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B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

The Office of the Auditor General says the B.C. government is failing to monitor residential services for the province’s most vulnerable children and youth in care.

In a report released Wednesday, the office says youth in contracted residential services may not be receiving the support they need because the Ministry of Children and Family Development has failed to set quality standards or oversee the service.

Contracted residential services provided housing, food and other supports last year for about 1,150 children and youth, including many with “highly complex needs.”

Auditor general Carol Bellringer says in a news release the ministry is “struggling” to match the specific needs of individuals, and services often evolve on an “ad hoc” basis to respond to individual and emergency situations.

As an example, the office says Indigenous youth are placed in homes with no Indigenous cultural component.

Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, says the government accepts all four recommendations in the report and will work closely with the office to address them.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of children and youth in care,” Conroy says in a statement.

“I said last summer that we needed to overhaul that system. I welcomed this independent audit as a key part of that process as we pushed forward on making immediate improvements.”

READ MORE: Drug-related deaths double for B.C. youth in care, advocate says

Conroy says the ministry has already begun working to improve care services and imposed a moratorium on the creation of new contracted residential agencies last June.

Social workers have also confirmed they have met with each child and youth in a contracted residential agency over the past three months to review their circumstances, the ministry says in a release.

It has also completed background and criminal record checks on more than 5,800 agency caregivers and new applicants, it says.

Bellringer’s report concluded ministry staff responsible for managing contracts don’t have the right training or support to do so.

The ministry says it hired a private firm to review its contracting and payment process in December.

The auditor general says contracted residential care services are typically the most intensive and expensive of all care options.

The Canadian Press

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