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Care plans for vulnerable children below standard, B.C. watchdog’s audit finds

B.C. children’s advocate Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond releases a report to the media in April 2008.

Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press

British Columbia's children's watchdog has found that only a small fraction of the care plans created for some of the province's most vulnerable children meet ministry guidelines.

Independent children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said Tuesday she is calling on the Liberal government to make key changes to improve care plans for those children.

Turpel-Lafond released a 122-page audit, called Much More than Paperwork, that examined 100 randomly chosen files on children in government care.

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The audit found that only five per cent of the audited plans met the Ministry of Children and Family Development's own standards, she said.

The representative said much of the audit found scattered and ineffective plans for the children, while very few met government guidelines.

"The results of this audit are not encouraging," Turpel-Lafond said at a news conference in Victoria. "In fact, they are not acceptable."

She said her audit concluded that 95 of the 100 reviewed files did not have a plan that fully met children's ministry requirements.

"This is simply not good enough," Turpel-Lafond said.

She said detailed plans for children should include properly matching and organizing the vulnerable child's home, school, health, cultural and social needs.

Prudent parents work to fulfil the needs of their children, and children in government care deserve the same from their public parents, she said.

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"This audit gives me no such comfort that such planning is happening on a regular basis," she said.

The audit makes 10 recommendations, including calling on the children's ministry to invest enough resources to enforce its own planning standards.

It also suggests changes to social workers' hours to make it easier for them to meet with clients.

Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said her ministry's plans to care for vulnerable children needs to improve, but notes that while there may not be up-to-date written care plans, that doesn't necessarily mean those children are at risk.

Cadieux said the report highlights the need for the ministry to continue its plans and goals to ensure every child in government care has a written plan in place by next year.

"The ongoing planning that a plan of care lays out is critical and we do see that as something that needs to be in place," she said. "That's why we're taking action."

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