Record number of children died while receiving child services in Alberta according to new report

Critics in Alberta are calling on the government to overhaul its child intervention policy after a new report revealed that 34 young people died while receiving child services from the province – either when they were in care, being assessed, or transitioning out of care from April to November.

Twenty-three, or 68 per cent of those children were Indigenous.

According to the report, Deaths, serious injuries and incidents of children receiving servicesthe majority of children died during the “initial assessment” phase (12) or while the child was transitioning from care and “receiving support and financial assistance” from the province (14). Six of the children who died were in care of the state – two who died were not in care. Another six suffered “serious injuries.”

In 2019, 52,000 children were in care of the province.

A total of 171 children were involved in “substantiated incidents.”

“This has been a devastating time for many young people in Alberta but particularly the most vulnerable who are in care predominantly most of them are Indigenous,” says Rhaki Pancholi, NDP MLA.

Pancholi says the system needs to change and is calling on the government of Jason Kenney to re-convene a multi-party panel on children intervention “to improve and strengthen the child intervention system and ensure that we are doing everything we can do help children and vulnerable young Albertans transitioning to adulthood survive and thrive.”

At 71 per cent, the majority of children receiving services from the province are Indigenous.

Lynne Marshalsay, with the group Preserving Families, says these numbers are the worst since she’s been an advocate.

“That’s quite a few in seven months… 34, that’s too many,” she tells APTN News.

In a written statement, the minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz says she has met with the child and youth advocate to address the increase in deaths.

“I requested a thorough review of government’s child Intervention policy and practice be completed to determine if changes can be made to better protect children and youth in our care,” she says.

Schulz says the child intervention budget has been increased by $14 million in 2021.

Mashalsay says that’s fine – but families need to be involved with the decisions being made.

“The problem is, when they do these community panels, most of the time, the general public is not involved, so the regular day-to-day parents are not involved in these community panels,” she says.

“It’s proving, it’s not working.”

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