Social Development

Minister's response to child death review committee report (09/10/27)

NB 1681

Oct. 27, 2009

FREDERICTON (CNB) - A response was issued today by Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock to recommendations made by the Child Death Review Committee, which reviewed the death of a child.

"The safety of our children is paramount to government," said Lamrock. "We are committed to preserving their safety and welfare. I thank the Child Death Review Committee for its recommendations and for its work to help the government ensure that our child welfare system responds to the needs of children and their families."

The committee was established to investigate the deaths of children younger than 19 who are in the legal care of the minister; or whose families were in contact with the child welfare system within 12 months prior to their death.

The committee issued three recommendations, released publicly by Social Development on Sept. 11. Under the terms of reference of the committee, the department must respond to recommendations 45 days after they are released. Following are the three recommendations from the Child Death Review Committee and the responses by Social Development:

Recommendation 1:

The department explore the option of an intensive in-home service program where a support worker spends a significant portion of time on a daily basis (or 24/7 where cases warrant) providing support and/or teaching opportunities to the client(s).

Response:

In-home services are intensive, short-term, home-based, crisis intervention services offering families in crisis the alternative to remain safely together, avoiding an out-of-home placement whenever possible.

Social Development uses intensive in-home services according to the need as addressed through a family's case plan. Some of these services can be provided by professionals or para-professionals.

In other cases, extended families can be an important ally in delivering these intensive support services. In December 2008, Phase I of New Directions was implemented to provide a more proactive approach when supporting families in need of child protection services.

One aspect of these approaches is a Family Group Conference model that can help families arrange wrap-around services for other family members whose children are at risk of abuse or neglect and are receiving child protection services. A family group conference was not available at the time of death of these children.

Subsequently, Phase II of New Directions will provide more comprehensive tools to assess family strengths and thus enable social workers to develop even more comprehensive case plans.

Alerts can be registered with NB Families, the information system used by Child Protection Services, to advise after-hours social workers of families where there is a high risk of abuse or neglect so that appropriate action can be taken in an emergency during the afterhours. The use of such alerts will be reinforced with departmental staff.

Recommendation 2:

The Department consider requesting a psychological or parenting ability assessment earlier in the process in cases where cognitive or parenting ability is questioned. Doing so would provide baseline information to set short and long-term goals, achievement indicators and establishing a monitoring regimen.

Response:

The department uses parental capacity assessments and psychological reports, particularly in cases proceeding to court.

The department will encourage use of these assessments as best practice and decision-making in case plans and will move to make these assessments more readily accessible to social workers as a tool when developing plans.

It is expected and encouraged that, with the multiple response model being introduced in Phase II of New Directions, parental capacity assessments will be more widely applied earlier on in the case plan as social workers proceed to work with families using concurrent planning and collaborative approaches.

With the more widespread use of parental capacity assessments, work with families will be more comprehensive and intensive. As well, parents who have significant problems that prevent them from parenting will be identified earlier on in the case plan.

As a result of the expected increase in demand for psychological assessments and to assist with parental capacity assessments, five psychologist positions within Social Development will be reassigned with a priority to work within the Child Protection Program.

Recommendation 3:

It is recommended that medical practitioners in these types of cases be thoroughly briefed on the patient(s) history and the concerns of case managers in relation to the children when in the care of, or receiving services from, the minister. This would enable the physician to provide a fully informed conclusion and/or diagnosis and to take the concerns of other care/service providers into consideration.

Response:

Social workers are expected to share information with medical practitioners when that information is to protect the health, safety and security of a person.

The department will continue to reinforce with social workers the need to collaborate and share information with the various medical practitioners throughout the duration of the case plan when the information is required to protect the health, safety and security of a child.

09/10/27

MEDIA CONTACT: Alison Aiton, communications, Social Development, 506-444-2416.

09/10/27