Child Protection Act review released

Family and Human Service Minister Tina Mundy (R) gathers with children and advisory committee members (L-R) Dr. Philip Smith, Patsy MacLean, and Danny Phalen at the Child Protection Act Review announcement at Chances Family Centre.

As someone who needed foster care as a child, Danny Phalen understands the importance of protecting vulnerable children.
Phalen was a youth representative on the advisory committee reviewing the province’s Child Protection Act, which is required by regulation to be reviewed every five years. Today the committee released its report, which reflects valuable input from Islanders on how we can strengthen our shared responsibility to safeguard children from parental harm.
“Having been in foster care, I know how important it is for children to have their rights protected, their voices heard and to be supported into adulthood,” said 20-year-old Phalen. “I was really happy to be part of the advisory committee and very glad that we were able to get input from children in care during the process.”
The advisory committee consulted with more than 350 Islanders – including youth, families, professionals, and communities – about how we can enhance services for children and families. 
“The report tells us that protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and that an integrated approach involving parents, children, families and all partners is critical,” said Family and Human Services Minister Tina Mundy. “Government is committed to moving forward with the recommendations to improve accountability and further enhance front-line service delivery.”
Based on the report’s recommendations, government’s six priority areas are:

1. strengthen the voices of children;

2. increase supports for grandparents as primary caregivers;

3. improve data collection, analysis and reporting processes related to outcomes for children;

4. address legislative changes required to better protect the best interest of the child;

5. implement an evidence-based decision making model to support the delivery of consistent and thorough child protection services; and

6. develop a social policy framework for better accountability and integrated collaboration.
Recent enhancements by government include implementation of the Bridge Model, which focuses on working collectively to assess situations to support families and those at high-risk of harm. 
Investments have also been made in various programs aimed at improving the lives of children such as:
• Triple P;
• Period of Purple Crying;
• Strongest Families; and
• Visiting Place, which is a Supervised Access and Exchange program.  
Government is in the process of hiring a children’s lawyer to ensure the voices of children are heard in court matters that impact on them and to protect their rights during custody and access disputes.     
“The Advisory Committee is grateful to all Islanders who took the time to provide input during the consultation process,” said Advisory Committee Chair Patsy MacLean. “Their contribution was critical to informing the themes and recommendations arising from the review.  I also thank the committee members for devoting countless hours to the consultation and report writing phases of the review.”    
For more information visit, Child Protection Act Committee Review.

Child Protection Act

Did you know?
Child protection social workers in Prince Edward Island provide 24/7 service and respond to about 10 child protection reports per day, 365 days per year.   
In 2015/16, Child Protection Services:

• Received and assessed 3,443 child protection reports

• Investigated 1,954 of the total reports received

• Provided 734 children with service in their own home

• Provided 636 parents with services

• Provided 196 children with safety in a foster home / group home

• Provided 11 young adults, formerly in permanent care, with support services
Review process
A review of the Child Protection Act is required every five years in accordance with regulations in the Act. The function of the Act is to protect children from parental harm due to abuse and neglect within the context of the provisions of the Act.
In 2010, the Act was amended to include changing the review requirement from every three years to every five years.  The second committee was appointed in 2015.
• In November 2015, the Minister of Family and Human Services appointed a 15-member advisory committee to carry out the review with Patsy MacLean as chair.  

• The review was focused on engaging Islanders on how we can strengthen our shared responsibility to protect children.      

• The committee conducted 34 consultations across the province and gathered input from more than 350 Islanders. 

• A variety of options were available to provide input such as public, partner, and private consultations, written and online submissions, and private meetings. 

• The committee heard from a broad range of Islanders including police officers, teachers, school counsellors, doctors, nurses, lawyers, judges, social workers, faith community leaders, children in care, youth, Aboriginal community members and service providers, foster parents, grandparents, early childhood educators, youth workers and newcomers. 

Results of review
Committee members heard that the safety of children is a responsibility shared by parents, families, communities and government.  A comprehensive, integrated approach involving all partners is critical in protecting children. 

• Our current child protection and justice systems do great work to support and protect children from harm and many enhancements have been implemented in recent years. We must all do more to keep our children safe. 

• In order to address the root causes of parental harm and neglect of children, Islanders must view the protection of children and the promotion of healthy child and family development as everyone’s responsibility.

• Sixty-six recommendations were developed based on what Islanders had to say about protecting children in Prince Edward Island. The recommendations fall into the two broad categories of service delivery and public policy.
Government’s response
Government is committed to this report and we will act on the recommendations beginning with six priority areas to improve accountability and further enhance front-line service delivery. The six priority areas are:
1) Strengthen the voices of children to include:
• Children’s lawyer to protect the rights of children during custody and access disputes (in progress)
• Public education on the rights of children
• Third-party independent case reviews for a quality improvement process
• Improved policy and systems oversight

2) Take steps to help support grandparents as primary caregivers. Government will give careful consideration to best approach and take action, including the introduction of a pilot project.

3) Explore ways to improve data collection, analysis and reporting related to outcomes for children.

4) Address legislative changes required to protect the best interest of the child. Government will review best practices and evidence related to proposed amendments.      

5) Explore adopting Structured Decision Making (SMD) which is a suite of evidence-based assessment tools to help child protection social workers during investigations and when providing child protection services.     

6) Develop a social policy framework overseen by Prince Edward Island’s Social Policy Deputy Minister’s Committee to improve accountability, guide decision making and enable a focus on integrated collaboration across government and with parents, families and community partners. The committee will include the deputy ministers from the departments of Family and Human Services, Health and Wellness, Justice and Public Safety, Education, Early Learning and Culture, Workforce and Advanced Learning, and Executive Council.   
Other recommendations  
Government is committed to this report and we will move forward on the recommendations as we all work together to protect children in our province. A five-year action plan will be developed on the recommendations.    
Progress made since last review
The Act was first reviewed in 2008 and the advisory committee’s report provided an overview of themes identified by Islanders. In response, government acted with a number of initiatives including:

• Enhanced collaboration and support to children and families with programs such as:

• Bridge Model 

• Triple P

• Period of Purple Crying

• Strongest Families

• Best Start

• Visiting Place -which is the Supervised Access and Exchange Program

• Children’s lawyer (in progress) 

• Increased supports to children in care and foster parents

• Improved working relationship with the Mi’Kmaq Confederacy of PEI (MCPEI) through a protocol for
the delivery of child protection services to First Nation children.

Media contact:
Darlene Gillis
Department of Family and Human Services

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