Youth protection shows increased reporting despite challenging times

By Gordon Lambie

The province’s directors of youth protection (DPJs) presented their annual reports on Wednesday morning under the theme “stronger together,” putting a focus on the important role that partner organizations play in the youth protection network. Both across the province and in the Estrie region, reports showed an increase in reports retained for response over previous years.
Johanne Fleurant, director of youth protection for the Estrie Region, began the presentation of the region’s 2019-2020 report by underlining what a particular period of time these two years have been. Looking to 2019, she pointed out that the death of a young girl in Granby in April of that year led to a massive review and ongoing overhaul of the entire system
“The year 2020 followed with a crisis brought about by COVID-19,” she said. “This pandemic gave us a significant collective challenge; the task of ensuring the safety and security of our children during a time when schools, daycares, community organizations, and other partners that normally help to watch out were shut down.”
As a result of these two phenomena, the Estrie retained 7,744 reports for response over the 2019-2020 year, an increase of 28 per cent over the previous year, despite the fact that 5.7 per cent fewer reports come in to the directorate in general during the period stretching from April 1 to June 30 of 2020 as compared to the same period of time in 2019. Fleurant attributed this difference to a heightened sense of vigilance brought about by the tragedy in Granby, as well as the fact that efforts to improve the effectiveness of the network were already underway when the pandemic hit in the spring.
Looking at specific problem areas, the local report names neglect as the area of greatest concern, accounting for 24.5 per cent of all reports retained. Psychological abuse comes next, at 22.4 per cent, with physical abuse and serious risk of neglect following after at 15.4 and 14.3 per cent respectively.
Children being neglected or at risk of neglect made up nearly half of all children taken charge of by the DPJ in 2019-2020, although Fleurant pointed out that 48.2 per cent of children taken charge of by the DPJ remained in their family home.
Asked if the circumstances of the pandemic have proven more challenging for people from English speaking communities or other ethnic backgrounds, Fleurant said that she has not seen evidence of that to date, although she also pointed out that it is only partway through the year.
Looking to the work of the youth protection action plan, Fleurant underlined the progress that has been made in reducing wait lists for services, even as she added that there is still work to be done.
“We have made progress on about 80 per cent of our goals,” she said.

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