Alberta child care panel enters final weeks of consultation
Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention expected to submit final recommendations by August
An all-party panel on Alberta's child-intervention system has seven weeks left to complete its recommendations for the province.
"I'm not cautiously optimistic, I am optimistic," said NDP MLA Nicole Goehring after a panel meeting Wednesday.
The 15-member Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention drafted its first set of suggestions in April, focusing on the child-in-care death review process.
Phase 2 of the project addresses factors that contribute to children being in government care, as well as the resources available to them.
At this stage, community input is crucial, Goehring said. That's why the panel is hosting four open meetings in June, she said.
"I'm really excited to hear from the community, to hear from people with lived experience," Goehring said.
Two meetings are scheduled in Edmonton on June 13. Another two will follow in Calgary on June 23.
'There will be another panel just like this'
Peter Choate said he hopes it's not the last. He described the panels a step-by-step process to gradually improve a complex system.
Choate, a registered social worker and assistant professor at Mount Royal University, sits on the panel as an expert member.
"There will be another need for a panel just like this in another year or two," he said.
"If what we're talking about in this panel starts to get implemented, there's going to be a new level of issues that are going to need a review and consideration at that time."
Former human services minister Irfan Sabir announced the panel in December 2016, after information emerged about a toddler who died in kinship care.
In 2014, four-year-old Serenity was admitted to hospital with a suspected head injury. Bruises covered most of her body and medical documents suggested she had been sexually assaulted. She died a week later.
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Indigenous children such as Serenity are disproportionately at risk in Alberta's child welfare system.
From April 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2016, 73 people younger than 25 died while receiving government services. More than half were Indigenous.
When the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention formed in February, one of its members identified as Métis.
Criticism of the lack of First Nation representation prompted Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee to appoint Tyler White to the panel in May. White is a member of the Siksika First Nation.
- Panel reviewing deaths of children in care criticized for lack of First Nations representative
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"There's a very real opportunity here to make some changes," White said Wednesday.
"Obviously we need to strengthen the entire process and ensure we have First Nations as part of that solution."
The panel is expected to submit its final recommendations on Aug. 1.