Strong families are the foundation of the past, present, and future of Alberta. As a province, we should make every effort to support families and the challenges they face. We must ensure all government programs and incentives assist, rather than hinder, the ability of parents to provide for and spend more quality time with their children.
There are, of course, many instances where families are in crisis: addictions, mental health issues, family violence, and relationship breakdowns can have serious and even tragic repercussions for all family members. When this occurs, it is critical to protect the interests of the children involved. Among other things, this means ensuring that children are safe, maintenance and access orders are expeditiously enforced, adequate child care is available and, in extreme circumstances, children are placed in stable and caring foster homes.
Although family and community organizations are often able to provide assistance in circumstances of family breakdown (and should be encouraged to do so), this is an area where the provincial government must be actively involved to ensure the protection of those unable to defend or care for themselves.
But the current government has not adequately served children and families in need. Social workers are overburdened, foster parents are unappreciated, child care options are limited, and the tax system penalizes stay-at-home parents. And when good legislation is passed, like the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Amendment Act, 2009, the government lets it sit on a shelf without implementation.
FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
- Work aggressively with the federal government to allow for income splitting between parents – currently, single-income families where one parent stays home caring for their children are penalized under federal taxation laws – this is unacceptable and must be addressed
- Review federal and provincial tax law to identify ways in which the law unfairly penalized families with children, and work to implement tax reforms that will lessen their financial burdens
- Review the entire spectrum of child care options – including daycare, home care, pre-school care, afterschool care, kinship care and other child care options – and identify ways to increase access and reduce unnecessary regulatory barriers (for example, this review should include an examination of standards so those with extensive practical child care experience are more easily accredited)
- Make government child care grants more flexible in terms of what child care options are eligible, while ensuring that programs are better targeted to parents with the most financial need (particularly single-parent, lone-income and low income families)
- Introduce family law reforms which will ensure improved compliance with both maintenance and visitation orders
- Fully review Alberta’s foster care system to ensure that safety, training, compensation levels, and social worker to child ratios are set at the highest standards possible – it is also essential that foster parents are treated with the utmost respect by social workers and feel valued for the critical service they provide
- Ensure that all Child and Family Services agencies are supported with the resources necessary to properly protect the children under their care
- Invest in proven community organizations and programs that work to prevent, assist, and treat victims of addiction and abuse – this should include the reallocation of a significant amount of gambling revenues to such initiatives