By Scott Strasser, January 24 2017 —
A University of Calgary social work professor has been appointed to a provincial panel dedicated to improving Alberta’s child welfare system.
Bruce MacLaurin — whose research fields include child maltreatment and child welfare policy — will join other child care experts and Alberta Members of the Legislative Assembly to help craft solutions to the province’s child welfare issues.
Created by the provincial government, the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention is tasked with assessing the province’s death review process, proposing recommendations to the province’s child intervention system and exploring systemic issues that lead to children entering government care.
The panel was formed largely in response to the death of Serenity — a four-year old girl who died in September 2014 due to a traumatic head injury after being in government care. Interim Progressive Conservative Party leader Ric McIver proposed an all-party committee dedicated to analyzing child intervention programs in November 2016.
According to media reports, Serenity arrived in hospital suffering from severe malnutrition and hypothermia, as well as anal and genital bruising. She weighed just 18 pounds at the time.
Serenity is just one of several children in Alberta who have died in government care in recent years. According to Alberta Human Service’s most recent annual report, 22 children and youth receiving child intervention services died in 2015–16.
“There is nothing more concerning than a child dying in our care,” minister of human services Irfan Sabir recently told media. “This panel’s work is critical to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to be safe, nurtured and to thrive.”
MacLaurin declined an interview request, stating he wants to wait until the panel meets before commenting in the media.
“I’m excited about the work that is coming,” MacLaurin said in a statement on Jan. 23. “I’m looking forward to the important agenda we’ll be tackling in the coming months. I think it’s important to have representatives from all parties around the table and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate and to come up with some solid recommendations to protect Alberta’s children in the future.”
The panel’s first meeting is on Feb. 1 and will be open to the public.