Children and Youth in Care (CYIC)
4.14 Rate of CYIC per 1,000 Population
Evidence shows that, where appropriately safe, keeping families together rather than placing a child into care results in better outcomes overall for these children. Consequently Ministry of Children and Family Development's (MCFD)'s practice emphasizes family preservation, when appropriately safe, keeping children and youth from coming into care. Similarly, if a child needs to be placed in care, evidence stresses the importance on outcomes of finding permanency for CYIC through either reunification with parents, adoption or permanent transfer of guardianship.
Keeping more children and youth safe through family preservation and finding permanency for CYIC will influence the rate of CYIC downwards.
The slight downward trend in this rate continues. Strategies that will extend this downward trend into the future include greater use of family preservation strategies (such as Out-of-Care (OCO) options where children live with family or extended family when unable to live with parents) and higher rates of permanency (return to parents, adoption or permanent transfer of guardianship).
Children and youth may be in care through a court order for protection reasons (88%) or through either a Voluntary Care or Special Needs Agreement with parents (12%). Of all court order induced in care admissions, the most common reason is due to neglect with 73% overall CYIC, 75% Indigenous CYIC and 66% non- Indigenous CYIC.
Younger children are more likely to be admitted into care. This is especially true for Indigenous children. Because younger CYIC are more likely to find permanency through adoption, return to parents or permanent transfer of guardianship, most CYIC are aged 0-12 and Indigenous CYIC are younger than non-Indigenous CYIC.
5.01 CYIC Who Exited to Permanency
Permanent, stable relationships are a major determinant of whether children feel safe and secure and therefore, of well-being overall. Permanency is achieved by leaving the care of the Director of Child Welfare through family reunification, adoption or permanent transfer of custody under the CFCSA.
Since it is possible for a CYIC to re-enter Care after achieving permanency, whether a former CYIC has achieved permanency can only be measured over a span of time. This indicator is calculated using CYIC that achieved permanency over the twelve month period ending March 2022.
Over the twelve month period April 2021 to March 2022, 846 CYIC (17% of all CYIC) found permanency, compared to the corresponding figures of 956 CYIC (or 18% of all CYIC) over the twelve month period one year earlier. There has been an upward trend since September 2012 until the onset of the global pandemic. A similar pattern is also observed for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous CYIC.
It is commonly accepted that the longer children remain in Care, the less likelihood they have of unifying with their parents or being adopted. Thus, the extra time spent in Care would reduce their chance of ever achieving permanency. Of these 846 CYIC who exited for permanency during April 2021 – March 2022, the median amount of time spent in Care was 25 months. Although there is a higher percentage of CYIC who exited into permanency compared to September 2012 (16% in September 2012 vs. 16.9% in March 2022), the median time to permanency has gone up by 8 months, from 17 months in September 2012 to 25 months in March 2022. The median length of time to permanency also varies across SDAs, from as little as 12.5 months in the Kootenays SDA to as long as 28.5 months in the North Vancouver Island SDA. For those CYIC who remained in Care, the median length of stay in Care is 66 months up from 59 months in September 2012 (it should be noted that, due to the calculation criteria, all children and youth had to be in Care for more than two months). At the SDA level, the largest improvement in the median duration in Care occurred in the Kootenays SDA with a decrease of 11 months; while the largest deterioration occurred in the North Central SDA (up from 34.5 months to 48 months).
A positive implication of higher permanency rates is fewer CYIC becoming continuing wards of the province; children under Continuing Custody Orders (CCOs). CCOs, as a proportion of all CYIC, have been declining since 2004.
5.76 Per Cent of Children Eligible for Adoption Placed in Adoption Homes
Evidence has shown that children require a stable and continuous relationship with a nurturing caregiver to maximize physical, social emotional and cognitive development. If this relationship is not possible with the birth family or other OCO options, then for children whom the ministry has legal permanent guardianship, adoption is an alternative.
This indicator trended up between late 2013 and early 2016, then decreased since March 2016. The upward trend is due to a strategic initiative in April of 2014 and 2015, and additional investments, to increase the number of CYIC that find permanency. Since then, the trend was relatively flat until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic at which time it dropped somewhat and has remained at that decreased level until now.
The trend in adoption rate for Indigenous CYIC is lower than that of their Non-Indigenous counterparts. This, in part, is due to Indigenous children being more likely to have siblings, requiring common placement, as well as the importance of ensuring their cultural connectedness. An increased downward dip in the Indigenous adoption rate coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as it did for the Non-Indigenous CYIC.
5.06 Recurrence of Maltreatment of Former CYIC
One of the ministry’s core objectives is to protect children that have been victims of abuse or neglect from further maltreatment. The maltreatment recurrence rate measures how often children that had to leave their homes because of abuse or neglect fell victim to further suspected abuse or neglect after reunification with their family. A lower maltreatment recurrence rate means that, of the children that returned home, more did so safely.
Provincially, 16.6% of CYIC that left Care in 2020/21 (excluding CYIC that transitioned to adulthood at age 19) came back into Care within the next 12 months, slightly lower than the over 20% in 2012 – 2017.
5.11 Placement Stability in the First Year of Care
Placement stability is essential for children and youth to develop secure attachment to a caregiver (a fundamental determinant of their well-being) and sense of belonging. Some placement changes are necessary and can be beneficial in terms of ensuring the right fit for the child or youth, but generally avoiding or minimizing moves while in Care is an important goal. Evidence shows that attachment to a caregiver for children under six can occur within as little as two to three months, and takes only slightly longer for older children and youth. Additionally, most moves occur within the first year of care.
The following table presents the count and percentage of CYIC who move zero times, one time, and two or more times within their current episode of care.
The stability indicator has remained relatively stable between September 2012 and March 2020. From April 2020 to March 2022 CYIC increasingly did not move placements. Since June 2020 both Indigenous and non-Indigenous CYIC moved placements less than pre-pandemic levels but the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous CYIC stability returned.
Older children are more likely to experience a placement change. The chances of having a placement change for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children increases with age.
Historically, Indigenous children have been more likely to have a placement change than non-Indigenous children even after accounting for age differences. However, the trend shows the gap between the proportion of zero placement changes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children narrowing between October 2017 and June 2018, and since 2019/20 the proportion of Indigenous children who have not had a placement change has generally been higher than that non-Indigenous children.
5.12 Foster Parent Retention Rate
Foster parent retention allows for stability of placement for the children and youth who cannot be placed in kinship care. Additionally, experienced foster parents may also be better able to provide complex care that is required for the children and youth in MCFD care. Effective support for foster parents is a significant factor in their decision to continue fostering over time. The effectiveness of this support will be reflected in rates of retention for foster parents from year to year.
Just under 80% of all active foster parents under the age of 64 on March 31, 2021 were still active twelve months later. The Vancouver/Richmond and Northwest SDAs had the two highest retention rates in the province this period, both approximately at 85%.
Almost 53% of active foster parents on March 31, 2021 were aged 50 or older. Older foster parents were just as likely to still be fostering a year later than their younger counterparts.
Age and foster home specialization level often are related so more experienced foster parents tend to be older. As such, it is not surprising to see that foster parents in the more specialized foster homes tend to have a higher retention rate.
5.66 Residential Cost per CYIC Excluding CYIC with Support Needs
Cost pressures often stem from a shortage of skilled foster parents, which translates into a higher usage of more expensive contracted resources. Other factors that can impact costs per case include the use of exceptional payments to service providers and the level of care required by the current caseload composition.
Excludes CYIC with Special Needs 12 month period ending March 31, 2022.
Since data that is used to generate the numbers for this Indicator is updated retroactively, the numbers may change overtime. Numbers in this section are current as at March 8, 2023.
The average annualized residential cost per CYIC increased by a total of 9% since 2020/21, the last published report. During the same time, the number of bed days continued to drop. Since 2020/21 period, approximately 92,000 fewer residential care days were required by MCFD annually, or the equivalent to care for 252 full time children or youth. This echoed the drop in the CYIC caseload, as practice shifted towards working with families to help children stay at home, a greater use of Out-of-Care (OCO) options, and a focus on finding permanent homes for CYIC.
A total of 2,516 distinct children in care without identified support needs were in the paid residential care of MCFD at some point over the 12 month reporting period. This an 11% drop in the number of children, since 2020/21.
Indigenous identified CYIC continued to make up a greater proportion of the total residential care use this period (53%). In the 12 month period ending in March 2022, it cost MCFD on average 24% more to care for non-Indigenous CYIC than for Indigenous CYIC.
The use of contracted resources for non-support needs CYIC incrdeased slightly since the last report. They represented 12% of all bed days used this period. Their costs continued to increase such that contracted resources were responsible for most of the residential cost increase for non-support needs CYIC.
The average annual residential cost for foster care continues to increase, after very little movement for many years.
5.71 CYIC Funded Bed Utilization Rate
In order to ensure sufficient quantities of appropriate homes for children and youth that come into Care the ministry needs to fund some empty beds. Foster parents with specialized skills are provided with a monthly fixed payment regardless of whether a child is living in the home.
This is an indicator of the ministry’s ability to manage its contracts with foster care providers in order to optimize resources. Generally, a higher utilization rate (with sufficient capacity) is associated with more efficient use of foster home capacity.
Utilization rate for purchased bed days continues to show a decreasing trend sinc the basline 2012/13. There is a 8% decrease in the number of beds available since 2020/2021
The overall volume of bed days purchased has declined by 45% since the September 2012. The current decline in the funded bed rate that started in June 2021, is primarily a result of a decline in the utilization rate of Contracted Resources. Level 1, Regular, and Restricuted Care continues to account for slightly less than a 3rd of the bed days purchased.
The decline in bed days used since the baseline period is slightly more that the decline in the bed days purchased, meaning that utilization has decreased in the province since September 2012.
Regular, Restricted and Level 1 foster homes inventory is purchased on an as needed basis so it is always fully utilized. Approximately 82% of other home categories saw their utilization rates at or above 80% for the current period.
Within the SDA’s, the types of foster homes used varies across all 13 areas. On average, a majority of SDA’s have Contracted Resources utilization rates below 90% in any given period, since the baseline. In contrast, the remaining foster home types have significantly higher utilization rates on average, over the same period.
Since September 2012, there has only been minor fluctuation in the utilization rates for SDA’s, with the exception of the Vancouver/Richmond, the Kootenays, and Okanagan.