"Uncertainty" continues at children's ministry

Confused about the government's five-year-old effort to transform the way the province's most vulnerable children are protected? Well, you're in good company because it appears the civil servants responsible for acting on those changes are too - so much so that their boss felt the need to address that confusion just before the holidays. In a 1,539 word missive sent on December 21 and obtained by Public Eye, children and family development deputy minister Lesley du Toit wished her underlings the "warmest season greetings" and then went on to to provide them with a list of 15 points meant to "clear up" some of the "uncertainty" surrounding that transformation effort.

Among those points: according to Ms. du Toit, her so-called practice change initiative won't "under any circumstances weaken our protection of children." But, she added, it is "unfair" for the ministry to "over emphasize the child protection component" of its work."

Ms. du Toit then stated the ministry's work will be "strongly focused on 'the child' and 'the family' which is neither a child-centred or family-centred" approach.

Whether any of those points have helped clear up the uncertainty at the ministry of children and family development remains to be seen. It certainly didn't for us.

But it perhaps explains why the ministry is appointing a new stakeholder relations director this month to help sort all that internal confusion out.

The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned email.

***

From: Gabitous, Jason MCF:EX
Sent: Tuesday, December 21, 2010
To: MCF All Exchange mailboxes
Cc: Burns, Heather B PAB:EX
Subject: Message from the Deputy Minister

Sent on behalf of the Deputy Minister

Dear Colleagues,

This will be a long e-mail, but I hope you will be patient with me. I feel there is quite a bit to share with you.

I'm writing to extend my warmest season greetings and to say thank you so much for your extraordinary hard work and great job you do every day. Regardless of your role in the ministry your work impacts children and families in BC and I deeply appreciate your awareness of that and the fact that you always strive to give your best. So many folk in the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) go that extra mile and that adds to you being really special. Thank you too for the passion and innovation you bring to the work.

I know this work can be overwhelming and exhausting, but nevertheless I hope that you experience the immense satisfaction of knowing that our work makes a difference in the lives of young people and their families.

I do realize there are a number of uncertainties at the moment - one of these being the implementation of practice change, and the other being the changes in the government. Whenever leadership in government changes there is a period of anxiety and speculation - these past few months have been no different. However, the ministry has again demonstrated great resolve and professionalism while we continue down the path that has been established; one that is focused on the ongoing progress towards our vision of children and families who are strong, safe, and supported throughout BC. I want to encourage us all to continue with that mindset and approach our work with the same resolve, creativity, and enthusiasm we always have.

With regard to our movement forward to complete the transformation and particularly practice change, I do want to be clear that we will not be slowing down on this or turning back. As we indicate in "Strong, Safe and Supported," government is committed to completing our changes in 2012 and that remains the goal of the ministry. Learning is connected to, but independent of transformation; when transformation is completed learning will keep moving forward as part of our professional obligation to children, youth, families and communities.

I realize that when change actually impacts your approach to work and your daily practice it becomes that much more challenging and scary. It's one thing to consider things theoretically and be committed to a vision and another thing altogether to have to make the change in practice. The Ministry's Leadership Team and all managers throughout MCFD will continue to strive to provide sufficient clear information, involve you, support you, hear you, and have you participate in the necessary training programs.

We are particularly interested in the feedback from staff and other stakeholders that communication is an area that needs improvement. While at times there can be a level of confusion that would be found in any large system and complex ministry such as ours, we believe we can to do better. So, to that end, we are going to increase our efforts in getting more information to you through a variety of mechanisms.

More broadly than the Child and Family Support, Assessment, Planning and Practice (CAPP) initial implementation sites in each region, we want to encourage and increase participation from practitioners, team leaders and Community Service Managers (CSM) in sharing learning and designing some of the detailed changes at the practice level. While we are urgently working on this, I would be delighted to hear more ideas from you on communication opportunities, mechanisms and approaches that will work for you, and how we can increase your participation. You can send these through to your ADM, or communicate directly with me via the generic email in my office MCF.DeputyMinistersOffice@gov.bc.ca.

Here are a few details which I hope will clear up some uncertainty:

* We are not implementing a universal assessment.

* Specialized assessment will be critical when a child needs such an assessment.

* We will not under any circumstances weaken our protection of children.

* While child protection will always be a very important part of our work, the ministry provides so much more than child protection services and it is unfair to staff, community organizations and children to over emphasize the child protection component.

* We will not have "generalists" - practitioners are and will continue to be respected for their professional qualifications, their particular discipline and specialized knowledge.

* We will work in multidisciplinary teams.

* CAPP Key Workers are the people who the child or youth is most connected.

* We will be strongly focused on "the child" and "the family" which is neither a child-centered or family-centered approach. We do and will respect the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as part of our law and our standards of practice with the child's best interests will always coming first. At the same time we will strengthen our work with families.

* All practitioners in MCFD will be provided with training before they implement CAPP.

* CAPP does not equal Practice change. Practice change includes CAPP, Integrated Quality Assurance, Integrated Case Management (ICM), Clinical Supervision, and HR & Budgeting processes to support these changes.

* Practice change is founded on research and effective approaches taken in many countries around the world. We do not and will not experiment with the lives of children and families. That research is available on the internet - http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/about_us/pdf/research.pdf

* Change is incremental based on knowledge and skill development, steady achievement of goals and outcomes, and the appropriate supports - there will be no "big bang" but change is not forever. However, continuous learning and growth is to be expected.

* There is plenty of room still for front-line staff, team leaders and CSM's in MCFD and the sector to influence the details at community level of practice change.

* The five initial implementation sites are focused only on assessment of children and youth in care and this will be evaluated before we move on to the full CAPP process. Before we move to the full implementation of CAPP in MCFD the design of service delivery, team structure, and the application in different contexts will be finalized with participation from those who will implement.

* While the sites begin to implement, training will be rolled out incrementally to all MCFD staff, starting with the research module and the resilience module.

There is so much that individuals and we as a ministry do well, and there are significant accomplishments this year which we should acknowledge. As we look back at 2010 it's important to remind ourselves of these, which among others include:

* The day after day responses to hundreds of requests for support from children, youth and families which result in the safety and well being of those children and their families.

* The hundreds of vulnerable children we protect every day.

* Each family group conference which results in positive outcomes for children and families.

* Every intervention with a young person and family that leads to better outcomes and improved well-being.

* The incredible work of foster parents (for which we have enormous gratitude).

* Your resilience and skill when you experience the harsh, painful realities of working with hurt, or hurting young people and families.

* The young people who leave our system with a sense of having been well cared for and supported.

* The start up of the ICM system for about 320 staff in 13 Implementation sites.

* The significant steps in implementing the Aboriginal Framework.

* The set up of the CAPP learning sites and the participation of 60 folk in 4 training modules on CAPP.

* The orientation of three thousand staff and community agencies on CAPP.

* The establishment of standards for Quality Assurance practice and the strengthening of Quality Assurance in terms of the framework, research, youth participation, and regional Quality Assurance directors.

* The strengthening of Family Development Response.

* The first stages of policy and practice standards improvement.

* The many partnerships with First Nations communities and the significant work done by those communities on Indigenous approaches.

* The roll out of Touchstones and reconciliation work.

* The increased inclusion of resilience work within our practice.

* The steady work on the Residential Redesign.

* The tireless efforts of those individuals and agencies throughout the province, who work with children, youth and parents to help build forever families through adoption.

* The development of the Metis Strategic Plan which is intended to guide the Ministry over the next three to five years as we support the plans and aspirations of Metis people in British Columbia.

Please visit our Ministry Transformation website for further information on some of these accomplishments, http://www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/about_us/transformation_update.htm

There is hard work, further improvements and new exciting steps which face us in 2011. I look forward to this work and to supporting everyone to be as successful as possible. I hope you all get a chance to have a fun, relaxing, and safe holiday season with family and friends. To those who will work over the holidays - thank you.

Again, thank you for being there for the children, youth and families in British Columbia!

Kind regards

Lesley

1 Comment

1) Sean, this is why I support you. While Michael Smyth just used at least a bit too much time w/ Christy Clark on BCRail, you're down there in the bureaucratic canyons protecting kids. People may attack you US-style for your faith or lack thereof, but its clear you have family values in spades.

2) It's time for Minister Polak to remind us she isn't a) belonging in a certain Langley museum as a nonflying warbird instead of being their MLA and b) an irrelevant, gorgeous & witty spokesperson. Make MCFD work, cut the new era form of the gordian knot and find the right place for her libertarian spirit. I'm sure others will pile on, but I'll play nice.

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