Flawed Integrated Case Management system putting vulnerable BC youth at risk, says advocate
A costly child welfare information system developed in 2008 by the BC government is endangering vulnerable youth in BC because of serious flaws, according to Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, BC's Representative for Children and Youth.
The $182-million system, called Integrated Case Management (ICM) was designed to be user-friendly, improve flow of information, and provide evidence for decision making. ICM was implemented over six years according to the BC Ministry of Child and Family Development, and was scheduled to implement a third phase by the end of the year. Deputy minister Stephen Brown announced Thursday in a ministry-wide letter that this will be delayed to focus on improving the system.
Turpel claimed ICM fell short of its ambitious aims, and has become a nightmare to work with for front-line youth and child welfare workers.
"My Office has been inundated with calls and emails from child welfare workers and others using ICM who take their responsibility regarding child safety very seriously. Far from “enabling ministry staff to spend more time working directly with clients and less time on data entry and other administrative tasks” the system has an overwhelming number of technical issues that have burdened workers already facing work pressures," Turpel stated in a press release.
Turpel added that there was no back up plan for the system failing, which makes the issue much more serious. She singled out Minister of Child and Family Development Mary McNeil (MLA for Vancouver-False Creek) and her deputy Stephen Brown to "quickly, effectively and efficiently address the problems, and to report publicly on how this will be done and on progress made."
"While I appreciate that the current minister and deputy minister at MCFD inherited a poorly planned process, this does not excuse me from my public duty as an overseer of the child welfare system to provide a public warning to government that the system does not work," Turpel said in the release.
McNeil was unavailable for a comment, but sent a written statement outlining an action plan which includes another $12 million in funding for "additional resources" and "immediately hiring up to 100 auxiliary child protection workers and 50 auxiliaries to assist child protection workers with administrative duties."
A spokeswoman at the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth stated that so far no timeline or specific meeting dates have been officially scheduled between the BC government and Turpel-Lafond.