Alberta's new minister of human services says the overhaul of his department will help the province to better manage children in its care.

Dave Hancock's comments come in the wake of a CBC investigation that found many wards of the province spend nights in homeless shelters, not group homes.

'If a youth is coming out of a chaotic situation, they may not be ready for the rules in a group home.'  —Human Services Minister Dave Hancock

Youth workers and government critics worry the reliance on shelters, such as Edmonton's Youth Emergency Shelter, may hurt children in care, some of whom have addictions, behavioural problems or mental-health issues.

"It shouldn't be happening for long periods of time," Hancock told CBC News.

"But sometimes it's the best option that a young person has."

"If a youth is coming out of a chaotic situation, they may not be ready for the rules in a group home."

Hancock said shelters should only be a short-term solution, and plans to look at whether more group homes are needed for youth in care.

But he stressed that some youth may still choose to stay in a shelter, or that group homes may not be able to accommodate their needs.

"Sometimes they can't be put in a group home because they're not allowed to associate with the other people who are at that group home."

Department revamp to focus on prevention

Hancock, previously Alberta's minister of education, was made minister of human services last week as part of Premier Alison Redford's new cabinet. Human services combines children and youth services, employment, homelessness, and social assistance.

Hancock said the new department should improve communication between provincial agencies that help people in need. He said this should make it easier for youth in care to find programs that prevent social problems in the first place.

"We have a real opportunity to bring it all together -- to work collaboratively to make sure our resources are focused forward, that we're not duplicating resources."