The Federation’s stance on the recent RCY report

As many of you know, our province’s new Representative for Children and Youth released his first report last week. It revisits the heartbreaking story about the life and death of a young man who experienced the worst parts of a broken social care system. What happened to Alex Gervais was awful and leaves no doubt that our child welfare system needs to be better resourced.

There has been plenty of media coverage this week looking at various angles of the RCY’s report as well as the MCFD’s response. The Federation has submitted letters to the editor and made its position clear in the media—you can read our statements in this Globe and Mail article and listen to Rick’s interview on CKNW.

Over five years ago, The Federation committed to taking a stand in order to improve residential care for young people in BC. Since the final Residential Review report was released in 2012, we have consistently worked to have the recommendations in the report made a government priority. This is one of the main reasons we work to build relationships with the RCY office and MCDF—to be in a position to help make these changes happen.

I am hopeful that the Representative’s comments this week in support of the Residential Review will move it up the government’s agenda. We knew from the start that this would be about incremental change and because of our position and the power of this federation, we have been able to persistently and consistently express our position to government: that this work is important, that changes need to be made, and that it is the right thing to do to help the young people of BC.

I have also heard the Minister’s remarks about “rethinking” child welfare and potentially moving away from contracted service providers. Because of the RCY report, the Minister is currently under attack and it is not surprising that she would try to deflect some of the attention. However, her statements will not change our attitude about working collaboratively with the government. And, frankly, we know that the solution she suggested simply won’t work.

The Ministry has a draft Multi-Year Action plan that will be released after the budget. I have been briefed on it. I cannot divulge what it contains, but I can say that it does not include a wholesale move away from young people living in residential placements. Such placements meet an important need in our province and are absolutely necessary.

That said, we know all too often such placements are a last resort for young people. And The Federation would be supportive of any changes that would see fewer children in need of this last resort.

What happened to Alex was truly horrible. His loss has been a heartache for his loved ones and the people of BC who care for our kids. Let’s hope, and let’s work, for change on behalf of Alex and the many other young people out there just like him.

If you have any questions or concerns about The Federation’s position, the Representative’s report, or our relationship with MCFD, please contact me. I am always available for our members and I have dedicated office hours to connect with members this Friday between 1:00–4:00 pm.