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No child left behind

Calgary, AB, Canada / RTBN
No child behind

Minister Larivee meets with Elder Rose Wabasca at Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society in advance of tabling An Act for Strong Families Building Stronger Communities

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.

There is also an increased emphasis on child safety and well being as a top priority for courts and caseworkers. Mandatory all-party reviews every five years and strict reporting systems are also being implemented.
Along with these changes they plan to have an increased focus on being more sensitive to the needs of children with disabilities or victims of violence.

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.

 -Kyle Hutton
– Louise van Dam