The minister of Child, Youth and Family Services says there have been big changes in the years since his department was created — and since a report was written into the handling of a child removal case.
“The time that this matter that you've been talking about occurred, in 2008, was the same time that we were saying, ‘We have to change how we do business,’” Paul Davis told CBC News.
Davis was reacting to a story Tuesday about an independent consultant’s report the government refused to release for years.
It involves the case of parents who had children removed from their care.
CBC News went all the way to Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court to get it.
When the judge allowed access to the report, she ordered CBC News not to identify anyone in order to protect the privacy of the children involved.
The consultant who wrote the report also wrote another one two years earlier — that one came out of the tragic death of Zachary Turner.
From those recommendations, the new Department of Child, Youth and Family Services was created in 2009.
“All the recommendations and discussions that come out of those reports are ones that we take very seriously and they're important for us to do the provision of service,” Davis said.
“So is there a better way now for us to communicate and work together? Absolutely.”
Davis says staff have been moved into the department from local health boards, and there is also a quality control unit in place now.
“We have added an enhanced layer of supervision over the front-line work, so that we can ensure that the front-line workers have the tools, ability and training to do their job,” the minister added.
'All the recommendations and discussions that come out of those reports are ones that we take very seriously and they're important for us to do the provision of service.' - Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis
Many cases in child protection are complex, involving many agencies.
The consultant recommended the department develop a process for dealing with those complex cases — something Davis says has been done.
“Are we perfect? No we're not, and we should always, always be prepared to look back and review cases.”
According to Davis, previous ministers in the portfolio said it would take five years to get systems up and running in the newly-created department — something they are continuing to work on.
Report questioned in legislature
In the house of assembly Wednesday, Liberal critic Andrew Parsons asked Davis why the province fought for three years to keep the report under wraps.
'Why did you make the CBC go to Supreme Court? Why did you try to keep it secret for so many years?' - Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons
“Why did you make the CBC go to Supreme Court?” Parsons said. “Why did you try to keep it secret for so many years?”
Davis insisted that the report was not secret, and there is personal information about young people and families in the report that must remain confidential.
“If that means we’ve got to go to Supreme Court of Newfoundland to protect their interests, we’ll do that, and that’s what the Supreme Court upheld,” Davis said.
What the Supreme Court did not uphold, however, was the government’s stand that the entire report should be off-limits.
Justice Gillian Butler ruled that most of the report — the sections outlining issues with the handling of the case and recommendations for improvement — be released.