And now for something completely different

Celebrating good practices at the ministry of children and family development - as well as analyzing service delivery gaps - will be the first part of Lesley du Toit's transformation initiative. This, according to an update quietly released by the deputy minister last week. In her nine-page newsletter, Ms. du Toit writes that "a team of consultants and MCFD staff" will be responsible for documenting those gaps and good practices over the next year, producing an accompanying report and DVD. The deputy minister also reaffirms her commitment to decentralization, telling colleagues that "the process of establishing regional and community governance of service delivery" will be "re-initiated" at the start of the new financial year. But it isn't clear what that decentralized structure will look like.

Referring to the non-aboriginal side of the ministry, Ms. du Toit cautions that "no assumption should be made that this (regionalization) process will result in 5 authorities." Moreover, "contrary to the recent statement in the press, there has been no decision made that there will be 10 regional authorities established." Nor "should there be an assumption that these will be in the form of the authorities originally conceptualised by MCFD and our partners."

Despite this uncertainty, by 2008, Ms. du Toit wants "to have made measurable progress in shifting service delivery governance to the regions and communities." Although, when it comes to the aboriginal side of the ministry, Ms. du Toit says the process of "developing regional models of decision-making and service delivery...will take as long as it needs to and is firmly in the hands of Aboriginal Peoples."

Other newsworthy mentions in the update include Ms. du Toit's promise to begin a four year program "to ensure that every vulnerable young person in BC has one supportive, caring and healthy adult in their life to whom they are attached and who will be consistent in their life through the teenage years and into their adulthood." Needless to say, your humble organ is anxiously awaiting details of that program - as well as its budgetary requirements.


So... maybe they're now leaning more toward the CLBC model of regionalization -- i.e. dismantle Victoria HQ and re-assemble it in Vancouver; bring decision-making closer to communities by closing all regional offices and having a new 20-step process that takes six months instead of six days for a "quality analyst" back at some remote head office to finish processing a request and send out the "Sorry, the budget's already blown, have a nice day" form letter.

And why hasn't anyone tried that solution for vulnerable kids before--simply find one British Columbian for each one who will remain supportive, caring, healthy and constant through the teen years and into adulthood! Any thoughts on how that might work? Would they be hired, cajoled or simply mandated to be supportive? If hired, would this be a union job (and if so, who steps in during the coffee breaks)? What if there's a strike or they get offered a better job by some other vulnerable kid? If it's not a paid position, how do you mandate someone to remain caring, supportive and healthy for 10 - 15 years? What if they change their minds or find out they're not really the supportive type? What if the vulnerable kid falls out with the caring adult?Or what if he already has a caring adult/family and what he really needs is therapy or intervention or something that the caring people don't have the expertise to provide? It's a sweet thought but why, oh why, must real life be so complicated!?


I think that you are mireading Ms Du Twit's comments and assuming the worst.

My reading of "to ensure that every vulnerable young person in BC has one supportive, caring and healthy adult in their life to whom they are attached and who will be consistent in their life through the teenage years and into their adulthood." is that we will need only 1 caring and responsible adult in total.

I think that we can easily afford that whether it is a union position or not (even though in reality we will probably need to find 3-4 caring individuals to cover holidays, sick days, overtime, etc).

Regionalization. Where have we heard that one before. Will these regional boards, by whatever name, be locally elected like a school board? Or will they be Gov in Council appointees, patronage panels like the provincial Health Authorities or the National Parole boards?

Services for Aboriginals is a sensitive area, and some people think that only Aboriginals have the right to comment, let alone make criticisms, in that area. I know that in the Fraser Valley area there has been rivalry between various Aboriginal bodies for authority and contracts in the family services field. There have been some serious delivery issues. To be blunt, in recognizing Aboriginal authority one sometimes substitutes Native politics and bureaucracy for white politics and bureaucracy in ways that sometimes mean more precarious care for Native families and individuals.

Innocent, I'm just making the point that this is hopelessly naive but totally consistent with all the other "novel" solutions I've seen coming from this Ministry since 2001. What do we think the entire child protection system has been trying to do all along but to ensure there are consistent, caring, healthy adults in these kids' lives? We keep getting these grand goals and visions trotted out as novel solutions, when the real challenge lies in how to make them work. We've spent six years engaged in useless visioning that just results in all the same old ideals re-stated and wheels reinvented, while ignoring the real task of how to make things work.

Budd, just look to CLBC - the model is political appointees. At the very outset in 2001, the Premier's Office made it clear there was no intention of creating bodies that could serve as powerful lobby groups. For community living, the CLBC model has been enormously divisive and disempowering for all but a handful of sycophants and I expect it will be far worse in communities that are already deeply divided.

The formula is that Cabinet looks to the individuals and groups expected to be most compliant/cooperative and appoints them to be "the voice of the community". With no bottom-up accountability, there is little incentive to compromise and accommodate other positions, which creates enormous pressure and frustration. This is aggravated by the Board's role as surrogate hatchetmen for Treasury Board. Thus the Board finds itself under siege and fighting upstream against its own community, which makes eventual failure or at least a constant state of crisis almost a sure bet. It sure takes a lot of heat off Victoria, though!

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