Minister Tom Christensen says he is "extraordinarily proud" of efforts by his staff over the past year to create "stronger, more responsive child and child and family development services in the province." But the fact that, according to the ministry's own performance measures, the "rate of recurrence of child neglect and/or abuse" by abusive families is actually increasing, has some wondering whether those efforts have been successful. Three years ago, when the ministry first included that performance measure in its service plan, the rate of recurrence for fiscal 2004/05 was 16.9 percent. The ministry had repeatedly committed to reducing that rate. But, according to the latest service plan, it has actually gone up to 20.9 percent.
Asked for comment, child and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said she has a number of unanswered questions about how the ministry is calculating and setting targets for this "very important" measure. And "given the fact that they haven't made that target consistently in annual reports, what are they going to do differently to make it?"
"This issue doesn't appear in the transformation or good practice action plan," she continued. "It's in the service plan only. And this is, from my side monitoring the system, a very significant point. How do they arrive at it? How do they calculate it? How do they commit to it? And what is an appropriate target? And is recurrence of maltreatment recurrence of neglect? Or are children remaining in positions of significant neglect and maltreatment under the guise of 'we have a new prevention strategy?' And these are matters that I can say from my office that we take with great interest."
"Now do we have clarity from the ministry with respect to how they arrived at that - no we don't. Will we be seeking clarity? Yes, we will be. This is a core part of Hughes - to have meaningful indicators. They should be reporting regularly, broken down by region, on recurrence of maltreatment. And they should know what are the strategies they are going to use to keep kids safe."
But the government says there's an easy expanation for the higher recurrence of abuse. "The fact is that there are fewer children are in care" - 5,287 in fiscal 2005/06 compared to 4,615 in 2006/07, explained a spokesperson. "As less vulnerable children and youth move out of care, a higher concentration of more complex cases remain and there is typically a higher rate of recurrence among this group. As a result, what you will find is that the percentage of recurrence involving a smaller number of children in care is therefore going to be higher."