FREDERICTON (GNB) – A second of two reports on New Brunswick’s child welfare system found some progress, identified deficiencies in information gathering and noted a lack of recognition of the rights of children in care.

Child, Youth and Seniors’ Advocate Kelly Lamrock released Through Their Eyes, a report based upon hundreds of interviews with children who had been in the child protection system, and front-line workers.

Lamrock urged the legislative assembly to consider the voices of children in care and entrench their rights in proposed new legislation which is overhauling the province’s child welfare system.

“It is a significant error that we have an act that calls for children in care to be advised of their rights, but then does not entrench any rights. That’s a drafting error that should not happen. Let’s not resist fixing it,” he said.

“Other provinces entrench child rights in legislation, and we have provided possible language to the legislative assembly,” Lamrock said. “We heard too often that children are moved without explanation or consultation. We heard from children who miss their friends and siblings after a sudden move, or that they are moved so often that they cannot stay on a sports team or in extra-curricular activities. We heard from children who overcame so much to get accepted to university and then had to beg for funding. That’s why a statement of child rights matter, so that front-line workers know what is essential.”

The report found progress on some issues like improved use of kinship care options and transitional services for young people aging out of care. It also found some significant deficiencies in information gathering, group home placements and youth criminal justice.

The report found significant deficiencies in the tracking of information regarding children in care and urged the immediate tracking of academic achievement, graduation rates, health outcomes, behavioural issues and participation in post-secondary education.

“A parent should know how their child is doing in school, or if they are struggling with mental health issues and if they are home at night. We should expect no less from government when it acts as a parent,” Lamrock said. “If we do not know if children in care are succeeding, how do we know if the system is working?”

“In too many cases, the government has historically fallen short of what a parent should do. We can, and must, do better. The government deserves credit for having addressed some of these issues in the proposed Child and Youth Well-Being Act.” he said. “A number of the issues raised in this report, such as transitional services for children aging out of care, better collaboration between departments and more child participation in decisions that affect them are addressed in this act and that is good to see. Now is the time to make amendments that address the remaining issues.”

Overall, the report followed the stories of numerous children who had lived through the child protection system and made 21 recommendations based on their lived experience, including;

  • Renewing a commitment to Integrated Service Delivery in government, in which departments collaborate automatically on sharing information and providing services to youth-at-risk.
  • Enhancing the Child’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) process in all government decisions that affect children.
  • Providing children in care with adequate and effective legal counsel when they are in the court system, including private counsel where appropriate.
  • Allowing social workers to seek guidance and advocacy for their clients through the office of the Child and Youth Advocate.

“This report is the most direct input children in care have had into the government decision-making process” said Lamrock. “Our office has worked hard to honour their stories and their lived experience, as well as the suggestions they have made. We hope that the government will honour it as well.”