The British Columbia Association of Social Workers has been a vocal advocate of strengthening the province's child protection system. So you would think the top bureaucrat at that ministry - Lesley du Toit - would have an interest in meeting with the association. But, to-date, that hasn't been the case, says its child welfare and family committee chair Paul Jenkinson. Speaking on Public Eye Radio, Mr. Jenkinson said the association has "asked for a meeting with her on two different occassions. And while we have certainly met with the minister and other deputy ministers, we have had no response back from Ms. du Toit."
"I do find it odd," said Mr. Jenkinson. "Because during the last three years, the British Columbia Association of Social Workers has developed just an excellent relationship with then Minister (Stan) Hagen. We've met several times in face-to-face meetings. We've done some joint work together. And we're in ongoing conversations on a variety of topics. And this has continued with (Minister Hagen's successor Tom) Christensen."
Mr. Jenkinson also raised questions about Ms. du Toit's plan to transform the ministry. "It's a funny thing that organizations tend to want to reorganize their whole business plan and how they do things when they don't provide a service very well."
But, said Mr. Jenkinson, "Most social workers would tell you if you provide an adequate budget to that service - if you provide enough social workers to go out and meet the families, assess the risk, make safe plans with them, if you provide enough community services to support those families and give them the skills and some practical supports they need, then the risks to those children will directly go down. You don't get a lot of kudos, you might not get a lot of career points for taking a low-tech approach. But, in fact, that's what's needed in child welfare."
Referring to statements that the ministry's leadership team will be working to develop an environment where people are "working across teams rather than down silos" he said, "This ministry is already working in teams. It has a fairly good practice environment." In fact, "the culture at the ministry itself - if you look at the local service delivery - is a pretty good culture." So, instead, the government should simply "get the 400 social workers that they have committed to hiring - get those people in the field. That would be probably the best thing Lesley du Toit could do for at-risk children and the families."