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Foster Slaughter

May 5, 2011 permalink

In a single year Saskatchewan sends 1.5 million head of cattle to slaughter along with 34 foster children. That is the count according to provincial child advocate Bob Pringle in his report Growing for Saskatchewan (pdf). The publication Annual Report, Ministry of Social Services (pdf) page 15, gives the number of children in care during 2009, the latest year with complete figures, as 6096. The fatalities are twenty times the death rate in parental care.



Deaths, injuries show increase among youth under gov't care

Thirty-four kids died in foster care last year, advocate's report says

Bob Pringle
Saskatchewan Children's Advocate Bob Pringle
Photograph by: Richard Marjan, The StarPhoenix

The number of Saskatchewan children who died or were critically injured while in the care of the government continues to increase, says the latest report of Saskatchewan children's advocate.

In 2010, 34 children died while in foster care or in group homes compared to 31 children who died in 2008 and again in 2009. The number of children critically injured while in care also increased, to 43 in 2010 from 25 in 2009 and 13 in 2008.

Social Services Minister June Draude attributed the increase in the number of injured children to better reporting mechanisms, not more injuries. And she said many of the children in care who die are medically fragile, with their deaths having nothing to do with being under the oversight of government.

"Anytime we lose a child it's a tragedy, but this isn't a new phenomenon," said Draude.

But NDP social services critic David Forbes was not satisfied with Draude's answers.

"I'm concerned the minister seems to have an answer that sloughs off responsibility. This is incredible that we have this number of children who are suffering critical injuries and she can't give a really good answer about how they're going to solve that issue," he said after he raised the issue during question period.

The children's advocate's 2010 annual report, Growing for Saskatchewan, was tabled in the legislature Wednesday. The report submitted by Bob Pringle covers 2010 even though his appointment took effect Jan. 1, 2011. He replaced Marvin Bernstein, who held the post for five years. Bernstein was known for his hard-hitting reports that included case studies of children who died or were injured while in care.

In his report, Pringle sets a different tone. He says his first priority is to undertake reviews of the current functions of the children's advocate office.

"We will be starting this spring with our advocacy services to find more efficient and effective ways to handle individual and group cases, so we can expand the capacity of our front-line advocates to engage in systemic advocacy and public education," he wrote.

Pringle says it's time for such a review.

"We're 15 years old and I come on board and (we need to look at) where do we go for the next five years in light of the child welfare review, which is going to fundamentally transform where we are going in terms of what the child welfare system is going to look like," Pringle said in an interview.

The child welfare review panel chaired by Pringle prior to his appointment as advocate made recommendations for sweeping changes that would include gradually transferring more control of the system to First Nations and Metis people.

Pringle says the current system is broken and needs massive changes, but he wants to bring about those changes through cooperation.

"I want to build a relationship with the government that's respectful, and with the child and youth serving agencies, but we won't lose sight of our role. I want to offer more suggestions for improvement as opposed to just being critical," he said.

Pringle's next report will be a progress report on overcrowded foster homes.

In February 2009, the children's advocate released the initial report on overcrowding, which documented instances of young children and those with special needs being abused by other children and youth, and by some foster parents in the Saskatoon area. The advocate painted a disturbing picture of overcrowding, with one family caring for 21 children at one time.

Source: Montreal Gazette