The transfer of child and youth mental health services from children and family development to health seems to be building up steam as a political issue. Yesterday, New Democratic critics Adrian Dix and Charlie Wyse sent a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell demanding he reverse that decision. That letter was subsequently distributed to the media. And now the Federation of Child and Family Services of British Columbia, an umbrella group representing child and family service providers, has cabled their own message to the premier, questioning the transfer. The following is a copy of that message, which was leaked to Public Eye.
June 28, 2005
Honourable Gordon Campbell
Premier of British Columbia
PO Box 9041, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1
Dear Premier Campbell:
Re: Government's decision to move Child and Youth Mental Health
Your government's decision last week to move Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMH) services out of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to Health has created uncertainty and speculation. At the time of writing this letter, communities and service providers have no knowledge of: the rationale for this decision; a transition plan being in place; or any consultation with those who are concerned and responsible for keeping kids safe and strengthening families in BC.
Without information, concerns are circulating that your government is in the process of dismantling the Ministry of Child and Family Development. This program transfer is also perceived as an abandonment of the government's commitment to promote the integration of child and youth services in BC and to the legacy of Mathew Vaudreuil.
In 1996, six years after the release of the Ombudsman's report recommending integration of public services for children the Province announced the creation of the first Ministry for Children and Families. This was in response to the death of Mathew and Government said, "The death of a child is always devastating. The action taken by government in 1996 demonstrates that we can learn from tragedy." (Ombudsman Public Report No. 22)
"When Mathew died he was five years and nine months old. Not including Supervisors, 21 ministry staff had been responsible for providing him services. At least 60 reports about his safety and well-being had been made to the ministry. He had been taken to the ministry. He had been taken to the doctor 75 times and had been seen by 24 different physicians." (Gove Report)
Gove Recommendation 106: Provincial responsibility for all child welfare services, currently scattered through numerous ministries, should be brought together into a new Ministry for Children and Youth.
Given your government's decision to move a child and youth serving program out of this integrated child serving ministry to Health raises the questions:
* How does your government plan to effectively address the service integration problems of the past?
* Is their concrete evidence to assure families, communities and those responsible for providing services that this decision is being made in the best interest of children and families?
With those questions in mind, we believe there are some relevant points to consider in the transfer of CYMH program.
* MCFD's CYMH has made great strides in the last two years with the on-going development of Regional Child and Youth Mental Health plans and evidence- based best practices guidelines. Relationships within MCFD and with the communities CYMH serves have reached a new threshold.
* CYMH services have shifted to being the "mortar" in a more coordinated child and youth focused service delivery system.
* To once again split jurisdiction for the spectrum of services provided by the province to children youth and their families, 'puts everyone in charge and makes no one responsible.'
* Previously, Child and Youth Mental Health was the "poor cousin" under the Ministry of Health.
* Other provinces and countries are adopting BC's CYMH approach. Having a single authority within government has allowed for a formal mandate and executive powers. These powers ensure a uniform and client centered provincial approach to policy setting, planning and the administration of publicly funded services to children youth and families.
* Child and Youth Mental Health in Ontario are moving toward a mental health policy for children and youth citing that the work done in this province creates a child welfare system that puts children first.
You have stated that your government would avoid superficial analysis of a problem that only leads to superficial solution. We also know you want to provide the best and most responsive system of support in Canada for children and youth at risk. We only ask that you provide the consultations and rationale that spurred this decision to revert to a multi-ministry model that contributed to the death of Mathew Vaudreuil. The last thing anyone in BC wishes to hear again is: "He died as a direct result of flawed decision making and poor management by ministry executives." (Gove Report)
The Federation of Child & Family Services of BC is a professional community service association that has been promoting and enhancing excellence in services to children, youth and families for close to a quarter century.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
Honourable George Abbott, Minister - Ministry of Health
Honourable Stan Hagen, Minister - Ministry of Children & Family Development