I would first like to thank Mr. David Bournival for taking the time to speak on a subject that is obviously as close to his heart as it is to me: the well-being of our children (“ DPJ: the drifting liner », The duty, September 4, 2021).
I know how difficult the daily life of youth protection workers is. This summer, I had the chance to meet dozens of them across Quebec. The discussions we had were fruitful and constructive for the future.
The work began as soon as we arrived in government. In our first budget, in 2019, clinical support was added to better support new stakeholders in their day-to-day decisions. The following year, we added positions in all areas of the DYP, from legal services to support for foster families.
But despite this, we still have a long way to go. And this path goes through a profound change of culture.
Prevention and screening are essential elements in supporting children and parents. It is in this spirit that we have introduced the Agir Early Program, which allows us to intervene earlier with children with developmental delays. It is more than 650 interveners 0-5 years, including more than 140 speech therapists, that we added to the network.
When I unveiled this new program, I realized that there were no specific services for children aged 0 to 5 in our remote regions. When a child needed care, it was almost always necessary to go through the DYP. When we say that we must intervene upstream, invest in prevention to prevent children from ending up in the DYP, that is exactly the objective of the Agir Early Program.
Another little-known program, Neglect, will also be enhanced for children who do not appear to be receiving proper care from their parents. I sincerely believe that these two programs should make it possible to direct all children in a situation of educational or psychosocial neglect to front-line services before having to involve the DYP.
Let us now turn to crisis situations. Once again, in these cases, we have the reflex to call the DYP. Yet there is an extremely effective program that responds to the crisis situations of our children and adolescents on time. I’m talking about CAFE (Ado Family Child Crisis).
Unfortunately, the budget cuts that preceded our arrival in government took a toll on these programs. So we reinvested. In the Montérégie region, this increase made it possible to avoid a potential of 800 reports between April 1 and August 1, 2021. We must now ensure that everyone uses this service rather than calling the DYP during of an urgent situation.
Another major change we want to achieve is to offer more direct services to our most vulnerable children. Several programs put in place over the past 30 years do not reach the vulnerable people who need them most. We must go out to meet these families to help the children and support those around them. We are currently working to better equip stakeholders so that they have access to these living environments.
We also want to improve collaboration between youth services and the Ministry of Education. Starting this fall, addiction workers will be deployed in secondary schools, as well as mental health workers in elementary and secondary schools, throughout Quebec. These teams will offer support to school personnel in identifying, managing and directing our children to the health network.
Prevention remains the most effective lever to reduce the pressure on social workers in youth protection. The reality is that 60% of reports to the DPJ are not retained. By reducing the number of these reports, we could free up the employees who are busy assessing them and thus devote many more resources to the children and families who really need them. After four decades, it is high time that children were referred to the right services at the right time.
I am convinced that with interveners whose role is better valued, a mission refocused on the well-being of the child and a strong first line which will offer more services upstream of the DYP, we can rectify the situation. We can and must do more for the well-being of our children.
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