Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Manufacturing Children's Lives & Deaths

Coroner Adopts New Child Death Review Process
CKNW, (June 21, 2005).

VANCOUVER(CKNWAM980) - The BC Coroner's Service
is adopting a new process for reviewing deaths of children,
after the investigation into the death of 2-year-old Chassidy

Chassidy was accidentally smothered by her father while
he was drunk, and he was later convicted of criminal
negligence causing death.

Assistant Deputy Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says Chassidy's
family, members of her native band and other community
representatives took part in the review, "and that resulted
in some recommendations to the coroner which the coroner
adopted, and it allowed everybody to be heard and to have
some control over the outcome, some sense that their issues
were considered and were considered to be important."

The recommendations include better training for hospital staff
and police when it comes to identifying and assessing child
abuse and better information sharing among community
Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Review Findings Released in Death of Child
: Chronology

Summary of the Director's Case Review Into the Death of CW.
(October 22, 2003).
CBC, (February, 2003). Saving the Native Children.
News in Review.
Foster parent says Sto:lo system is flawed
By Kevin Gillies,(December 09, 2003). Abbotsford Times.

The Sto:lo child welfare program Xyolhemeyhl has failed
children in several instances, including the case of Chassidy
Whitford, according to a woman who has fostered several
First Nations kids for the program.

Xyolhemeyhl [pronounced heoth-meeth] has come under
public scrutiny since two-year-old Chassidy was discovered
dead on the Lakahahmen reserve Sept. 21.]
Critical report ignored

By Lisa Morry, (
December 09, 2003). Chilliwack Times.

In particular, the report, by CS/RESORS Consulting, Ltd., Elizabeth M.
Robinson, Inc. and Gordon Blackwell, states that 73.2 per cent of
child protection and guardianship files reviewed did not have a plan
of care on file. Of those files, 83 per cent did not have a safety
assessment on file and 83 per cent also did not have a risk assess-
ment on file.

"While the number of files overall is small (41), the findings have
particular strength because of their uniformity. That is, the rate
of sheer absence of records or of lack of currency of those records
that exist is very high indeed; or, put another way, there is a very
low proportion of activities for which information is current or even
present at all," the report states.


It's outrageous that the Liberals think they can water down
and cover up the reality that Chassidy Whitford, a child who
was barely two, lost her life due to the failure of the child
welfare system. As reported by CKNW and no-where to be
found on the government website, the BC coroner's autopsy
report suggests more training for police and hospital staff,
and increased information sharing are the answers to how
this child did not receive the protection and intervention
she deserved from the child welfare authorities,
her family,
community and other professionals. If people are taking
the "hands off" turning a blind eye approach to protecting
children, then they also get the blame and the accountability
for children being hurt.

Hmm, no mention of the "notable gaps in the investigation
process," some of which included staff who investigated did
not recognize the nature of the risk to the child. The investi-
gator did not seek consultation, or receive it, the proper case
process and documentation was not performed and people
who may have been important to interview were not sought
out about the circumstances and safety
of the child"
Summary of the Director's Case Review).

Further audits of the agency found issues of accountability
and documentation, including a high majority of children's files
with no plans of care. Other conditions that impacted practice
included the complexity of the work and "the appalling social
conditions and an overwhelming caseload," (CBC, February,

Now, to be clear, this isn't an attack on Xyolhemeyhl, who
I'm sure were doing the best they could with the human and
other resources available. I'm afraid that those delegated to
provide protection to children can't play things loosy-goosy.
There are policy and practice standards for a reason. And to
be fair, BC has its share of good ones.

Leaders within Aboriginal agencies and others must help
train staff in learning policy, model and teach good practice
themselves and encourage staff to be involved in training.
All of this will assist workers in developing better skills, know-
ledge and assess the safety of children and the needs of them
and their families more accurately.

Another key to child welfare organizations and improved practice
is that there must be appropriate staffing levels. I fully believe
that those working strictly with Aboriginal children and families
must have lower caseloads. The complexity and intensity of the
problems facing First Nations families and communities cannot be
underestimated. The rich relationships and work that can be
created with families cannot occur when workloads, or caseloads,
are too high. An organization cannot develop an experienced,
competent work force in child protection if they keep burning
staff out. There is no social worker tree. They're not as expendable
as I've been led to think government believes. Sometimes I wonder
if the Liberals also think the populations being served in child
protection are expendable too?

The messy part of child protection is that sometimes in spite of
the best interventions tragedies happen. Child protection isn't
an exact science and the organizations are serving higher-risk
individuals and families. But the bottom line is that ethical, com-
petent and knowledgeable leadership and supervision is what is
needed in any child welfare organization. Sadly, this appears to
be lacking in many. The only way things are going to change, or
improve, is if the Liberals realize that the more fiscal constraint
Treasury Board imposes the less focus is given to the safety and
well-being of children and youth.

I'm urging that there be no more cuts to the Ministry of Children
and Family Development. I have a hunch they are happening,
even separate from the impending devolution of CLBC and the
money that goes with them. I'm urging that the authorities
halt the process to privatize the child welfare system.
The children's bodies are stacking up and even in their
deaths children's realities are being manufactured
the very state that is responsible for their well-being.

United Nations,
(2 September 1990).
Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 3
1. In all actions concerning children, whether under-
taken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of
law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best
interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection
and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into
account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guard-
ians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and,
to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and adminis-
trative measures.

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