Canada

Troubled B.C. child protection system needs stability: report

Budget cuts and internal upheaval are to blame for many of the problems in B.C.'s troubled child protection system, a retired judge says.

Budget cuts and internal upheaval are to blame for many of the problems in B.C.'s troubled child protection system, a retired judge says.

In a 172-page report released on Friday, Ted Hughes said what the system needs most is stability, particularly among senior management.

He said the system's ability to function properly has been "buffeted by an unmanageable degree of change," noting there have been nine ministers, eight deputy ministers and seven directors of child protection in the past decade.

Hughes also took issue with four years of deep departmental budget cuts that "took the knife too far."

He said the B.C. government should once again appoint an independent officer of the legislature to oversee the child protection system, reviewing children's deaths and advocating for improved services.

The Opposition NDP has called repeatedly for the reinstatement of a children's commissioner. The position was axed by the Liberal government as a cost-cutting measure.

Hughes, B.C.'s former conflict-of interest commissioner, was appointed to investigate the situation late last year, as the controversy intensified over the government's handling of the Sherry Charlie case.

The 19-month-old girl's death also focused attention on the effect of budget cuts on the child protection system.

The toddler was beaten to death by her uncle in Port Alberni in 2002 after a government-approved First Nations child welfare agency placed the child in his home. Ryan George, 32, was later sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter.

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