The Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review Panel report was released by panel chair Bob Pringle on Thursday. ((CBC))

A report on child welfare in Saskatchewan says the system is broken with too many children going into care — and it needs a major overhaul.

The Saskatchewan Child Welfare Review report was presented Thursday to Social Services Minister June Draude.

Titled For the Good of Our Children and Youth, the 53-page report says foster care is in crisis and the care some children are receiving may be doing more harm than good.

It's an often stark summary of problems presented by review panel chair Bob Pringle and the other panelists who spent much of the past year meeting with hundreds of people, including social workers, aboriginal leaders and foster parents.

The numbers themselves are alarming, the report says. Last year, there was a daily average of 4,382 children who were receiving care outside of the family home, a 41 per cent increase over four years.


Report author Bob Pringle. ((CBC))

The number of children who are permanent wards of the state has grown from 260 in 2004 to 629 in 2009.

"We call for a much smaller child welfare stream that significantly reduces the number of children in care," the report concludes.

It says children in Saskatchewan's child welfare system can be shuffled around from overcrowded foster homes to group homes. Some miss school and leave the system worse off, in some cases, than if they'd been left in their own homes.

A major theme of the report is that aboriginal people are over-represented in the child welfare system. Aboriginal people make up about 15 per cent of the population in Saskatchewan, but about 80 per cent of the children in care.

One problem the report identifies is an adversarial system that people don't trust.

The trust isn't there, the report says, in part because families don't qualify for support until the problem is so severe that children are seized. But the divide between aboriginal and non-aboriginal societies is also an important factor in why the system isn't working, it says.

It calls for a transition to more First Nation and Métis control of child welfare and preventative family supports.

The report also recommends that far more emphasis be put on helping families before their children go into care. It says urgent action is needed to make sure the proper checks are being done on children in foster homes.

In response, the government has struck a committee that it says will begin the job of implementing the recommendations.