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Watchdog audit shows plan for kids in government care an 'afterthought'

The B.C. Representative of Children and Youth says the lack of adherence to Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) guidelines requiring a comprehensive plan for children in their care shows the ministry sees planning as "an option and a luxury."

"Much More than Paperwork: Proper Planning Essential to Better Lives for B.C.'s Children in Care" details the Representative's audit of 100 case files for children in continuing government care since March 31, 2011, looking specifically at their "comprehensive plans of care (CPOC)." CPOCs are supposed to outline the short and long-term care required to ensure the needs of children and youth are met by outlining clear goals and strategies for meeting those goals.

Of those 100 cases, only five had regularly reviewed CPOCs. Another 52 had CPOCs that could be considered current, though had not been regularly reviewed every 90 days as required.

Sixty of the files reviewed were for aboriginal children, of whom only three had an additional cultural plan -- a requirement for aboriginal children in care to ensure connection with their history and culture is maintained. None of the cultural plans was up to date by ministry standards.

Overall the Representative found little participation in the CPOCs by the children and youth themselves, their birth parents, guardians, caregivers, or "any other significant people in the lives of these children and youth."

"Government has a responsibility, as the prudent parent of these children, to carefully plan for them in order to increase their opportunities in life," said Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond in a press release issued by her office this morning.

"Many of these children desperately need interventions and services to address their needs and a plan for how they will receive those things.

"This planning is not an option or a luxury, although this audit shows it has been treated as both by a ministry focused on crisis-management. Planning is a staple of good child welfare practice. MCFD must make this a priority going forward."

The release also listed recommendations made by Turpel-Lafond to improve adherence to CPOC guidelines dating back as far as 2007.

The report makes 10 recommendations for the ministry, including providing adequate financial and staffing resources to ensure CPOCs are completed, assessed and up to date; holding staff and managers accountable for completing CPOCs to ministry standards; providing enhanced training and tools for staff creating plans; ensuring staff have adequate time to meet with family, caregivers, and children and youth to review their plans every 90 days; and creating cultural plans for every aboriginal child in care by the end of 2013.

The Tyee has contacted the ministry and will update later today with its response.

Katie Hyslop reports on education and youth issues for The Tyee. Follow her on Twitter.

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