Troubled Youth - Request to be reunited with a birth parent: Lack of information about the process | Protecteur du Citoyen
March 12, 2012

Troubled Youth - Request to be reunited with a birth parent: Lack of information about the process

Corps

The complaint

A user of a youth centre's adoption and reunion service found it was taking a long time to receive the services needed to handle her request to be reunited with her birth father.

In April 2010, the user made a request to the youth centre to begin the search for her birth father. In August 2010, she contacted the youth centre's adoption service to see how the request was going. Apparently she learned by phone that her birth father had been identified and located and that her file was waiting to be assigned to a caseworker specializing in reunions with birth parents. According to the user, the woman she spoke to at the adoption service had access to her computer file, because she said “I see in your file that your birth father has been identified and located since July 4, 2010.” [translation]

The investigation

  • There is no record in the user's file of the call she made to the adoption service in August 2010. The youth centre staff could neither confirm nor deny that someone from the adoption service informed the user by phone that her birth father had been identified and located since July 4, 2010.
  • The time taken by the youth centre to deal with the user's request for a reunion was not unreasonable and conformed to the criteria for prioritizing requests for reunions established in the standards of practice defined by the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec in the Guide de pratique professionnelle en matière d'antécédents sociobiologiques et de retrouvailles (2009). The youth centre also confirmed to the Québec Ombudsman that requests for reunions are processed and the allocated resources managed according to the standards defined by the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec in Standards relatifs aux retrouvailles (2004).
  • When she made her initial request, and in the ensuing months, the user was not sufficiently informed about the different stages, the operating practices and the time frames involved in processing requests for reunions.
  • Details about the outcome of the search for and the identification and location of her birth parent were not disclosed to the user in the proper clinical context by a caseworker specializing in reunions.
  • In August and September 2010, the user sent the local commissioner and other individuals two emails expressing, among other things, her dissatisfaction with the processing of her request for a reunion. Due to how the recipients handled those emails, which the user considered steps in the processing of her complaint, the caseworker responsible for the user's file knew about the correspondence between the youth centre and the user.

The Québec Ombudsman's conclusions

To prevent the recurrence of situations of this kind, the Québec Ombudsman made the following recommendations to the youth centre:

  • That users of its adoption service be properly informed, from the moment they make their request, about each stage in the processing of their request for a reunion and the processing times involved;
  • That the details employees of the adoption service disclose to users regarding the outcome of the search for and the identification and location of a birth parent be disclosed in accordance with the standards of practice defined by the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec in the Guide de pratique professionnelle en matière d'antécédents sociobiologiques et de retrouvailles (November 2009 edition);
  • That when a user sends a letter or an email to one or more people at the institution expressing his or her dissatisfaction with services received, the letter or email be forwarded to the local service quality and complaints commissioner responsible for handling the complaint and that the initial recipient(s) destroy all records of the correspondence.

The youth centre agreed to act on the Québec Ombudsman's recommendations. Despite the improvements called for, the user's file followed a normal course as per the youth centre's current practices. The period of six or seven months before the user's request for a reunion was handled is currently the average processing time for this type of request.