Child and youth advocate says changes need to be made to protect province’s children

Bonnie Belec
Published on June 18, 2014
Carol Chafe — Telegram file photo

The child and youth advocate of Newfoundland and Labrador is not satisfied with the systems that have been put in place to protect the province’s children and she wants changes made.

“I am saddened and growing ever more concerned that there has been a steady increase in cases that have come to light, where children are found to have been living in circumstances where they have been subjected to physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse while government services are involved with their families,” Carol Chafe said in a statement this morning.

“Despite assurances of change, both systemically and in practice on the frontlines, children and youth continue to be victimized,” she said.

Chafe wrote in her statement that the systems in place in this province to protect children and youth “continue to have significant gaps which place children at risk and most regrettably, in three of the six cases under investigation, the children have died.”

“If significant changes are not made, we run the risk of witnessing another generation of our children who will grow up with mental health issues and addictions and who will be subject to the continuing cycle of abuse,” she said.

According to her statement, on May 26 she notified the deputy ministers of the departments of Child Youth and Family Services, Health and Community Services, Education and Justice of her intention to conduct four investigations involving children who were receiving services provided by government departments and agencies.

She said she also notified the CEOs of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, Western Health, Eastern Health, and Labrador Grenfell Health as well as the chief of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chafe said the four new investigations are in addition to two ongoing investigations she called in January 2013.

The purpose of the investigations, she said is to determine whether these services met the needs of the children and youth, and whether their rights were upheld.

 “I continuously call on government departments and agencies to work from a rights-based perspective safeguarding the rights of children and youth to receive quality health, education, justice and protection services — in short, a system that is robust in working in the best interest of our most vulnerable,” said Chafe.

“I have challenged professionals to collaborate, to communicate and mobilize their resources to ensure that children and youth receive timely and appropriate services and provide them with safety and security,” she said, adding there are hard working staff in government departments and agencies who are doing their best.

But she said more must be done.

Chafe said it is imperative her office receives timely information in the event of a critical incident or death of a child or youth and what is in place now is not good enough.

“It has become apparent that the current mechanisms to inform my office of a critical incident or death of a child or youth are simply not adequate,” she said.

As a result she will seek legislative change that will require mandatory reporting by government departments and agencies to the Child and Youth Advocate when a child or youth receiving services dies or is involved in a critical incident.

“This immediate notification mechanism — similar to that which already exists in other provinces in Canada — will allow my office to mobilize quickly to investigate, produce recommendations and to ultimately prevent further harm,” said Chafe.

She said all government departments and agencies must collaborate to actively create an environment where “we are not simply providing temporary solutions, but are building communities where our children and youth can thrive.”