Child Welfare, Ministry of Children And Family – Review

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Victoria – In partnership with the Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC), the Ministry of Children and Family Development has asked Bob Plecas, a highly respected former deputy minister, to lead an independent review into matters arising from Judge Walker’s recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling.

In addition to technical and subject matter expertise, the CWLC will recommend the appropriate qualified individuals, including policy experts and a legal advisor, to help Plecas complete his review by Oct. 13, 2015. It will then be made public by Oct. 21, 2015 to allow for a privacy review. The ministry will also provide administrative support.

The review is not intended to retry the court case, but rather to examine policy, practice and provide recommendations as to where there are gaps. The terms of reference for the review (in background below) include all of the ministry’s interaction with the family that is the subject of the BC Supreme Court ruling between 2009 and 2012, as well as the report of the child-welfare expert retained by the ministry in the litigation. In light of the judgment, it requires re-examination.

In accordance with labour relations practice, any supervisory staff that may be directly impacted by the review will be re-assigned to an area of work that does not involve the same duties as those being reviewed. This is standard and prudent human resource practice, and has been endorsed by the Public Service Agency (PSA). If the outcome of the independent review indicates significant concerns with staff actions, a human-resource review will be conducted through the PSA. Any interim staffing measures taken by the ministry are not disciplinary in nature, as that kind of action will only be contemplated after the completion of any necessary human-resource review.

Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux –

“The vulnerable children who come into contact with our ministry, or who come into our care deserve our best each and every day. The recent judgment made many significant and disturbing assertions about staff conduct. We owe it to children, the public and to staff to seek out the truth in the most balanced and unbiased way possible.”

Bob Plecas:

“I returned to government for two years in 1996 to lead the large re-organization that established the children’s ministry. Government had responded to recommendations from Judge Thomas Gove that arose from a very difficult child-protection case. We learned lessons, and implemented his recommendations. Twenty years later we have a critical judgement from Justice Walker on another child-protection case. The minister asked me to take an independent look at the actions, practices, standards and legislation that formed the backdrop to his highly critical comments. In this intense, short-term review I have been asked to consider that part of the child protection that involve private custody and access issues between parents, particularly where there are applications, proceedings or orders involving the provincial court and the Supreme Court. They believe lessons can be learned, and from critical comment good policy developed. I share that view.”

Gordon Phaneuf, CEO Child Welfare League of Canada –

“The CWLC commends Minister Cadieux for her announcement today of an Independent practice and policy review. This is an important andtimelystep in ensuring that the ministry meets the imperatives of its child-protection mandate. The CWLC is committed to supporting and advising the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the development and completion of the review.The process and timelines for the practice and policy review underscore the commitment to accountability and transparency.”

BACKGROUNDER 1 Terms of Reference

Intent

This is a child-protection practice and policy review in the matter J.P. and an investigation into whether systemic problems exist that can be improved through recommendations.

Objective

The objectives of this review are to:

  1. Assess if the child protection practice and actions taken by ministry staff, supervisors, and legal counsel contracted to represent the Director under the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) were consistent with legislation, policies and standards during the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (the ‘ministry’) contact with the family during 2009 to 2012;
  2. In the context of the J.P. case, particular focus will be given to when a child protection matter also involves private custody and access issues between parents, particularly when there are applications, proceedings, or orders involving the provincial court and Supreme Court of British Columbia;
  3. Examination of the ministry’s legislation, policies, standards and practice to provide the appropriate degree of guidance with respect to child protection practice in cases involving custody and access disputes, including orders from the provincial court and Supreme Court of British Columbia and/or Acts; and
  4. Provide recommendations to improve the ministry’s practice, policies and standards.

Scope

Recognizing this is not a public inquiry, nor an investigation of individuals’ actions, or of fault finding, but rather a consideration of compliance with legislation, orders, policies and standards, and what improvements can be made to systemic problems; this review will require interviews with government staff and other involved relevant people to support and inform the process. With a focus primarily on the J.P. case, the following is in scope:

Legislation, Policy and Standards:

  1. Review the legislation, policies and standards that were in place during 2009 to 2012, and those that currently exist, with respect to child protection practice in cases involving custody and access disputes, and if they provide the appropriate level of guidance to staff. This review includes how orders from the provincial court and Supreme Court of British Columbia and/or under the authority of other acts may interact with ministry legislation, policy, standards and practice.

Practice:

  1. Review all records pertaining to J.P. up to 2012 that are necessary to achieve the objectives of this review including a report of a child welfare expert retained by the ministry for the litigation, to determine whether the actions taken by the Director under the CFCSA were consistent with legislation, policy and standards.
  2. Review the practice undertaken by ministry staff, supervisors, and legal counsel contracted to represent the Director under the CFCSA with respect to child protection matters that also involve private custody and access issues between parents, particularly when there are applications, proceedings, or orders involving the provincial court and Supreme Court of British Columbia.
  3. The reviewers acknowledge that any records made available to them for the purpose of this review are confidential and provided to them only for the purpose of this review. Such records are subject to the provisions of sections 74 and 75 of the CFCSA and the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act to the extent that its provisions have not been superseded by the CFCSA. Although many internal records of relevance, including the expert report, have been tendered in evidence in court, the court file is subject to a sealing order and therefore the records are not accessible by members of the public.

Recommendations:

  1. Based on the findings of this review, provide recommendations for improvement of the ministry’s practice, policies and standards.

Approach

This review will be led by Bob Plecas. He will be joined by a research consultant associated with the Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC).

Deliverables

Mr. Plecas will provide:

  • Reports to the minister to inform of progress, in a manner as agreed between the minister and Mr. Plecas.
  • A final report summarizing the review and will include:
    • An analysis of the J.P. case and how it informs systemic issues with legislation, policies, standards and practice;
    • Findings related to each objective; and
    • Recommendations.

Public Release of Report

A final report will be submitted to the minister no later than Oct. 13, 2015. The minister will make the report public no later than Oct. 21, 2015.

BACKGROUNDER 2 Background on Bob Plecas, The Child Welfare League of Canada and Gordon Phaneuf

Bob Plecas

Bob Plecas has been a deputy minister under five Premiers, 25 ministers in 10 cabinet portfolios in the B.C. He returned to government in 1996 to lead the government reorganization to establish the children’s ministry. He is the author of over 20 major pieces of provincial legislation.
As planned, Plecas left government in 1998 and he worked with CEOs of major Canadian companies to solve challenging problems, including as president of the BC Lumber Trade Council for negotiations in the softwood lumber trade dispute between Canada and the USA.
Another career followed, this time mediating litigious disputes over development projects valued in many hundreds of millions of dollars between First Nations and industry. Plecas has been a political analyst on weekly radio show for 12 years, and a regular television pundit on Vaughn Palmer’s Voice of the Province and many others, as well as writing extensively on political issues in the media.

In 2006, he authored a best-selling book: “Bill Bennett, a Mandarin’s View.” A second book, a B.C. historical fiction, is nearing completion.

The Child Welfare League of Canada

CWLC is the voice for child welfare issues across Canada. Established in 1994, CWLC is a membership-based national organization dedicated to promoting the well-being and protection of vulnerable young people. CWLC plays a significant role in promoting best practices among those in the field of child welfare, child rights, children and youth mental health and youth justice.

Gordon Phaneuf

Gordon Phaneuf, the CEO of the CWLC, is a registered social worker and has a master of social work. Phaneuf has had long affiliation with children’s issues, working in a variety of capacities, including child advocacy, front-line child protection, program and policy development, knowledge exchange, and the epidemiology of child maltreatment.

For the last several years he has led the National Consultation Centre (NCC) at CWLC, which is recognized nationally as a leader in the design, development and delivery of child and family services. The NCC has undertaken a wide range of work in recent years including formal child-welfare reviews, child-protection training, developing a pilot for flexible response in Saskatchewan, executive-skills development and database development.

Spearheading a national program of research and surveillance on child abuse, he established the Child Maltreatment Division within the Government of Canada. He has represented the federal government at a number of international forums on child maltreatment. He has significant leadership experience in the public affairs and not-for-profit sectors and has an established track record of forging new cross-disciplinary and multi-sector initiatives on children’s issues.

Serving as a technical advisor, he has provided consultation services to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Republic of South Africa, the government of Ethiopia, the World Health Organization and several provincial and territorial governments in Canada.

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