VICTORIA — A bureaucrat's report into the Children's Ministry in British Columbia has criticized the province's independent children's watchdog while praising the ministry for its work after recent high-profile failures.
Bob Plecas said in his report that deaths and serious injuries to kids in care are rare, but there is a great appetite for blaming workers and the ministry for "perceived and real failings.''
"Despite the perceptions of some, (the ministry) is not in shambles,'' Plecas wrote.
"Independent oversight of B.C.'s child welfare system remains a necessity."
The Children's Ministry has been plagued by a "culture of relentless accusation'' where a small number of high-profile cases have gained media attention and highlighted problems, he said.
Children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has repeatedly criticized the government's performance, and Plecas said the relationship has become strained.
Turpel-Lafond's numerous recommendations over the years have overwhelmed the ministry and become "part of the bigger management problem,'' he said.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s representative for children. (Photo: Darryl Dyck/CP)
He said Turpel-Lafond's oversight role should be taken over by the ministry in about two years, Plecas said.
"External oversight should end when the ministry is capable of carrying out these functions, and the representative's role should become one focused on advocacy.''
Turpel-Lafond said in a statement that without public accountability, the stories of vulnerable children would never be told and significant problems would not be addressed.
"Despite the perceptions of some, (the ministry) is not in shambles."
"Independent oversight of B.C.'s child welfare system remains a necessity,'' she said.
Plecas advised a multi-year plan to address the ministry's problems with changes such as implementing quality assurance and boosting staff and funding.
He said that 20 years after it was created, the ministry is "finally finding its feet again,'' but also struggles because it is "not equipped for this century and in need of repair.''
The Children's Ministry has faced mounting criticism after the tragic life and death of a young aboriginal woman, the death a teen who fell from a hotel window, and the case of a woman known only as JP, whose estranged husband was allowed unsupervised visits, enabling him to molest their daughter in care.
Plecas was tasked in July to review the JP case, but legal proceedings, including a complaint to the information and privacy commissioner and an appeal of the original case have delayed that portion of the report until next spring.
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