Province takes action to protect Alberta’s children
Alberta’s new Human Services Minister has appointed a team of respected professionals to accelerate activity on a new five-point plan and prioritize responses to previous recommendations for improving the child intervention system.
The individuals appointed are:
- Dr. Lionel Dibden, Pediatrician Medical Director, Child and Adolescent Protection Centre, Stollery Children’s Hospital; Chair, Child and Family Services Council for Quality Assurance
- Dr. Nico Trocmé, Professor of Social Work, McGill University;
Co-chair, 2010 Child Intervention Review Panel
- Trevor Daroux, Deputy Chief, Bureau of Community Policing, Calgary City Police
- Tim Richter, President and CEO, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
- Legal representative (to be determined)
The five-point plan focuses on enhancing information sharing, addressing the root causes that bring children into care, and supporting collaborative research to improve services to children and their families.
“We will move quickly to implement our plan to increase protections for every child in this province and we will push for continuous improvement of supports for vulnerable children and their families. At the same time, we will ask all Albertans to join us in fostering better environments for our children because we know that it takes a village to raise a child and that we’re all in this together.”
The plan includes:
- Fulfilling the government’s commitment to bringing experts, policy makers and stakeholders together at a roundtable on January 28-29 to discuss best practices in reviewing all child deaths in Alberta, and striking a balance between transparency and privacy.
- Appointing a team of professionals to accelerate required action on recommendations from previous reviews and guide action on implementing the five-point plan and outcomes from the roundtable.
- Consistently sharing information on the child intervention system with the public to ensure ongoing improvement.
- Enhancing education, training and support for child intervention workers to strengthen casework practice.
- Focusing on the root causes of many of the issues that affect the safety and well-being of children, such as poverty, addictions, sexual abuse, mental health concerns and family violence.
“I am a strong believer that data plays an important role in better decision-making and better outcomes. That is why I want to explore how we can use data to ensure continuous improvement and help us identify issues and trends so that we can better address them.”
- Manmeet S. Bhullar, Minister of Human Services
The plan aims to improve outcomes for all children; apply a quality assurance and continuous improvement lens to supports and services provided to children and families; and support work underway to achieve the goals outlined in Alberta’s Social Policy Framework.
This includes protecting vulnerable people, reducing inequality, and working with community partners to provide high-quality supports for Albertans. The plan also supports government’s focus on improving outcomes for children by implementing the Children First Act, developing Alberta Children’s Charter and addressing child poverty.
“The five-point plan announced by Minister Bhullar represents a significant commitment to strengthening several key aspects of the Alberta’s child intervention system. The Child Welfare League of Canada welcomes the announcement and the opportunity to work with the Government of Alberta and its partners to ensure that the best interests of children are fully reflected in all aspects of the implementation of the plan.”
In addition, the Child Welfare League of Canada and the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research will be reviewing data related to children reported to the Ministry who died between 1999 and 2013. The two organizations will provide recommendations at the roundtable about sharing this information publicly, while respecting the sensitive nature of the data and privacy of the individuals involved.
Under the Building Alberta Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta's resources to ensure we're able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.
Improving the child intervention system
Over the last two years, Alberta has taken significant steps to protect children and improve the child intervention system. These steps include:
- Creating the independent Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. Under legislation, the Advocate must be notified of all serious injuries and deaths of children receiving services (whether they are in the province’s care or not) and can access all government information relating to the child in question.
- Establishing the Child and Family Services Council for Quality Assurance. The Council is made up of experts and advocates who are appointed by government but who work independently with Human Services to identify effective practices and make recommendations to the Minister for improving and strengthening child intervention services.
- Reporting all deaths of children in care, regardless of their cause. This information is available in the Human Services Annual Report as well as the Child and Youth Advocate’s Annual Report.
What happens when an incident occurs?
Whenever there is an incident involving a child in care, Human Services review the services provided and identify areas of improvement for the ministry and its cross-ministry and community service delivery partners.
- Every death of a child in care is reported by the ministry to the Medical Examiner who then notifies the Fatality Review Board.
- The Fatality Review Board may make a recommendation to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General to call a fatality inquiry.
- The Child and Family Services Council for Quality Assurance is notified of all serious injuries and deaths of children in care.
- The Child and Youth Advocate is notified of all serious injuries and deaths of any child receiving services.
- The Advocate may undertake an independent review and investigate systemic issues if he believes it will be in the best interest of the public.
- Any learnings from these events are shared with Human Services staff.