Milestone legislation will focus on child-centred approach, early intervention18 May 2022
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government introduced new stand-alone child welfare legislation today for the purpose of promoting the interests, protection, participation and well-being of children and youth along with the health and well-being of families.
“The Child and Youth Well-Being Act is the result of a comprehensive review of our child protection system which was conducted by George Savoury over three years ago,” said Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch. “It will help modernize portions of the 40-year-old Family Services Act. The overall approach is child-centred, rather than parent-centred. It recognizes how early detection and intervention is critical in matters where the well-being of a child or youth may be at risk.”
Highlights of the act include:
· It recognizes the importance of the child or youth’s connection to their family, culture, language, religion, faith or spiritual beliefs and community, especially for Indigenous children and youth.
· It includes a priority of placement that recognizes the importance of family, kin relationships and community to a child or youth who is not living in the parental home due to protection concerns.
· It aims to decrease formality and increase flexibility for court processes.
· It improves decision-making authority for relatives (kin) who are caring for a child or youth.
· It intends to improve information-sharing between the department and its various partners.
· It is intended to be progressive, clear and easy to read and understand.
· It aligns the definitions for “child” and “youth” with those in the Child Youth and Senior Advocate Act.
The new act also expands on provisions to permit the minister to intervene when a child or youth may be at substantial risk of harm.
The new legislation promotes existing prevention work which has been characterized as strategic interventions such as birth parent services, or youth engagement services.
“Most importantly, this legislation includes a mechanism for future review five years after proclamation and every seven years thereafter,” said Fitch. “This will provide regular opportunities to bring forward any necessary changes to the legislation.”
Fitch said the consultation process has been an important element in the development of the new legislation over the past three years. Through a discussion paper, surveys and engagement sessions, the department received input from the general public and child welfare stakeholders such as the Child and Youth Advocate, schools of social work located in the province, youth, and First Nations child and family service agencies, among others.
The government intends that both the act and its supporting regulations, to be developed in the coming months, will be proclaimed by early 2023.
“This legislation represents an important milestone for New Brunswick, as our province was the only jurisdiction in Canada that did not have stand-alone legislation for issues related to child welfare,” said Fitch.