The Provincial Government outlined the details of the new child, youth and family act yesterday, which recognizes Indigenous children and their culture, and has a greater emphasis in keeping youth in their families.
When the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development began looking at the current act, it found it needed so many amendments that it required an entirely new act.
The Children, Youth, and Families Act is replacing the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act.
It is focused first and foremost in keeping children and youth with their families.
The act offers more services to maintain, support and keep families together when in the best interest of the child – with removing the child from their family as being the last resort.
For Indigenous children and youth, the new act defines and acknowledges the uniqueness of Indigenous culture of NL, and requires a cultural connection plan for youth under care, and special consideration to maintain their culture.
It also allows Indigenous communities to care for children through an agreement between the department and community.
The current act sets an age restriction for youth seeking support.
If they are not in care on their 16th birthday, the child would only get support until the age of 19.
That’s no longer the case, with all children in care now able to receive supports until the age of 21.
Children in custody used to be able to leave custody when they were 16, but the age has been increased to 18, which is also the new age to which the department must maintain mandatory reporting of the child.
The new act also allows the department to licence agencies to actively recruit, assess and train foster homes to keep youths not only in their towns, but also in their communities.
The act will come into affect 12 months from Royal Assent (final approval of the act) in order to give the department time to develop policies and clinical practices and regulations to train staff.