Saskatchewan’s child and youth advocate is calling on the province to address a number of recommendations he says are “integral to a renewal of the child welfare system.”
In his 2016 annual report tabled Tuesday in the Legislative Assembly, Corey O’Soup says long-standing systemic issues that remain unaddressed include:
In the report, O’Soup acknowledges the government’s commitment in 2011 to making significant changes to the Child and Family Services Act, but expresses dissatisfaction with delays in making “critical” changes, such as enhancing prevention and early intervention supports, increasing the definition of a “child” to age 18, and supporting youth as they transition to adulthood.
The report says 4,946 Saskatchewan children were in out-of-home care in 2016, up from 4,715 in 2015.
To make an impact on the child-welfare system, the report says, the province needs to address factors like poverty, to reduce the number of children entering care.
“We understand that the province faces some fiscal challenges, but inaction on child welfare brings a substantial price for vulnerable children, their families and communities,” the report says.
There were 21 deaths of children in care in 2016, four of them by suicide. There were also 12 suicide attempts by children in care.
Tina Beaudry-Mellor, minister of social services, said all of the changes recommended by the Child Welfare Review Panel have been made to the Adoption Act, along with some of the changes recommended for the Child and Family Services Act. But she said there are still some changes pending.
“Those are not off the table; they are just pieces that require much more in-depth research on our part because they will affect other ministries,” she said.