New Brunswick

New minister 'anxious' to see review into child protection system

New Brunswickers will have to wait a bit longer to see a review into the province's child protection system.

Consultant George Savoury completed his review nearly 3 months ago, but it hasn't been released yet

The previous Liberal government ordered a review into the child protection system earlier this year. (CBC)

New Brunswickers will have to wait a bit longer to see a review into the province's child protection system.

The previous government hired Nova Scotia-based consultant George Savoury to review the system, following a case of child neglect involving five children in Saint John.

Savoury told CBC News nearly three months ago that his report had been completed.

But new Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard hasn't seen it yet.

Shephard said she's been asking about the status of the report "daily" and is anxious to see the recommendations.

"I thought it would be in on Friday," she said. "I'm looking for it any day now."

Part of the delay has been caused by changes Savoury was asked to make to his original report.

Child protection consultant George Savoury was hired to review the child welfare system after a shocking case of neglect in Saint John. (George Savoury)

"Questions went back to ask him to clarify certain points, really to expand on the recommendations he's making, just to make them more clear," Shephard said.

In an email on Nov. 7, Savoury said briefings are "still ongoing" and his report is still considered a "draft."

The president of the union representing child protection workers is also eager to see the report.

Stephen Drost, president of CUPE Local 1418, has raised alarm bells about a high workload of complex cases for staff and the challenge of attracting, and keeping, experienced social workers. He'd like to see both issues addressed in Savoury's report.

"I am still very cautiously optimistic that there will be some good things in that report and that the recommendations will be followed through," Drost said.

Child and youth advocate on upcoming report

4 years ago
Duration 1:21
Child and youth advocate Norm Bosse said the report he prepared on a case of child neglect in Saint John will make several pointed recommendations.

'The public wants to know'

Child and youth advocate Norm Bossé has been doing his own investigation into the Saint John child neglect case.

It will be the first of several reports the advocate plans to release on problems in the child protection system.

Bossé has spent the past several months reviewing documents and interviewing witnesses.

The first report, scheduled for release in January, will have a few recommendations that "can be addressed by government rather quickly," Bossé said.

"It isn't a blame game. 

Children's handprints are mixed with feces on a wall in the house. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"But it's trying to get to where are the gaps, what happened in this case. The public wants to know and I don't blame them."

Bossé's report is independent and separate from the Savoury report.

"It had absolutely no part to play in my report of the child and youth advocate's office, nor did the internal report of the government have any part to play in ours," he said.

The new Progressive Conservative government vowed to "improve the child protection system" in its first throne speech on Tuesday, promising more accountability and "amendments to the Family Services Act to give courts more options to provide for children's safety and care."

Looks at Indigenous, immigrant child rights 

Bossé mentioned the January report at the release of his annual State of the Child report on Tuesday.

Child and youth advocate Norm Bossé has been doing his own, independent investigation into the case of child neglect in Saint John. (Ed Hunter/CBC News file photo)

This year's State of the Child report focuses on Indigenous and immigrant child rights.

In it, Bossé called for an immediate plan from government to help preserve Indigenous languages.

He said the data shows there are only about 360 Maliseet native speakers left in New Brunswick.

The report also calls for First Nations children to have Mi'kmaq or Maliseet as their "language of instruction" in schools.

"If we start early enough, as we see now in elementary schools with some instruction in their native language, that over time it will develop," Bossé said.

"It's not a one-year project, let me tell you. But I think the effort and the commitment has to be there."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Send your tips to NBInvestigates@CBC.ca.

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