In the Fall 2023 sitting of the legislature the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act was finally passed to replace the old Child Protection Act. This was legislation I worked on when I was Minister of Social Development & Housing, and wanted to bring forward then. In particular it allows for both temporary and permanent custody and guardianship of a child to be given to grandparents raising their grandchildren, or other alternate care providers. This is very important, because currently alternate care providers are given the responsibility for a child without having legal custody and guardianship; this creates issues because they cannot give consent for things like school events, medical treatment, or get passports. You can find the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act here.
Debate on Child, Youth and Family Services Act
Please find video and transcript below of my questions and the responses during debate on the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act.
Hansard-14 November 2023 (PDF) – transcript starts on page 34 of 57 (page 1930 of Hansard).
Chair: Section 5: Child and temporary custody of Director or other person.
The hon. Member from Rustico-Emerald.
B. Trivers: Thank you, Chair.
It’s great to see you guys here today, finally with this bill on the floor, getting it passed. It’s such a momentous occasion for the province. Thank you for all of your hard work on this. It was about compromise in some cases, and I think you found a good solution.
My question on this section; one of the things I’m most excited about in this act is the temporary custody orders that can be given. Of course, one of the programs that’ll help with is the alternate care provider program. I was wondering if you can just outline what this means to an alternate care provider or a grandparent raising grandchildren to be able to have this temporary custody order from the director.
Mike Henthorne: Thank you for that. This is a big deal. This is a big help. We’ve heard from grandparents and family members who are caring for children in their home that were required to leave their parents’ care because of child protection issues and concerns.
This allows for a transfer of custody and guardianship, either temporarily or permanent, to another person other than the director. In our present legislation, that can only transfer to the director, to Jill and I, to be the legal guardian of the child. But with this act, it will allow those grandparents and family members caring for children involved with child protection to be the temporary or permanent legal guardian.
That’s a big deal. We know for sure that grandparents are excited about that. That’ll allow them to sign consent forms, seek medical treatment, get passports, be able to travel with the children in their home, and for the youth and children to have some permanency.
We’re really pleased that that’s included, and that’s a big deal for us.
Jill Hume: We also know that children do better when they’re placed with family, so it’s a big deal for the children as well.
B. Trivers: Thank you for that. It’s such a huge stride forward. The people that are part of that alternative care provider program, particularly the grandparents, are going to be so happy when this is finally passed.
One of the things, though, I know when I was minister, I really wanted to try and solve that second part of the alternate care provider program. I know we’ve talked about this before so bear with me. I just want to get it on the record here. There are alternate care providers or grandparents raising grandchildren who have the children in their care, but there is no child protection issue. They’re there because the parents maybe decided that was a better place for them to be, or through some other circumstance, they’re living with the grandparents or another alternate care provider.
I guess my question is, again, looking at section 5 here, it does say in section 5(1)(a), they’re in the custody of the director or other person pursuant to a temporary custody and guardian agreement under part 3. I can wait for part 3 if you want, Chair, but in part 3 it does talk about the child being in need of protection. I was wondering if that could be interpreted by saying: “I’m not going to be there for my
child.” I mean, there’s a number of circumstances. An example might be I have to leave the province to go work for long periods of time; I want the child to live with my parents or my brother or sister. Is there a way to interpret that so that that child can still be part of the alternate care provider program?
Mike Henthorne: The answer is yes if the child was placed there because of child protection reasons, but there are some family plans that this act probably doesn’t capture when families make their own plan. But we do have supports for those families in our department, in our greater department. Can we improve those supports? Yes. We’ll continue to work with our colleagues in social programs and with our deputy minister and minister to look at how we increase supports to every grandparent.
B. Trivers: Just a final comment, I just want to say thank you, again. I’m glad you found a way to make sure that those people are helped as well. I appreciate it. Congratulations again on bringing this act forward.
Mike Henthorne: Thank you.
Jill Hume: Thank you.