Better support may not have prevented deaths

Re: The story titled, Province failing to protect children in the Feb. 9 EVN:

Re: The story titled, Province failing to protect children in the Feb. 9 EVN:

I write to provide some context to the recent report from the Representative for Children and Youth regarding 21 sleep-related infant deaths.

I want to say, that it’s always very tragic and concerning when a child dies. 

There is no way to know if better supports to families could have prevented these deaths.  The coroner investigated each one and determined that none of the deaths were suspicious and some involved infants that were already medically fragile.

The ministry has made a number of significant shifts in practice to ensure better outcomes for vulnerable children.  For instance, we’ve seen the number of children in care drop to below 8,500 today compared to over 10,200 in 2001 – an 18 per cent decline. The percentage of family group conferencing and mediation to address child welfare issues has also increased. Last year there were more than 3,500 of these, which is up from 2,800 from the previous year. 

We do know that there are indirect risk factors that contribute and the more we can do to make sure that people have basic living conditions that are up to a standard that’s acceptable, the more likely we are to see reductions in infant mortality, especially in aboriginal communities.

We all share the same goals to build healthy and strong communities and families.

The success we’ve experienced in reducing poverty rates in B.C. (46 per cent since ’03) is sadly overshadowed by the substandard living conditions experienced in many rural and remote aboriginal communities.

Beginning with the premier’s work on the Transformative Change Accord (signed in November 2005) B.C. has led Canada in focusing attention on the responsibility we have to close the gap that exist between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal families. 

Together we can build a much brighter future for all British Columbia families.

Mary Polak

Minister of Children and Family

Development