, coordinated manner. This means that professionals delivering core child welfare services must work together.
The Inquiry concluded that multi-disciplinary teamwork, with local
control over the allocation of resources, can be achieved only by having all core child welfare service providers commonly employed.
Core child welfare services, presently delivered or funded through the five provincial ministries of Attorney General, Education, Health, Social Services and Women's Equality, should be delivered through community-based Children's Centres. Those providing support services should probably be physically housed in the Children's Centres. Those delivering ancillary child welfare services must ensure that they coordinate their activities with the Children's Centre child welfare service providers.
The Inquiry concluded that the province should devolve to about 20 regional authorities or boards the responsibility for ensuring that a full spectrum of child welfare services is delivered in accordance with provincial standards. These regional authorities should manage the delivery of child welfare services through Children's Centres. Each Regional Child Welfare Board could be governed by a board of directors appointed from existing public bodies, such as city and municipal councils, school boards, regional health boards and aboriginal organizations.
If the management of child welfare services is devolved to Regional Child Welfare Boards and their Children's Centres, if reactive quality assurance responsibilities are assigned to an independent Children's Commissioner and if self-governing bodies such as professional colleges assume responsibility for professional integrity, then the province's remaining governance responsibilities would include:
These responsibilities are presently scattered through at least five provincial ministries, resulting in a fragmented delivery of child welfare services.
- policy development, including research and inter-ministerial coordination,
- design of child welfare services,
- training in all aspects of child welfare,
- proactive quality assurance, including setting practice standards, licensing of child welfare resources and performing practice audits, and
- financial management, including funding of Regional Child Welfare Boards and their Children's Centres, financial audits and a computerized child welfare information system, and
- operations, coordination with Regional Child Welfare Boards and for provincially-run services such as youth containment centres.
Provincial attempts at inter-ministerial coordination, primarily through the Child and Youth Secretariat, have been ineffective. The Inquiry concluded that the "separate-ministries-and-Secretariat" approach is constitutionally incapable of effecting the delivery of multi-disciplinary, coordinated child welfare services.
The alternative, which the Inquiry recommended, is to bring all provincial child welfare responsibilities together into one provincial authority. The Inquiry concluded that the provincial government should assume direct responsibility for these child welfare functions by establishing a Ministry for Children and Youth. This administrative structure would give children and youth a single voice at the cabinet table.
The Minister for Children and Youth should grant guardianship authority to one person in each Regional Child Welfare Board who, in turn, should be empowered to delegate that guardianship authority to qualified child protection social workers in Children's Centres. The new ministry should retain responsibility for setting province-wide policy respecting guardianship, which must be applied by all regional guardians.
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