Combatting Child Abuse: International Perspectives and Trends

By Neil Gilbert | Go to book overview

increasing number of voices are taking the broader view. This is occurring in the context of a broad-based child advocacy movement intended to publicize the problems faced by Canadian children, as well as the inadequacy of current solutions. It has long been known that child welfare clients are "overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of Canada's poor" ( National Council of Welfare, 1979, pp. 2-3). Clearly poverty has long-term destructive effects for children, but as child welfare services are currently organized, such pervasive issues cannot be addressed.

Organizations like Coalition 2000 have begun to bring wide public attention to the fact of poverty for 1 in 5 Canadian children. First Nations groups have successfully advocated not only for changes in placement policies, but for holistic preventive services involving not just counseling but healing, recreation facilities, skill development, and other services for children whose families are poor. Wharf ( 1993, p. 217) recommends that a variety of broad policy strategies be considered, including universal payments for children and providing caregivers (including parents) an adequate wage. Wharf also recommends that provincial departments "get out of the business of delivering services" ( 1993, p. 224). He suggests instead partnerships between provinces and communities, with the former retaining authority for legislation and allocation of funds, the setting and monitoring of standards, and the operation of specialized services. Regular services in this 'model would be subject to "community governance," an approach allowing ordinary citizens to gain some understanding of child welfare complexities and' also allowing the welfare of children to become a community concern and challenge.

Gorlick ( 1995) has made the point that the present national focus on public debt and unemployment, in tandem with reduced transfer payments from the federal government to provincial governments, will further erode child welfare services. Child protection as it now stands is quite isolated from other policy directions and is always at risk of being eliminated from the policy agenda. The recent child welfare policy conference sponsored by Health Canada represented an important opportunity for academics and policy makers to focus exclusively on child welfare issues. However such events are hardly sufficient to ensure improved service to children. Current policy changes and cutbacks are a serious matter given the long-standing underfunded nature of child protection and child welfare more generally. The funding crisis may provide some impetus for change for it begs the question of whether we can keep on doing what we are doing. The deeper question is, of course, should we?


References

Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act (Bill C-15). 33rd Parliament of Canada ( 1986).

Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to and Protection of Children. Statutes of Ontario, ( 1893), c. 45.

Advisory Committee on Children's Services. ( 1990). Children first. Toronto: Ministry of Community and Social Services.

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