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Newfoundland and Labrador child and youth advocate says most recommendations acted on

['Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Kavanaghs ']
Child and youth advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh — Contributed

Newfoundland and Labrador’s child and youth advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh says 95 per cent of past recommendations have been acted on, as she released her office’s 2017-18 status report Wednesday.

As of March 31, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate had made a total of 201 recommendations to various government departments and agencies. Of those 201 recommendations, 95 per cent have been implemented, four per cent have been partially implemented, and only one per cent have not yet been implemented.

Kavanaugh, in a news release, said she will continue to follow up with departments and agencies on any new or outstanding recommendations until they are all appropriately addressed.

“Our collective responsibilities to the wellbeing of children and youth are significant and it is vital for children, youth as well as their families and the public to see that each recommendation for change and improvement is followed and the status published,” Kavanagh said.

In previous reports, she said her office monitored and reported on progress of the Child Death Review Committee (CDRC) recommendations. As the CDRC is separate from the child and youth advocate, reports to the Department of Justice and Public Safety and is legislated under the Fatalities Investigations Act, Kavanagh said her office will no longer monitor CDRC recommendations.

One recommendation from the 2017 report The Case for Specialized Health Care Responses to Recognize and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse remains not implemented, while four are partially implemented. Four of the seven recommendations are done.

Also from 2017, The Case for Specialized Health Care Responses to Recognize and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse report has one outstanding recommendation and four partially implemented recommendations. Only two of seven are completed.

The 2015 report A Tragedy Waiting to Happen and the 2017 report The Case for Culturally Responsive Services each have one partially implemented recommendation outstanding, but most recommendations done.

Recommendations not yet done are:

•  The Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development (CSSD), in consultation with Aboriginal governments, organizations and communities, propose changes to legislation that will recognize traditional custom adoption, and ensure the same standard of safety and permanency planning for all children and youth in the province.

In the explanation for why that isn’t done, the advocate noted in her status report a policy working group with representatives from the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, Mushuau Innu First Nation, Nunatsiavut Government and the Miawpukek First Nation, has been established to provide an opportunity for collaborative policy development.

“The working group has identified a list of priority policy areas for review; however, traditional custom adoption is not included as a priority area of concern. The working group reports that traditional custom adoption has been identified by the group as an area for future consideration, likely during the statutory review of the Adoption Act, which will begin in 2019,” the report said.

The advocate concluded there was substantive progress.

 • Eastern Health ensure the development and implementation of child-focused screening policies and protocols in conjunction with children’s mental health specialists and the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development, specifically when a child presents for an abortion, the child is referred for a child-focused social work consultation in the interest of the health, wellbeing and safety of the child;  where there is suspicion or uncertainty regarding coercion or abuse of a child under the age of 16, those concerns are immediately communicated to the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development to determine the need for protective intervention and age-appropriate pre and post abortion supports and information are proactively provided to children and youth.

As Eastern Health said it has implemented a formal referral process for children in that situation, the recommendation is considered closed.

One recommendation, still only partially implemented for the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development to improve service standards in Labrador is stalled by problems recruiting specialists to rural Labrador.

“In addition to the department’s response it should be noted that the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has also launched a comprehensive, independent review of the treatment, experiences and outcomes of Inuit children and youth in the Newfoundland and Labrador child protection system,” the advocate noted in her report. “The review will identify deficiencies, explore promising and best practices, and make recommendations for improved outcomes within an appropriate cultural context. This review was requested by Nunatsiavut Government. Furthermore, the provincial government has also committed to a public inquiry into the experiences and outcomes of Innu children in the child protection system.”

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