Panel recommends better supports for vulnerable children


  • Aug. 31, 2011 7:00 a.m.

The Alberta government is further strengthening quality assurance and transparency within the child intervention system in response to the findings of an external panel examining the circumstances of the 2010 death of a 14-month-old child in Calgary.

“Everyone who was involved with this young child was deeply affected, and we are all saddened by the family’s loss,” said Yvonne Fritz, minister of children and youth services. “I established an external, expert panel to review the circumstances of this child’s death and develop recommendations that will make a difference in the way services are provided to our vulnerable children and their families.”

The panel highlighted improvements to the broader social safety net for children and reaffirmed that enhancements already being made to the child intervention system are headed in the right direction. All recommendations of the external panel have been accepted.

A number of actions outlined in the government’s response will build on previous initiatives aimed at strengthening partnerships between police, health professionals, prosecutors and educators, community agencies and Children and Youth Services.

The actions will build on initiatives such as Calgary’s Alberta Vulnerable Infant Response Team that is being expanded to Edmonton this fall.

“The panel reinforced that the safety and well-being of Alberta’s children is a shared responsibility,” said Fritz. “It is critical that child intervention, health and police services work more closely together to provide co-ordinated supports to Alberta’s at risk children, youth and families. We have already begun to remove the inter-system barriers and close the gaps between our systems.”

Strengthened training and communication with Ministry staff will enhance consistency in case management and safety planning, and improve processes for tracking and reporting serious incidents.

A new, independent Child and Family Services Council for Quality Assurance will be established and have a legislated role in quality assurance and accountability through public reporting. In addition, the arm’s-length council will receive notification of all deaths and serious injuries of children in the province’s care and will determine which incidents need to be independently reviewed to assess services and supports provided by the ministry. The ministry has allocated an initial $1.5 million over three years to support the council.

The panel addressed the need for more transparent communication between partners. Actions to increase transparency will also include reviewing the publication ban of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act to help ensure that Albertans are well informed about and can be confident in the child intervention system.