VANCOUVER, Jan. 27 /CNW/ - The report on the death of 21 infants
released today by the Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen
Turpel-Lafond, is a disturbing review of the short lives of infant
children who died in tragic circumstances and points to the need for a
legislated poverty reduction plan, says the B.C. Government and Service
Employees' Union (BCGEU), which represents social workers that provide
provincial child protection services.
The report reviewed the circumstances and identified the factors that
played a role in the deaths of 21 infants in a two-year period. The
report identified extreme poverty and related risk factors including
inadequate housing as a significant factor that impacted the infants'
well being. There was a serious disconnect between the medical, child
welfare and public health systems that provided services to these
families. There is a serious failure to provide provincial wide
"It is very sad and disturbing to read this report," said Darryl Walker,
BCGEU president. "The stories about the children are very painful. We
are not doing enough to protect those who are the most vulnerable in
society. It is very alarming that 15 of the 21 infants were
"In all cases, poverty played a significant role in the death of these
infants," said Walker. "We are in full support of the Representative's
call for the development of a legislated poverty reduction plan in the
province. It is unforgiveable that British Columbia has the worst child
poverty rates in Canada."
Turpel-Lafond also identified the changes needed to improve the Ministry
of Children and Family Development's review processes and standards
when responding to families in need. All of the infants' families were
involved with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
"Turpel-Lafond's report clearly identifies concerns over the lack of a
central monitoring of these cases," said Doug Kinna, chair of the
BCGEU's Social, Information and Health component, which includes social
workers. "The lack of a central provincial body means there are too
many regional differences in the way policies are applied. Inter-agency
problems have also developed."
"We have told the Ministry there is a need for improved and consistent
standards across the province. We have raised these concerns time and
time again with the government and have yet to see a proper response,"
"Caseloads for social workers range from 30 to 50 families, where a
client list in the low 20s is the standard that should be followed,"
said Kinna. "The government has not allocated the resources that are
needed to do a proper job of responding to serious social problems. We
cannot do child protection on the cheap."
According to the ministry's service plan, there are 8,677 children in
the care of the Ministry.
"This tragic situation should not be allowed to happen again," said
Walker. "Government and the agencies involved in providing care must
take the steps so that children do not die because of a lack of
attention from their families or government. We must be partners in
solving these problems."
The BCGEU supports the Recommendations identified by the Representative
that will protect our vulnerable infants.
SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
For further information:
Brian Gardiner, BCGEU Communications, (604) 291-9611