Ad­vo­cate urges prompt ac­tion on child-wel­fare sys­tem

Presses min­istry for re­sults, one year af­ter re­lease of Seren­ity case re­view

Calgary Herald - - CITY - CLARE CLANCY cclancy@post­media.com

Al­berta’s child and youth ad­vo­cate is em­pha­siz­ing the need for “timely and ro­bust” re­sponses from the gov­ern­ment on rec­om­mended changes to the child-wel­fare sys­tem, nearly one year af­ter the re­view into Seren­ity’s case was re­leased.

“We need clar­i­fi­ca­tion as to what is it you are ac­tu­ally do­ing in terms of im­ple­ment­ing the ini­tia­tive,” said Del Graff Thurs­day.

Ear­lier this month, Graff’s of­fice re­ceived a re­sponse from the chil­dren’s ser­vices min­istry con­cern­ing a Novem­ber 2016 re­port on Seren­ity, a four-year-old girl who died while in a kin­ship care place­ment.

“There’s more in­for­ma­tion be­ing pro­vided. There’s more con­text be­ing pro­vided,” he said, adding that he con­tin­ues to be con­cerned by the time it takes to im­ple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions.

Graff’s re­port — which used the pseu­do­nym Marie — found that the home as­sess­ment was lack­ing and Seren­ity’s care­givers were poorly trained. She had been in fos­ter care be­fore she was placed with her dis­tant rel­a­tives.

On Fri­day, the girl’s great-aunt and great-un­cle, who were granted guardian­ship de­spite re­ports of abuse, were charged jointly with one count of fail­ure to pro­vide the nec­es­saries of life. The charge re­lated to the time frame when she was alive from May 3, 2013, to Sept. 18, 2014 — the date when the se­verely mal­nour­ished lit­tle girl was air­lifted to an Ed­mon­ton hos­pi­tal with cat­a­strophic head in­juries. She died nine days later af­ter be­ing re­moved from life sup­port.

Post­media is not iden­ti­fy­ing the two ac­cused to pro­tect the iden­ti­ties of Seren­ity’s sib­lings, as stip­u­lated by Al­berta’s child wel­fare leg­is­la­tion.

Graff’s re­view made rec­om­men­da­tions such as pro­vid­ing cul­tur­ally rel­e­vant home stud­ies, manda­tory train­ing for care­givers and cre­at­ing a pol­icy that re­quires the same checks and bal­ances for ter­mi­nat­ing guardian­ship as re­quired when bring­ing chil­dren into care.

At the time, the prov­ince ac­cepted the rec­om­men­da­tions. But Graff said in Au­gust he asked the chil­dren’s ser­vices min­istry for more in­for­ma­tion about how the is­sues would be ad­dressed.

“We don’t have an ac­count­abil­ity mech­a­nism that would cre­ate a time frame by which they would have to re­spond to us,” he said, adding the rec­om­men­da­tions are non-bind­ing.

Graff said the gov­ern­ment re­sponse men­tions the Life­long Con­nec­tions ini­tia­tive, a pi­lot project launched in April 2017.

“What does that ac­tu­ally mean and how is it be­ing moved for­ward?” he said.

Chil­dren’s Ser­vices Min­is­ter Danielle Larivee said the prov­ince im­me­di­ately be­gan taken ac­tion on Graff’s rec­om­men­da­tions in 2016.

“Changes have been made and con­tinue to be made to im­prove safety, in­clud­ing strength­ened re­quire­ments for care­givers and new as­sess­ment tools,” she said in a state­ment Thurs­day. “A num­ber of ini­tia­tives are also un­der­way to ad­dress the chal­lenges the ad­vo­cate high­lighted.”

GREG SOUTHAM

Child and Youth Ad­vo­cate Del Graff is call­ing for the Al­berta gov­ern­ment to clar­ify what changes it plans for the child-wel­fare sys­tem fol­low­ing the kin­ship care death of four-year-old Seren­ity.

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