“Any change that means a child will be safer is a change for the better, so the news that there has been a decrease in the number of children living in overcrowded foster homes is welcome,” said SGEU president Bob Bymoen, in response to the release of the Children’s Advocate Progress Report on foster home overcrowding.
Regina (November 17, 2009) - The child welfare system in Saskatchewan is still in crisis, but some improvements have been made since SGEU publicly raised concerns a year
ago about risks faced by children in the care of the Ministry, says the union that represents front-line staff.
"We need to be clear, however, that there is still a crisis in the system, and that for many front-line workers, it is almost impossible to meet the needs of all of their clients in the face of unmanageable workloads and an overburdened foster care system," Bymoen said.
SGEU appreciates that the Children's Advocate report recognizes the vital role played by front-line social services staff in keeping children safe, and that the Ministry is introducing strategies to enhance recruitment and retention of child protection workers. However, it will be little more than lip service if adequate resources are not allocated to address the problem.
"It's great to advocate mentorship programs and graduated workloads for new staff, but when caseloads for everyone are overwhelming, how can we expect these measures to be effective?" asked Bymoen.
The Children’s Advocate acknowledges that child protection work is “some of the most difficult, emotionally challenging work” undertaken in the public service and that these front-line staff “need to be valued and seen as part of the solution.” “Unfortunately,” Bymoen noted, “the Ministry continues to ignore the expertise of these front-line professionals, who would be an invaluable resource in shaping policies designed to improve the system.”
SGEU urges the Ministry to involve staff in a more meaningful way in addressing these issues.
The introduction of a province-wide information management system will assist frontline staff to do their jobs more effectively. "But it is essential that all partners in the child protection system participate. The Ministry, at this point, is not making participation mandatory, which will hamper the effectiveness of the project," noted Bymoen.
"Overall, we are pleased that the Children's Advocate and the Ministry are acknowledging the validity of what we have been saying for years: that the child protection system is under resourced and that, as a result, children are at risk," said Bymoen.
"Increasing support to foster families and creating new spaces within the community are positive steps. But there is much more work to be done. It is also crucial that there are enough front-line staff, with sufficient time, training and resources to ensure that all children in care are safe," he added.
"SGEU will continue to monitor the progress within the Ministry and will continue to urge the Ministry to value the expertise of one of its most important resources -- its front-line staff," concluded Bymoen.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE