03/26/2013 04:16 EDT | Updated 05/26/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. not meeting needs of vulnerable children in care

British Columbia's children's watchdog says just five per cent of the care plans she's reviewed for some of the province's most vulnerable children meet ministry guidelines.

Independent children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond conducted an audit of files for 100 children in government care. She found scattered and ineffective plans for the children, with few meeting government guidelines.

Her audit found that in 95 per cent of cases, staff with the Ministry of Children and Family Development failed to uphold standards when it came to future planning for children in case; for example, when documenting long-term health or education goals.

"What the audit found was scattered and ineffective documentation of planning and a clear lack of emphasis by MCFD leadership on comprehensive and regular planning and intervention," Turpel-Lafond said.

Turpel-Lafond says social workers her officer interviewed said they were unable to keep up with the demand for services, that "they are frequenty in crisis mode, that they are not able to manage the workload, and that they don't feel that they can fulfill the standards."

Turpel-Lafond is now calling on the Liberal government to make key changes to improve care plans for those children.

Her report makes 10 recommendations, including calling on the Ministry of Children and Family Development to invest enough resources to enforce its own planning standards.

She also suggests changes to social workers' hours to make it easier for them to work with children and families.

Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux acknowledged the shortcomings, and said her department is working to address them.

"I believe things are improving. I believe we are not there yet, by any means," Cadieux said. "We do have that goal is to reach 100 per cent by 2014, so by the end of this year."