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Redford responsible for culture of secrecy surrounding children in care

Posted on November 25, 2013 by Richard Einarson

What sort of province do we want Alberta to be? Are we a compassionate, caring people or do we try to keep problems hidden and let our most vulnerable citizens suffer in silence? 

Reading about the deaths of so many children in our foster care system, and the associated cover up, makes me sad and angry. The story, which only came to light as a result of tireless work --and a four year legal battle-- by Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald reporters Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton, tells of the tragic deaths of 145 children in Alberta's foster care system from 1999 to 2009. 

This is nearly triple the number reported by our provincial government. 

Not only am I shocked by the deaths of the children themselves, which requires urgent attention to the failings of our child protection system, we have to ask why our government has chosen consistently to hide the truth from Albertans?

In the words of one social media user today, ‘Is there anything that the government says anymore that we can actually believe?’

Albertans are caring and compassionate people, and have shown this to be true countless times. We care about each other and find it extremely difficult to accept that in this wealthiest of provinces we cannot provide reasonable care for our at-risk children. We understand that it can be difficult to have enough foster homes to care for children in need and that there are numerous other challenges that make it difficult to place children.  Let’s focus on improving the system and the supports necessary for more people to open their homes to foster children and ensure more and better supervision of the children in our care. 

Transparency and openness about the problems with the current system is the first step to making much-needed improvements. We must know what is actually happening in the present in order to ensure adequate performance in the future. Without accurate reporting we cannot properly assess current services or set appropriate goals for the future. Our government’s role is to provide services to its citizens. We wonder how we can have confidence in the quality of our services or the performance of our government if we are not told what’s going on.

Today the Premier said these problems happened before she was elected. This abdication of responsibility is unacceptable and makes me almost as angry as learning of the deaths of the 145 children in care. Leadership means taking ownership of problems and working hard until they are solved. Alison Redford has been Premier for more than two years; she’s had time to understand these problems and she has the power, and the duty, to fix them.

Ms. Redford, you have been entrusted with the care of the province and its people. That should be your priority. This very disturbing case suggests that your priorities are elsewhere. What is it that you value most? Is it quality of life for Albertans, or it is hiding the truth because it may result in your party losing an election?

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