|Special to The Province|
Friday, April 25, 2008
Throwing money at children at risk is not the answer.
But what can you do when governments tend to think exclusively in the business model?
Despite the protestations of Children and Family
Development Minister Tom Christensen, it is clear that Premier Gordon Campbell does not keep short people clearly in his sights.
No, his government is busy with roads, bridges, ski runs and transit lines.
Judge Thomas Gove made exhaustive and comprehensive recommendations in his 1995 report. Judge Ted Hughes did the same in 2006.
Both came to similar, damning conclusions after substantial expense of public monies -- expenditures that would be welcomed, if anyone had bothered to listen or follow up.
Last week, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the province's new watchdog for children and youth, issued an almost identical report calling for a new kind of attentiveness.
Of course, the minister, who should have resigned last year when yet another child in care died, has said: "We welcome the report. It is consistent with the direction we are going in."
The Christensens and Campbells of the world just never quite get it, do they?
Christensen rolls out all the numbers and dollars the government is spending, as if he were talking about traffic circles or college enrolments.
But it's not about more money, more workers or more computer programs.
It's about getting the people on the front lines really sharply tuned to the subtleties of working with families and children at risk.
What are the real indicators of trouble, the real signposts of safety? Who can be trusted? When is the right time for intervention?
Should we place a particular child in next-of-kin families or foster homes? Does the foster home have a documented track record of love, support and clear structure?
Should aboriginal children always be placed with aboriginal families?
The aunts and uncles who might be stand-in parents for a child in danger, are they drunks or are they sober, caring guardians?
Does the caseworker have the time and the latitude to investigate?
Are workers who have studied social sciences for years stuck in offices writing reports that will cover everyone's butt -- or can they truly get to know the territory?
This woman is alone. That man doesn't contribute. This father yells and hits. This mother gambles. This parent cares and copes admirably.
Are the "helpers" learning? Are they passing on crucial information to the next helper?
It's not about master plans. The devil is in the details.
It's about all the complexities and shortcomings and gifts of human nature.
When, in embarrassment and desperation, government turns to the matter at hand, it responds with what it knows -- throw more green at the problem. Buy it off.
Maybe that works for ferry boats and lumber mills -- but it doesn't for the suffering child.