What would help Alberta’s vulnerable children and families the most?
Sustainable Funding for Community Services
The Situation: In Alberta, most child and family services are contracted out by the Government of Alberta and are provided by community agencies (most of whom are ALIGN members). This system saves the Government money because agencies are able to provide services with lower overhead costs than services provided directly by the government. Using qualified local community agencies to deliver these services also helps keep more children in their homes and communities in a safe and effective way.
The Problem: Increasing funding for vulnerable children and families is often not attractive to governments working in four-year election cycles because tangible results take longer to manifest themselves. In Alberta, this has meant an insufficient increase in funding for agencies carrying out this vital work. Standards of care are increasing regularly (as they should) and so are general operating costs for the agencies. Without an increase in funding from the government, many agencies are left with uncertain futures.
The Solution: The Government of Alberta needs to fix the way it determines the amount of funding it provides to community agencies who deliver vital services to Alberta’s most vulnerable children and families. Funding should be indexed and grow as standards increase and operational costs rise.
Keep Services in Communities
The Situation: Vulnerable children and families need access to support services in the communities where they live. This can be best achieved by commitment to a service delivery model that utilizes contracts with qualified local community agencies.
Over the last 50 years in Alberta, child and family service agencies have been established in local communities to fill gaps in service not otherwise provided by government or when government could not meet the demand. These agencies have demonstrated that service delivery is most effective and efficient when delivered in communities by contracted agencies.
Through research, partnerships and continuous learning, these agencies have the expertise to provide world-class services consistent with all best practice standards. Additionally, they are both strategic and nimble enough to meet unique needs that arise in their community. Contract agencies have succeeded through economic highs and lows by having strong business models, a focus on efficiency, professionalism and a passion for their work. Communities look to these agencies as resources during good times and bad.
The Problem: A lack of flexible funding and cost of living (COLA) increases. These areas are two of the primary issues in terms of sustainability and keeping our services in our local communities.
The Solution: A commitment by the Government of Alberta to focus on community-based service delivery with families, keeping more children safe and included in their homes and communities. This is a goal of the recommendations of the Ministerial Child Intervention Panel as published in A Stronger, safer tomorrow, and a central theme of the public engagement phase the community driven Persons with Developmental Disabilities( PDD) Review currently underway. Community-based service delivery also means that more families are receiving support and treatment for mental health and addiction issues.
Continuing with the public action plan for a stronger, safer child intervention system and support to families with children with disabilities – doing our part
The Situation: The Government of Alberta has a responsibility to protect and support the provinces children, youth and their families. Every day there are over 10,000 children and youth who receive child intervention or family support for children with disabilities services.
A year long review of the child intervention system occurred, resulting in A Stronger, Safer Tomorrow: A Public Action Plan for the Ministerial Panel on Child Intervention‘s Final Recommendations. It was an all- party, open and transparent process. There were 26 recommendations as a result of the review. Many of those recommendations and subsequent action involve the service delivery sector as the service providers and community agencies are key to providing the needed supports to families. As key stakeholders to the plan, we can help develop solutions to meet the needs of these children and families in our communities across Alberta. Over 60% of those young people are Indigenous and that requires specific culturally appropriate serves.
More recently there has been a review of the Persons with Developmental Disabilities ( PDD) services. Those recommendations are currently being finalized and have yet to be incorporated into government policy. Families with children with disabilities and the service providers who help them are anxious to see the program evolve to ensure that all transitions for children to adulthood are smooth, and support levels remain in place regardless of which government Ministry is responsible for care.
The Problem: While many priorities have been identified, the program redesigns and reimagining of the system have only just started. It is critical that this work continue beyond the next Election.
For child intervention services, the actions prioritize; greater understanding of Indigenous world views, cultural and family connections, as well as a collaborative focus on the root causes of involvement in the child intervention system including poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental health. Significant energy, resources and focus needs to remain on these issues for the child intervention system to make the changes it needs to.
For families with children with disabilities supports need to remain in place as they transition into adulthood. Various Ministries need to review the recent recommendations of the PDD review, and consider how they can incorporate better services for young people with disabilities either through health, education or PDD services.
The Solution: Indigenous worldviews need to be integrated into strategies, policies and program redesigns to address the inequalities that exist in Alberta and its child intervention and disabilities systems. The service provider sector is currently reviewing our Indigenous cultural understanding and developing a training and expectation framework. All of this work requires support and resources from the Government of Alberta generally and more specifically Children Services, and Community and Support Services.
Cultural and family connections can be strengthened through a well-designed and supported Kinship care program. Kinship care should be used as the first alternative when out of home care is required. This work is only just beginning. As the support providers, agencies need to be involved in that redesign and families need to receive financial support that is current and relevant to today’s standards.
We as a service sector understand the importance of working collaboratively with government to co-create a positive future, support families and communities, sustain cultural connections, and support the strengths of each family. Community agencies have been working hard to maintain our high standards of service, including staffing, training, and retention. Adequate funding models and procurement plans are a necessity to continue this work at the quality Alberta’s children and families require.
We look forward to working with you to move this critical work forward.