Nfld. & Labrador

Protecting our youth: Advocate commends government response

The province's Advocate for Children and Youth released her first annual report Wednesday into the status of recommendations made to provincial government departments and agencies.

Carol Chafe says more can done to ensure young people get the services they deserve

Carol Chafe is the Advocate for Children and Youth in Newfoundland and Labrador. She released a report Wednesday updating how government departments and agencies have responded to dozens of recommendations stemming from a series of investigations and reports. (CBC)

The province's Advocate for Children and Youth says while results were impressive, more work needs to be done as she released her first annual report Wednesday into the status of recommendations made to provincial government departments and agencies.

Carol Chafe said 88 per cent of the 173 recommendations were either implemented or are no longer applicable.

Another nine per cent were partially implemented, while no action was taken for just three per cent of the recommendations.

The recommendations arose from seven investigations and four case reviews conducted by the office of the Advocate for Children and Youth, including the Turner review, which examined the murder-suicide of Dr. Shirley Turner and her 13-month-old son Zachary in August 2003.

At the time, legal proceedings were underway to extradite Turner to the United States to face charges of murdering Zachary's father.

A critical eye on children

One of the outstanding areas of concern for Chafe is the refusal of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to require that all children in a family be "critically observed" during every home visit by a social worker.

Currently, policy requires that all children in a family be observed or interviewed during a protection investigation, but not during regular visits.

Chafe pointed out that such a policy could have earlier identified incidents of neglect in previous investigations.

"It is very important to observe, even if it's to see them in the room, to see what state that the children are in; if they're clean and not neglected and healthy," she said during a news conference.

It was obvious in Joey's Story and in Turning a Blind Eye that if that had occurred with every home visit, those children would not have suffered for the time that they did and they would have been removed from the home sooner.- Carol Chafe

"It was obvious in Joey's Story and in Turning a Blind Eye that if that had occurred with every home visit, those children would not have suffered for the time that they did and they would have been removed from the home sooner," she added, referencing two of the investigations carried out by her office.

Wednesday's report gave an overview of the recommendations made, and the status of each recommendation as of November 2014.

Chafe expressed gratitude for the co-operation her office has received, and commended government for making legislative, policy and procedural changes to better serve and protect children and youth.

Consistent service across the province

She also stressed how important it is that managers and staff provide a standard level of service throughout the province.

"It is only through consistent, high quality services and practices that our children and youth will receive the services they truly deserve," she siad.

The recommendations were made to the departments of Child, Youth and Family Services, Health and Community Services, and Public Safety and Justice, along with the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Some of the recommendations were made to multiple departments and agencies.

While amendments to legislation, protocols and procedures are crucial, Chafe said they are just the first step to making lasting changes.

"I look forward to continuing to work with those providing services to the children and youth to ensure their needs are met and their rights are upheld," she said.

With files from Peter Cowan

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