UCP REFUSES TO RESPOND TO DEADLIEST YEAR FOR CHILDREN IN CARE
EDMONTON – After a devastating year for children and youth in the child intervention system which saw a record number of deaths among young Albertans receiving services, the UCP refused to hold their government ministers responsible.
At a Legislative Offices Committee meeting today, UCP MLAs voted against summoning government ministers to provide detail on their response to this crisis and their progress on the recommendations of the Child and Youth Advocate.
“The UCP’s unwillingness to cooperate and take responsibility for their actions on the recommendations made by the Advocate, while in the shadow of a devastating year for children and youth receiving services, is appalling,” said Rakhi Pancholi, NDP Critic for Children’s Services.
“Albertans can’t trust the UCP to protect vulnerable youth in care.”
The Child and Youth Advocate’s 2020-2021 annual report indicated 72 children died while, or within two years of, receiving services, making it the deadliest on record for vulnerable kids. Deaths continue to climb this year and will likely surpass that record.
Previously, Alberta’s NDP called on the UCP to address the high number of deaths of children in care by reinstating an all-party Ministerial Panel on child intervention to understand and address this issue. That call was ignored by the UCP.
“Time and time again, this UCP government ignores the recommendations of experts, of the official opposition, and more importantly of the Child and Youth Advocate whose goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of Alberta youth,” said Pancholi at a media availability before the committee meeting. “It’s heartbreaking to see, and it needs to stop.”
Additionally, in a follow up to the 2018 special report, in September 2021, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate restated recommendations to develop a youth opioid and substance use reduction strategy, as 2021 was also the deadliest year on record for drug poisoning deaths.
There has been no response from the UCP on this recommendation, and UCP MLA Nick Milliken was unaware that the follow up report had even been released.
“Not only is the UCP failing to respond to the Child and Youth Advocate’s recommendations, they are actively creating new hardships and dangers for young people,” said Pancholi.
Last year, the UCP lowered the age of eligibility for Support and Financial Assistance for youth transitioning out of foster care from 24 to 22 years-old, despite opposition from experts and advocates working with vulnerable children, including a court injunction filed by an Alberta residence against this decision.
“They cut these young people off in the middle of the pandemic, even though the Minister of Children’s Services promised she wouldn’t.”
In the Child and Youth Advocate’s annual report, one of the recommendations was to have government ministries named in the report’s recommendations to come forward and report to Albertans what actions it’s taking and what actions it is not.
The UCP’s response was to end the committee meeting without hearing from the ministries named in the report.