It is my pleasure to present the Ministry of Children and Family Development's 2003/04 Annual Service Plan Report.
During the past year, we have made considerable advancements toward our ministry's vision of a province of healthy children and responsible families living in safe, caring and inclusive communities.
The highest priority of this ministry continues to be the health, safety and well-being of thousands of vulnerable children, youth and adults with developmental disabilities. We have made considerable progress in improving and changing the way services are planned and delivered for individuals and their families to make them more responsive to meet their needs. We have been successful in building on community-based approaches to assist children and families, where they live in British Columbia. We have introduced new services to assist families to function more effectively so that their children can stay with their parents and community.
Over the past year, we have been able to:
- maintain the lowest reported per capita rates of youth in custody and of youth on probation in Canada;
- introduce new funding options for children with special needs, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, and for adults with developmental disabilities, to enable them to choose and purchase services that best meet their needs;
- invest $3.3 million for children under the age of six receiving supported childcare through the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal, and Women's Services;
- provide services to almost 9,300 adults with developmental disabilities and their families — 336 more than last year — and plan for innovative service options that ensure program sustainability;
- enhance the types of supports available to provide families with the skills and assistance they need, including the use of family group conferences to draw on the full resources of a family and to help them become healthier. In 2003/04, 199 family group conferences were completed; the target was 200;
- reduce the number of children in care by 517 between March 2003 and March 2004, in part by an increased use of placements with extended family or close friends, from 63 in March 2003 to 150 in March 2004. In addition, the number of formal agreements with youth to support their independence, rather than taking them into care, increased from 161 in March 2003 to 253 in March 2004;
- expand the responsibility of existing Aboriginal organizations and agencies to assist in their growing involvement in responding to child welfare concerns within their own communities. This included transferring 217 children from the care of the ministry to the care of an Aboriginal agency with authority for child welfare services, planning for at-risk Aboriginal children, and developing and providing services for Aboriginal children and families having difficulties;
- place 330 children for adoption and establish a $3 million adoption trust fund to assist adoptive families to integrate adopted children into their new homes and communities;
- continue to implement the provincial child and youth mental health plan, the first of its kind in Canada;
- provide training in five school districts for a classroom program to reduce anxiety disorders in children and youth; and
- support processes to ensure readiness related to the devolution of Community Living Services in British Columbia while building a sustainable service system and meeting the health and safety needs of individuals and their families.
I am very proud of the progress we have made and am committed to continue working with families, service partners and communities as we make changes to our service delivery system to ensure the long-term sustainability of programs for the populations we serve.
Honourable Christy Clark
Minister of Children and Family Development
Message from the Minister of State
In 2003/04, the ministry continued to make significant progress in enhancing many early childhood development (ECD) services and initiatives to meet the diverse needs of over 250,000 children aged birth to six years in British Columbia.
Research tells us that the most important developmental years are the first six years of a child's life. Making strategic investments in early childhood development encourages healthy development of children, birth to age six, and ensures less need for more intensive intervention in families' lives and better outcomes for older children and youth.
Current evidence confirms those social programs that best reflect and meet the local needs of children and their families are most likely to achieve positive, effective results.
We are committed to refocusing resources on supporting young children in Aboriginal communities and in working with Aboriginal communities to develop programs that are culturally appropriate and meet the specific needs of Aboriginal children and families.
In 2003/04, some of our early childhood development accomplishments were to:
- fund Aboriginal Early Childhood Development programs in 37 communities, focusing on: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) prevention; community capacity building, parenting and family support; healthy pregnancy, birth and infancy; and early childhood development for Aboriginal children under six and their families;
- increase opportunities for FASD awareness and education, and contribute to a cross-ministry strategic plan for FASD prevention, to prevent the consequences of FASD;
- assist families of Aboriginal children up to age three who have or are at-risk of a developmental disability or delay, through training in traditional and contemporary parenting skills and by building awareness of the importance of early childhood development. The province's first Aboriginal Infant Development Program Advisor provides this assistance;
- establish Success By 6 early childhood coalitions in communities with the United Way and Credit Union Central of BC to enhance support for parents, and improve early learning for young children. This non-profit sector, corporate sector, and government partnership initiative will influence strategic investment and involvement through community-driven projects across British Columbia to enhance outcomes for children under six years;
- invest $3.3 million from federal Early Learning and Childcare funding, to expand and support the numbers of children under the age of six receiving supported childcare through the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services; and
- administer the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in over 90 per cent of school districts across the province. The EDI will indicate the level of school readiness of children entering kindergarten and provide a wealth of information that can be used to plan strategic investments in early childhood development.
I am confident that through government, families, service partner organizations and communities working together we are ensuring that our young children — our most precious resource — have every opportunity to thrive. We are paving the way to a brighter future for thousands of British Columbia children and their families.
Honourable Linda Reid
Minister of State for Early Childhood Development