Housing costs skyrocket for children, youth in need

Barb Sweet & Steve Bartlett
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

AG report

The cost to Eastern Health of providing living expenses for children and youth with specific needs is expected to be more than $17 million in 2010, a whopping increase of 467 per cent from five years ago, according to the auditor general's report.

A major cause of that overrun is the lack of foster homes. John Noseworthy's annual scrutiny of provincial government departments and agencies was released Thursday.

Joan Burke, minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, speaks to the media at the House of Assembly Thursday afternoon following the release of the auditor general's report. Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The cost to Eastern Health of providing living expenses for children and youth with specific needs is expected to be more than $17 million in 2010, a whopping increase of 467 per cent from five years ago, according to the auditor general's report.

A major cause of that overrun is the lack of foster homes. John Noseworthy's annual scrutiny of provincial government departments and agencies was released Thursday.

One of the most monumental revelations concerns living arrangements for children and youth in care.

That fell under the Department of Health and Community Services during the years the auditor general reviewed, and since last spring, has been the responsibility of the new department of Child, Youth and Family Services.

Specific needs can include children and youth with behavioural and/or anti-social impairments or those children and youth who must be accommodated when no foster homes are available.

Specific needs accommodations are called "Code 79," and include alternative living arrangements, independent living arrangements, out-of-province placements and group homes.

Eastern Health is responsible for administering services to children and youth in need on the Avalon, Bonavista and Burin peninsulas.

Noseworthy said a review of the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years indicated "there were significant issues with regards to escalating costs, documentation, policies and procedures, and how service providers were selected."

Code 79 costs were $3 million in 2005, but by 2009 had soared to $13.5 million, for just 128 children and youth.

One client alone cost $614,986 in 2009.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael called the revelations "very disturbing" and said the finding proves "we actually have a mess on our hands at Child, Youth and Family Services, especially children in care."

She said if the province could put all that money into the stopgap living expenses, it could afford to better fund foster care so more families would sign on.

Joan Burke, minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, readily acknowledged the system was lacking across the province when she met with reporters Thursday afternoon.

She agreed there aren't enough foster homes and admitted her department doesn't know where homes are needed. There is no plan in place on how to attract new foster families, she said.

"The plan is, we're going to develop a strategy to attract new foster homes."

The biggest culprit for the ballooning costs, said Noseworthy, was the need to place children and youth in "alternative living arrangements" due to the lack of foster care homes. Such arrangements cost $7.1 million in 2009.

While those arrangements are supposed to be temporary, Noseworthy' s examination of selected cases found the length of stay ranged from four months to 27 months, and 10 of the individuals were in the temporary placement for longer than 12 months.

Furthermore, Noseworthy said the Code 79 living arrangements don't have policies and procedures to make sure staff handled cases consistently.

Burke said the plan was to move away from the alternative living arrangements and to develop a continuum of residential services for youth. Growing the number of foster homes is part of that, as is setting up specialized foster care for children with high needs.

In its official response to the report, Eastern Health also stressed the lack of foster homes.

"There is also a need for a more comprehensive range of residential services including therapeutic foster care, additional group care services and a residential treatment facility," the health authority said.

"In the absence of a fully-developed residential services program, Eastern Health has had to develop emergency and long-term living arrangements for those children who cannot currently live in a family home and for those children for whom no home is available. Unfortunately, there are also children who have to be sent outside of Newfoundland for residential treatment."

Noseworthy also took issue with the way the providers of Code 79 services were selected.

Two companies - Caregivers, $8.1 million and Waypoints, $2 million - accounted for 75 per cent of all Code 79 costs in 2009.

"There was no documentation on file to show how these two service providers were selected," Noseworthy said.

"As a result, Eastern Health was not able to demonstrate that the cost of the services being provided was competitive and that the services being offered were the most effective at that time. Officials at Eastern Health indicated that they have no plan of calling for proposals for these services because, in their opinion, these service providers are considered sole source given the extent and volume of the service they can provide."

As for not following competitive bidding practices, Eastern Health said its child protection professionals are not of the opinion "that reasonable specifications can be developed to address the range of needs of vulnerable children taken into care in very short timeframes and under very different but always stressful circumstances."

So it become a judgment call of staff.

"The welfare and safety of the child is paramount. Cost is always a secondary consideration," Eastern Health said.

Burke supported that philosophy when asked about the soaring costs the auditor general flagged.

"To me, the money is not so much the issue if we are providing an appropriate level of care and the children's needs were being met in the optimal way," she said. "The optimal way right now is for us to have more access to foster homes, so that's a challenge we have to face and we have to look at a strategy to attract and maintain foster homes."

Burke said also said a lot the issues Noseworthy identified were noted previously in a clinical services review and provided the basis for establishing her department.

bsweet@thetelegram.com, sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Youth and Family Services, Department of Health and Community, Department of Child

Geographic location: Newfoundland

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • theresa
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Noseworthy is at it again! Thats great. I love it when hes digging in to the goin ons at gov. affares. Stuff about stuff, that we the public are not supposed to know about, only what they want us to hear! Great work John! Keep on diggin em Dillin.

  • frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    child youth and family services in this province is in total chaos so what does danny do? he forms a new dept of social workers who have a proven record in this province of putting themselves ahead of children. this new dept needs folks at the top who are not social workers. once this dept of social workers gets a full head of steam things will be much worse for our youth. the article mentions a treatment centre . the reason we do not have a youth treatment centre is a turf issue. all treatment centres depend on psychologists and youth care workers. neither of which we have many of because this province is a closed shop with social workers running the show. until such a time when social workers acknowledge there are other professions out there this province keeps falling behind. the cost of this turf issue is dozens of our youth and miilions of our dollars going to the mainland all because social workers refuse to give up their turf.we might get a treatment centre once social workers figure out how to operate it themselves. with this new dept of social workers we will fall further and further behind and the children suffer at the hands of the folks who are supposed to be helping. its a sad state of affairs.

  • Don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    There is something radically wrong with a system that is willing to waste millions of dollars to house a child in these alternative living arrangement situations but are not willing to give a family of a special needs child on a low income any extra funds to help make the childrens and parents lives more enjoyable.They would rather have these families stressed out financially and then find a reason to remove their children and place them in an A.L.A where it seems that money is not an object.Someone is making a lot of money from these unfortunate situations that could probably be prevented.Time for government to wake up and start helping families of special needs children and we wouldn't have to spend as much of our tax dollars on these A.L.As.

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I think Joan should Join the Liberal Party and then she will be able to do something concrete, with action.
    She is now under Premier William's whip and too nervous to make any personal decisions.

  • Keepin' It Real
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    So, Stop the Racket Stop Danny Williams , during your rant against the government you failed to mention who it was that actually has a clue.

    I have to assume that since you think the current government must be replaced that you must have an alternative in mind?

    You wouldn't be one of those types of folks that are so abundant who are full of complaints but devoid of solutions, would you???

  • knows anuff
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    This system with the youth makes me sick I would love for someone in the government would even try and explain why my 18 year old paralized daughter qualifies for 150 a month for income support. and then accross the street a 16 year old male under the governments care has a house rented, furnished,full of food,given money for taxis to go visit mom , half hour away, give spending money and have 24/7 care. and oiit is females working two staff thereis something wrong

  • Polly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    This province has a population of just over 500,000 , factor in the aging and a very low birth rate ------just how many children are we talking about here ?This whole situation is mind boggling .

  • Mom
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    My heart goes out to the children, who are being shuffled around. They need some stability in their lives. I can understand people's reluctance to become foster parents with today's social problems. It is difficult at the best of times to deal with the birth parents, who often have visitation rights. This can be very difficult for the children and the foster parents. These children are not being given up for adoption, often the birth parents are fighting to have them returned.

    As for the adoption process, it does need to be improved. There are many wonderful couples out there looking to adopt a child.

    With no stability in their lives what can we expect from these children as they grow older? How can we take pride in our humanity if we ignore the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society?

  • Just Wondering
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    No doubt, there are many children in our province who need to enter into temporary care, whether because of family illness, behavior, or just until mom and dad get their act together. Fostering is a wonderful way for children to be nurtured and feel safe until they can return to their home, or until other arrangements can be made for them. Permanancy is an issue for some children - the system gets to bogged down and families who are wanting to provide permanent homes for children have to wait sometimes years. I wonder though, whether recent Department fool-ups such as the wrongful accusations of the couple in Bay Bulls who were caring for a child who had seisures, and ended up having their OWN kids taken from them.....do instances such as this make potential foster families second-guess the system? Who would want to take the chance and be wrongly accused of abusing a foster child, only to find yourself battling the system and loosing your own kids? Seriously. The Department is severely understaffed. Becoming a foster family is not easy - you have to complete PRIDE training, go through ooodles of checks (and rightly so!). But the potential of being wrongly accused of something has kept us away. There is just no easy answer!

  • n sheppard
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    This does not surprise me, there is so much lies, false allegation, and documentation, going on within the system! No proper investion, code of ethics, or procedures being folowed by these govt departments, in additon, all this overtime hours, outrageous bills to house these children, when there are children who should not be here in this system, in the beginning
    A complete cover up, all the wrong that is being done to innocent families. There are too many cases, that should not even be in this system. Abuse within the system. There is no facts, but CYFS can take children, with no proof, the burden of proof, and the accountability. It all boils down to a money grab for workers, job security, (make work project) The accountability needs to be put right back in the lap of those who are causing so much disruption in innocent children and families lives. Shame!

  • Jon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Keepin' it real wrote: You wouldn't be one of those types of folks that are so abundant who are full of complaints but devoid of solutions, would you???

    Think ya hit the nail right on the head there buddy.

    Sounds like a liberal.

  • Concerned 4 kids
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    If the Child Youth and Family System was working properly then they would not need as many foster homes. They remove children and ask questions and investigate later, CYFS is in prevent mode rather than protecting the kids of this province. They get a annoymous call from someone and they immediately come into your life, & once they are in you never get rid of them. Anyone can call in and say oh I think this is going on and then CYFS takes it from there.
    From expereince I know that CYFS withholds crucial information for months even years that could reuinte families and because they do not want to admit they are wrong then they would rather place the children in care then return them to their families, and in some cases when there is a need for protection they don't even allow extended family members to care for the children, instead they place them in the care of strangers often in hotels with a different face every few hours. How is this benefitting young children. Teh emotional abuse that happens to these children is unreal and so injust. Its time for CYFS to start helping the children who ARE in need of protection rather than creating a make work project and spending money that could be put to other uses.

  • Bruce
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    There are two simple solutions to this problem;

    1) Provide some of these funds to foster parents, to make it something more than a labour of love.

    2) Sever parental rights for those children who have been in the system for more than a year, who have been removed from the same house more than twice. There are hundreds of families in Newfoundland paying a fortune, and waiting years, to adopt children from overseas. Meanwhile, our own government is allowing children to spend years in an expensive housing and fostering limbo. Give them to the parents who really want them.

  • W
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Who owns Caregivers, and Waypoints, million who have collected 10.1 million, and over 600K was for teh care of 1 child in 2009?

  • Stop the Racket
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    The plan is to develop a strategy says Jopan Burke. Roughly translated she means we dont have a dam clue what were doing as usual. When are people finally going to see this governent for the absolute farce and absolute joke that it really is? Surely the 78% that love everything Danny cant be wrong. Or can they? You decide.

  • Dianne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    knows anuff from cbs:

    just to let you know some of the reasons their might be 2 staff with that boy: he might have been violent or accused staff of sexual or physical abuse in the past. Usually there is only 2 staff to protect staff (and realistically save tax dollars from a lengthy court case if more accusations are made). There are many likely reasons that there are not other children in the house with him.

    Also, I don't know what your solution is to 24/7 care. They can't just leave the boy in the house by himself sometimes. What if he had a party, got hurt, or started a fire?

    I think the solution is clear: more foster homes. Before everyone starts criticizing the government, ask yourself if you are willing to open your home up to a child. If not, you really can't argue against these temporary housing units, it is the only choice.

    Finally, the government may have spent a lot of money paying these workers and rent on these houses, but don't forget that money is staying in the province. All those workers have jobs and are not on EI. And if you compare the Child Youth Worker salaries in NL to any other province (try jobbank.gc.ca), you will quickly see they are the lowest paid in the country. The government can't really do much more than that.

  • Richard
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Perhaps a little more attention needs to be placed on the adoption process. Does the general public know it takes 10 to 12 years for a family to adopt an infant (aged 0-3 years) from this province, a child grows up in the foster care program. This of course is in the best interest of the children!

  • Jason
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Wow....All that money for a population with more seniors than kids.....maybe they should give some of that money to personal care/nursing homes so they can provide better facilities for our seniors who built this province

  • copper
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    I am involved in the Child Welfare system in Ontario, and there are mistakes made each day due to the lack of PROPER resources. A strong focus must be on preventative measures, and by doing so, limiting the of persons involved in the system. As well, protection investigations are often complex, and require EXPERIENCED staff, and not some newby just out of school. It appears to me in reading the news from NL, that there needs to be a shake-up of the whole child and youth system with someone willing to make firm decisions.

  • Setting
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Waypoints is not owned by anyone. It is a non profit organization with a voluntary board of directors. It is not a company It's employees consist of qualified /trained Youth Care Workers who specialize in working with youth with complex needs. Caregivers is a privately owned company which is for profit. the two entities are very different and should not be lumped together

  • theresa
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    Noseworthy is at it again! Thats great. I love it when hes digging in to the goin ons at gov. affares. Stuff about stuff, that we the public are not supposed to know about, only what they want us to hear! Great work John! Keep on diggin em Dillin.

  • frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    child youth and family services in this province is in total chaos so what does danny do? he forms a new dept of social workers who have a proven record in this province of putting themselves ahead of children. this new dept needs folks at the top who are not social workers. once this dept of social workers gets a full head of steam things will be much worse for our youth. the article mentions a treatment centre . the reason we do not have a youth treatment centre is a turf issue. all treatment centres depend on psychologists and youth care workers. neither of which we have many of because this province is a closed shop with social workers running the show. until such a time when social workers acknowledge there are other professions out there this province keeps falling behind. the cost of this turf issue is dozens of our youth and miilions of our dollars going to the mainland all because social workers refuse to give up their turf.we might get a treatment centre once social workers figure out how to operate it themselves. with this new dept of social workers we will fall further and further behind and the children suffer at the hands of the folks who are supposed to be helping. its a sad state of affairs.

  • Don
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    There is something radically wrong with a system that is willing to waste millions of dollars to house a child in these alternative living arrangement situations but are not willing to give a family of a special needs child on a low income any extra funds to help make the childrens and parents lives more enjoyable.They would rather have these families stressed out financially and then find a reason to remove their children and place them in an A.L.A where it seems that money is not an object.Someone is making a lot of money from these unfortunate situations that could probably be prevented.Time for government to wake up and start helping families of special needs children and we wouldn't have to spend as much of our tax dollars on these A.L.As.

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    I think Joan should Join the Liberal Party and then she will be able to do something concrete, with action.
    She is now under Premier William's whip and too nervous to make any personal decisions.

  • Keepin' It Real
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    So, Stop the Racket Stop Danny Williams , during your rant against the government you failed to mention who it was that actually has a clue.

    I have to assume that since you think the current government must be replaced that you must have an alternative in mind?

    You wouldn't be one of those types of folks that are so abundant who are full of complaints but devoid of solutions, would you???

  • knows anuff
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    This system with the youth makes me sick I would love for someone in the government would even try and explain why my 18 year old paralized daughter qualifies for 150 a month for income support. and then accross the street a 16 year old male under the governments care has a house rented, furnished,full of food,given money for taxis to go visit mom , half hour away, give spending money and have 24/7 care. and oiit is females working two staff thereis something wrong

  • Polly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    This province has a population of just over 500,000 , factor in the aging and a very low birth rate ------just how many children are we talking about here ?This whole situation is mind boggling .

  • Mom
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    My heart goes out to the children, who are being shuffled around. They need some stability in their lives. I can understand people's reluctance to become foster parents with today's social problems. It is difficult at the best of times to deal with the birth parents, who often have visitation rights. This can be very difficult for the children and the foster parents. These children are not being given up for adoption, often the birth parents are fighting to have them returned.

    As for the adoption process, it does need to be improved. There are many wonderful couples out there looking to adopt a child.

    With no stability in their lives what can we expect from these children as they grow older? How can we take pride in our humanity if we ignore the plight of the most vulnerable members of our society?

  • n sheppard
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    This does not surprise me, there is so much lies, false allegation, and documentation, going on within the system! No proper investion, code of ethics, or procedures being folowed by these govt departments, in additon, all this overtime hours, outrageous bills to house these children, when there are children who should not be here in this system, in the beginning
    A complete cover up, all the wrong that is being done to innocent families. There are too many cases, that should not even be in this system. Abuse within the system. There is no facts, but CYFS can take children, with no proof, the burden of proof, and the accountability. It all boils down to a money grab for workers, job security, (make work project) The accountability needs to be put right back in the lap of those who are causing so much disruption in innocent children and families lives. Shame!

  • Just Wondering
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    No doubt, there are many children in our province who need to enter into temporary care, whether because of family illness, behavior, or just until mom and dad get their act together. Fostering is a wonderful way for children to be nurtured and feel safe until they can return to their home, or until other arrangements can be made for them. Permanancy is an issue for some children - the system gets to bogged down and families who are wanting to provide permanent homes for children have to wait sometimes years. I wonder though, whether recent Department fool-ups such as the wrongful accusations of the couple in Bay Bulls who were caring for a child who had seisures, and ended up having their OWN kids taken from them.....do instances such as this make potential foster families second-guess the system? Who would want to take the chance and be wrongly accused of abusing a foster child, only to find yourself battling the system and loosing your own kids? Seriously. The Department is severely understaffed. Becoming a foster family is not easy - you have to complete PRIDE training, go through ooodles of checks (and rightly so!). But the potential of being wrongly accused of something has kept us away. There is just no easy answer!

  • Jon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Keepin' it real wrote: You wouldn't be one of those types of folks that are so abundant who are full of complaints but devoid of solutions, would you???

    Think ya hit the nail right on the head there buddy.

    Sounds like a liberal.

  • Concerned 4 kids
    July 01, 2010 - 20:03

    If the Child Youth and Family System was working properly then they would not need as many foster homes. They remove children and ask questions and investigate later, CYFS is in prevent mode rather than protecting the kids of this province. They get a annoymous call from someone and they immediately come into your life, & once they are in you never get rid of them. Anyone can call in and say oh I think this is going on and then CYFS takes it from there.
    From expereince I know that CYFS withholds crucial information for months even years that could reuinte families and because they do not want to admit they are wrong then they would rather place the children in care then return them to their families, and in some cases when there is a need for protection they don't even allow extended family members to care for the children, instead they place them in the care of strangers often in hotels with a different face every few hours. How is this benefitting young children. Teh emotional abuse that happens to these children is unreal and so injust. Its time for CYFS to start helping the children who ARE in need of protection rather than creating a make work project and spending money that could be put to other uses.

  • Bruce
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    There are two simple solutions to this problem;

    1) Provide some of these funds to foster parents, to make it something more than a labour of love.

    2) Sever parental rights for those children who have been in the system for more than a year, who have been removed from the same house more than twice. There are hundreds of families in Newfoundland paying a fortune, and waiting years, to adopt children from overseas. Meanwhile, our own government is allowing children to spend years in an expensive housing and fostering limbo. Give them to the parents who really want them.

  • W
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Who owns Caregivers, and Waypoints, million who have collected 10.1 million, and over 600K was for teh care of 1 child in 2009?

  • Stop the Racket
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    The plan is to develop a strategy says Jopan Burke. Roughly translated she means we dont have a dam clue what were doing as usual. When are people finally going to see this governent for the absolute farce and absolute joke that it really is? Surely the 78% that love everything Danny cant be wrong. Or can they? You decide.

  • Dianne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    knows anuff from cbs:

    just to let you know some of the reasons their might be 2 staff with that boy: he might have been violent or accused staff of sexual or physical abuse in the past. Usually there is only 2 staff to protect staff (and realistically save tax dollars from a lengthy court case if more accusations are made). There are many likely reasons that there are not other children in the house with him.

    Also, I don't know what your solution is to 24/7 care. They can't just leave the boy in the house by himself sometimes. What if he had a party, got hurt, or started a fire?

    I think the solution is clear: more foster homes. Before everyone starts criticizing the government, ask yourself if you are willing to open your home up to a child. If not, you really can't argue against these temporary housing units, it is the only choice.

    Finally, the government may have spent a lot of money paying these workers and rent on these houses, but don't forget that money is staying in the province. All those workers have jobs and are not on EI. And if you compare the Child Youth Worker salaries in NL to any other province (try jobbank.gc.ca), you will quickly see they are the lowest paid in the country. The government can't really do much more than that.

  • Richard
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    Perhaps a little more attention needs to be placed on the adoption process. Does the general public know it takes 10 to 12 years for a family to adopt an infant (aged 0-3 years) from this province, a child grows up in the foster care program. This of course is in the best interest of the children!

  • Jason
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    Wow....All that money for a population with more seniors than kids.....maybe they should give some of that money to personal care/nursing homes so they can provide better facilities for our seniors who built this province

  • copper
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    I am involved in the Child Welfare system in Ontario, and there are mistakes made each day due to the lack of PROPER resources. A strong focus must be on preventative measures, and by doing so, limiting the of persons involved in the system. As well, protection investigations are often complex, and require EXPERIENCED staff, and not some newby just out of school. It appears to me in reading the news from NL, that there needs to be a shake-up of the whole child and youth system with someone willing to make firm decisions.

  • Setting
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Waypoints is not owned by anyone. It is a non profit organization with a voluntary board of directors. It is not a company It's employees consist of qualified /trained Youth Care Workers who specialize in working with youth with complex needs. Caregivers is a privately owned company which is for profit. the two entities are very different and should not be lumped together