VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The province chose election day to release its official response to a report on the life and death of a troubled Aboriginal girl in government care living on the Downtown Eastside. The author of the “Paige” report is glad to see the Ministry of Children and Families accept some responsibility for the mishandling of the case.
BC’s Child Watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond presented Paige’s Story back in May, an account of how a young girl was repeatedly failed by the system and ended up dying of an overdose. She moved about 50 times with her drug addicted mother during her short life and met countless front line workers, none of whom reported Paige’s situation to government.
Children’s Minster Stephanie Cadieux says she recognizes the need for a multi-ministry plan for change. “We also recognize that real and meaningful change on a systemic scale will be an ongoing process. To be successful, we need to examine – from the ground up – the way this province supports our most vulnerable young people.”
Turpel-Lafond had expected a response sooner, but is satisfied to have one. “Just having the conversation is positive. Just having the accountability being pushed forward is positive but the results are what really count. There are other kids in the situation that Paige was in British Columbia and they’re not connected today and we need to get them connected.”
The BC government’s response includes a list of a number of measures they’ve undertaken to date. It includes the creation of a rapid response team which aims to keep closer tabs on children in care on the Downtown Eastside. They’ve also brought in an education program to inform frontline workers of their duty to report MFCD kids in harm’s way.
Turpel-Lafond had hoped for some new changes in the response, but thinks this is a first step. “Most importantly, they have said clearly and categorically that there is a problem, including in child welfare, of people not reporting children in need of protection and that the mechanics of the child welfare system have not worked for some deeply vulnerable kids in our province…It’s going to take a lot of work to change that.”
The release of the response went largely unnoticed yesterday. It came out at three o’clock yesterday afternoon, just one hour before federal election polls closed and results began to come in. Premier Christy Clark says this was not an attempt to bury the news. “We haven’t taken a day off since the federal election started. The minister made herself available. The report was ready to be released…The children’s advocate supported that release, so that’s when it went out.”