Glen Abernethy – Child and Family Services

Glen Abernethy - Official PortraitMr. Speaker, on March 4, 2014, this Assembly received a report on Child and Family Services from the Auditor General of Canada.  The report confirmed what we already knew – that we need to do a better job of supporting children and families.  It highlighted areas where our system has seriously failed.  It told how some children are falling through the cracks, and how some Health and Social Services Authorities have not routinely followed up on the well-being of children placed into care.   These situations are unacceptable.

I recognize the need for change, and I am committed to taking aggressive action to make it happen.

Mr. Speaker, later today, I will table the report of the Director of Child and Family Services, covering the years 2002 through 2012.  Although we still have a long way to go, the report shows that we are making progress in some areas.  For example, over 11 years the proportion of children receiving services in their family home has increased.  The rate of voluntary service agreements and Plan of Care agreements has gone up.  There has been a corresponding decrease in the rate of custody orders and southern placements. This tells us that parents are seeking help, and making efforts to improve the situations which are putting their children at risk.

It is also a positive sign that more youth between the ages of 16 and 18 are receiving services.  This addresses a gap that was identified as critical by the Standing Committee on Social Programs of the 16th Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  The proportion of Aboriginal children in the system is far too high.  The Auditor General of Canada has confirmed that there are serious deficiencies in accountability, monitoring, reporting, and compliance.  Addressing these gaps is a top priority and work is under way.

Moving forward, we need a fundamental shift in philosophy.  We need to move to a system that puts greater emphasis on building strong families.  We need to support families at risk so that children don’t need to come under our care.  When that fails, we need to have supports in place in the community that will allow children to stay in their homes, and will help their parents get back on track.

Mr. Speaker, we know what needs to be done and we will do it.  We have already put the key building blocks in place to support families at risk with our strategic action plans for Early Childhood Development, Addictions and Mental Health, Economic Opportunities, and Anti-Poverty. Later this summer, I will share with Members of this House an Action Plan on Building Stronger Families.  It will provide a road map for changing the child and family services system to achieve these goals.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.