Do not confuse this article concerning all children
under age 18 with the Health Officer's report on infant
mortality - children under age 1.]
Rate for Children in Care
of Children and Family Development webpage on children's
deaths begins with the claim that:
of children in care have declined significantly in recent
years, according to studies by the Provincial Health
Officer. "For children and youth in care, as for
other B.C. children, the risk of death is much lower
today than in the past."
Health Officer's report was completed May 2001. Since
then the Campbell government has dramatically cut welfare
rates and has significantly cut child protection services.
Data in downloadable Excel spreadsheets on another page
of the Ministry's
website show 7 children in care died in both 2001
and 2002; in the first 9 months of 2003, 9 children in
care have died. The Ministry emphasizes that the rate
per 1,000 children in care is more significant than the
absolute number of deaths. Since the number of children
in care has been decreasing the death rate is increasing
faster than the absolute number and will reach double
digits for the first time since 1999.
Ministry's website appears to be downplaying its responsibility
for the deaths of children in care when it quotes the
Provincial Health Officer as saying "Higher rates
are not unexpected, given that many children and youth
in care are medically fragile or have other special needs."
No one should confuse "medically fragile" or
"natural causes" with not preventable. Detailed
data on the Ministry's website groups deaths of children
by the International Classification of Diseases and puts
suicides and homicides in a separate category. The largest
group is natural causes which may include preventable
one word can be found in the service plan for the Ministry
for Children and Family development regarding better outcomes
for children in care, including preventing deaths. In
2004 tough new welfare policy will apply to families with
children. In 2004 a further $70 million in cuts will be
made to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Gordon Hogg has repeatedly said that a 25% failure rate
in his Ministry is to be expected. When failure means
an increased death rate for children, it is unacceptable.
It may be expected as the result of cutbacks, but it doesn't
make it right.
the trend line in the graph below with the trend line
in the graph on the Ministry's website. The Ministry has
drawn one simple line pointing down. The line in red on
the graph below is a fifth order polynomial fitted by
Excel to the actual data. It shows that the rate of decline
accelerated in the late 90s, and it has been reversed
in the New Era - pointing upward for 2004.
is particularly unfortunate that on the same day the news
media focused on the tragic death of Chassidy Whitford
and the failure of the aboriginal child welfare authority,
the Ministry of Children and Family Development posted a
new page to its media
website on children's deaths. The page responds to a
of information request I made asking for the number
of deaths of "children in care". Sources within
the Ministry tell me that in the haste to offload costs
and reduce the number of children in care, efforts to maintain
standards, including regular audits of child protection
offices, have been dropped. Those sources maintain that
the failure to maintain Ministry standards and practice
audits is particularly severe in aboriginal child welfare
on the Ministry's webpage show that until recently the
death rate (deaths per 1,000) for children declined. The
new webpage, posted on November 6, 2003, asserts that 4
children in care died in 2002, but an email to me from the
Ministry's Executive Director, Communications, said "The
number of children and youth whose reason for discharge
from care was recorded as being deceased, for calendar 2002,
is seven. The number for 2003, to September 30, is nine."
what the BC Liberals would have done with this information
when they were in Opposition. Now that they are in government
they are downplaying the risk of physical abuse to children,
reducing the number of investigations into child abuse and
neglect, cutting welfare payments to at risk families and
offloading responsibility for child protection without regard
to maintaining standards.
reduction in child deaths in the last decade was a significant
accomplishment. It should not be reversed by a government
that cares for little but the bottom line.
At noon on Friday I was informed by the Director of Communications
for the Ministry that the correct number of deaths of children
in care in 2002 was 7 as she had indicated in her email.
The incorrect numbers and graphs on the Ministry website
will be corrected.