Alberta shuts down council tasked with improving child intervention system
Codie McLachlan / Postmedia
More from Clare Clancy
Published: April 3, 2018
Updated: April 3, 2018 3:00 AM MDT
Edmonton Sun News Alberta
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The Alberta government has quietly disbanded an arm’s-length council tasked with improving the province’s child intervention system.
“Of course we were disappointed,” said Donna Boulanger, chairwoman of the Child and Family Services Council for Quality Assurance.
The group was established as a result of a 2010 child intervention system review panel. Saturday effectively marked its closure with the end of an 18-month renewal term.
Its mandate included examining services, developing a quality assurance framework and providing the children’s services minister with recommendations.
“The framework we developed was based on the client’s voice,” Boulanger said Monday. “We also had the power to appoint an expert review panel to review incidents leading to injury or death.”
The council — which met about once a month — exercised that power twice, although the reviews were later taken on by the provincial child and youth advocate, she said.
Shutting down the council avoids the duplication of services, said Aaron Manton, press secretary for Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee. Under Bill 18 tabled in May, child and youth advocate Del Graff will review every death of a child in care, complete his investigation within a year, and publicly report on the findings.
Graff hasn’t been told what responsibilities his office will take over from the council, said spokesman Tim Chander.
Three full-time employees work for the council, but are being transferred within the children’s services ministry.
The news wasn’t entirely unexpected, Boulanger said. The council’s 2017-18 budget was around $490,000, about half of what was allocated when it launched, she said. At its peak, the council operated on a budget of around $1.5 million, but funding decreased when staff left and weren’t replaced.
Funding will be re-allocated in the ministry, Manton said, and the council will release a final annual report.
“We always thought there was great value in having a multi-disciplinary, arm’s-length (council),” Boulanger said, adding it brought together perspectives from people not mired in the world of day-to-day social work. “We kind of envisioned this would be like the Health Quality Council (of Alberta) that was robust.”
The health agency gathers data and aims to improve patient safety and health service quality across Alberta. Its work has ranged from rating the quality of life in retirement homes to measuring wait times in emergency rooms.
Most organizations have quality assurance processes, Boulanger said.
“(The ministry’s) new death review process is a good step, they’ve got a lot of checks and balances,” she said. “But we think they need to look at their work and look at their processes and make sure that they’re evaluating, striving to improve, build quality assurance … in the front-line staff.”
The council’s end follows the release of 26 final recommendations by Alberta’s all-party ministerial panel, which launched last year to identify gaps in the child intervention system.
Recommendations included addressing the service disparity in Indigenous communities, improving transitional supports for youth entering adulthood, and expanding access to preventive mental health care. Critics argued they were too vague and didn’t ensure enough government accountability.