Wednesday, December 1, 2010

TURPEL-LAFOND SETS A STANDARD FOR MCFD? Part 385 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne

It is the job of the Representative of Children and Youth to provide a report on the Ministry of Children and Family Development that is an independent, and objective assessment as well as a document of advice. It is a progress report. It is a report card by which to inform the Legislature as well as the MCFD itself, and it is a public report so that all of us may know whether this vital Ministry is fulfilling its mandate.

Because the establishment of the Representative's position and the hiring of Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was simultaneous with the Hughes Review and Recommendations of 2006, this report is appraising the progress of MCFD in accomplishing the specific 62 recommendations resultant from the Hughes Review. I told you yesterday that she will not use the recommendations for any future measurement of MCFD because MCFD has abandoned them.

The Representative of Children and Youth considers that the MCFD has willfully disconnected from the Hughes recommendations, and in her report she is concerned that MCFD is presently positioned to make lofty promises but is showing no evidence of improved outcomes. She writes that “There is insufficient evidence of appropriate budgeting, workforce management or clarity around expectations for non-governmental service providers. All of this is compounded by recent budget pressures and new priorities on fiscal restraint.”

I have lifted the next two paragraphs directly from her report, pgs. 6-8.
That entire report can be read at this link.
The Representative is not expecting MCFD to achieve a standard beyond reach."
There is no such thing as a perfect child welfare system. But an effective system has some essential characteristics, and these were articulated clearly in the Hughes Review. A well-functioning child welfare system meets the obligations established in legislation by:
• establishing a clear mandate
• guaranteeing children and families equitable and consistent access to core services
• establishing service expectations and standards to ensure consistency
• establishing effective structures and systems to support the services, including adequate
supervision and ongoing training
• allocating appropriate resources, including adequate and qualified staff
• achieving reasonable outcomes
• reporting on outcomes achieved at the level of the child, particularly for children at risk
• maintaining transparency in the delivery of services, and
• monitoring performance and using data to improve services.

These are the fundamental elements of the system that the Representative will continue to monitor in the interests of transparency and public accountability. The Representative is not confident that these components are currently in place given the level of reporting and accountability the ministry has provided.


  1. The various players doing their shtick, the Minister, Du Toit, Lafonde, the Directors, social workers, lawyers, doctors, supervisors etc., it all reminds me of the Irish economic lesson:

    It is a slow day in a damp little Irish town. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

    On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the town, stops at the local hotel and lays a 100 Euro note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

    The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the 100 Euro note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

    The butcher takes the 100 Euro note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.

    The pig farmer takes the 100 Euro note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

    The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the pub.

    The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit.

    The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the 100 Euro note.

    The hotel proprietor then places the 100 Euro note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything.

    At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the 100 Euro note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

    No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.


    The parent (equates well to the Rich German), loses their children for a short while the daisy-chain MCFD "services" wheel spins. Parents don't know what hit them.

  2. Anon 11:15 PM Dec 1, ... thank you
    That was a perfectly enjoyable analogy, cleverly conceived and well written and profoundly communicates a reality of our systems at work with or without HST. Good for you.

  3. PS, it certainly appeared to me that by the end of yesterday, it was unanimous, readers did not care to discuss the Representative or her report. So much for the value of continuing that theme.

  4. The target audience for this report does not appear to include parents and their children who might read it.

    Interestingly, it is clear that Social workers are clearly part of the target audience, whose support she needs in order not to create enemies from the entirety of MCFD. Nameless upper managment is easy to hate. Without attaching responsibility to said shortcomings, what is the point?

    Lafonde heaps a bit too much praise on Front Line workers for my tastes. It reads as if she expects these workers to lock arms with her to hang in there until their faceless incompetent bosses are held accountable. This never happens. Social workers don't care as long as their job is secure. They will always whine about lack of resources and services, but they still manage to keep the far more expensive foster homes filled rather than exercise their enourmous decretionary powers to speed up service delivery that include reunification programs, counselling and relaxing supervision.

    This report might put a smile on the faces of these social workers in letting them off the hook, but in the meantime, it is the parents and children than suffer. This is the real consequence of MCFD's failings that is not measured.

    If MCFD is not doing their job, perhaps RCY is suggesting by omission, the solution is to give her office more powers so the incomplete job of MCFD can be done by RCY. I'm just guessing.

    If Lafonde is talking with social workers but not higher-ups(why?) why is she not talking with children, parents and foster parents? I see no evidence in the report Lafond has talked to these people, or even the associations that could lend significant perspective.

    Lafonde says: "It is unfortunate to note that neither the adoption numbers nor the foster home numbers showed any real growth over the reporting period."

    Why do we need "growth" in these areas? Isn't the existance of MCFD and their horrors deterrent enough to parents that know the consequences of even looking at their children without a smile?

    Why do these numbers remain constant when we hear of declining birth rates and closing schools?

    These social workers have been granted enourmous powers of ex parte removal that exceeds that of a Supreme Court judge. If said workers are expressing 'confusion' due to some inadequacies of their superiors, Lafonde is illustrating a picture of said workers being allowed to run amok.

    This is what readers of this blog are saying is happening. Social workers are being left to their own devices without adequate leadership, and they are responsible for overpopulating foster homes beyond their capacity to monitor their caseload, and children die suffer injuries as a result.

  5. 9:51 AM Anon
    Why are you Anonymous? This was an excellent comment. I say that seldom, but this time your remarks helped me to understand why so few comments have been directed to this report. By last night I was confused by the silence. You have helped me to understand to whom the specific report content was of interest, and more than that you have asked some perceptive questions and made incisive points that cause me to think some more.

  6. Anon at December 2, 2010 9:51 AM,

    I don't mind that you are anon, because I understand the nature of this enterprise (MCFD retaliation, which is never to be underestimated or discounted, as the Baynes and too many others know, unfortunately.)

    I completely agree with you regarding the child rep's comments praising the social workers. This, to me, is just another example of how she isn't really on the side of families. To my mind, this makes her - at best - incompetent. I say that because if she were doing her job, she would not be heaping praise on social workers in such a fashion.

    Perhaps the lack of comments regarding the child rep is merely the sense of helplessness that her report engenders. If the one person who is supposed to be helping you, is in fact praising the very people who have been instrumental in obliterating your family, why bother?

  7. Children placed in foster housing are dying not just because they are overcrowded, but because they are being placed with people who should't have goldfish, never mind real live children. Not all foster parents are bad, but too many are. And even one death is one death too many, and there have been many, many more deaths than just one. Turpel-Lafond has no business heaping such high praise upon the very people who are, in so many ways, responsible for so much tragedy.

  8. Social workers err on the side of caution because of the attitude of 'even one death is too many'. How can you blame them? It is wrong, but it is the pervasive attitude of this current government, that they desire to avoid negative press at all costs - therefore, keep children in foster care as long as possible, control families in a draconian manner as long as possible, to avoid returning the child and risk being wrong. Do you recall Zion Park Manor? It is a senior's care facility that fell axe to the changes in government regulations. Simply put, the rooms which were fine before became unsuitable because they were a few square feet too small. There was no effort to create a grandfather clause for this facility, or even to allow the current seniors to live out their days at the home they've come to love and depend on - despite how high quality the care is. And so they forced so many seniors from their home - knowing that statistically these seniors will die within the next months following a major change like this. Why? Because they want to avoid any negative press in the event that something would happen to one of the residents and a finger could be pointed saying that it was the result of those 'sub-standard' rooms.

    It was up until this point that I bought into the lie that the government was merely doing what was in the greater good of the people. Similarly, there are many cases like the Bayne's where a wrong is done to prevent a 'what if' situation where there will be negative press.

    The lack of a response comes from the sense of helplessness that comes from reading about the failures for change that are reported on, and the apparent lack of concern from said governing body, let alone the population at large. This lack of change is reflected in the need for this same watchdog to sue the same government that hired her in order to gain the rights to access files and publicize her findings, which was done last year. Anything to avoid publicity.

    It is not a lack of caring. It can be difficult to 'rise up as on wings of eagles' when you are bombarded with the largeness of the issue. It seems futile to read about and focus on the failures which are already so apparent. What more can be said? Instead, we must choose to do. I personally have contacted each of the parties and let them know that this issue will be the one that gains my vote - whichever party makes it a campaign promise to make serious change.

  9. My Responses to Commenters:
    1. Dec 2, 9:51 AM and YOU SAID, that perhaps Turpel-Lafond wants more power so she can complete the MCFD's inadequate job...” I SAY, I think her plate is full but it is her role to advise where MCFD should improve and the Legislature should pay attention and hold MCFD accountable to improve.
    2. 9:51 AM YOU ALSO ASKED, why does Turpel-Lafonde talk with social workers instead of the Brass at the top. Good question and the answer likely points at the antagonism between the two offices which will continue to make this situation untenable. It's not promising is it?
    3. 9:51 AM YOU ALSO QUESTIONED, why the Rep would sound disappointed that adoption and foster home numbers have not grown during her reporting period … and I SAY, I am equally puzzled at the disappointment and also alarmed that she would be looking for growth rather than diminishing numbers if MCFD was really doing the job with its resources.
    4. Dec 2, 4:36 PM and YOU SAID, the children's rep “... isn't really on the side of families …. this makes her at best – incompetent …. if she were doing her job, she would not be heaping praise on social workers ...” I SAY, your statement lacks logic. If she applauds good front line workers, that doesn't negate her indictment of the head honchos who are the problem.
    5. Dec 2, 6:38 PM YOU SAID that foster care should not be praised when in many cases this has been responsible for crimes and abuse and I SAY, ditto, and this will not improve without adequate screening and registration of foster care people.
    6. Dec 2, 10:20 PM YOU SAID that government agencies overreact in order to avoid negative press and I SAY I agree, and just when we are criticizing and asking for some consideration, grace and compassion, some alarming incident occurs in which MCFD missed the ball so they clamp down harder than ever. It's cyclical. Sure I remember Zion Manor. I am thrilled that you have proactively contacted political parties to let them know that the issues regarding child protection will determine your vote in the next election.


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