Wait times among shortcomings of Quebec's youth protection system: auditor general
QUEBEC – Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant is getting his knuckles rapped by the auditor general over the ineffectiveness of the province's youth protection system.
In her annual report tabled Wednesday in the National Assembly, Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc noted multiple shortcomings in the youth protection system, including how it manages reports on children in difficulty, and oversight of the program's directors.
"The way the youth protection system currently operates is flawed," a summary of the report reads, adding that the directors of youth protection "are not receiving sufficient support" and are "inadequately supervised" by the Health and Social Services Ministry.
It's a situation Marcelle Partouche was familiar with. She was homeless following several years spent in foster care.
"We don't necessarily have the skills or the resources to be able to be autonomous or fend for ourselves once we are cut out of the program at 18 years of age," she said.
The report comes amid a commission into the province's youth protection system, launched after a seven-year-old girl in Granby died in an alleged case of mistreatment, despite multiple warnings to the department. Her father and stepmother are currently on trial for her death.
The auditor general's findings:
1 – WAIT TIMES
Leclerc's report notes that the wait time between reporting and applying required measures can average as long as 226 days in some regions.
"Children do not have timely access to the services they need to rectify the situation which endangers their safety or development," the report reads.
The longer it takes to gain access to needed services, the higher the risk that a child's situation worsens, warned Leclerc; the child's development can be delayed, and their safety put in peril.
Reports to the DYP have jumped dramatically – by 27 per cent – and the province has not kept pace. Reports in 2019 have so far reached 105,644, up from 82,919 in 2013.
Wait times will only increase if Quebec does not intervene quickly, said Leclerc.
"They have to reduce the delay between every step until the end of the application is put in place," she said in a news conference following the report's release.
In July, Carmant announced the province is investing an additional $47 million to better protect vulnerable children in the care of youth protection. The money will be used to hire nearly 400 employees to eliminate waiting lists for children who need help and reduce burnout.
2 – IDENTIFYING RISKS
Youth protection directors "do not identify certain hints of potential risks, such as recurring reports for the same child," the report states, adding that it can result in "a major impact on the future situation of the child."
3 – WORKLOAD
Improvements need to be made to organize workload better and supervise the directors' interventions.
4 – SUPPORT
Institutions are failing to provide directors with "sufficient support enabling them to fulfill their role in child protection," the report reads.
5 – OVERSIGHT
The Health and Social Services Ministry does not monitor directors' interventions to assess their effectiveness and intervene promptly, the report reads.
The auditor general issued several recommendations, aimed in particular at regional health boards (CIUSSS) in Monteregie-Est, Capitale-Nationale, Estrie-Sherbrooke Hospital Centre, and to the Health and Social Services Ministry.
Recommendations for the directors of youth protection at the regional health boards include:
- Respecting time limits for access to service for children whose safety and development are at risk, better
- Identifying and analyzing potential risks, considering decisions made at various stages of the intervention
- Reviewing both the workload and supervision process to make interventions more effective
Recommendations for the Health and Social Services Ministry include:
- Revising the standards governing clinical practice in youth protection and making any corrections as needed
Developing a strategy to better monitor directors' interventions and evaluate their effectiveness – and intervene promptly when needed