Fewer than half of the child-service files reviewed in an audit of a Vancouver native child-care agency met certain critical provincial standards, according to a government report.
The findings were included in a review of practices at Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society, a non-profit agency with public funding of about $30.5-million a year that provides child-welfare services to First Nations children and families living in Vancouver. The audit was conducted by the province and released earlier this year.
"Most of the [child service] files had very little documentation in them," says the audit.
"Over the three-year scope period, there was a significant lack of Care Plans [Comprehensive Plan of Care], information on the children/youth's cultural involvement, reviews of rights of children in care, and social workers private contact with children/youth."
The audit, which also raised concerns related to staff turnover and training, highlights challenges for VACFSS, one of 23 delegated aboriginal agencies to which the province has granted varying degrees of authority over child and family services.
It also echoes concerns raised by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, who has flagged gaps in record-keeping by both provincial ministry employees and delegated aboriginal agencies in previous reports.
"It is much more than paperwork – because if you don't have a plan of care, you probably don't have a life book up to date, which is all the child has as a record of their development – their school pictures, their information about who they are," Ms. Turpel-Lafond said on Tuesday.
"And if you're not able to record what you're doing … you're probably not doing what's needed, which is planning ahead."
Inadequate records can contribute to children in government care drifting through the foster care system without getting services they need or falling through the cracks completely, Ms. Turpel-Lafond said.
The audit looked at 56 randomly selected child service files. While it found lower than 50-per-cent compliance to several standards – including development of a comprehensive plan of care – it found over 50-per-cent compliance in other standards, including deciding where to place the child. There are 23 standards in the child service audit.
Founded in 1992, VACFSS is one of three urban delegated agencies in the province. Delegated aboriginal agencies have been developed in the hopes of reducing the number of aboriginal children in care, who comprise about half of the roughly 8,300 children in care despite making up less than 10 per cent of the under-19 population in the province.
VACFSS has the highest level of delegation available, C6, which means it has authority for services up to child protection – that is, putting a child into foster care.
Along with record-keeping, the audit also flagged training and staff concerns.
During the time frame covered by the audit, the agency's child-protection program had a challenge with staff turnover and movement between programs, including some staff working in "acting" supervisory roles. Many staff reported they frequently carried additional cases or an entire caseload for lengthy periods of time, the audit said.
Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux was not available to comment on the audit.
The agency's executive director did not immediately reply to a request for an interview.
In its annual report, posted on its website, VACFSS said it "made every effort to ensure that there were the necessary staffing levels to meet its service level mandate," and that 56 per cent of staff members were of aboriginal ancestry "to try to reflect the demographics of the clients that VACFSS serves."
The audit includes a three-step action plan that includes training on case-management practices.
Ms. Turpel-Lafond said those recommendations fell short, saying she would have preferred recommendations that said, for example, all care plans had to be completed by a certain date.
"The recommendations in this audit miss the mark – they are not focused on children," Ms. Turpel-Lafond said.