November 18th, 2018

Province announces plan to improve support for Indigenous youth

By Lethbridge Herald on June 28, 2018.

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee, along with Piikani Child and Family Services director Kelly Provost, speaks with a group of youth Thursday at McMan Youth HUB following an announcement on funding to improve the province's child intervention system. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

J.W. Schnarr
Lethbridge Herald
Changes to how the province deals with child intervention were announced Thursday in Lethbridge.
Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee announced the public action plan at the McMan Youth Hub. Titled “A Stronger, Safer Tomorrow,” the plan highlights 39 actions, including 16 immediate steps, to be implemented before April 2019, intended to “improve services, address funding on reserves and increase supports for children, youth and families.”
The plan is intended to address all 26 final recommendations released in March by the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention and was developed with assistance from Indigenous leaders, communities and frontline partners who work directly with vulnerable young people.
“Each and every child in Alberta deserves the same support to thrive, no matter where they were born,” Larivee said. “The fact this did not occur for generations is a tragedy. So our government will not let this continue. We will step up and do what is necessary.”
The province will commit $4.3 million for implementing the 16 immediate actions to be taken.
These include the creation of a new Indigenous advisory body to guide implementation in local communities.
Early intervention and prevention services will be prioritized, and Alberta will fully implement Jordan’s Principle, the legal rule that ensures all children receive necessary services and supports, regardless of jurisdiction.
Larivee called the plan a priority for the provincial government.
“Premier Rachel Notley and all my colleagues have made it clear that we will move forward with this action plan, and we will ensure it has the resources needed in order to be successful,” she said.
“If there’s anyone who deserves for us to be investing in this province, it is the children and youth who are going to be our future. Absolutely, we will do what we need to do to ensure they have the supports they need.”
Kelly Provost, executive director with Piikani Child Services, called the plan encouraging while noting there are still many issues with how Indigenous children are handled when they are taken into care.
“One of the issues that still exist is racism and colonialism,” he said. “(The current system) is unfair for Nations members who live off-reserve.
“There needs to be equality for children in care.
“We wouldn’t treat our own children that way. So we want to treat children how we treat our own.”
He also said providing care that aligns with cultural practices will empower children, giving them respect and service which could ensure they are successful into their adult lives.
There are more than 10,000 children and youth involved with child intervention services, and roughly six out of every 10 children is Indigenous.
This current action plan is the latest in a years-long process which began with several high-profile deaths of children in care, resulting in the formation of the Ministerial Panel of Child Intervention.
The panel delivered a complete review of the child intervention system and led to the passage of a law ensuring the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate would review every death of a child in care.
The action plan announced Thursday is the provincial government’s efforts to address the recommendations made by the second phase of the panel.
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