Some foster parents are expressing concern that changes to Alberta's foster care system will make it more difficult to find homes for children who need them.
Alberta's minister of children and youth services, Janis Tarchuk, announced the changes Tuesday following the release of a review of the province's foster care system. It was spurred by the death of a three-year-old boy in an Edmonton foster home in January 2007.
Under the new regulations, the government will increase its monitoring of new foster homes during their first six months of operation and apply more consistent assessment guidelines for evaluating new foster homes.
"So this [not] only strengthens it, but it also scares potential foster parents away," Calgarian Tony Micallef told CBC News Tuesday.
He has six foster children and said he supports any changes that make the system safer. But with an already severe shortage of foster homes, the tougher requirements will only make it more difficult to attract new foster families, Micallef said.
"These recommendations would be good, but they need incentives with this to be able to still recruit good, strong families to foster. "
Dane Chapman shares those concerns. The Calgary mother has two foster children in her home and worries the new rules will mean it will take even longer for those who want to join the system to get approved.
"The communication between the foster parents and the social workers is slow. By the time the stuff is implemented with the foster parents, it may be almost a year afterwards," she said.
NDP wants more answers
The NDP is also upset with the recommendations made in the report, particularly because it makes no reference to the case that started it all. The department has refused to disclose the contents of a special case review conducted after the foster child's death.
"We can't evaluate this report because we have been unable to look at the special case review upon which it is potentially premised," complained Rachel Notley, the NDP child-care critic.
"We have no idea what the relationship is between this set of recommendations and the special case review arising from the unfortunate fatality last year."
A 32-year-old foster mother, who can't be identified, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of the boy in January 2007. He died the day after being rushed to hospital with severe head trauma.
The mother was looking after one other foster child at the time, as well as two children of her own. For a short period, between Christmas and the new year, she was asked to take two additional foster children.
The woman has been ordered to stand trial in the case, which is expected to be heard in the fall.