EDMONTON—Alberta’s Ministry of Children’s Services released an action plan Thursday designed to overhaul child interventions in the province, promising to bring an end to a painful history of unnecessarily separating children from their communities and cultures by working to keep more families whole.
The plan, A Stronger, Safer Tomorrow, includes 39 actions to be implemented by 2022 with 16 immediate actions to be executed by April 2019.
“It involves decisive steps to create the child intervention system that Albertans expect, to improve safety, to increase accountability, to strengthen supports for children and youth and to transform how we work with Indigenous families and communities,” said Danielle Larivee, minister of Children’s Services in Lethbridge, Alta., Thursday.
More than $4 million has been allocated to achieve these immediate changes, including amendments to the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, increased cultural learning opportunities to reduce racism within Children’s Services, and supporting self-determination and early intervention to prevent children from being taken into care and allow families, communities and youth to play a bigger part in determining what care is needed.
Through the action plan, Children’s Services wants to create equality in funding and opportunities for children on and off reserves to end “generations of disparity,” said Larivee, and reduce the number of Indigenous children who require intervention with proactive support. “Indigenous leaders and elders will help develop and implement actions, improve services, and make sure practices meet local community needs,” Larivee said."We have always had our traditional ways in protecting children, keeping children safe, so we are glad we are starting to work together to use these traditional ways,” said Kelly Provost, director of Piikani Child and Family Services.
Larivee said the provincial government is working to ensure federal funding gets to where it is needed, but has committed to bridging funding gaps so that children don’t go without while they await action from the federal government.
Samantha Martin was 13-years-old when she died after spending most of her life in foster care. An inquiry after her death found she was significantly undernourished, and reports from family and her teachers of seizures and strange bruises went largely ignored.
“It’s time to set aside jurisdiction that is allowing kids to fall through the cracks,” Larivee said.
Another key component of the plan is topping up funding for kinship care — where a child is placed with an extended family member — to put support on par with what is provided to foster families, “so that children remain safe and happy in communities surrounded by cultural supports.”
Velvet Martin was forced to surrender her daughter to Children’s Services shortly after she was born, on the promise that it was the only way her daughter would receive care for a rare chromosomal abnormality called Tetrasomy 18p.
Samantha Martin died when she was just 13 years old, succumbing to natural causes in 2006 just five months after being reunited with her family full time.
An inquiry after her death found she was significantly undernourished, and reports from family and her teachers of seizures and strange bruises went largely ignored.
Despite her complex disorder, the inquiry found Samantha had only intermittent interactions with doctors and rare visits from her caseworker.
“Targeting certain groups, whether it’s Indigenous groups of families with poverty or families with disability, it’s still targeting a population,” said Martin, adding the practice of separating children from their families instead of offering the support they need to stay in their home continues to this day.
“That’s still happening in the here and now, it’s not just the past,” Martin added.
Martin, who has since become an advocate for families of children who die in foster care, said she constantly hears from familial guardians how they are afraid to reach out to the province for support for fear their children will be removed from their care.
While she agrees with many of the actions outlined in the report, Martin says she has heard these promises before.
“I see the same errors that are happening and the same rhetoric,” said Martin. “The promises of various ministers throughout the years are the same.”
“Children are getting hurt. It doesn’t matter if they came from a great home or a terrible home, none of them deserve to be hurt.
We have to fix this,” Martin continued. Larivee acknowledged, “in the past, Alberta governments allowed recommendations to gather dust on shelves. We will not repeat that mistake.”
Larivee said the provincial government “will do what we need to do,” to turn words into measurable, accountable action.
“We will move forward with this action plan and we will ensure it has the resources needed in order to be successful. If there is anyone who deserves for us to invest in this province, it is the children and youthwho are going to be our future,” she said.
Source : https://www.thestar.com/edmonton/2018/06/28/alberta-promises-decisive-steps-to-overhaul-child-interventions-in-the-province.html