June 26, 2017
Newly obtained children's services letter highlights serious concerns that child death reviews could be interfered with: Wildrose
A newly obtained letter sent to the heads of agencies working with children in care highlights serious concerns about the potential for the department of Children’s Services to withhold information in future child death reviews, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today.
The letter states that the previous policy of agency files being provided directly to the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) or to a Fatality Review Board upon request will now be replaced with a requirement that all files be sent to a senior official within Children’s Services who will “ensure that only the information related to the review or inquiry is provided” and that “there is no potential breach of confidentiality”.
“Albertans have lost confidence in the Children’s Services department’s ability to be transparent and accountable. Having the department insert itself into independent investigations in this way is unacceptable. This will facilitate cover-ups and will at the very least lead to even lengthier reviews,” Wildrose Shadow Children’s Services Minister Jason Nixon said. “This decision needs to be immediately reversed. We need more transparency to learn from tragic deaths in the system, not more hiding of information from independent investigators. ”
The letter outlines a “vetting” process that will take place in the department, after which a censored file would be passed along to the review body.
“Legislation already governs the manner in which the OCYA and Fatality Review Board releases information,” Nixon said. “This new policy shows that we need a culture change at the top in the Children’s Services department and the Minister needs to act immediately.”