Dix tinkers with premier's toys

Last week, Public Eye broke the news that the provincial Liberals had quietly transfered responsibility for child and youth mental health from children and family development to health. Today, in a letter to the premier distributed to the media, New Democrat children and family development critic Adrian Dix and mental health critic Charlie Wyse asked Gordon Campbell to review and reverse the decision. The following is a copy of that letter.

June 27, 2005

Premier Gordon Campbell
Legislative Assembly,
Victoria British Columbia

Dear Premier:

We are writing with respect to your government’s recent decision to move Child and Youth Mental Health services from the Ministry of Children and Family Development to the Ministry of Health. On behalf of many affected groups and individuals, we are asking you to review and reverse this decision.

The decision is wrong on several levels.

Firstly, there was no consultation with the community in advance of this decision. To make such a significant change without consultation with those affected is unacceptable. Your apparent direction to remove critical programs out of the Ministry of Children and Family Development is being implemented without proper public input or debate.

Secondly, no one - not you, not the Minister of Children and Family Development, not the Minister of Health nor any public servant - has provided the public with rationale for this decision. This move passed the interests of children and youth with complex needs back and forth between Ministries without explanation. This represents an unacceptable level of secrecy and a significant lack of transparency that must be dealt with.

Thirdly, the decision goes against your personal commitment to end the reorganization and administrative tinkering in the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Constant "internal revolution" has created an atmosphere of uncertainty that makes it more difficult for the Ministry and its staff to do its job.

Fourthly, to continue to implement administrative reorganization and change without restoring any of the deep cuts to Children and Family Services continues to put children at risk.

Finally, moving Child and Youth Mental Health Services from the Ministry of Children and Families is a direct contradiction of recommendations 95, 96, 97 and 106 of the Gove Report. These are recommendations that you have publicly supported for years.

Judge Gove recommended that "Provincial responsibilities for all child welfare services, currently scattered through different ministries, should be brought together in a new Ministry of Children and Families." Your decision to again split jurisdiction is a direct repudiation of the Gove report.

Gove's recommendations were not designed in the abstract. They were a direct response to the investigation and review of the death of Matthew Vaudreuil. Gove, the government of the day, the Ombudsman and many others - including you Mr. Premier - concluded that the multi-ministry model contributed to Mathew’s death.

In making this change, you will undermine years of work by successive governments and Ministry staff to improve mental health services for children. In difficult circumstances, including your government’s arbitrary cutbacks, Ministry staff and partners have worked hard to develop plans, services and best practices to serve children and youth in this area. They deserve better than this poorly thought out and unnecessary administrative tinkering.

Returning to the pre-Gove model is surely not what your government promised prior to 2001.

You are in the midst of a massive restructuring of child and youth services in BC. The decision to move mental health services from MCFD to the Ministry of Health will simply cause further uncertainty and disruption without benefit and put children at further risk. We ask you to reverse this decision.

Yours Sincerely,

(original signed by)

Adrian Dix
MLA, Vancouver-Kingsway

Charlie Wyse
MLA, Cariboo South

Hon. Stan Hagen, Minister of Children and Family Development
Hon. George Abbott, Minister of Health


I wonder if the NDP will ever catch on to the real problematic change in MCFD- the fact that Child Care was seperated from Early Learning. Last time I checked the two go hand in hand. At least if it is quality child care you want.

I don't think putting Child Mental Health in the Ministry that already manages adult mental health better than the NDP ever did is something for Dix to complain about.

I read with interest the letter authored by Mr. Dix. I believe Mr. Dix is well intentioned, howver, he clearly lacks the experience, or the wisdom, necessary to see the big picture.

Mr. Campbell, you are doing exactly the right thing. What Mr. Dix has failed to factor in is that... while seperate jurisdictions will control different aspects of youth issues, we do not face the same level of communication that we did back in the days of Gove. Clearly this government has made huge strides in the use of current technolgy... and it really shows!

One need only make an FOI request to just about any department and you will see how sharp the inter-ministerial communication is.

Take a look at the government websites. The Government Information Technology people are doing an excellent job there. Sorry Mr. Dix but British Columbia is connected from Cassiar to Midway. The network is very likely capable of Microsoft's "File Share and Print", "SharePoint Services", "Oracle Sharepoint" and a host of other client file support mechanisms.

In the end, the big picture means running leaner organisations while at the same time providing increased efficiencies and crucial service deliverables. We are in the age of "devolution" Mr. Dix. It's happening everwhere in the world. It is the right thing to do.

Carry on Mr. C.

Actually this is a ridiculous move, without justification, as was already said in the letter. While this government would like to claim that they've cut red tape, and made government more efficient, the opposition is correctly doing their job by pointing out the dangerous damage that this could cause to a very sensitive, and unstable, ministry. Not to mention the damage that splitting up this file could cause. To simply cheerlead for the government would be a little strange in this situation.

If the government wishes to at least qualify their reasons to the public for making this move, then people could at least make up their own minds. However their talk about transparency and accountability is as fake as their "open cabinet meetings". Frankly there's been no information that this decision has anything to do with the "de-centralization" of services -- and claims about taking out FOI requests pretaining to the transportation of information between other ministries isn't very relevent in this case. This ministry and file has had a poor history, results wise for many young and vulnerable British Columbians, regardless of what goverment was in power. And clearly the Liberal's are continuing the tradition by doing a poor job in handling this file.

This is cheap politics from Dix, and really is a low line fear-mongering attempt trying to score points on the backs of disadvantaged children. The reality is, the majority of our front line government workers lack sufficient training and knowledge in Mental Health areas to properly handle these types of cases.

Transferring the responsibility of children and youth mental health development into the one Ministry (Health) that has the most resources and knowledge in this area simply makes sense. Not to mention it is precisely the ongoing failings in the Ministry of Children & Families that illustrates the importance and need of such a move.

In typical NDP fashion they would rather do nothing and wait for the problem to fix itself. Ever wonder why we had so many kids in government care when the NDP was in power? When will the NDP learn that the State does not make for a good parent. If your kids were in need of mental health development where would you rather they be getting treatment; in the Health care system? or with the Ministry of Children and Families ? I think we all know the answer. Shame on Dix for implying otherwise.

The move is a ridiculous one. I fail to see the relevence of that last writer's remarks on he issue (Kevin Larsen), other than he merely wants to keep people voting for anyone but the NDP. The health department may have, indeed, the most dollar resources. Even so, it still doesn't have the resources it needs to deal with health-providing issues in a timely or adequate manner. That's what comes of the rich getting tax breaks they don't need at the expense of the rest of us who have to make up the damn shortfall. Don't forget we get too many aged retirees from Alberta who came here to sponge off our better healthcare system, instead of their inadequate one that they voted for. Kids' welfare needs its own department--adequately funded!


While I do not deny that people NOT voting for the NDP is a thought I find appealing, the point of my comments was to illustrate that when it comes to the mental health of our children, I believe the healthcare system is far better equipped with resources and expertise than the Ministry of Children & Families.

To suggest that the mental health of our kids should reside in a lesser Ministry solely for the risk of continuation and not making change is an argument that rings hollow to me.

As for your comment that the rich get tax breaks while the poor make up the shortfall is complete baseless. Wealthy people pay far; far more in tax dollars every year than most poor people will pay in a lifetime. I do agree with your comments on Albertan transplants though.

It really annoys me that people like Mr. Larsen (and his ilk), who clearly hasn't a clue what he's talking about when it comes to the child welfare system, can postulate such crap. But, hey, that's free speech.

1. As neo-cons, the provincial Liberals are subscribing to the ethos of privatization, arising from the governance paradigm of new public management.
Just because "devolution" is part of the game, doesn't mean it is good, will create more efficiency, or should be applied to the area of social services. Do some research about it and move beyond the ideological argument.

2. Governments of all stripes have a tough time dealing with the child welfare portfolio because it is one of the toughest, messiest, non-feel good of any in government. Hello out there, people are dealing with children who are expendable in our province & society. Children who are abused, neglected, marginalized families with complex needs. More kids came into care under the NDP because of the introduction of the Comprehensive Risk Assessment, a tool used to assess risk more accurately by looking at 27 dimensions of a child and family's life and circumstances. The fact that the numbers of kids coming into care jumped reflects that many kids (like little Matthew Vaudreill were being left at serious risk, or were being harmed in the most heinous ways). The leadership in MCFD in the last 4 years has changed the language & use of this tool, thus many more children are being left in marginal, if not worse situtations. The reality is, the dam has burst and already this year, there has been a very dramatic intake of kids coming into care, families hitting serious crisis. So much so, in the neo-con zeal for "efficiency" there aren't enough foster homes left to care for these damaged children, who will continue to be society's problem as they break into your car, your house, beat up your children etc.

3. Victoria is making all sorts of decisions lately, is not consulting within the organizations , let alone with stakeholders. Child & youth mental health practitioners within MCFD are all required to have Masters level, as well as significant clinical experience. I agree that over the last 4 years, not enough money has been devoted to training in mental health for front-line SW's who've entered this system.

4. From what I can gather, Child & Youth MH does not want to move to the health regions. For the first time in their existence, they have had a clear, supported and funded mandate through MCFD. They are a distinct and important part of MCFD and would be swallowed up whole, fighting for any respect, or funding within the even more monolithic Health regions.

5. Governments of all ideological standpoints must continue to support and actively create integrated teams for child welfare. This is how the system works best, this is how to minimize gaps in service, this is how to achieve efficiency,support, cooperation and collaboration in child welfare work for children & youth in care and families involved with the authorities.

Carving each piece off slice to by slice, is not in the best interests of children, youth, or families, but is a slavish devotion to an unsound paradigm not originally designed for human services. Death by a thousand cuts is not too harsh an analysis. See the BC Coroner's Service for the stats on child & youth deaths in this province and see how things are working under this leadership.

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