Too many kids in government care

Report calls for better tracking and more foster homes

The latest report from Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff says too many young children are languishing in government facilities when they should be with extended family members or foster families instead.

Graff’s annual report says that as of March 2013 235 children under 11 years of age were living in residential facilities due to a shortage of placements available in preferred family settings. Graff warns research shows the more time a child lives in these types of facilities the more their ability to form social relationships is impaired leading to behavioural and emotional difficulties as they grow up.

“There are adults that kind of come in and out of a child’s life in that facility and these adults are good workers they work hard at trying to connect with children but because it’s not a primary attachment kind of relationship they’re negatively impacted; the children are negatively impacted by just the number of adults involved” Graff explains during an interview.

“The impact is pretty substantial on young children especially in terms of their development of relationships and attachments to adults…. They tend to have more difficulty with school. They tend to have more difficulty with social life socialization types of skills. And so what we’re most concerned about is the kinds of impacts that are long lasting for these kids” Graff says.

Graff recommends the government focus on increasing its pool of foster families and creating more spaces in available homes. His report also calls on the authorities to establish milestones to track how much time each child is spending in staffed facilities and speed their transition to placements either with kin or foster families.

On November 8 the Alberta government announced it will increase child maintenance payments for foster families retroactive to April 1 2013. It is also increasing opportunities for foster parents to train specifically to deal with their ward’s mental health issues. There are currently some 4300 children in foster care in Alberta.