Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Child welfare report points to broken system, say social workers

VANCOUVER - A recent report revealing high levels of critical injury and death of children and youth under the watch of the B.C. government highlights a system that is understaffed and inadequately funded, says the province's social work association.

“The system is in absolute crisis and this has been coming for some time,” said Tracey Young, chair of the Child Welfare and Family Committee for the B.C. Association of Social Workers.

The report from the province’s Representative for Children and Youth found 49 critical injuries and 30 deaths of children in provincial care or receiving reviewable services over a four-month period ending May 31.

Twenty-six of the injury cases and 12 of the deaths are being investigated by the representative’s office to determine any role played by the welfare system.

“Unfortunately I’m not terribly surprised that children are not faring well at this point in time in B.C.,” said Young.

Child advocates and social workers have been telling the government for years that the child welfare system is understaffed, she said.

“There are mistakes that are made, there are tragedies that occur, because people are absolutely just taxed to their limit.”

The problems include offices that are often extremely short-staffed and a lack of backfill for people on vacation or medical leave, she said, which all create huge gaps in service provision. “These are not expendable roles in our society or province.”

Young acknowledged that the rate of injury and death of children in government care is higher because of the increased fragile health of these children when entering the system.

But she said this only emphasizes the need for a comprehensive plan from the provincial government to combat poverty, since the vast majority of child protection cases are related to family-poverty issues.

These systemic problems are often forgotten and ignored, Young said, with social workers then being unfairly scapegoated by the public.

“It’s really, really easy -- and I find particularly in this area of child protection and child welfare -- to want to blame somebody,” she said.

“But [social workers] work within this vast underfunded system and they are trying their best each day.”

She said the association lauds the work of the Representative for Children and Youth and is calling on the provincial government to provide even greater accountability and transparency on child welfare issues.

“When tragedies occur, a healthy, responsible system will use that to look at what went wrong and what went right, instead of 'how do we fix the optics of this,'” she said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus