Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
Foster Abuse Numbers Faked
July 15, 2011 permalink
British Columbia representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says for years the province under-reported abuse of children in the care of MCFD. Because of recent corrections to procedures, the reported rate of foster abuse has tripled.
Injuries to children in care under-reported in B.C., representative’s report says
VANCOUVER - The Ministry of Children and Family Development has been drastically under-reporting cases in which children were seriously injured while receiving government help, a new report shows .
Representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said the number of critical injuries reported to her office has more than tripled since the ministry began in March to submit all relevant cases.
Before that, the ministry failed to report a wide range of files that Turpel-Lafond’s office believed qualified as critical injuries, including sexual assaults and incidents of abuse or neglect in foster homes.
The issue came to a head last fall when the ministry kept Turpel-Lafond’s office in the dark about the case of a 15-year-old developmentally disabled girl who was left alone with her mother’s corpse for up to seven days.
The ministry denied the girl, who had been receiving government services, suffered a reportable injury, despite the fact she was dehydrated, filthy and covered in a rash when found by neighbours.
Turpel-Lafond learned of the case through the media and said the girl’s emotional trauma alone constituted a critical injury.
She issued a report last December urging improvements and citing other troubling cases that were never reported to her office. In one case, a child suffered serious sexual assaults and incest at the hands of her father, while in another, a caregiver shared drugs with a 17-year-old and engaged him in sexual activity.
The ministry’s failure to report those and other cases resulted in an inaccurate portrayal of what was happening in the child welfare system at the time, John Greschner, chief investigator with the representative’s office, said Thursday.
“We certainly therefore didn’t have a good picture,” he said. “And what’s lost is several years of us looking at those [cases], and doing reviews on them.”
Children’s Minister Mary McNeil said her office took steps in March to improve reporting, which led to the recent surge in cases. From Feb. 1 to May 31, the representative’s office received reports on 123 critical injuries to children and youth who were either in care or receiving government services. The office received just 35 reports over the same period in 2010.
McNeil said the increase reflects the ministry’s efforts to provide the representative with as much information as she needs. “I think we’re erring on the side of caution by giving them lots,” she said.
McNeil said she agrees that more should have been provided to Turpel-Lafond’s office in the past, but staff were relying on a narrower definition than is used now.
Greschner said the ministry and representative’s office are working together to clarify reporting policies. “There’s still work to be done, but we’re reasonably satisfied that we’re receiving all of the relevant cases,” he said.
NDP children’s critic Claire Trevena expressed alarm at both the number and seriousness of cases that went unreported for years. “If the ministry didn’t think that those were a critical injury for a child in care, I find that actually inconceivable,” she said. “And secondly that those figures can cause a tripling in figures reported to the representative, it really is very, very worrying.”
Greschner said the representative’s office is assessing the effect the rise in reported cases will have on its workload. Each case has to be screened to see whether it warrants a review, a full investigation, or inclusion in an aggregate review that identifies and analyzes trends in injuries or deaths.
“It is quite a dramatic increase,” he said.
McNeil said her office took steps in March to improve reporting, which led to the recent surge in cases. From Feb. 1 to May 31, the representative’s office received reports on 123 critical injuries to children and youth who were either in care or receiving government services. The office received just 35 reports over the same period in 2010.
Thursday’s report was the latest on child death and injury statistics from Turpel-Lafond’s office. The figures are updated every four months.
Source: Vancouver Sun