BC foster care in crisis, report and social workers agree

By Tom Sandborn

March 8, 2009 / The Hook

The province’s foster care system is in deep trouble according to a recently released government report, and the organization that represents BC social workers is calling for a thoroughgoing reform. The report, Child in Care Cost Driver Analysis, includes these findings:

1) “Overall costs are rising at rates beyond inflation and beyond the Ministry’s capacity to continue to fund within existing budgets”.

2) The increasing age of children in care and the multiple needs of children coming into care is increasing the demand for “high level placements”.

3) Ministry foster homes and contracted foster homes are operating at over capacity.

4) The voluntary nature of foster care is collapsing as “foster parents and other skilled caregivers recognize their market position and negotiate higher payments and supports”.

5) Increased residential spending is covering the basic costs…not necessarily contributing to good outcomes”.

Linda Korbin says that the report echoes concerns her group, the BC Association of Social Workers (BCASW), has been expressing for years. Korbin, the group’s executive director, told The Hook that resources for foster care have been reduced ever since the Campbell Liberals first took power.

“The issues are getting more and more complex, with more kids with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and more survivors of abuse, and the government is intent on reducing the number of kids in care.

Despite this, they haven’t put adequate funding into preventative and community care programs,” she said in a March 6 telephone interview.

Korbin said that the BCASW is calling on the government to “dramatically increase” funding for such programs so at-risk children can remain safely in their family homes. She said increases in funding for foster care homes might be necessary as well.

“Children should have well trained, adequately funded foster parents to go to when life at home becomes unsafe and dangerous. Failure to resolve the current foster care crisis and chaos will move it beyond the tipping point, and the foster care system will tip over with disastrous results,” she said.

Tom Sandborn is a Tyee contributing editor and a regular on The Hook. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.

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