Tuesday, March 7, 2017

MLA Rice speaks to adoption Amendment Act during Legislature session

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice addressed a number of themes
on Adoption and children in care on Monday.

The current session of the British Columbia legislature is working its way through modifications to a Bill related to adoption in the province, with discussion taking place on Bill 2 the Adoption Amendment Act of 2017.

For her part of the Monday afternoon discussion North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice outlined some of her thoughts on the theme, noting some of the changes that the Act may bring into motion and offering up a few concerns over the theme of consultation along the way.

While applauding some of the efforts of the province when it comes to the adoption process in British Columbia, she also made note of some of the circumstances that she has come across that she wanted to introduce into the discussion.

Using the North Coast riding as her guideline, Ms. Rice tackled issues related to permanency for families and for children in care,  observing that there are many families that are being punished for being poor.

Ms Rice made note of cases of children being apprehended by the Ministry of Child and Services because their families can't pay such bills as hydro, left unable to provide a safe environment for their children to live in, a process which results in children in the welfare system eventually being placed for adoption.

Observing that it the province was to help a family with such bills, children could stay with their families and the cycle of foster care and adoption would change significantly.

If we'd helped a family with their hydro bill, the heat would stay on, the environment would be acceptable and these kids would stay with their families. Instead, because someone's being punished for being poor, their children have been apprehended by the province and are spending years, if not their entire childhood, in the child foster system.

Further into her presentation and from her notes of the North Coast, Ms. Rice expanded on the nature of how the system is working across the area, delivering some startling numbers when it comes to children in care in the region.

I represent a riding that has nearly half the population being First Nations or of aboriginal descent, and the amount of children that we see in British Columbia and, in particular, in my riding that are in care is way too high.

So 60% of the children in care are First Nations, and yet First Nations people only make up 5 percent to 6 percent of our entire population.

I know of speaking with MCFD workers in the communities that I represent that have the responsibility of managing child welfare as well as adoptions, and those managers have been telling me that adoptions sits at the side of their desk. It's the edge of their desk. 

They don't get to it because they have crises to deal with, and the crises are the priorities. But we know, from at least 16 years of this B.C. Liberal government, that we've had 16 years of crisis. So 16 years of the adoptions files sitting on the edge of social workers' and social worker managers' desks.

As part of the preparation of the Bill, Ms. Rice questioned why the Representative for Children and Youth  was not consulted on the bill, nor was anyone from the UBCIC, First Nations Summit or Assembly of First Nations asked for their feedback and contribution to the legislation.

While she noted that she appreciates the focus on adoptions that the province is taking, she also suggests that the government needs to refocus its efforts towards prevention, seeking more permanency for families and seeking ways to ensure that families have the resources to care for their children, reducing the impact of the care and adoption process on their lives.

You can review the full transcript from her statements to the Legislature from the Archives, Ms. Rice's contribution begins at the 16:40 mark of the written record.

The video of the House discussion can be viewed from Chamber video for the Afternoon of March 6th from the Legislature archive page, the presentation begins at the 3:10:00 mark.

For more items related the North Coast MLA's work in Victoria see our archive page here.

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