Death of Children in Care

I find the recent news article on the deaths of children in the care of Social Services in Saskatchewan troubling, but in more than just the obvious way.

According to the report, 484 children have died while in the care of, or were recent recipients of “services of the ministry” in the last 20 years. So fewer than a quarter were actually in the care of social services.

The headline itself seems misleading, since within the article it says that “114 of them were technically in the care of the ministry… The rest died within 12 months of having received services from the ministry”.

While the death of any child is tragic, I find the lack of context and relevant details troubling. The report fails to provide any comparison to the general population.

That 13% of the 484 children committed suicide and 8% were murdered is tragic. But before one jumps all over Social Services there are some important questions to ask.

How do these statistics compare with children in the general population?

What is the percentage of children who have committed suicide in the population of children outside of those in the care of, or having received services from Social Services?

The article says the leading cause of death is accident, followed by natural causes, does the fact that they had some contact with social services in the preceding 12 months really have any bearing?

The important statistics are ones the article doesn’t reveal, either because they are not available, or because they would make for a less sensational headline.

How many children die while in the care of social services of a cause that can be associated with a mistake or failure of the Ministry of Social Services?

A child who dies in a car accident when they and their foster parents are hit by a drunk driver is quite different from a child who dies because social services put the child in the care of an irresponsible caregiver that wasn’t properly vetted.

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