Changes coming this spring as child intervention panel enters second phase
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15:38

Changes coming this spring as child intervention panel enters second phase

Aggressive movement to change Alberta's child intervention system will see new legislation introduced this spring.

But before that happens, the province's child intervention panel will wrestle with whether or not to roll back transparency measures around reporting the death of children in care.

The panel moved into its second phase this week, holding a meeting Thursday night in Edmonton to hear about the historical over-representation of indigenous children in the system.

The question of privacy and publication bans was raised repeatedly throughout the first stage of the panel's work as members grappled with the death review process and how it needs to change.

Wildrose panel member Jason Nixon said Thursday he worries privacy concerns are stymying the sharing of pertinent information between social services, law enforcement and Alberta Health Services.

"If those kinds of things are happening because staff are feeling confused about what they can and cannot share about a child, I think that’s very important for the panel to bring up and suggest changes to make it easier," Nixon said.

Privacy changes were made by a similar government panel in 2014, giving families four days after the death of a child in care to seek a publication ban in court. 

Liberal party panel member David Swann said Thursday there needs to be an objective review of that change.

"In 2014, we were so concerned about the government hiding information that we wanted to open everything up," Swann said.

"Now we realize the families affected feel they have no capacity to make a timely decision given the grief they’re in.

"How do you square the importance of privacy at a time of crisis with the need for the public to know? That’s what we’re wrestling with."

The panel will make that decision in a month, after it hears from stakeholders.

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee was handed the panel's Stage 1 recommendations last week, and Thursday reaffirmed her commitment to improve the system.

"There have been challenges for a long time, so the last thing I’m going to do is sit on (the recommendations). We’re taking action right away," she said.

Larivee said the next phase of the panel's work is "huge," but she's optimistic it will develop positive changes that address the root causes of child intervention.

"I’m sure we’ll see engagement on many of the bigger issues, as to how we start reducing the number of kids brought into care in the first place and making some improvements in the system for those that are," she said.

egraney@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EmmaLGraney

source : Calgary SUN
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