Thursday, May 13, 2010

TURPEL LAFOND IS OUR MCFD WATCHDOG / Part 189 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

In the words of Ralph W. Sockman, “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”

Minority player Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is demonstrating a level of courage that should evoke in the public a rush of confidence and support because she is taking the Ministry of Children and Family Development to court for a justifiable reason. That government ministry with the majority hand, recently acted in a manner that may be an embarrassment. MCFD system operations are well secreted from public eyes and Turpel-Lafond is our watchdog.

After years of performance questions and criticism, the MCFD was reviewed by a select group chaired by Hon. Ted Hughes a few years ago. Among his many recommendations in the Children and Youth Review was the creation of the Office of an objective representative for children and youth. Mr. Hughes was convinced that an independent officer of the legislature could provide valuable perspective on child services and help to improve British Columbia’s child-serving system. The Review was quite critical of the management of the Ministry of Children and Family Development yet Mr. Hughes was powerfully supportive of the work of front-line child welfare workers employed by MCFD.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is British Columbia’s first Representative for Children and Youth. The mandate of her office is articulated in its own act, the Representative for Children and Youth Act. The Act presents a range of powers, duties and functions. There are four sections. • provide advocacy services for vulnerable children and youth and their families respecting designated services. • investigate critical injuries and deaths of children receiving child welfare services. • monitor and evaluate services to children, youth and their families to ensure their effectiveness and responsiveness, and thereby raising the degree to which the child-serving system is accountable publicly. • Finally, conduct evidence-based research that enables us to make recommendations aimed at enhancing the future development and delivery of services for vulnerable children and youth in BC.

Her office is in our (the Public's) best interests. She is B.C.’s independent child welfare watchdog. Candidly her role should be regarded as being in the government's best interests if it wants to enhance so many levels of its service to our communities. Yet Ms. Turpel-Lafond is compelled to fight for her independence right now. When B.C.’s independent child welfare rep. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond sought cabinet documents to complete an audit, the BC Liberal government introduced legislation denying her access. She filed a court petition last Tuesday saying she had hit the wall in her efforts to get government information she needs to gauge how well protected children are in B.C.

Children’s Minister Mary Polak called the petition a “waste of scarce resources” and said Turpel-Lafond’s access would be blocked unless she signs a “protocol agreement” on confidentiality — an agreement Turpel-Lafond refuses to sign. Come on Ms. Polak, don't get sucked into this protectionist posture. Who is advising you?

You should read the stories all over the press and online ….
- In the Coquitlam Now News , May 12th article “Information critical to protecting kids
- “Minister defends decision on access to documentsAccess granted to B.C.'s representative for children is 'unprecedented': Polak By Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now May 12, 2010
- Children's rep is fighting for independence”, By Paul Willcocks, Times Colonist May 12, 2010
- B.C.'s child-welfare watchdog gets early court date for petition against B.C. Government", By Rob Shaw, May 6, 2010 and Vancouver Sun
- WHAT IS MCFD TRYING TO HIDE?, May 03, 2010, Tracey Young, MSW RSW


  1. part 1 of 2

    MCFD has always been terrified of public disclosure by someone who knows how to properly interpret and disseminate information, and for a very good reason. They don't want it publicly known what an efficient money-spending organization it is, and children are simply commodities for which services are to be minimized. How dare someone threaten their lucrative business!

    If the public found out exactly what MCFD social workers were doing, deliberately removing too many kids for trumped up reasons and then trying to make cases more complicated and deliberately driving up costs and constraining services that address problems, the Ministry would be rightly gutted.

    The Ministry uses foster homes and supervision faciliites as information gathering centers, and uses foster parents as a major weapon against parents to justify lengthy incarceration of children. Foster parents appear as witnesses at protection trials, so of course they do not want to lose this valuable bit of leverage against parents.

    The Ministry WANTS lengthy, expensive, messy, over-complicated child-in-care renentions because it is such a lucrative taxpayer fleecing activity, and it makes their job look more important, and they get to pretend like they are saving kids and reforming parents.

    In my own case, I received disclosures and saw the emails flying back and forth between foster homes and supervision facilities who write visitation reports, and the social worker. The objective was to continually feed social workers any negative information possible, then the social worker would use the information as justification to declare "services" or rehabilitation efforts were failing, "concerns" were not being addressed, and "more time" was needed to keep kids in care.

    These type of activity keeps them all employed and recession proofs the Ministry from budget cutbacks.

    This employment would disappear with each foster home lost to alternative care arrangments because of the significant reduction in workload. Social workers do NOT want to lose this major mechanism that functions to keep kids in care while they wait for distant child protection trial dates.

    The government wants to save money by swapping out expensive foster care facilities with alternative home care by relatives and accepted volunteers. If Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says it is a good program, this has the potential of significantly cuttong expensive foster care and supervision facility spaces.

    This is all good, right?

  2. part 2 of 2

    I suspect the Ministry is more worried about what Mary Ellen will NOT find, and that is, there is no problem with relatives and friends caring for removed children for free (or for one-tenth the cost in the form of child benefit payments).

    Look at the Baynes situation where the boys were placed with the grandparents. The kids were safe by the Ministry's own admission in this environment, and for a short time, it saved buckets of taxpayers money not having to pay foster care and supervised access fees.

    The current situation we have now with the Baynes trial in its fourth week, is that Ministry social workers and counsel is currently making asses of themselves, as they flounder about in court with their collective pants around their ankles as they try to justify the re-removal of the Bayne's boys. Their ridiculous continuing custody order application is based on a single incident with baby Bethany, using a mountain of medical "evidence" to justify all of this activity.

    As my kids would say, EPIC-FAIL! They would also say, the Emperor has no clothes!

    What MCFD does not want you to know that keeping all possible foster homes fully populated with removed children whether they need "protection" or not is a major reason for their high-budgeted existance.

    Consider: the 1.4 billion budge of the MCFD. Lets round up the number of social workers to 1,400 hard-working souls. We have 9,000 kids in foster care, lets say another 5,000 with grandparents and alternate care, so, 14,000 kids in care at any given time, another nicely divided number.

    If this were a business, each employee is responsible for $1,000,000.00 gross expenditures(one million dollars per social worker). Each social worker manages 10 kids and their family members, so make that a value of $100,000 per child in care each year. Average length in time in care for each child, 1-2 years. One child in care equals the employment of one social worker plus administration. The Ministry's own internal figures put the yearly cost of a child in care at a more conservative $30,000.

    But wait, this doesn't even include legal and health costs born by other ministries, but MCFD is responsible for.

    If I recall reading some time ago, the lifetime cost of raising a child to adulthood, putting them through university is about $100,000.00 My very simplified calculations shows the Ministry expends this amount in one year in its ridiculous child protection efforts, targeting poor families who can't fight back or benfit from their "services." Services which are also disguised opportunities to interrogate parents and children during counselling sessions.

    So a family with four kids, the average work load of a social worker is simultaneous management of 3 to 6 families. Since I subpeona'd multiple social workers and interrogated them myself, I confirmed this.

    90% of a social worker's work is done after a child is removed, and it is mostly paper-shuffling -- massive amounts of paper shuffling. Actual visits to children and parents are minimized to no more than perhaps once per month.

    The very experienced social workers who have high job satisfaction and more than 10-15 years experience are the ones that find and decide which kids are ripe for removal, decide if grandparents are suitable to care for removed kids.

    The front-line workers, disposable low-seniority souls they are, do all the hard work collecting all that paperwork. Some of these social workers are not quite understanding the big picture.

    Keep up the good work, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. Eventually your work will bear fruit.

  3. Hello Anon,
    I likely agree with you that MCFD is displeased with disclosure of its areas of inefficiency or ineptitude, but I may want to qualify you remark about social workers and their child removal tasks. I am sure they don't all love this aspect of their work, but that too many are removed I am in agreement. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Wow! welcome Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond!! Only someone of the stature of a provincial court judge and someone appointed by the gov't itself could effectively make such a move!! Perhaps little people are "not credible" in their claims of obstructions in seeking justice but, really, a person such as Mary Ellen going through such obstructions to get to the bottom of this rotten barrel of apples must be considered "credible" by any observer!!
    I hearily applaud this new twist!

  5. I totally agree, Anonymous!!! This is a business and most of us do not understand this as we drink the kool-aid we're served. Thanks for the enlightening info from people like you and Ron and.....

  6. I think the BC representatives of youth are a necessary 'watch dog' for a social structure running rampant with individualized power practices. The office in my town, pushes before an investigation for 'ex parte' to relieve themselves of the investigation. This moves leaves many people entangled in the court system without the support of mcfd who simply just walks away. To date, I have not heard anything positive about the local office. In fact, even though a couple of years ago a little girl died in their care, nothing has changed.....just more external recommendations made by the organization. Perhaps they need to be relieved of their 'god complex'.


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