And the number of the counting shall be six?

Earlier, we reported child and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has a number of unanswered questions about British Columbia's increasing "rate of recurrence" of maltreatment by abusive families. But that's not her only concern following the release of the ministry's latest service plan which includes another reduction in the number of performance measures - dropping them from 13 to nine. Speaking with Public Eye, Ms. Turpel-Lafond stated, "I am very concerned that the government has said every ministry is only allowed six. And that's probably not appropriate in a children's ministry where we really need performance measures to address a range of issues around the safety and well-being of children."

"I can understand why the government says limit our performance measures," she continued. "But, when it comes to kids, there are some key nationally and internationally accepted performance measures that they are not embracing. And that's not what Hughes said. Hughes said get them, monitor them, report regularly, know the impact of what you're doing and strengthen it...These are fundamental issues. How do we know if service transformation - and whatever that is - is going to take us toward these things. And this is why I'm going to be pushing for an annualized report on the state of the child."

1 Comment

Absolutely, this Ministry (and others) covers entirely different objectives for diverse groups: child protection, early childhood development, foster care, child care, treatment & therapies for children and youth with special needs, community programming to support at-risk youth, family supports, community living supports, residential care of adults with developmental disabilities and more.

One divide is between those who are vulnerable due to poverty, neglect or abuse (which you try to correct) and those with a lifelong handicap where the focus is instead on support and accommodation, (though many are both). Another divide is between those needing support to cope on their own vs. those who need to be in care (foster care, adult group homes, etc). Given the continuum of need & ability, success also looks different for each individual.

The challenge of adapting performance measurement principles (born in factory settings where concrete, uniform results are the goal) to populations where each individual and their goal is different, is illustrated in education. Graduation rates and standardised testing (FSAs), while not perfect, can give an overall idea of how well you're doing with the mainstream kids who are "testable". But no one has ever figured out how to adapt these to provide meaningful indicators for students with special needs who have wildly variable academic potential, thus leaving a huge gap when this is the heart of your accountability system.

So it's not trivial and anything measurable and meaningful that indicates success for one MCFD sub-group can mean the opposite for others, and lumping them all together gives nothing useful. (E.g. a stat that indicates progress under the child protection mandate, such as reduced need for professional intervention, actually means you're failing the special needs group. Or the really bad program that MCFD introduced around 2002 that claimed success in reducing the number of children in care because they started putting 17-year old foster kids out to live on their own!)

As it is, it is not uncommon to hear Ministers, Deputies, spokespeople and MLAs on both sides citing stats to imply success or failure for the whole Ministry, when the stat in question is meaningless to all but one sub-group.

The other worrying point of course is that fewer stats means "coarser" analysis that ignores "lesser" vulnerabilities. To illustrate the point, the extreme would be to simply count deaths (you'd only need one performance indicator for the whole Ministry). Just giving us the bottom line might be OK for Ministers who count dollars, highways, agricultural outputs, mines or logs, but not for those responsible for people's health and safety.

This is another bad idea that once again gives the impression that our government just doesn't get *people* or kids, or why they are different/more important than (or at least as important as) all that other stuff that guys talk about when they sit around in 3-piece suits.

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