EDMONTON, JULY 19, 2016—Alberta’s Auditor General Merwan Saher released a report today identifying inadequacies within the Department of Human Services in its delivery of child and family services to Indigenous children in Alberta.
“We identified three areas where the department can improve its performance, thereby increasing the chances for Indigenous children to experience improved results,” said Mr. Saher.
He added, “Improvements start with understanding the unique needs of Indigenous children and communities. From that point, relationships can develop that are based on respect and understanding, and sustainable change can occur.”
The department has systems to provide child and family services to Indigenous children and families in Alberta. This report demonstrates these systems need to be improved. The report acknowledges the hard work being done throughout the system. Too often jurisdictional and other limitations have resulted in weak processes to meet the needs of Indigenous children. Put simply, Indigenous children in care experience less favourable results than non-Indigenous children.
What needs to be done
While there are complexities surrounding the delivery of child and family services to Indigenous children, our auditors believe there is important work the department can do to make meaningful improvements. The report includes three recommendations, one for each of the key findings:
1: Enhance early support services (page 13)
The Department of Human Services should provide early support services to meet the needs of Indigenous children and families, and it should report publicly on the effectiveness of those services.
2: Ensure a child-centred approach (page 17)
The Department of Human Services should provide each Indigenous child with care appropriate to his or her needs by ensuring that all care plans meet the same standards of care the department sets for all children. The department should report publicly on its progress in achieving this result.
3: Strengthen intercultural understanding (page 24)
The Department of Human Services should provide all its staff with training on the history and culture of Indigenous peoples, working with Indigenous partners to develop the training.
Why this is important to Albertans
The continuum of care provided to the most vulnerable children and their families is vital work, and the consequences are tragic when the system fails. Long-term social costs are great. Indigenous children receiving services experience greater risk. As Alberta plans for a future of reconciliation and improved quality of life for Indigenous children, we must learn from past failures to ensure that the well-being of every Indigenous child is safeguarded and enhanced. The system must focus on the child.