In District 18 Rustico-Emerald and across PEI there are many grandparents that have stepped up and taken over the role as primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Although less common, other relatives like aunts, uncles, sisters, and bothers have also volunteered to become primary caregivers of children related to them that are not their own.
This winter Child Protection Act Review Advisory Committee had public discussions. At the extra meeting I asked for in Hunter River in became clear that most grandparents become primary caregivers to stop their grandchildren from going into the Child Protection Services system and living with foster families. As we know there is a shortage of foster families on PEI.
For a variety of reasons, often there are not adequate supports in place financially and socially for grandparents that take on this responsibility. One problem is that the children are still legally under the guardianship of their birth parents and so the birth parents are the ones who remain entitled to receive any government supports via tax benefits, social assistance, etc. Also the birth parents can come and take the children away at essentially any time from the grandparents that are voluntarily providing the primary care.
In the Fall 2015 session of the legislature Motion No 60 on this matter was debated and then referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Wellness. On February 23, 2016, the standing committee considered this motion and discussed the issue with the Grandparents Support Group of Summerside. Then on May 12, 2016 the standing committee made the following recommendation in its report:
1. Your committee recommends that the Department of Family and Human Services undertake a public service education campaign regarding supports available to grandparents acting as primary caregivers.
Your committee heard from the Department of Family and Human Services that there are supports that are available to grandparents who are acting as primary caregivers to their grandchildren. At the same meeting, your committee heard from grandparents that did not know of certain supports, services or programs that were available to them. Your committee feels that it is extremely important to have this information in an easy to find and read document, Additionally, your committee believes that it is important for this document to include all programs that can support children; this includes programs found in other provincial government departments (for example: the $6,600.00 for school-age children autism funding is a program that falls under the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture), as well as federal government programs. The goal of this recommendation is that grandparents receive the support they deserve, as soon as possible.
I am currently following up with Minister Mundy to find out the status of the implementation of this recommendation.
FYI – here is a great overview of how Child Protection Services works: