March 30, 2015 7:32 pm

NDP reveals record child deaths under Alberta care

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley answers the media's questions about requesting the auditor general to take a broader look at the activities of the former Redford government, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014.

Cliff Harris, Global News

EDMONTON — The Alberta NDP has revealed 31 children in provincial care or receiving protective services have died since April 1, 2014. According to the party, that is more deaths than any previous year.

“As of today, the number of children who have died in care this year is the largest we have ever had, significantly,” said NDP leader Rachel Notley.

“It represents a 25 per cent increase over last year… The next highest was 25 and that was in 2008-2009.”

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The number shows the need for services for family and child protection funding, the NDP said.

WATCH: Alberta families paying more, corporation off the hook: MLA Rachel Notley

“These numbers are staggering and they reveal just how damaging cuts to child protection services will be,” said Notley.

“At a time where we’ve seen the number of child fatalities jump by 25 per cent we should not be taking $50 million out of the system solely to avoid asking corporate Alberta to pay their fair share towards dealing with the fiscal challenges.”

She said the province cut $27 million from child intervention services, about $16 million from a program called community and family safety and about $5 million from the early intervention program.

“Over and over again, we’ve called for adequate funding for the Child and Youth Advocate, and then the budget revealed a cut of over $49 million to the services that are meant to protect these vulnerable children,” said Notley.

WATCH: Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notely discusses provincial budget

Human Services Minister Heather Klimchuck said there are fewer children in provincial care and more children finding permanent homes.

“You’re seeing the decrease because of the decrease of children in care.

“There’s a corresponding decrease of children in foster care as well. We’ve got about an 18 per cent increase in children finding permanent homes.”

She said Alberta is the most transparent province in all of Canada when it comes to reporting these kinds of fatalities.

The minister also said the Human Services ministry has contact with about 52,000 children each year. She explained some just need a little support, while others’ care is given to the province because the children have very demanding medical needs.

“Some of these children are so medically fragile to begin with their deaths are going to be far more imminent than other children.”

Klimchuck said the ministry actually got a 1.8 per cent increase in funding.

“When I look at the child intervention line there was a slight decrease, but front-line staff have not been changed at all. They’re staying the same.

She said the government is doing good, “preventative work.”

“We will always be there for vulnerable families. There is absolutely no question.”

© 2015 Shaw Media

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