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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Caring for Alberta’s children

Minister Dave Hancock, Guest column

I want our children in care to experience what every child in this province should enjoy – a safe, loving and nurturing home that gives them every possible opportunity to reach their full potential. I know all MLAs in the legislature share this goal.

Recently, the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald have published a joint series on the tragic deaths of children in care. It is an important and heartbreaking issue that merits public discussion and debate, which is why I welcome this report. The stories are a reminder that we need to do everything we can to protect Alberta’s children.


The Journal and Herald looked at case data dating back to 1999, but there have been significant changes that have happened over the last two years that have resulted from the hard work of our government to ensure we are improving the way we care for our vulnerable children.

In 2012, we created the independent Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.  Under our 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.

We also established 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.

In 2012, our government began 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.

In addition, every time a child in the care or custody of Human Services dies, no matter the cause, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner conducts an investigation.

We know when it comes to protecting our children, we can always do better. One death of a child in care is too many. We have been working hard to protect all of Alberta’s children, and we’re going to keep moving forward. That’s why this week, I committed to publicly tracking and reporting our progress toward meeting all recommendations that relate to children in care, whether they’re from the Child and Family Services Council for Quality Assurance, the Child Advocate or the Chief Medical Examiner

It’s also why I have invited our opposition colleagues to join me in a ministerial roundtable to discuss critical questions raised about the death of children in care in hopes of tabling a joint report in the legislature for debate.

I want Albertans to know how we’re doing and to have confidence that their child welfare system is protecting and nurturing Alberta’s most vulnerable children.

There is always more to do. And we’re going to keep making our system better for Alberta’s children, together.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at Dave.Hancock@gov.ab.ca.

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