Advocate agency released report examining current state of province's child welfare system
New Brunswick’s Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has called on the provincial government in its latest report to adopt new measures to protect the rights of children involved with the province’s child welfare system.
On May 13, the agency released the first of two reports entitled “Easier To Build.” The report examines the current state of the province’s child welfare system, existing policy, child protection practice standards, and responses to detailed data requests.
Based on the report, the agency found that the enforcement of the province’s child protection legislation, the Family Services Act, fell short of the proclaimed children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), such as the right to be protected from all forms of violence that can harm their welfare.
“The scope of protection under the Family Services Act, considering its enumeration of factors of child endangerment, may in some regards be even broader than the protection contemplated under the Convention, but in many other regards it falls short of the Convention’s requirements,” the agency said.
Moreover, the report contains several case studies outlining how the province’s child welfare system failed children in the past.
In one case, a teen was open to treatment options for addiction. The agency suggested that the teen attend a “place of safety in the community,” where there are different levels of security for youth at risk of harming themselves. Since no such place was available to the teen, the agency recommended that alternative care facilities be built across the province. However, none has been established so far.
Aiming to improve the current child welfare system, the agency called for the adoption of a new Children’s Act to replace the child welfare provisions of the Family Services Act. This proposed measure would govern the child welfare system and guarantee coordination of all child welfare services, and provide for enforcement of children’s rights, the agency said.
The agency also suggested that the UNCRC be incorporated by reference in the proposed Children’s Act.
“Other countries have adopted methods of domestic enforcement of the UNCRC and these best practices could be reviewed as a model for New Brunswick,” the agency said.
Moreover, the agency recommended that court procedures and rules affecting children at risk be reformed to address delays, ensure child-friendly court processes, and improve judicial oversight of administrative decisions that affect children’s welfare.
The agency also recommended improvements for case planning and coordination among the Office of the Attorney-General, the Department of Justice and Public Safety, and the Department of Social Development to put a child’s needs first when they appear before the courts and ensure they are protected from abuse and neglect.
“The implementation of these recommendations will require training and education for involved professionals, as well as law reform, in order to successfully implement a child rights-based approach,” the agency said.