Update Wed, 5:30pm : Please see a statement to MCFD staff, apparently from Doug Hughes, Provincial Director of Child Welfare and Bev Dicks, ADM Service Delivery, in the comments...My initial impression is that, while the position of the Ministry has been refined, my original direct question about a previous longstanding practice has still not been specifically answered...
Latest Update, 8:00am Thurs Dec 20th is.....here.
Latest Update, 8:00am Thurs Dec 20th is.....here.
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 in the picture.
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 our very knowledgable 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. 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 the only folks who are able to build any kind of direct adult relationship with these kids. Which means that they very likely know best what the kids' needs, wants and interests are.
Thus, in my opinion, they (i.e. the social workers) should be the ones making the purchases and giving the gifts.
And, to my understanding this has been a longterm, not to mention sensible practice, at the MCFD that does not cost a lot of money given that the understood maximum amount per child was $50.
And please remember that, originally, this was all raised in the context of budget-cutting at 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 even asked this question (as well as a direct follow-up question as well that you can find in the original post, here) and that others in the bloggosphere, 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, at least in part (and, albeit with much broader strokes), corroborates what my reader had to say.
The text of that Email, with identifying addresses, etc., removed, goes like this:
"From: XXXXXX,XXXXX X MCF:EX [mailto:XXXXX.XX.X@gov.bc.ca]
Sent: December-03-12 3:03 PM
To: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Subject: Christmas Gifts for XXXXXX
Please be advised that due to cutbacks, MCFD will not be supplying Christmas gifts for children in care.
As parents and extended family, you are still expected to provide a gift for your child if you wish to do so.
XXXXXXX XXXXXXX Child Protection Social Worker
Ministry of Children and Family Development "
So, in the face of material, some of it written, from two independent sources, is it still irresponsible to continue to ask the original question?
Oh, and for the record, Laila and I have heard from a third source that yes, indeed, it has been a longstanding practice for social workers to purchase small gifts for the kids concerned...So...To return to the heart of the matter once more, has that longstanding practice been changed to 'save money'?