The tragic story of Serenity has saddened Albertans and leads us to reflect on how we care for society’s most vulnerable. Social workers in Alberta put their hearts and soul into supporting children and families. Serenity’s story, and many others, remind us this work is complex and fraught with nuances – in part directly related to work with children, youth and families, and in part navigating the complexities of the systems that are meant to support them. In July 2016, two reports highlighting the delivery of child and family services to Indigenous children in Alberta were released publicly. One report authored by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate (OCYA) entitled Voices for Change, provided a number of recommendations to address systemic issues impacting the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care.
The report of the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) on Systems to Deliver Child and Family Services to Indigenous Children in Alberta highlighted specific areas of service requiring improvement.
The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) agrees with the recommendations from the OCYA and OAG reports to address systemic issues. The ACSW further recommends all levels of government adopt the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC released an interim report in 2012 and its final report in 2015 including 94 Calls to Action to redress the legacy of residential schools and to advance reconciliation. A number of these Calls to Action address programs and services delivered by the provinces including child welfare program delivery. The ACSW encourages all levels of government, including the provincial government responsible for the delivery of child welfare services, to adopt these calls to action and to publicly report on changes to the system.
We encourage the government to hire staff who have social work education and are Registered Social Workers to deliver child welfare services. Both reports comment on the requirement for specific training and standards for staff delivering child welfare services in Alberta. Many are not Registered Social Workers. Registered Social Workers meet specific and rigorous standards for professional competency and standards of practice. Further, the ACSW is developing Indigenous Social Work Practice Standards and will be continuing this work. It is our hope and intention that these standards will be embedded in social work practice and education programs throughout Alberta to further prepare social workers within this area of practice.
A significant step towards reconciliation and addressing services for Indigenous children and youth includes the adoption of Jordan’s Principle throughout all levels of government and departments. Both reports address Jordan’s Principle and its implementation provincially. We also ask the provincial government to adopt Jordan’s Principle.
It is the ACSW’s position, that action taken must include Indigenous people and communities and any action taken must be taken with Indigenous people and not done to Indigenous people.
About the Alberta College of Social Workers
The Alberta College of Social Workers (ACSW) is the professional association and regulatory body for Registered Social Workers in Alberta. The ACSW regulates the social work profession in Alberta and also works towards social justice through advocacy to address systemic issues. See more information at: www.acsw.ab.ca.