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A happy story to share

Dec 03, 2013 11:30 am | Janice Huser

Last week, I found myself glued to a number of the articles published by the Edmonton Journal regarding the many unreported deaths of children in care in the province since 1999.

The stories shared were heartbreaking, and almost unbelievable, given that Alberta is supposed to be one of the most developed, wealthy places in the world. For children to be taken away from their parents, and sometimes placed in what proves to be a more dangerous setting is incredibly troubling.

Of course, services such as foster parents are vital to the wellbeing of many children in the province. Also published last week was an update on Baby M, a two-and-a-half-year-old who died in 2012, and whose parents are now facing second-degree murder charges. The other children in the family are now residing in foster homes.

Undoubtedly, the system that cares for children who are in dangerous living situations is in need of major repairs. That has been the case for many years, and the recently released statistics prove it.

But, as I read a number of last weekís news articles in the Edmonton Journal, my mind kept shifting back to the many good foster parents that are taking children in, and offering them support and stability when it is most needed.

Maybe Iím a bit of an optimist, but for every bad outcome, I like to think there are exponentially more good outcomes.

I still remember the summer day when I was about 10 years old and met a little blond-haired baby boy for the first time. He was small for his age, and it was suspected that he had been left in his playpen or crib in the months prior much longer than he should have been. He had yet to learn how to sit on his own but was over six months old.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. A few years later, along with much frustration and happiness, this little boy would officially become my cousin, as he moved from being a foster child to being legally adopted by my auntie and uncle.

He was welcomed into a family and gained four siblings and a much better life than what might have been. He fit in perfectly with his foster family, so perfectly that they fought the system to keep him, and they won.

His age and the timing of when he would have been in foster care are eerily similar to the many unreported deaths that were brought up in last weekís Edmonton Journal series.

And although I have a happy story to share, the 145 children who died while in the care of the province are not to be overshadowed. The provincial government does need to step up and make changes that mean something, changes that will save the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in our society.

And itís probably not an easy fix. Itís probably not a simple matter of throwing more funding at an array of departments. There are underlying causes why children end up in care in the first place, and although itís already too late for those 145 children who never made it out of the system, it isnít too late for the next 145.

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