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Alberta's Children Vanish
November 16, 2008 permalink
Last month the Alberta government was embarrassed by the release of reports showing failings in the child protection system. So are they fixing the system, making it work better for children? Nope. They are introducing legislation to cover the ministry behind a curtain of secrecy, preventing the public from finding out about the failures.
November 16, 2008
Tories accused of trying to hide foster care abuse
By RICHARD LIEBRECHT, SUN MEDIA
Instead of making kids in foster care safer, the provincial government is making it harder for the public to find out about abuse, says the NDP.
NDP MLA Rachel Notley charged that proposed changes to child welfare laws will restrict access to reports of abuse and neglect of children in foster care.
The proposed amendments come after the government was shamed by the NDP for leaving statistics on scores of alleged abuses unreleased for three years.
The allegations were revealed last month only after Notley publicly released quarterly reports of the children's advocate, which list complaints of illegal restraint techniques used on kids in care, kids sexually assaulting other kids, and children being placed in inappropriate or even dangerous homes because nothing better was available.
"I'm shaking my head in complete exasperation that they'd do this," said Notley. "Perhaps naively, I thought the government would react to what we had to say and make changes to introduce more accountability."
The proposed changes would, according to government briefing notes, prevent family members and the public from reading stories of abuse or neglect given by children in care to the province's Child Advocate office.
Those accounts would not be open for any use, including as evidence against the government if someone sues them for bad practices.
However, John Mould, Alberta's Child Advocate, said he recommended the change more than a year ago to give kids greater assurance knowing their stories would never be released.
He said the changes would not remove any public information because only parties with a stake in the case can see the files, as it stands.
Children and Youth Services spokesman Trevor Coulombe compared the files to medical records that people would not want shared, even in court.
He said accusations of a government cover-up are, "a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of what this (law) demands."
While she's waiting to see the wording of the amendments, Notley said a twist of language could mean case files could be kept out of statistics showing the number and types of abuse cases in the system.
"As long as the advocate is under the thumb of the minister and acts as a government spokesperson, we cannot trust we will get all the information we need," she said.
Source: Edmonton Sun