Focusing on Children in Care

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When it comes to health, the chief standard by which we should measure our performance is in how we treat our children. The health of our children is the health of our nation. Children are the citizens who can least protect themselves, and it should be our aim to protect them and give them a healthy environment in which to grow.

In that respect, in Alberta, we are failing our First Nations children. Too many First Nations children are dying while in care. In an article in the Edmonton Journal in January, the facts are truly disappointing. The article states that while “Only nine per cent of Alberta children are aboriginal, yet they account for a staggering 78 per cent of children who have died in foster care since 1999.”

In another recent article from the Edmonton Journal we received a step in the right direction. Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar acknowledged the secrecy surrounding Alberta’s dismal track record concerning children in care. He also spoke words that indicate a desire for change: “We don’t need more reviews, we need to accelerate action on recommendations that have been identified without losing sight of what is most important.” Reviews and recommendations are in. Now is the time for action.

At HCOM we hope to look beyond these appalling statistics and try to see the children that are behind the numbers. Each of these children had a life and a future, and each child’s death while in care is unacceptable. These recent statistics are hard to accept, but they also are an opportunity to start a discussion between First Nations and Inuit in Alberta and the Province of Alberta to look at ways to take better care of our children. We need to find a way to change the story that is told about our children.