Resolving Systemic Problems in Child Protection Services
Ferris: Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' This is the first in a series of pieces Ray will write here. You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Part One of Nine
In the 1960s the British government ordered a royal commission of inquiry into the functioning of the social services. It was known as the Seebohm Commission. The charge was to examine the systemic problems in the services and to make recommendations where there were systemic problems. In their final report the commissioners warned, that after hearing many witnesses, that they became aware of many serious problems that were not systemic and that these would not be remedied by systemic changes. There is an important lesson to be learned here because those who are responsible for directing child protection services are only comfortable with making systemic changes.
There have been many problems and many scandals in the child protection services in British Columbia over the last thirty to forty years and many people have studied these and tried to improve things. The difficulty is that most of the problems have not been systemic, but only systemic remedies have been tried and, of course, they have always failed. Indeed, it could well be argued that they have often made things worse. For instance following the Gove Report, there were huge disruptions in service, causing serious confusion and morale problems, earning the ministry the title of ministry of frustration and chaos. At the same time as staff were reeling from these changes, complicated new protection legislation was enacted. Many senior front line staff had to be taken out of service just to get training in the new law. The courts virtually ground to a standstill and they have never recovered.
The problem now is to differentiate those problems which are systemic and those which are not. It is relatively easy to make recommendations for systemic change where the system is the problem. Much more difficult is to try to think of systemic remedies, which might improve non-systemic problems. Such remedies might well have to be so drastic that they would be unwelcome to people with a vested interest in opposing change. So in this paper I have tried to define some non-systemic and some systemic problems and to recommend how to fix them. To complicate matters there is also the factor that some problems are a combination of systemic and non-systemic, so the solutions will be even more complex. I have especially tried to focus on those non-systemic problems, which might possibly be improved by making systemic changes. The ones that come most quickly to mind are some non-systemic problems that were created by systemic change. For instance the enactment of the current CF&CSA was a systemic change and it created great problems, so simply repealing the most problematic clauses might help.
One of the first things that one must always keep in mind is to accept the fact that there are no quick fixes. Solutions will be complex and they will take a plan of at least three or four years to bring about. The solutions will also be costly, but it can well be argued that they will not be as costly as trying to make the current broken system work.