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NEWS RELEASE · 15th June 2010
BC NDP Caucus
The B.C. Liberals’ refusal to follow advice from the independent Representative for Children and Youth to improve government programs for children in care living with relatives shows a thoughtless disregard for the most vulnerable in our society, say New Democrats.

“When families are in trouble and turn to government programs for help, we have an obligation to make sure that children are safe and cared for. By refusing to heed the advice of the Representative for Children and Youth, the B.C. Liberals are putting vulnerable children at risk,” said Maurine Karagianis, New Democrat critic for children and youth

The Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond today released a comprehensive, independent audit based on a study of 1,280 applications to the Child in the Home of a Relative program since screening began in 2007. The audit found many children were placed with caregivers in homes where the children are at risk, children were placed without being seen by anyone from the government, and some children actually disappeared from the system.

“I’m surprised and very disappointed that Minister Polak has said she won’t follow the representative’s principal recommendation and screen the 4,500 vulnerable kids in the current program,” said Karagianis.

“Ms. Turpel-Lafond did a thorough and rigorous study of the safety of children in the program and concluded there is an urgent need to re-screen the homes they are placed in. It is incomprehensible that the minister would flat-out refuse to follow the recommendations.”

Karagianis also expressed deep concern that the government capped the Children in the Home of a Relative program on April 1, replacing it with the new Extended Family Program. The new program was launched without consulting the Representative, and without waiting to consider the findings of today’s audit. The Extended Family Program is designed to serve far fewer families, has many more barriers to admission, and appears to have inadequate funding.

“The Representative raised startling concerns that the replacement program appears to be the ‘lowest-cost option.’ When are the B.C. Liberals going to learn that it is both careless and irresponsible to slash funding for programs and services that help the most vulnerable in our province?” asked Karagianis, who noted that children in need who are invisible to government are no less vulnerable.

Carole James and New Democrats are committed to enhancing public services, and supporting the health and quality of life of B.C. families.