Major changes were put forward today regarding Alberta’s child welfare system.
The new amendments for Bill 22 were put forward by Alberta Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee, to help make things more transparent and fair for foster children and their guardians, with a focus on First Nations rights as well.
The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA) comes from work by Alberta’s all-party child intervention panel formed after the death of Serenity, a four-year-old First Nations girl who was a ward of the state living in kinship care before she died.
One purpose of the revision is to provide better support to indigenous children by helping ensure they remain connected to their family and community. First Nations currently don’t receive notifications when private guardianship applications are made for a member child. One of the changes made would automatically notify them of every application, allowing them to appear in court.
Another revision was put forward to make financial support for children more consistent. Under current legislation, if a guardian dies or is unable to continue their role as the child’s caretaker, financial support is disrupted or cut off. The proposed changes will fix this by making the child’s funding follow them instead of being tied to the guardian.
Bill 22 also closes a loophole, requiring all private guardianship orders to be made under the CYFEA. Currently, those orders can go through the Family Law Act, which doesn’t require home visits or cultural plans.
Danielle Larivee called Bill 22 “a decisive step forward for Alberta,” but emphasized it’s only the first in three planned updates to the CYFEA.