Changes to the Children and Family Services Act, that will help protect Nova Scotians from 16-18 years of age, improve child safety, streamline court processes and ensure children have a safe and lifelong family relationship, take effect on March 1.
"We've heard from communities that our existing legislation needed to change to better reflect the realities facing many of the children and families that need our support," said Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard. "We will continue to listen to communities and get their feedback on ways to improve services to vulnerable children, youth and families."
The amendments to the act were passed in December 2015, and proclaimed in December 2016. The policies and regulations put in place to support the changes to the act will evolve over time to respond to changing circumstances.
The changes to the act include:
- broadening the definition of a child in need of protective services
- streamlining court processes and defined time frames for hearings
- addressing the gap in the protection of youth by providing services for 16-18 year olds
- defining the duty of people to report abuse or risk of abuse
- requiring cultural connection plans for children in care to honour and preserve children's culture
"Foster parents in Nova Scotia are excited with the improved changes to the Children and Family Services Act and feel they were long overdue," said Wendell Fraser, chair of the Federation of Foster Families of Nova Scotia. "We feel the changes will be beneficial in many ways to the children in Nova Scotia in need of care.
"The federation has a strong working relationship with the Department of Community Services and we will continue to work in the best interest of the children, our future."
Before the amendments were passed in 2015, government invested about $2 million to create the Families Plus program and increase the number of Parenting Journey programs from 12 to 27. Other programs were modified to better respond to cultural needs of African Nova Scotian, Mi'kmaq and Acadian and francophone children and families.
"Earlier intervention will help prevent child abuse and neglect," said Ms. Bernard. "By broadening the definition of a child in need of protective services, the department can get involved with families earlier, when the difficulties they face are more likely to be remedied with community-based services."
For more information about the changes, click here.
For more information about child protection, click here.