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Improved criminal records checks will not lead to better outcomes for children in care

The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development has announced that it will require more frequent criminal records checks for foster parents and caregivers of children in care – every three years instead of every five. The ministry will have access to databases from police, the courts and corrections.

“BC’s programs for children at risk and their families have fallen short for decades and using more frequent criminal records checks will do nothing to improve how we deal with the children who come to the attention of the Ministry of Children and Family Development,” said Jane Sterk, leader of the Green Party of BC.

“Current funding and programs that deliver ‘one size fits all’ solutions have not worked. Children in care in British Columbia are more likely to end up in jail or addicted or in poverty or marginalized than to graduate from high school. Only by moving to a model that believes healthy family functioning can be learned and that provides the necessary resources to help at-risk families can we find appropriate and positive outcomes for these children and prevent the next generation of broken individuals and families.

“We can help parents develop the skills needed to keep the family together in most instances or to be re-united quickly should a child need to be removed. British Columbia needs an effective plan that focuses on whole and healthy families. When a child is at risk, this requires a 3-step process: remove the child from danger, fix the issues within the family, and reunite the family. The current system only deals with the first step.

“We need to implement a full range of programs for families, including direct services like parenting, life-skills, employment, and job skill training; educational upgrading; and health and mental health education. We also need indirect prevention services such as child care; in-home support; long term, emergency and crisis counseling; a livable income; and adequate and safe housing.

“With prevention instead of punishment as the focus, families will receive help to stay together, to find gainful employment, and to develop good parenting and family communication and coping skills. When a child needs to be removed from his family for his protection, the ministry must work with the family to help them make the changes necessary to allow the safe return of the child as soon as the child’s safety and healthy development can be assured.

“In the instances where a child must be removed permanently, the government is duty bound to assist that child to deal with abandonment issues and to find her a safe, secure and loving permanent home. When adult activity shows criminal intent, financial exploitation of a child, abuse or neglect, the perpetrators must be dealt with in criminal justice system rather than the child welfare system.

“Of course foster parents and caregivers must be well qualified and trained to deal with the traumatized child. But budget priorities must shift to prevention of family break down if we really care about at-risk kids. It has been proven time and time again and there have been hundreds of studies and commissions that all conclude the same thing. The government (or its surrogate) is not a good parent. So let’s acknowledge that and get on with real reform so that we can prevent government culpability in creating the next addict or the next criminal or the next broken individual,” concluded Sterk.

This article is a press release from the Green Party of BC.