There’s a big budget bump this year for one of the province’s most beleaguered ministries.
The province is budgeting $332-million over the next three years for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Of that, there’s $145-million in new funding for 2017-2018.
That’s about seven times the increase the province had projected last year, of the total $1.6-billion. Out of which $66-million will go towards kids in care.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong says the focus is on front-line work.
“Ensuring that we’ve got the people we need to provide the level of protection that vulnerable children need, that is the ultimate objective.”
The increase includes $120-million for family reunification, and $40-million allocated to fulfil recommendations in the Grand Chief Ed John report into indigenous child welfare.
The money adds to the $217-million over three years pledged in last year’s budget.
Some of the money will go to hiring 100 new social workers over the three-year period.
That number is on top of a previous pledge. The ministry says that by March of this year, 280 of 300 previously promised social workers will have been hired, with 40 more offers on the table.
But there was no talk of a reorganization of the ministry.
Last year the Representative for Children and Youth called that funding too little, too late – arguing $100-million per year was needed to shore the ministry up.
A 2014 report by the watchdog found the ministry had shaved more than $37-million from its budget between 2008 and 2014.
The new funding comes as the MCFD faces mounting pressure after a series of damning reports and a string of in-care deaths.
Just this month, the new Children’s Watchdog Bernard Richard released a scathing probe into the death of Alex Gervais, who jumped to his death from an Abbotsford hotel window. That report found Gervais had been moved from home to home for years, and repeatedly complained of isolation and poor care. In the last days of his life he was neglected all the while a caregiver was being paid $8,000 a month to care for him.
The Gervais report followed Grand Chief John’s November report and the 2015 Paige report into the overdose death of a teen girl who had just aged out of care.
Both reports found serious flaws in the child welfare system and made numerous recommendations, particularly relating to care for kids with Aboriginal background.
In addition to Gervais and Paige’s deaths, the Ministry has found itself in the hot seat over a number of other high profile recent youth deaths, among them 15-year-old Nick Lang who choked to death in a Vancouver Island drug treatment facility.