First featured in the Ombudsman’s 2019-20 annual report, this case describes a good outcome when a government department committed to consistent assessment of childcare rates for foster parents taking in children with special needs. It also serves as a good example of how the Ombudsman can help bring about large-scale reform.
A foster mother caring for two children with special needs expressed frustration when Children’s Services (the department) set a different rate for each child and wouldn’t explain why.
As a result of the Ombudsman investigation into her complaint, foster parents taking in children with special needs will benefit from a more defined rate assessment and review process.
Ms. Greene (not her real name) accepted two teenaged siblings into her care. Children’s Service provides a basic daily rate for childcare but can add a “special rate” to compensate for the extra care required by some children. Examples might be providing extra assistance to help the child dress or more supervision in social settings. In this case, both children had high needs, and so Ms. Greene asked the department to meet with her and assess special rates for both of the teenagers. Social workers visited Ms. Greene to assess the children, but ran out of time and only assessed one child. Rather than complete the second assessment, the department decided to give the same special rate for both children. When Ms. Greene asked Children’s Services to revisit the rate assessment, the department decided to reduce the special rate for both children. Ms. Green continued to ask for a review of the special rates, but after several months of delays, the department refused her request.
The department couldn’t explain to Ms. Greene, or later to the Ombudsman, the criteria for these assessments. It turned out there were no set standards applied consistently across the province. Further, Children’s Services couldn’t identify a review or appeal process for Ms. Greene. Because of the Ombudsman’s intervention, an administrative review was conducted resulting in the special rate for Ms. Greene being increased, and payment made backdated to the time of placement.Children’s Services acknowledged the opportunity for improvement beyond this one instance. They accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendation to create a province wide policy for rate assessment.
It will also identify a review process.
Administrative fairness requires that all decisions be reviewable and the person affected should be provided an opportunity to participate in the review.