Bureaucrats only pay lip service to my recommendations, Alberta child advocate …

EDMONTON – Provincial bureaucrats pay superficial lip service to high-profile recommendations to improve Alberta’s child welfare system, the province’s top child advocate said in a disturbing new report this week.

Over the past year, child and youth advocate Del Graff conducted exhaustive, independent investigations into the separate cases of three boys who died inside Alberta’s child welfare system, and he issued 16 recommendations to fix the problems that led to their deaths.

The governing Progressive Conservatives point to Graff’s external investigations as evidence the province is serious about learning from and preventing child welfare deaths, but Graff said the government’s responses are off-topic, redundant and progress is “minimal.�

“The ministry’s responses often do not address the recommendations, but rather, include a summary of activities that are already underway and do not directly link to the advocate’s recommendations,� Graff wrote in his 2013-14 annual report, tabled in the legislature Wednesday.

“In most cases, the progress noted relates to the ministry’s commitment to take action, yet there has actually been minimal action taken on most of the advocate’s recommendations.

“Also, some of the ministry’s responses are similar to what was provided previously, so no further progress is noted.�

In a Nov. 13 update to Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuk, Graff said, for example, that no progress has been made on three of the five recommendations he published in January this year after a seven-year-old boy died in care.

“I would say that the recommendations that I’ve seen we’ve actually supported a lot of his recommendations,� Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuk said, adding he may “perceive� that nothing is being done when progress is in fact being made.

“I’d have to see which one he’d be referring to, but at the end of the day, for me, I look forward to working with him in an open and transparent manner, and it’s all about the children for me.�

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Klimchuk must be held accountable for her ministry’s failure to implement the recommendations.

“Either they take having a children’s advocate seriously, or it’s another smoke-and-mirrors communications process,� Notley said. “This is yet another reason why Albertans have no faith in this government any more.�

Wildrose critic Kerry Towle said the government moved from an internal investigation process to an independent third party precisely to escape a situation where recommendations are rendered meaningless because they are never implemented.

“Now we’re hearing that, even with an independent advocate, it’s still not working,� Towle said.

“(Graff’s) report last session … was moving and incredibly critical of the government. … Clearly the processes put in place are not working. Children are going to die, and this government needs to start taking that seriously.â€�

kkleiss@edmontonjournal.com

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