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PUTTING CHILDREN FIRST: PROVINCE TAKES ACTION ON CHILD WELFARE

Released on February 25, 2009

The Government of Saskatchewan will adopt the Children's Advocate's Office "Children and Youth First Principles" as part of its plan to strengthen the province's child welfare system.

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer made the announcement while responding to the Saskatchewan Children's Advocate's Office Report on foster home overcrowding in the Saskatoon area, released earlier today.

"Reading the findings of the Children's Advocate's report was very disturbing," Harpauer said. "The first thing I did was contact the ministry to ensure that we could determine that all children who were reported on were, in fact, safe. It was a relief to receive the Advocate's letter indicating that 'none of the reported incidents continued at the time of the investigation'."

In response to the report, the province announced a number of actions to begin to address the issues facing the child welfare system. The response focuses on three broad areas: building capacity, leadership and accountability.

Plans include:

  • Adopting the Children and Youth First Principles;
  • Investing in initiatives to add spaces for children and youth needing out of home care;
  • Undertaking a series of foster home recruitment activities in partnership with the Saskatchewan Foster Families Association;
  • Initiating a series of foster family retention initiatives;
  • Taking steps to improve leadership within the Child and Family Services Division of the Ministry of Social Services;
  • Initiating a policy compliance review of the Saskatoon region; and
  • Concluding the review of The Child and Family Services Act and The Adoption Act, 1998 with the intention of introducing amendments for the next session of the legislature.

"Child welfare in Saskatchewan, and in other jurisdictions across Canada, is under extreme pressure from increasing numbers of children in care and a lack of resources in which to place them," Harpauer said. "Our government has a plan to address the immediate concerns, specifically overcrowding in foster homes in the Saskatoon area, and is putting in place some longer-term measures to strengthen our child welfare system and improve outcomes for children in care."

"It is important to remember that, by and large, foster families provide an appropriate, loving home for the children in their care," Saskatchewan Foster Families Association (SFFA) executive director Deb Davies said. "As an association, we have long been concerned with overcrowding in foster homes, and we are pleased to be more fully involved with the Ministry of Social Services as we move forward to implement positive changes."

The province will continue to work with community partners such as the SFFA and others to increase the number of foster homes and staffed group homes for children. Today, the government pointed to a new partnership with the Central Urban Métis Federation Incorporated (CUMFI) that will create 21 new spaces in Saskatoon, to be open this spring.

"I want to thank the Children's Advocate for his work on an issue that is a top priority for the province," Harpauer said. "As Mr. Bernstein notes in his report, it is only by working together with the best interests of Saskatchewan children in mind that we will find solutions to improve outcomes for our children in care. As a government, we are committed to putting children and youth first, and to ensuring a better life for these most vulnerable members of our society."

See attached backgrounder for more information. The Children's Advocate's Office "Children and Youth First" Principles are available at www.saskcao.ca/documents/cao-principles-web.pdf.

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For more information, contact:

Trish Alcorn
Social Services
Regina
Phone: 306-787-0916
Email: trish.alcorn@gov.sk.ca
Cell: 306-536-1479

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