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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Saskatchewan review talks big reform

CBC news is carrying a story that a review of the Saskatchewan child protection system has identified problems so big that the system needs a complete rebuild. There are many calls for systemic restructuring in child protection throughout the western world. I look forward to redaing the report in Sask but a word of caution. Child protection may not be working in the western world in many but not all cases because we have the mandate confused. Further, as a society, we may not be willing to pay for a good system that can do the folloiwng well:

1. assist families where the parents are not good enough to get interventions that will help get there;
2. prevent child abuse and neglect through family and community interventions;
3. protect children from parents who are not good enough and can't get there.

These are expensive goals that require a budgetary committment over the long term. Are we, as a society, willing to pay. We say we want these things (few would argue to keep children being abused) but we also don't want to pay more taxes and people often feel that prevention programs and lower level interventions are inteference in families by the state. Such conundrums!

This is further complicated by a social work profession that may well be running scared in many places. The fear that there might be another death on their caseload that will lead to the kind of public villification that Sharon Shoesmith experienced in England following the death of Baby P. When things go wrong the public wants a scapegoat and there is usually a social worker who can be found.

We don't want kids to die but we may not be willing to build the kidn of system where that becomes less possible. It will never be completely avoidable.

Saskatchewan's recommendations will be fascinating and one hopes that it can offer ideas that go beyond the blame culture that has been the hallmark of the many, many reports that precede it.

Here is the CBC story:

July 30, 2010

Child welfare needs overhaul: study chair

By CBC News

Saskatchewan's child welfare system is performing so poorly it needs a complete overhaul, according to the chairman of a panel studying the situation.

Saskatchewan's child welfare system is performing so poorly it needs a complete overhaul, according to the chairman of a panel studying the situation.

Bob Pringle told CBC News on Friday that his evaluation of the current state of affairs reveals a system that is so broken it cannot, in his view, get any worse.

The provincial government asked Pringle to study the system after concerns were raised by Saskatchewan's children's advocate about foster care. In 2009 the advocate identified a number of problems, especially overcrowding of foster homes.

Pringle and three other panel members have been talking with hundreds of people, gathering input for a report. He said issues with foster care are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child welfare in the province and he will recommend a complete restructuring of the system.

"This is, in my personal view, the first true window of opportunity for major restructuring that I've seen in my 35 years," Pringle told CBC News, referring to his long career with social service agencies in Saskatoon. "These are long term problems which took a long time to get in this mess.

"Timing is often the key thing in [creating] new policy initiatives," he added, saying the climate was right for change "because the situation cannot get any worse."

He said First Nations groups in Saskatchewan need to be involved in decision-making about child-welfare policies.

Pringle added that other social service initiatives also need attention, including addictions counselling, affordable housing and parenting classes. Addressing needs in those areas could prevent a lot of problems with children, he said.

Pringle said the final report of the child welfare review panel will be delivered to the minister responsible by Oct. 1.

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