145 Children Die in Government Care; but 89 Don’t Count

               “WHEREAS the Government of Alberta recognizes that children and youth are our greatest resource…blah blah blah”—Child and Youth Advocate Act 

One hundred and forty five children died in government care since 1999.  The government reported 56 deaths.  The rest sank below the radar because they were the result of “natural causes”.

But the numbers don’t work.

Here’s why.  If 145 children died and the government reported 56 deaths, that would mean that 89 died of natural causes, right?  Wrong.  The government says 68 died of natural causes.  So what happened to the remaining 21 children?*

And while we’re counting dead children, what about those who died of “natural causes” like malnutrition and those who died in their own homes under government supervised protective service?

Can the government tell us how many of these children died since 1999?  Or have they simply disappeared because their parents are forbidden by law to speak their names in public?

Human Services Minister Hancock responds

Mr Hancock was furious with the investigative reporters who exposed the government’s failure to protect our most vulnerable citizens.  He said the headline “Fatal Care” was “very unfortunate.”  Tell me, is it possible to describe government care that results in 145 deaths as something other than “fatal”?        

The minister was outraged when Danielle Smith (Wildrose) reminded him in Question Period that he told reporters that the number of children who died was “not significant”.  He said Ms Smith took his comment out of context.  I’m sorry Mr Hancock, but there’s simply no context in which the words “dead children” and “not significant” is even remotely appropriate.

No public inquiry

The opposition parties are demanding a public inquiry to find out what went wrong and what can be done to prevent future deaths.

The PCs rejected the idea.  Instead of “wasting” Alberta’s time and money on a public inquiry Mr Hancock will host (his word, not mine) an expert roundtable to “hear all the necessary voices” (parents? social workers?) and create the “best policy in the country”.**

Mr Hancock

Oh, and the roundtable experts will review what information should be public, who should make it public, and how death reviews should be conducted*** (based on what?).  This will allow Mr Hancock to be confident that the right information is being reported and the right processes are being followed.****Maybe then he’ll get the numbers right. 

So that’s that:  There will be no public inquiry, just a  roundtable report that may or may not be tabled in the Legislature.  

The child death review process

Let’s examine those processes, shall we?

Mr Hancock’s process is this:  the Quality Assurance Council reviews every incident of serious injury and death and every death must be reported to the Child Advocate.

Does this process work?  No.  In 1998 the Child Advocate asked the government to develop a comprehensive multidisciplinary child death review process.  In 2010 and 2011 two independent review panels added their voices to that of the Child Advocate.  Their requests have been echoing through the halls of the Legislature ever since.

Mr Graff Child Advocate

Here’s the problem:  As many as six bodies may be called upon to review a child’s death—the Quality Assurance Council, the Child Advocate, the Fatality Review Board, the medical examiner and the Pediatric Review Committee.  There may also be a criminal investigation.

These bodies operate under three different sets of laws, under two ministers (one of whom was Alison Redford in her role as justice minister prior to becoming PC leader in 2011) and in accordance with an internal policy document and unwritten conventions that may or may not be followed.

These bodies report their recommendations piecemeal.  To date, there are 258 recommendations floating around, none of which has been collected, tracked or monitored to ensure proper implementation.

Bottom line: there is no comprehensive review process and no way to track recommendations to ensure that the system improves and fewer children die in the future.

The government takes “immediate” action

Take heart, Mr Hancock just received a recommendation from the Quality Assurance Council suggesting that the government publicly track all of the recommendations that have come forward.  Mr Hancock says he’ll act on the recommendation immediately.  Whew!  That’s one less thing for the expert roundtable to worry about.

Furthermore Ms Redford says she acted immediately to protect children by passing the Children First Act in 2012However, the Act was not proclaimed until Nov 1, 2013…just a few weeks before the “unfortunate headlines” appeared in the Journal and Herald. 

And, the sections that support interdepartmental cooperation by making it legal to share information that could protect a child before he dies are not yet in force.  Only Mr Hancock, the Act’s sponsor, knows why.

We value our “resources”

It’s taken the PCs 14 years, 258 recommendations and 145 dead children to decide that we need another expert panel to discuss the problem of abused and neglected children.

It took the PCs three years and one task force to “streamline” the regulatory approval process to ensure the speedy approval of energy projects (bulldozing the rights of land owners, environmentalists and the public in the process).

So tell me, which does the government value as our “greatest resource”?  Children or energy producers?

NOTE: The reference to Mr Hancock’s letter in the Calgary Herald has been clarified.  He said he wants to have confidence that the right information is reported and the right processes are followed.  He appears to believe the roundtable will provide this assurance, however his refusal to hold a public inquiry means that no one will really know why these children died, which means we won’t be sure we’ve fixed any systemic problems that may contribute to further deaths in the future.

* Hansard, Nov 26, 2013, 3095

**Hansard, Nov 28, 2013, 3195

***Hansard, Nov 27, 2013, 3154

****Calgary Herald Nov 30, 2013, A11

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37 Responses to 145 Children Die in Government Care; but 89 Don’t Count

  1. marion davis says:

    we need to keep this information out there, people forget far too soon, and that is how the government would like to see it.

    • Agreed Marion. In a self-serving letter to the Herald Mr Hancock said this: “Together we can ensure that not one of those little lives was lost in vain.” A tad insincere given how “insignificant” he thought these deaths were. His letter prattled on about the government’s Social Policy Framework and the yet to be developed Children’s Charter (all of which will come at some point, maybe, in the future, assuming there’s enough money around to do something, anything about it). So yes, let’s not allow ourselves to get distracted. Let’s hold the PCs accountable. I’d ask anyone with any information that might be useful to send it to the Soapbox. Thanks for your comment Marion, it was bang on.

  2. If the folks in Alberta do not get it about this gov’t. I am afraid there is not much more to say.

    • Tom, I’m seeing stirrings amongst even hard core PC followers who are dismayed at what “their” government is doing. Over and over again in the Legislature all three opposition parties find themselves on the same side of an issue against the PCs. Something is terribly wrong with the PC party when they can’t outmaneuver the Wildrose–their closest ideological opponent in the House.

  3. Jill Browne says:

    Thanks, Susan, for this post.

    Two questions come to mind: how do we compare to other provinces’ numbers on the awful statistic of deaths in care? Did the decision to classify some deaths a certain way lead to underfunding of the child welfare system?

    The newspaper stories are so sad I can’t get past the headlines.

    • Jill, you’re right. This is an incredibly sad story, and like Marion says, we can’t let it drop.

      With respect to your question about the trends in other provinces, Gord Phaneuf, executive director of the Child Welfare League of Canada, says each province collects data differently, consequently it’s impossible to track trends across the country. He’s pushing for a national death review system that’s independent, transparent and staffed with experts. Theresa Covington of the National Center for Child Death Review (US) says the ideal review system identifies the child’s risk factors, “figures out how the government systems failed” and offers recommendations on fixing the problem. It also reviews ALL deaths because accidents and “natural causes” can be the result of maltreatment or neglect. Calgary Herald, Nov 27, A7

      Sure this will be politically painful for the PC government, but Hancock needs to follow the lead of former PC Human Services Minister Heather Forsyth (now WR). She told the Legislature that she fully supported the public inquiry and wouldn’t hesitate to testify under oath because if there was something she should have done differently when she held the portfolio we needed to know about it so that we could improve the system. If the WR are prepared to take the heat, then the PCs should be prepared to do likewise. It’s not about politics anymore, it’s about children’s lives.

      • Jill Browne says:

        Thanks for doing the homework so quickly, Susan.
        Heather Forsyth is my MLA. I’m glad you mentioned her position.

      • Velvet Martin says:

        Unfortunately, while Forsyth currently makes a face-saving proclamation at this juncture in history, I am – as one of the mothers of the 145 child victims – able to tell you through experience that she was no more invested in pursuing accountability for the deaths of children while she led as Human Services Minister than, Evans, Fritz or Hancock.

  4. Rose Marie MacKenzie-Kirkwood says:

    Well, let me tell you BC is no better. I worked for a non-profit daycare in which a large percentage of the children were “at risk” children. The worst part of this was that the mother’s, of these children, have over the years figured out how to work the system to their benefit and get free daycare services. Although our daycare was the best place for most of these children the great big hole in the government’s placement system is not the way to get there.

    The government spends too much time and money batting about ideas and not enough time and money employing people to apply these principals. A dead child is just that “dead” and the focus should be on how to prevent that from ever happening again not on categorizing what group this child falls in.

    • Exactly, Mr Hancock has a way with words. His 3/4 page letter to the Calgary Herald is a masterpiece. He says his heart aches when a child dies and that we need to learn from what happened to make the system better, then he talks about needing to prevent children from moving into the system in the first place, then he refers to the PC government’s new Social Policy Framework (everything this government does is a “framework”) and ends with the comment that if we act together (to do what isn’t exactly clear–just follow the PCs in this framework I guess), then “…not one of those little lives was lost in vain…. Inspiring language except for the fact that he refuses to launch a public inquiry that would help us understand what went wrong and how to fix it. Unbelievably arrogant.

      • carlosbeca says:

        Not one of these lives was lost in vain !!!!!
        I bet you 90% of them were native kids and some possibly already sexually abused in foster homes. This never seems to end.
        Another priest somewhere in the North, used children for his pleasures. Somehow no one seems to ever know about these abuses.

      • Carlos,
        Raj Sherman told the House that 78% of the children who died were aboriginal and 33% of the children that died were babies.
        It is truly heart breaking.

        With respect to your other comment below, yes, the government is very adept at manoeuvring around the people. A good example is how the PCs have structured the delivery of social services. They’ve passed legislation that sets up an “independent” advocate (so far we have the Child Advocate, the Health Advocate and Seniors Advocate) and a Charter (the Children’s Charter and the Health Charter, I’m not sure about the seniors’ charter). The people assume that because we have an advocate and a charter we have the right to complain if our care doesn’t meet expectations and we’ll have an avenue (the advocate) through which to seek redress. Unfortunately what’s written in the statute and what actually happens on the ground are two different things. If the behavior of the Child Advocate in this case is any example, the advocate will stay quietly in the background and we’ll be flailing about helplessly as things get worse and worse.

        We need to help people understand the Charter and the Advocate (like so many things the PC government has promised) are nothing more than window dressing.

  5. Ted Woynillowicz says:

    Mr Hancock will host (his word, not mine) an expert roundtable to “hear all the necessary voices” (parents? social workers?) and create the “best policy in the country”.**

    Ah huh, an expert roundtable. Where have we heard that before? It may be an expert roundtable but the government will extrapolate from that what it wants. What it should extrapolate is the truth. But we can’t count on that, we’ve been burned to many times.

  6. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan what is in your post is this government’s now usual policy. This type of behaviour has been in place for a long time but it has been accepted by Albertans and in a way by Canadians. The neo-conservative ideology convinced the majority of people that all that matters is the economy is protecting the interests of business and cut as much as possible in the useless social programs that of course bankrupt the country. They have been able to get people behind them by an almost full nazi style propaganda machine and lies and cover ups. The unravelling of this garbage is now on. Now they just lie to cover up the reality of the situation. After three decades of this lunatic ideology that it is not Consevative at all, the house of cards has no foundation. This is nothing short of corporate fascism.
    Answering your very last question – I have no doubts whatsoever what is the most important resource for these fundamentalists. It is oil and oild companies, their masters. Those who are still in doubt and are still thinking that it is not possible to have such a nice woman, mother and caring individual behind this amazing intelectual and idealogical failure, are being naive. First of all she has shown her ruthlessness many times before and secondly anyone that visits the Bilderberg group has to be on the side the corporate interest, otherwise you do not get invited.
    She speaks very convingly about children and seniors but that is just what neo-cons do to implement their agressive policies. Shock and awe is what George Bush called it. Liars is what they are.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Yes Susan all those Advocate jobs are just more wasted money and probably good jobs for people they know will not make waves.
    This is all short of madness. That these people can actually sleep at night is a good sign they are all already idealogically zombies.
    Talk about examples of failed people.

  8. Carol Wodak says:

    “…She speaks very convincingly about children and seniors … ” Yes. And persons with developmental disabilities, and mental illness, and abused women and their children, and….
    What makes anyone think that a similar investigation involving any of these groups wouldn’t show the same picture?
    Why do you suppose we don’t see outcome measures or incident reporting or coroner’s juries or the entire investigative report from the Protection for Persons in Care Act, or even the details of complaints and investigations in supportive living/continuing care facilities?
    Or that the recently proclaimed Alberta Health Act with its Charter and Advocates will make any difference?
    This is indeed a systemic issue, reflecting community values, which folks are frightened to confront: hence all the talk about appeasement/compromise, and finding a common denominator among political parties… or, even worse, this candidate is a good/nice/friendly person so the party affiliation and history don’t matter and anyway she/he is saying all the right things and maybe we’d better not rock the boat or risk a real change…
    And I don’t know where to go, or what to do if I stay.

  9. Carol I agree with you with respect to the PCs. They still believe they’re immune from criticism arising from the neglect and abuse of Alberta’s most vulnerable citizens. Today in the House the Health Minister was bobbing and weaving to avoid admitting responsibility for the abusive treatment of Violet MacDonald in a private Calgary LTC facility which ultimately hastened her death. Danielle Smith asked the question: will the government commit to making the new seniors advocate fully independent. The Health Minister, Fred Horne, evaded the question with the comment that the Opposition was using this one tragic incident to attack the entire system. He said that the Opposition was trying to “politicize” the situation and assured the House that he was expanding the AHS and HQCA reviews, blah blah blah.

    The only answer is to throw them out in 2016. It doesn’t matter how decent a PC MLA candidate is, there is no way that he/she can push ahead with public service promises once he/she is swallowed up in the PC machine.

    Frankly many Albertans are gearing up to vote WR because, in the words of a friend of mine, when the WR is to the left of the PCs you know the PCs have gone pretty far right.

  10. Carol Wodak says:

    Yes. same reasoning that gave us Redford… and we got more of the same with bells on. History does repeat itself.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      I totally agree with Carol. Danielle Smith learned her lesson last election. She will not say anything until she gets elected. She is of the Harper school and those beliefs do not just suddenly disappear with one meeting where they decided that they now love gays and they are secular. I for sure will not fall for that. I have gone to way too many of these camelleon elections. I do not vote strategic anymore. If the system is dysfunctional, then we have to change the voting system and that is the very first issue I am looking for. Danielle Smith can put on cinderella clothes and mask but I know what she wants and what she represents and it is not left of Alison Redford by any means. The reason she is aligning with the Liberals and NDP is because she knows PR is important in today’s politics. It is everything actually.

  11. Carlos Beca says:

    I forgot to mention the strategy she is using and which has become very popular – Fake it until you make it. Once you are in it is a different story alltogether. This has worked and it is of course as deceitful as it comes, but it works and that is what current politics cares about. Power and access to the treasury is THE objective. People is just exactly that – people – they are worth it when they agree or while they serve the Lords, if not then they are dispensable and they are easily replaced these days by just implementing the forreign workers program.

    • Carlos and Carol, I agree with your comments that politicians desperate to be elected will often present one persona to the voters and a completely different persona once they’re in the House. This duplicity is rampant not just in politics but also in business (no surprise there). The Economist ran an article called “A kinder, more restful capitalism” (Nov 16, 2013, 78) which described Goldman Sachs’ new recruiting message. The investment bank noticed that finance students are becoming interested in the ethics of their future employers. Consequently Goldman Sachs is re-branding itself as a place where people who are “interested in serving something greater than their own personal interest” would be happy to work. I don’t buy it with Goldman Sachs and I don’t buy it with political parties that are ideologically predisposed to supporting the private sector first in priority to the public sector. Having said all that, the next two years with the WR supporting NDP and Liberal causes will make Leg watching very entertaining.

      Carlos, I like the way you characterized the small “c” conservative political effort as a quest for power and access to the treasury. Very succinct and very accurate. In the Legislature today the PC government continually defended Bill 45 as an effort to protect the taxpayer (apparently forgetting that all 22,000 union members pay taxes). Obviously the focus is to take good care of the high earners at the expense of everyone else.

      • carlosbeca says:

        I do agree with you as far as Goldman Sachs and the high earners.
        The reality is that unfortunately this kind of behaviour once established it is not easy to change especially when it is the path of least resistance, which in this case, is to take advantage of people with less power. This is the reason I do not believe in sudden changes from politicians (i.e. Danielle Smith) or business (i.e. Goldman Sachs). It takes a long time to remove an established habit. It is very clear to me that today, being dishonest and being a liar are way more easily accepted then a few years back. Politicians and other professional now very openly believe and affirm that ‘One does what it takes …’. The consequences are irrelevant to these people.
        Of course for people of this kind of mind set, nothing really matters as long as they ‘MAKE IT and laugh all the way to the bank’. Although this attitude has always existed, it was minimal and under control. Today it is the accepted mode and I for one will not back down to this for a very simple reason – once we go deeper into this darkness it may very well be impossible to return. One just has to look at countries where bribery and this exaggerated mind set has taken root. Canada unfortunately has lately shown that we are in advanced stages of this disease and I think the only way to stop it is by openly and consistently challenge these people to their knees like your blog does helos to do. Those that think this is concentrating only on the negatives and come up with positive thinking ….blah blah, are wrong and are contributing to the acceleration of this horrendous process now taking deep roots with the Alberta government. It is dangerous and has to be stopped.
        By the way intimidation is already on the rise. We see it on the total disrespect for the unions and yesterday for the Legislature. It is absolutely pathetic. It is actually unbelievable.

  12. carlosbeca says:

    Sometimes the editor works in weird ways and in this case it changed the word help to helos. I apologize but it was not my typing, it was during the save which failed the first time.
    thank you
    the phrase is ‘….like your blog does help to do.’

  13. They need to remove the publication ban because only abuser thrive on secrecy. No child is protected from that. That bad not just have covered up these horrific deaths but countless abuse cases. My children were horrifically tortured while in kinship care by the same woman who also horrifically tortured 3 step kids as well as her own daughter. All that was done to her was to remove the step kids and then 6yrs later give her my kids to also torture and then after countless complaints by various people of the abuse going on, they are removed from her. No criminal charges. Nothing. People need to start being charged when a child is abused. Families in need of assistance need to have programs like the BRIDGES program in my city that helps families stay together but helps them with guidance and so on. There are so many things that can be done to help stop this from ever happening. But it is doubtful right now that Hancock will even consider most of them.

    • Oh Nicole, what a heart breaking story. This is exactly the kind of information Hancock needs to understand if he’s going to fix the problems endemic in government care. Instead of a bunch of experts talking to themselves for one day and then patting themselves on the back for a job well done, it would be far more productive to invite parents who’ve used the care, social workers, foster parents and children who’ve been in care to share their experiences. But that would mean having to come to grips with the real issues. This one-day roundtable (even the name is ludicrous) is nothing more than a PR exercise.
      Thank you for sharing your story Nicole. I wish you and your family all the best.

  14. Many of the children in care have been apprehended because they have been subjected to violence in their family home … which is against the law. Once in care however they are frequently subjected to violence especially in group care which is not against the law. In addition the high staff turnover in group care leaves this vulnerable group of children without continuity of caregivers, consistency in expectations and any sense at all of “normal” experiences in life. It is an abusive system lacking in accountability, maintaining rigid control of information that would alert the public to the extent and severity of systemic abuse of society’s most vulerable members, all in the name of “protecting the (nameless) children”. The average career of a youth and child care worker has gone from 2 to 5 years before the DeKlein of Alberta to 1.7 years today. High stress, serious safety issues and low pay are contributors to the problem. Rather than addressing these issues the government has reduced the qualifications for the job and opened the door to immigration to fill the jobs adding cultural barriers to relatioship building and speeding up the high turnover rates. Caregivers have had twenty years of promises to bring non profit sector wages in line with public sector wages, but never before from a Premier. I had great hope when she did so, but it would seem her intent is to bring public sector wages in line with non profit sector wages. Hope is a four letter word.

    • carlosbeca says:

      Shirley well said. Unfortunately this premier and most of the ones before do not really care at all about these children. If they did the situation would not be where it is. They just care about their very well written speeches crafted to touch the hearts of those listening and convince them that their leaders are really working for the people. They are not though. They just care about themselves and their bank accounts. It is taking a long time for us to realize this because we are human beings and we want to believe otherwise, but believe me, there are way more predators in political life then in other careers, because they know that they can actually do a lot for themselves. Just look at the scandals everywhere.

  15. Velvet Martin says:

    Part 1: Dear Mister Hancock: You proclaim that it has been “hurtful” to hear revelations about how poorly the foster care system in Alberta is functioning. Let me tell YOU what pain is: Watching one’s 8-year-old son, take it upon himself to write a letter of “good-bye” to his sister; walk up to a podium to courageously read the tribute aloud amongst hundreds of onlookers also mourning; return to his seat and collapse into one’s arms, sobbing so intensely that the chapel is wracked with the sound of his distress… And, feel completely inadequate because nothing, not a thing can be done to alleviate such utter hurt within that small child. (Our youngest son was 8 years at the time of loss of his sister – however, suffering helplessly alongside were our 3 other young boys ages 10, 12 and 15.) To know true pain is to believe in the expertise of ministry representatives who direct to what would become an only daughter’s descent into hell and be helpless to retrieve her because the caseworker refused to acknowledge the situation was amiss. Pain is pleading with a caseworker, urging one’s child presentation for medical consultation and being denied. Instead, told that I was only “one voice” in my daughter’s life (blocking legal right as one’s child guardian); coaxing that my child was routinely being taken for medical examination and the placement well-monitored… Hurt consists of having every worry confirmed ten-fold as one finally gains access to the truth with medical and educational documentation demonstrating that others, too, had been voicing concern to no avail. AND, find out that the caseworker who had made reassurances had, in reality, not laid eyes on my child for 14 months. Pain stems from being failed by a system in which the entire purpose for one’s child to be under ministry direction was to receive extraordinary medical supports. Pain exudes with revelation that the caseworker had not followed through in duty to ensure that my child was presented for medical intervention as directed; instead relying upon word of mouth of a foster person who failed to take my child to a physician for periods lapsing 3 years. You want to know what is also hurtful? Learning that the social-worker now holds the position of Provincial Criminal Record Checker. What is painful is standing in a courtroom while having to serve as legal counsel for one’s own deceased child because none was made available to represent her voice within a Public Fatality Inquiry; which, by the way, I – the mother – needed to strenuously pursue because the Province refused to do so on its own. Pain is hearing how one’s child’s remains – sample of brain tissue – was not preserved for evidence. Hurt is, despite severity of proceedings, listening to the laughter and watching the smirks of a foster female who shows no remorse for failing to follow-through to seek medical attention for my now dead child. Pain, worry and horror stems from knowledge that the same individual continues to foster other medically fragile children. Continued:

    • Velvet Martin says:

      Part 2: So, Minister Dave Hancock… If you are “hurt”, so be it; this is the truth. If you wish to alleviate yourself from pain, take action to prevent other deaths immediately. Start with admitting a problem exists. Denial utterly demoralizes and diminishes the beauty of the life of a child… To know true pain is to witness a beautiful little girl blossom within mere months of exposure within natural family home amongst siblings who loved her. To see a child gain 12 pounds – or in better context – 20% of her body mass as she grew from a 50 pound shell in weight at 13 years when she left the foster system. To hear a child begin to speak after being non-verbal her entire life. To watch the pride in that lovely face as she became self-reliant at using the bathroom following a life-time of incontinency. Witnessing all the gains which took place in so short a time and then watching it all crumble with her sudden collapse. Pain is to always wonder how far one’s little girl may have gone in her individual growth had she opportunity to grow into adulthood. Pain is never being able to hold or smell or smile with one’s precious child. Hurt is seeing the loss extend to loved ones, affecting health so intensely that within 2 months a grandfather’s heart failed… Without the experience of closure through judicial accountability, loss of granddaughter resulted in the other grandfather’s collapse. Next, an only aunt/Godmother would succumb and a grandmother also died; leaving one remaining grandmother. My mother, who suffers from dementia. Pain is viewing one’s mother trapped continuously in a state of anxiety, asking over and over and over whether anyone has been held accountable for the death of her only granddaughter. Mr. Hancock, your hurt pales in comparison. That you would publicly use that particular terminology – comparing one’s “hurt” at attention finally being duly given to 145 children who died under Provincial direction – can only be viewed as an effort to detract from accountability at the exposure to truth. Frankly, on behalf of all who survive the deaths of those young lives, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The loss that I describe is but one family’s tragedy, imagine how many lives are destroyed stemming from those 145 children lost? I feel you ought to be deeply ashamed of a Ministry that refuses to acknowledge that a problem exists or apologize for those losses of vulnerable lives. Instead of saving face, please strive to save our most vulnerable. Sincerely, Velvet Martin, mom of Samantha angel

      • Velvet, I sincerely hope the new Human Resources Minister, Mr Manmeet Bhullar sees your letter. The government issued a press release today indicating that Mr Bhullar has appointed a 5 person team to “accelerate” activity on a new 5 point plan to protect children and to prioritize previous recommendations that have lain dormant for years. When you strip away the buzz words, Minister’s plan is simply this:
        • Hold the roundtable on January 28-29 into the 145 child deaths. This roundtable will include “experts, policy makers and stakeholders” who presumably will be there by invitation only (So the Minister is simply saying he’ll do what the PCs promised to do–sit around and talk for 2 days).
        • “Accelerate” action on the roundtable’s recommendations and the previous recommendations (“accelerate” action doesn’t mean much unless it’s accompanied by additional funding)
        • Consistently share information with the public on the child intervention system (note, this point focuses on information about the system, not the children in the system and how many have been injured or died, let alone their names)
        • Enhancing education, training and support for child intervention workers (this would be good, but hiring more might be better)
        • Focusing on the root causes of issues that affect children’s safety, such as poverty, addictions, sexual abuse, mental health concerns and family violence (this will require funding if it’s going to work, eg hot lunches for poverty stricken children, mental health counselors in schools, etc)

        The 5 member team includes two doctors, a deputy chief of police, the president of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and a lawyer. It does not include anyone who’s had experience with the system.

        I hope the opposition parties take careful notes at the roundtable and report back to the public, because this appears to be nothing more than a PR exercise.

  16. Thank you for details, Susan. I had been alerted in the late afternoon that discussion had transpired through one of my sons, but had to dash off to work before researching what the talk consisted of. Just prior to leaving home, CHED Radio called requesting an interview so thoughts were vague due to limited background; I am cautiously hopeful, but guarded about discussion being forthright. Your insight offers answers to some of the queries both I and Jeremy Lye were discussing. He had asked whether I had been invited to the Roundtable as he knows my intense involvement in activism and this seems to be natural progression, however, that has not been the case. In fact, my letters, phone calls – all correspondence – to Minister Hancock and his predecessors have all gone unacknowledged. It makes perfect sense to invite those with direct knowledge into meetings if we are truly hoping to create an honest arena where the lives of children are taken seriously and preventive measures sought. I also feel that Robert Lee, Edmonton’s champion litigator for child and family accountability be included as he has had tremendous experience speaking with victims. Lee’s insight would be invaluable. I’m afraid, if not invited, skepticism of government’s intent to foil the public will be cemented. Let’s hope that this is not the case and benign measures will take place finally.

  17. Velvet Martin says:

    I am speechless… not 145 children, the numbers have been updated to 741 DEAD ALBERTAN CHILDREN! > http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/edmonton/Update+Human+Services+minister+first+time+reveals/9364286/story.html

    > Update: Human Services minister for the first time reveals hundreds of
    > children died while receiving government care
    >
    > Roundtable to review deaths in foster care
    >
    > BY KAREN KLEISS, EDMONTON JOURNAL JANUARY 8, 2014 2:37 PM
    >
    >
    > STORY
    > PHOTOS ( 1 )
    >
    >
    > Newly appointed Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said Wednesday the
    > roundtable will be held in Edmonton Jan. 28 and 29, and that the
    > government has sent out invitations to several hundred people and a
    > handful of key organizations.
    > Photograph by: Christina Ryan, file , Postmedia News
    > EDMONTON – The Redford government on Wednesday released the dates for a
    > provincial roundtable that will examine government policies surrounding
    > the deaths of children in care.
    > Newly appointed Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said Wednesday the
    > roundtable will be held in Edmonton Jan. 28 and 29, and that the
    > government has sent out invitations to several hundred people and a
    > handful of key organizations.
    > The roundtable was called after an Edmonton Journal/Calgary Herald
    > investigation revealed 145 children had died in provincial care between
    > 1999 and 2013, more than triple the number publicly reported.
    > Bhullar also released data on the deaths of children who died while
    > receiving services from the provincial government, or who previously had
    > been in care of the government, but who were not in care at the time of
    > their death. The initial release of data to the Journal and Herald after a
    > Freedom of Information request only included children who died while they
    > were actually in care.
    > Between Jan. 1, 1999, and Sept. 20, 2013, there were 291 deaths of
    > children who had previously been involved with the provincial government,
    > but at the time of their death, their files had been closed. These were
    > often children who previously had been in foster care, but were returned
    > to their parents and subsequently died.
    > There were 84 children who died while receiving support or services at
    > home while living with their parents, and another 50 died after they
    > turned 18, but had previously been involved with the ministry.
    > The government also reported that 60 children died who hadn’t been
    > involved with the ministry until they suffered a fatal injury that brought
    > them to the attention of child welfare workers. An example of this would
    > be if a child was seriously injured and hospital staff called child
    > protection workers, and the child later died as a result of those
    > injuries.
    > There were another 41 children who died when the government was in the
    > process of investigating their situations. An example would be if the
    > government had received a report about a child and was conducting an
    > assessment to determine how the case should proceed, and the child died at
    > that time.
    > There were also 66 children who died who had no prior involvement with the
    > ministry, but perhaps a sibling had active or previous involvement with
    > the ministry, or their parents were involved with the ministry when they
    > were children.
    > That is a total of 596 deaths that had not previously been reported.
    > In the data release, the government also updated the number of deaths of
    > children in care. The Journal-Herald investigation found 145 deaths
    > between January 1999 and June 2013, but another four children died between
    > June and September 2013, bringing that total to 149.
    > In all, that brings the number of deaths of children between 1999 and 2013
    > who were known to the Ministry of Human Services to 741.
    > Until the Journal and Herald fought for the release of the numbers, the
    > government had only said 56 children in care had died.
    > The upcoming public conference will focus on potential changes to a
    > publication ban that prohibits families from speaking publicly about a
    > child who has died in care, and bars news organizations from publishing
    > names and photographs of those children.
    > It is among the most restrictive such laws in Canada. Currently, families
    > who wish to tell their stories must go to court and have the publication
    > ban overturned by a judge.
    > “My gut says let families decide,” Bhullar said Wednesday.
    > The roundtable will also scrutinize Alberta’s Byzantine child death review
    > system, which is highly secretive and rife with duplication.
    > Recommendations are not tracked or monitored for implementation.
    > Bhullar said he is open to overhauling that system, even if it means
    > changing legislation in the province.
    > The roundtable will be open the public, though a registration process will
    > be in place, Bhullar said.
    > He said a report from the roundtable will be presented to the legislature
    > as soon as possible, and that he will publicly respond to the
    > recommendations.
    > Bhullar said he is looking for ways to more consistently release
    > information about children in care, without compromising their privacy
    > rights.
    > “That means issues of serious injury and death, making those public for
    > everyone to see, so that we can learn.”
    > The province currently has no system for collecting and monitoring
    > implementation of recommendations that result from fatality inquiries or
    > special case reviews conducted after children die in care.
    > To resolve this, Bhullar has also appointed five people to sit on an
    > internal “implementation team” that will review all of the recommendations
    > and create a priority list.
    > Members are Dr. Lionel Dibden, head of Alberta’s Quality Assurance
    > Council; child welfare expert Nico Trocme, Calgary deputy police chief
    > Trevor Giroux, and Tim Richter, the president and CEO of the Canadian
    > Alliance To End Homelessness. Bhullar is awaiting confirmation from the
    > fifth member, a judge.
    > The committee’s findings will be reported to the public.
    > “We will find ways for them to be able to communicate publicly, with me,
    > the steps that we are going to be taking,” Bhullar said.
    > He has also committed to keeping a pledge made by his predecessor to post
    > all of the recommendations online so the public can see recommendations
    > for change and the steps taken to implement them.
    > Bhullar also said he will be looking for opportunities to enhance
    > training, education and support for child welfare workers, and to further
    > study root causes that bring children into care.
    > “The bottom line for me is that I feel it’s incredibly important to make
    > information available, and to focus on what matters most, and that’s
    > children and their families,” he said.
    > Child Intervention Statistics 2008 2013
    > More to come …
    > kkleiss@edmontonjournal.com
    > twitter.com/ablegreporter
    > © Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

  18. Carlos Beca says:

    Just announced that it was not 145 after all but 741 since 1999. Amazing and this information only came out now because they are feeling the pressure. As a citizen of this province I feel ashamed.

  19. Velvet and Carlos, this is beyond shameful–but it’s Dave Hancock, not Albertans, who bear the shame. His department filed annual reports acknowledging 56 deaths, not 741. When the FOIPs came through he told the House that the “real” number was 145, not 741 and now that the truth is out, Premier Redford has conveniently shuffled him off to a bigger and better ministry and made him Deputy Premier, so he doesn’t have to explain how he got the numbers so wrong.

    The spot light is on the new human services minister, Mr Bhullar. So far he’s saying all the right things but it’s early days. We’ll see whether he actually delivers on his promises. Frankly his promise should be no more children will die in government care, period.

  20. Velvet Martin says:

    Demand Public-RCMP Criminal Investigation of Alberta Child Welfare

    ALBERTA CHILD DEATH TOLL REACHES 744 – 2 additional youths have lost their lives within the past week. Please demand independent investigation of Child Welfare!

    https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/force-rcmp-to-do-a-criminal-investigation-of-children-s-aid-and-the-alberta-justice-lawyers-who-helped-hide-the-deaths-of-685-foster-children-from-the-public#

    Please join this campaign: http://chn.ge/1iBSA1f

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