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Province's complaint response policy should match law: report

The ministry for children and family development could improve how it resolves complaints from children in government care by meeting the 30-day time limit set out in law, according to a report released today.

Instead of meeting the 30-day law, the ministry has a policy to respond to complaints within 60 days, said Hearing the Voices of Children and Youth, a joint report from B.C.'s Ombudsperson Kim Carter and the representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

“Time passes so quickly in the life of a child that a delay in making a key decision in their life can have a significant impact,” the report said, making reference to Ted Hughes 2006 review of the child protection system. “MCFD has a responsibility to ensure timely decision making for children and youth in care.”

The New Democratic Party's children and family development deputy critic, Mable Elmore, said MCFD minister Mary Polak needs to answer for the ministry's policy failing to meet the law. "It's certainly a failure on her part," Elmore said. "I would expect that the policy be reworked to meet the 30-day time limit."

A discrepancy does exist and the ministry is working on making its policy match the law, said MCFD spokesperson Chris Ash. She said she couldn't say when the change would be made, but the work is happening now and the policy should be changed soon.

Carter and Turpel-Lafond's report suggested making the policy change by April 1 and implementing it by October 1. The ministry should also publicly provide a quality assurance report on complaints, they found.

The 62-page report acknowledged that the ministry has made efforts to establish a responsive and effective child-centred complaint system, but found there is room for improvement.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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