Quebec aims to slash youth protection wait lists by hiring 400 social workers

The Quebec government is going to invest $47 million in the province's youth protection services (DPJ) — money that will be used to hire 400 new social workers.

About 3,000 children are waiting to be evaluated right now, says minister responsible, Lionel Carmant

Lionel Carmant, the Quebec minister responsible for youth protection, has invited retired social workers to consider a return to work to help trim the system's wait lists. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

The Quebec government is going to invest $47 million in the province's youth protection services (DPJ) — money that will be used to hire 400 new social workers and reduce wait lists for evaluation.

There are about 3,000 children waiting to be evaluated right now, said Lionel Carmant, the minister in charge of youth protection in Quebec. Some are waiting as long as two months to have their cases examined.

The system has been plagued by workers quitting or opting for early retirement, many of them burnt out from heavy caseloads. That means most — but not all — of the new recruits will likely be fresh out of school.

"If there's any young retirees that want to come back to DPJ and help us, we'll gladly have positions for them as well," said Carmant.

The union representing provincial government social workers said this investment is a good first step but still falls short, estimating that $270 million is required to fix the system's current problems.

Granby girl's death sparked calls for action

Carmant has already announced a sweeping review of youth protection services, prompted by the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby in April.

The child, who had an active file with the DPJ, was found in critical condition in her home and died in hospital. Her father and stepmother are facing criminal charges in connection with her death.

Stuffed animals and flowers were left outside the home where the girl lived in Granby. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The regional health authority in the Eastern Townships, the CIUSSS de l'Estrie, released a report Wednesday with 14 recommendations following an investigation into the child's death.

Dr. Stéphane Tremblay, president and CEO of the agency, told CBC News that staff shortages and an overloaded youth protection system left the girl in a "high-risk" situation.

Tremblay said staff didn't follow best practices due to lack of time and personnel to manage the 1,900 child protection cases in the region.

The first of the 14 recommendations is to increase the number of home visits from two a year to one per month.

A commission of inquiry is to examine every aspect of youth protection in Quebec and come up with recommendations by November 2020.

With files from CBC's Steve Rukavina, Catou Mackinnon