Both sides on Aboriginal Child Welfare need to wake up

Who is accountable for the waste of money going to the Aboriginal Child Welfare program in this province?

Who is accountable for the waste of money going to the Aboriginal Child Welfare program in this province?

Some $66 million has been going into a program that was to help First Nations Children and there has not been much accountability on both sides for this poorly run deal.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the B.C. lady who is the child and youth representative overseeing the province’s child protection program and is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and former Judge in the Saskatchewan provincial court, was recently critical of the government and First Nations.

Almost half of the money went to establish regional authorities to delivery Aboriginal programs. This has failed.

The other half went to a half-baked plan that did not rise to expectations — that being a model where money was freely spent without any results, or very few.

Turpel-Lafond says cheques were written with no accountability. This program was rife with competing ideas and episodes of activity directed without policy basis. It followed no observable logic, along with it being open to other agendas.

Aboriginal child welfare goals, strategies and intended outcomes are undefined. There is a lack of evidence-based standards and practices, there is disparity in access and availability of services and there is a lack of accountability to Aboriginal children whose lives have been impacted by the child welfare system.

The provincial child and youth representative also says in her long, damaging report that public service and accountability that permits good collaboration but no service appears to make everyone feel good or provides an illusion of progress where there is none.

The B.C. ministry has apparently said money has not been distributed equally between the 23 Aboriginal groups and is often used for purposes other than child welfare, like those programs dealing with infant development, mental health, family support, cultural activities and foster care studies.

One agency that did get support for almost a million bucks in annual funding was Desniqi Services in Williams Lake and Turpel-Lafond reported they did not have any open child welfare cases at the end of the fiscal year.

To this she said: “The big picture seems to have been lost here.”

It has been my understanding they do a lot of other work besides child welfare, like keeping children and parents together.

Too many studies costing even more money are still not helping the situation. As a taxpayer I want to know why my money is being wasted. I don’t mind the dollars going to the program as long as there are some guidelines, some reportable outcomes, and some accountability.

Both sides in this issue need a kick in the pants and their actions are not helping the progress of so many Aboriginal children who make up for more than half of all the care children despite representing less than 10 per cent of the kids under 18 years in B.C.

***

Much thanks to all those who purchased a poppy, attended the ceremony to honour veterans in the Gibraltar Room, went to the Cenotaph or Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 for fellowship.

It’s great to see the brave Canadian men and women who sacrificed their lives and to those who returned from terrible wars, honoured once again.

Ken Wilson is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Advisor.

 

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