The B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) welcomes new policies introduced by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MFCD) concerning the use of hotels for children and youth in government care. Under the new policies, hotels will only be used under exceptional circumstances when no other alternatives are available. MCFD Minister Stephanie Cadieux also stated the ultimate goal is to eliminate the use of hotels entirely.
The changes are the result of a special joint report by the MCFD and the Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. The report, The Placement of Children and Youth in Care in Hotels in British Columbia, also calls for the MCFD to increase the number of residential resources to reduce the use of hotels.
“These new policies and directives are important for our frontline social workers,” says Doug Kinna, BCGEU Vice President - Social, Information and Health Component. “They set out clear procedures for the use of hotels, the approval process that is required, and include important oversight to track and monitor the use of hotels. The report also calls for additional residential resources so we no longer use hotels to house these vulnerable young people.”
“This report, and the policy changes that have come about because of it, shows the importance of collaboration between the Ministry and the Representative for Children and Youth,” says BCGEU treasurer Paul Finch. “This type of collaboration, informed by a critical and independent oversight of the policy and actions of the Ministry, is the way forward. We will be paying close attention to the provincial budget in February to see if funding is there to improve, in a meaningful way, the services we provide to vulnerable children and youth in our province.”
The report was initiated following the death of Alex Gervais, an 18 year-old in government care, who fell to his death from a hotel window. At the time of his death the MCFD said it was only aware of one other child living in a hotel. The joint report discovered 117 children were placed in hotels between November 2014 and October 2015. Some children were placed in hotels more than once, for a total of 131 hotel placements in that one-year period.
This week’s joint report is the latest to uncover serious problems in the services provided to vulnerable children and youth in B.C. Last year the BCGEU released the Choose Children report. It gave voice to BCGEU members on the front lines of B.C.’s child, youth, and family services and issued recommendations for fixing the systemic failures in the province’s child welfare system including additional funding, developing caseload standards, addressing significant staffing problems, and providing improved training, among others.