Child and Youth Advocate files an analysis of new child protection legislation31 May 2022
FREDERICTON (GNB) – Child, Youth, and Seniors’ Advocate Kelly Lamrock delivered his review of proposed new child protection legislation to members of the legislative assembly on Monday, May 30, and made it public today.
His report found the new legislation has significant improvements over the existing law, however, it cited twelve areas where he felt the proposed law needs improvements. He also proposed nine amendments for consideration, ranging from a Bill of Rights for children in care, to ensuring support for young adults in care from ages 19 to 26.
Lamrock also urged the legislative assembly to consider hearing from experts and to open the proposed Child and Youth Well-Being Act for amendments.
“I am pleased that the government has chosen to make child protection laws a focus of this legislative session,” said Lamrock. “If this were a first draft, it would be an outstanding start. But if the government intends to push it through without considering improvements, it is my responsibility to point out that it denies some rights and services to New Brunswick children in care that provinces such as Ontario and Prince Edward Island have recognized and supported.”
The review notes that the proposed law does not recognize the rights of children in care to services such as health care and education, to culture and recreation, and to security and permanency in families.
“There are many good additions here, such as addressing family court delays, allowing more options for children in care to live with caring adults, and expanding the Minister’s power to remove unsafe people from the child’s home,” said Lamrock. “Those positives make it more glaring that children’s rights to services and safety are not entrenched as they are elsewhere, which is really essential if legislation is going to be called child-centered.”
Other proposed amendments include:
- Guaranteeing that all young people in care who are accepted into a post-secondary education program can afford to attend.
- Providing assisted decision making to younger children so their views can be known on decisions ranging from placements to services.
- Protecting a child’s right to maintain social connections and recreational and extra-curricular activities when the Minister moves their residence.
- Requiring the consideration of respite or relief care to families of children with complex needs before removing children from the home.
- Ensuring that any refusal of services by older children is automatically reviewed to ensure that the child has been fully heard and alternate ways of delivering services have been offered to the child.
- Giving the Minister of Social Development the authority to require other departments to plan and co-ordinate services for children in care and requiring case planning within 30 days, as is done in other provinces.
- Allowing for reviews to protect a child’s best interests when the Minister terminates a kinship or foster placement or denies a parent access.
- Requiring the Department of Social Development to track and report information on education, health and behavioural outcomes for children in its care.
“These amendments are consistent with other practices, common sense and basic compassion. This bill is a really good starting point on an overdue reform. I hope the legislative assembly will consider opening the legislation up for comments and changes to make this a true success story,” said Lamrock.