Proposed legislation would improve transparency and accountability by ensuring every death in the child-intervention system is investigated by the Child and Youth Advocate
EDMONTON – Alberta has taken steps forward to protect children and learn from past tragedies and trauma. The New Democrat Government has brought forward a new piece of legislation that adds needed teeth to the mandatory legal process for the death of children in the care of the system.
The Child Protection and Accountability Act would also streamline the way important information is shared with the Advocate by key partners.
If passed, the bill would improve the way government learns from tragedies. The reformed system would avoid delay and duplication and focus on finding meaningful solutions and reccomendations for improvement.
The proposed legislation would strengthen the fatality review process by mandating a single authority – the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) – to review the death of every child under 20 who received child-intervention services within two years of their death.
“When our society takes responsibility for the safety of a child by bringing them into care, it is up to us to ensure they have every opportunity for a happy childhood and a bright future. When heartbreaking tragedies happen, Albertans are right to expect their government will take a hard, honest look at the system and what may have gone wrong. If passed, this legislation would help us learn from these losses so we could quickly adapt and strengthen our supports, and do everything we could to prevent similar tragedies.”
In April the all-party Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention proposed recommendations arising from Phase 1 of its work.
As part of work to take action on all of these recommendations, this proposed legislation is an important step in the government’s commitment to reform the child-intervention system. The legislation mandates a primary authority to conduct reviews, improves information sharing, increases accountability and makes reviews timelier and more culturally competent.
Phase 2 of the Ministerial Panel’s work is underway, focused on systemic issues facing the child-intervention system.
The OCYA would report regularly to the legislature, improving accountability and transparency. The Child Protection and Accountability Act would require the OCYA to report to a committee of the legislature every six months on the status of reviews.
Timely review process
In a first for Alberta, the Child Protection and Accountability Act would require reviews to be completed within 12 months of notification of a child’s death, whenever possible. Any delays would be reported to a committee of the legislature.
Inclusive family supports
The Child Protection and Accountability Act would require the OCYA to notify and involve all appropriate parties when a review is undertaken and engage them in the review. Appropriate parties may include birth family, foster family, First Nations Chief and Council, Métis organizations, community members and others.
Culturally competent reviews
Under the new legislation, the OCYA would be required to consult with cultural experts on every child death review. The OCYA must also develop a list of Indigenous advisers to consult with on specific cases involving Indigenous families. They will advise the OCYA on specific cases and their overall approach to the review process.