Wednesday, December 19, 2012
My Response To The Ministry Of Child And Family Development’s Statement Regarding Gifts For Children
Yesterday, in response to detailed information I received from a reader about a potential change to a longstanding practice at the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD), I asked the following question of the Minister responsible and/or her boss:
Question #1: Have social workers in the MCFD been told they are not allowed to purchase Christmas gifts for the children and youth in government care?
After a whole lot of follow-up, including Yaila Yuile’s direct enquiries, the Ministry released a statement that began like this:
“Any claim that the ministry will not be supplying Christmas gifts for children in care is absolutely inaccurate and it is very concerning that this erroneous message was sent to a client. In fact, social workers are encouraged to ensure every child and youth in care receives gifts during the holiday season…”
Notice that this did not answer my question.
Because, while ‘encouragement’ can be very helpful when there is another willing adult in the child’s life it is not the same as allowing the social workers to actually purchase a gift for the child if there is no such willing adult.
What about Part 2 of the Ministry’s response:
“…Funding to cover gifts for children and youth in care is built-in to monthly payments the ministry sends to foster parents…”
This is strange because, based on the detailed information I received from my reader, I made it very clear that we were EXCLUDING kids in Foster care when we asked our question.
So, how about the third and final part of the Ministry’s response:
“…For children and youth living independently or on Youth Agreements, ministry staff are authorized and encouraged to ensure those young people are remembered over the holidays and gifts are provided.”
There’s that term ‘encouraged’ again. But, to be fair, there is also the term ‘authorized’.
But here’s the thing…..
The term ‘social worker’ (ie. the front-line folks I asked about specifically in my question) is no longer there for kids who are not in Foster care. Instead, the new term that has been inserted is ‘Ministry Staff’.
Now, why does any of this matter?
Because in many cases it is the front-line social workers who are able to build a direct adult relationship with those kids who are not in Foster care.
Thus, in my opinion they (i.e. the social workers) should be the ones making the purchases and giving the gifts.
And please remember, originally this was all raised in the context of budget-cutting in the MCFD given the government’s other spending priorities at the moment
Interestingly, there has been a bit of a backlash, particularly on Twitter, about the fact I first asked this question (as well as a direct follow-up question as well that you can find in the original post, here) and others, including Ian Reid, Norm Farrell, Paul Willcocks, NVG and Laila then commented on it.
Well, as near as I can figure it, it is all being dismissed as ’irresponsible’ blogger blather.
But here’s the thing…
My reader is not the only person who has brought up this matter to the fore.
Specifically, a second source sent Laila an Email that corroborates what my reader had to say.
The text of that Email, with identifying addresses, etc., removed, goes like this: