COMMUNITY SERVICES: Act aims to strengthen safety, protection for children, families

Vulnerable children and families will be better protected and supported by amendments to the Children and Family Services Act introduced on April 30.

"It is time to take action in the best interests of children who are living in situations of abuse or neglect," Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard said in a news release. "We want to prevent family crises from developing by offering support earlier."

The proposed amendments will cover investigation, protection, intervention and adoption.

"The government is taking important steps toward ensuring that vulnerable children and youth can develop in healthy ways, mostly with their own families, or be well supported in other families," said Bob Parker, chair of the Halifax Society for Children, Youth and Families. "For us, these amendments affirm that children have rights that need to be respected."

Changes to better support and protect children and families include:

  • taking a more proactive approach investigating child abuse and neglect;
  • focusing on early intervention and prevention to reduce serious harm to children;
  • extending protection and services to children 16 to 19 years old, on a voluntary basis;
  • updating language to reflect current family structures;
  • recognizing other forms of abuse and neglect, such as developmental neglect; and
  • streamlining court practices, so children can return home or find permanent homes sooner.

"We're pleased to see more support for children and families," said Christine Delisle-Brennan, acting Ombudsman. "It's going to be better if prevention can happen earlier. Families can be supported, for instance by addressing parenting skills, and situations will not escalate to require greater intervention or more intrusive measures."

The amendments will be introduced, but will not be passed until the fall session.

"We expect to hear differing viewpoints and we will continue to talk with those who are directly affected until the fall," said Ms. Bernard. 

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