1.Overcrowding, lax screening and too few homes: foster care crisis deepens
2. National data lacking on numbers, services for foster kids in Canada
Overcrowding, lax screening and too few homes: foster care crisis deepens
By: Sue Bailey and Alison Auld, The Canadian Press
Peter Dudding, executive director of the Child Welfare League of Canada, is shown in his Ottawa office on Friday Jan. 27, 2012. Some children are placed in foster care without full safety checks while others wind up in supervised apartments or overcrowded homes, say child advocates who warn of a deepening crisis across the country.
Some children are placed in foster care without full safety checks while others wind up in supervised apartments or overcrowded homes, say child advocates who warn of a deepening crisis across the country.
"There are problems when you hear people from the front line talking about the fact that we're placing kids in homes where the study hasn't been done," said Peter Dudding, executive director of the Child Welfare League of Canada. "We've got kids being placed in homes where the home is over the allowable number of children.
"This is just wrong. And it's dangerous."
British Columbia's children's advocate has reviewed the child welfare system extensively over the years, finding numerous instances of children being placed in homes that weren't adequately screened.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s representative for children and youth, said some caregivers had criminal records involving sexual offences, but were used because the welfare system was desperate for a placement. [WHAT ! ! ! - Are they crazy? ]
In one case, a four-year-old girl was removed from the care of her aunt in 2006 after she was found to be neglected, malnourished and suffering from recurring physical abuse. An investigation found that the aunt had not been appropriately screened.
"My sense is that there have been some improvements, but I'm still seeing cases where people don't know how to do the screening or they're bypassing screening," she said of an overhaul of the provincial system in 2010 following one of her audits.
"In remote areas, we are still seeing social workers not getting access to criminal records."
Corinna Filion, a spokeswoman with the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development, said all foster parents in the province must complete a comprehensive screening and assessment process. Since 2010, she said the department has stepped up criminal record checks on foster parents to every three rather than five years, and an online system is expediting criminal record checks.
Bev Wiebe, a Winnipeg-based social services consultant and trainer specializing in foster care and child welfare, said complex procedures that are in place for criminal background and child abuse checks can take several weeks.
"When people get desperate ... sometimes kids get put into homes where those processes may not be complete," she said.
"If your name or birth date is the same or similar as someone who has a conviction, you now have to get fingerprinted and send that off to Ottawa for the full report. Well, that can take a long time."
Compounding the problem is the dwindling number of families willing to help increasingly troubled kids across Canada, Dudding says.
It has been the same story of a chronic crisis in foster care for most of his 42-year career in social work, he said from Ottawa, but "one that's getting worse, not better."
The [Child Welfare League?] league, a national agency [offshoot of Obama's Child Welfare League] that promotes the protection of vulnerable children, is in the midst of a three-year campaign called Every Child Matters. [Same campaign name as Obama] It includes efforts to recruit and keep foster families while improving training.
Dudding said repeated efforts to recruit more families have had limited success as policies fluctuate between a focus on family unification and what's best for the child. [If they were doing their job and following their own laws, both of these policies should be part of the same goal !]
Child advocates disagree on potential solutions. Some say the heightened demands of fostering should be recognized with post-secondary training requirements and salaries. Others say related costs would be prohibitive.
Observers of a stressed-out system agree on one thing: the cost of doing nothing. Children who spend time in foster care are less likely to finish high school and are over-represented in the criminal justice system. [Because many are abused neglected and drugged up in foster care !]
Complicating any debate on reform is the lack of reliable national statistics for how many children are in care and how they're doing. Those numbers rely on reporting from provinces that have jurisdiction over child welfare but define foster care differently.
Dudding said the best estimate from two compilation studies is that [ in Canada] between 76,000 and 85,000 kids are in foster care.
The lack of data means there's no way the provinces, which fund foster care and often stake decisions on statistics and outcomes, can compare themselves against each other for best practices, he said.
"It's impossible to create good policy without good numbers."
Pressure on foster parents continues to grow without adequate help from child welfare agencies or provincial governments, Wiebe said.
"There are thousands of people who do it just because they care, and can they do it adequately? Not always. Do they get the training they need? Not usually," she said. [I have heard people confess that they do it for the money - I know single parent foster moms with minimum wage jobs who have bought houses with the money they bleed from the system.]
"We need to find a way to support these people better, both financially and with training, education and daily support."
Foster care rates differ by province, but tend to range from $23 to just over $30 a day depending on the age of the child. Extra money is paid for specific requirements, recreation or other factors.
"Nobody raises a kid on $30 a day," said Wiebe.
Brian Williams, president of the New Brunswick Foster Families Association, says the number of families is dropping off as costs rise, compensation stalls and children's issues become more complex. [Numbers are also dropping off because the news is getting out about the corrupt system and many people do not want to be part of it - And once in it, you can be easily victimized too!]
They range across Canada from fetal alcohol syndrome to gang involvement, addiction, attachment issues, autism and sexual abuse, [and children who are sexual abusers].
"We're now getting kids that are having mental health issues or substance abuse or were traumatized by violence," said Williams, who at age 60 is fostering two children under age two. [Yet they will often fight birth grandparents in court and will not allow them to have their own grandchildren strictly because of there age]
The demands are often too much for parents who both work outside the home [So are we suppose to go back to the 50s ? OR do something about the economy so both parents don't have to work] , adds Wiebe, who says the increase in kids' needs is "mind-blowing."
The state of foster care in Manitoba made headlines in November 2006 when children being temporarily housed in hotel rooms were moved to make way for an influx of guests arriving for the Grey Cup football championship. [Placement of children in low-rate hotels happens in Nova Scotia - We've seen them.]
Since then, the province has increased placement options through a recruitment campaign, says a government statement.
But the province continues to use "places of safety" including "agency staff residences, rooms and apartments" for about 700 of the 6,200 children in care, it says.
Foster homes are licensed in Manitoba based on criminal records screening and other safeguards.
Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009 created a new [?] Child, Youth and Family Services department to overhaul the child protection system within three to five years.
The ministry is backed by a new Children and Youth Care and Protection Act, [We in Nova Scotia have learned the hard way that a new Act and fine sounding legal phrases are meaningless because the government does not even follow its own law! But it will tout it out all the time for the media and quote from it as if they actually did. - We took the government to court over this - Won - But they still keep ignoring the law] described as a child-centred approach to improve care options, quality and continuity while increasing social work staff and improving training. The province also raised rates for foster parents.
Children have not been temporarily placed in hotels in the province since the fall of 2010, says a statement from the department.
Still, 43 children in mid-January were living in apartments or houses with paid and screened supervisory staff because no foster or group home was available, the province confirmed. [ So instead of public hotels, they are being warehoused in private apartments or houses with paid staff - What the diff? ] On average, kids will wait about four months for a home placement unless they have extreme behavioural or other issues [So the number of 43 is just what is called a "Snap shot" statistic, taken on a single day, but, the fact is, virually all the children spent time in these sub-standard "temporary" facilities for 16 weeks!] .
Diane Molloy, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Foster Families Association, is optimistic about provincial efforts so far, but said real change will take time. And there is still a shortage of at least 50 foster families, she said.
"There's no one who will tell you that's a good situation," Molloy said of children being housed in apartments with paid staff. "There's not a choice with the current climate.
"They have to go somewhere." [How about back home with services as stated in the law to help unify the families - they are quick to pay for these services when the children are in the system to foster parents but VERY reluctant to do so for the parents - YET the laws state that 1st and foremost these services are suppose to go to the birth parents.]
Saskatchewan has one of the country's highest numbers of children in care, with an estimated 500 of them in overcrowded foster homes at the end of 2010.
Bob Pringle, the children's advocate for the province, released a report last August listing some improvements in the system following an earlier study by his organization [ ?] outlining major flaws.
Still, Pringle says the province has lost 100 foster homes in the last 18 months and far too many homes exceed the limit of four children per home before it's considered "overcrowded."
"It's a crisis everywhere, so consequently there's a rush to overcrowd," said the former provincial minister of social services.
In 1995 when Pringle was in government, there were 1,700 children in care in Saskatchewan. When he did his child welfare review in 2009, that number had jumped to 5,000.
His group is also concerned that social workers are so overburdened that once children are placed in homes, there is little follow-up to ensure their safety or the families' ongoing ability to care for them.
"So the ministry cannot guarantee in our view that those children are safe," he said, adding that he's on the verge of investigating several high-profile deaths of children in care.
Tom Waldock specializes in child welfare and family studies at Nipissing University in Ontario and has fostered more than 50 children over 25 years.
He describes a declining care system that can no longer be patched with "Band-Aid kinds of solutions."
Quality care is a right cemented in Canada's international commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Waldock said.
But the communal duty that is owed to the most vulnerable and troubled children gets lost in systemic inertia, bureaucracy and the fact that kids in care "don't have a lot of political clout," he added.
He said foster parents should receive training, increased recognition and more compensation — at least for those working with the most challenging children. [ 1st birth parents should receive training, increased recognition and more compensation ]
As for cost, Waldock cited the number of child welfare agencies that are now contracting out to private agencies to help supervise kids in apartments for lack of family placements.
"We're paying sometimes $200 and $300 a day to place kids in outside resources because we've failed to enhance the internal system," he said.
"You're talking about a hugely marginalized group of kids, so they fall through the cracks."
Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL - Anyone seeking a national snapshot of the average child in foster care in Canada, especially how their experiences helped shape their adult life, is flat out of luck.
[ Watch out for "snapshot" data. It is statistics for a certain date. What you need to know is that these dates are NOT randomly picked. The government knows the dates ahead of time and will shuffle children around ahead of time so the stats will show what they want to show or so the states are ay least better than they should be! ]
No reliable national statistics exist on children in foster care in the country, a situation compounded by the differences in how data is collected at the provincial and territorial levels.
"We know ridiculously little about these kids," said Nico Trocme, who directs the Centre for Research on Children and Families at McGill University in Montreal.
"I can't answer a basic question like how many kids are in foster care in Canada," says Trocme, whose research is carried out in collaboration with a number of Canadian universities.
Trocme, who works with governments and social service agencies to help them target services, said corporations are often more rigorous at profiling their clientele.
It can easily cost taxpayers $1 million to care for a child who comes into foster care as an infant and leaves when they're 20, says Virginia Rowden, social policy director for the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies.
"I want to know how that investment made a difference," she said. "We don't have a way of doing that."
Knowing how a child turned out can be helpful in determining the efficiency of services, she said.
"Are they working? Are they educated? Are they healthy? Are they forming their own families? Are they living on the street? Are they sick? We don't know those things."[ How convenient !]
The lack of reliable national data on kids in foster care in Canada is something that can pose a challenge to policy-makers, observers say.
"The real value of this information is it allows more reflection, more comparative understanding in producing successful outcomes," says Peter Dudding, the chief executive of the Child Welfare League of Canada.
Dudding said being able to compare jurisdictions allows governments and agencies to ask more pointed questions about services and how they're delivered.
Members of a Parliamentary committee studying adoption in Canada [ Who are these people and what is the committee? Why are they not named?]found the lack of national data was a hurdle in completing their work, Dudding said he was told.
"The first obstacle they ran into was the one around the lack of data," he said. The chairman of the committee declined to comment until its report is released. [Fine but as we asked what committee are we talking about here ? ]
Trocme said there is not a complete lack of information. Provinces and territories do track their charges to some extent.
"But every province categorizes foster care in a different way," he said. "Ontario is a good example. That information really falls at the level of different agencies. There's 15 agencies, they each count things differently."
Rowden said that three years ago her organization asked its members to help in a survey to determine how many of their wards had graduated from high school because there is no data.
Ninety-seven per cent of the agencies contributed, their staff having to manually check all their files for the information.
"What we found is ... that we have abysmal graduation rates for kids up to the age of 21," she said, adding data indicated that around 42 per cent graduated from high school.
A similar study two years later suggested that number had climbed to 44 per cent although Rowden said even that number is distorted.
Rowden said she'd actually like to see a better interpretation of existing data as well.
Dawn Levine, a spokeswoman for Ontario's Ministry of Children and Youth Services, says Ontario only tracks data on children and youths who have been wards of the province for two years or more.
Statistics, such as how many times the child has been in care or moved, educational progress and care plans, are compiled through annual reviews of these wards' cases.
Levine, who said fewer foster children are coming into care in Ontario recently, said the ministry regularly uses "inter-jurisdictional information" when devising policy.
"This includes identifying national trends and best practices related to family and child services," she said.
The federal Human Resources Department said it works with provinces on developing programs and services but it is up to the provinces to implement them when it comes to foster care.
"There is considerable diversity between jurisdictions on how these programs are delivered, making it difficult to compile statistics on a national level," an unidentified department spokesman said in an email response to questions.
Sheila Durnford, president of the Canadian Foster Family Association, said the need for reliable national statistics had come up in discussions with Human Resources when her group worked with the Child Welfare League on a program to recruit and train foster families across Canada.
"One of the things the federal government asked us to do was try to find out national statistics," she said. Although progress had been made, it wasn't easy.
"It's more involved than going into each province's statistics because each province does things so differently and some provinces do it better than others," said Durnford, who has been a foster parent for 25 years.
Durnford, who lives in Langley, B.C., said her province does a good job of collecting data but she sees the value in compiling national data, saying she believes it would help the care network develop. She pointed out it would also help greatly when it comes to funding.
"Whenever you're asking for funding from any government, they always work on statistics," she said.
[If you take some time reading this site you would know that more funding is NOT the answer - In fact it is the problem ! Children Services has become a big business. View video below. Link here to view othere videos. http://revealingtruthinnovascotia.blogspot.com/search/label/0.%20U.S.%20Senator%20Nancy%20Schaefer%20speaks%20out%20against%20Child%20Protective%20Services%20-%20The%20same%20things%20are%20happening%20in%20Nova%20Scotia There is a lot more info on this site stating the same.]