Children traumatized by foster care lapses, advocate reports

June 2, 2009 / CBC news

Children are routinely overlooked in Newfoundland and Labrador's foster care system, which is beset by high turnover of staff assigned to their care, a report released Tuesday says.

Child and Youth Advocate Darlene Neville said the foster care system continues to be plagued by too few social workers in the system, and too many of those workers leaving when they can find jobs in other areas.

Neville said her office found evidence of incomplete documentation and cases in which children were moved from one home to another without having a say in the matter.

She related the case of a 13-year-old boy who had been taken to a Child, Youth and Family Services office, after he was told he was supposed to be going to a McDonald's restaurant for a visit with his sister.

"He was told he wouldn't be returning home that day and he would have to change schools and basically leave everything behind him," Neville told CBC News.

"I want to be clear about this. This is a situation where his safety was not at risk. His foster parents did not request the move and the boy had no knowledge of the move and did not want to move," she said.

"We were pretty horrified when that came to our attention."

In the review, Neville's office found that rules are frequently not followed, particularly involving the documentation regarding what happens to children in care.

"Taken together, the findings of the review confirmed that the experience of transitioning for children and youth in care as it now stands is a traumatic one which further contributes to their vulnerability in our society," the report said.

The review found that a child in care will on average deal with at least three social workers. The review found that while some children dealt consistently with one social worker, others were "showing as many as 16."

The report also notes a chronic shortage of foster parents who are willing to care for children in need.

In March, as part of its annual budget, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced rate increases for foster parents.

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