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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Note To Alberta

Child abuse is horrific, this is a given. But when it occurs because of those we trust to care for our wee ones while we work, it is nearly unspeakable. And in one part of Canada, one full of oil promise and wealth, it is nearly systematic.

  I really attempt to keep an open mind when dealing with folks and am hesitant to classify those of a particular area as being prone to either good or bad behaviours, but Alberta has become a place difficult to ignore. The ultra-right cowboy mentality is everywhere and on display- everything from animal abuse to giving your kid a beatdown is not only accepted, but encouraged. Selfish actions and the "spare the rod, spoil the child" mentality are the word in many places. Alberta is a province of old ideas and new wealth, and that new economy ensures that almost every (white) person who desires employment can find it somewhere.

  I have personal experience here. When I moved to Leduc, Alberta with my former partner and young fellow I was offered the first job I applied for and even got to choose my shift. So, like so many others I dropped the little guy off on my way to the roof truss factory at one of the reasonably priced child care facilities that are everywhere. I made my money to pay the sitter who was generally decent and overlooked some signs that might strike me now. After all, boys will be boys and they get scuffed up on a daily basis.

 But sometimes things are not what they seem. Recently, numerous facilities have been investigated for treating children in ways that would seem unimaginable. As it turns out due to the wealth, care subsidies, and demand for caregivers almost anyone can be licensed as a child care provider. It is an essential service that some take very seriously but is also a source of a very decent lifestyle for someone who is uneducated and desires an easy dollar. Caring for our future caregivers is a difficult but rewarding occupation for those who genuinely love children. It is also an occupation that is seldom monitored and can be a source of choice victims for those who see innocents as nothing more than a way to buy a new truck.
  This system of any-parent-can-get-a-license care has resulted in unprecedented numbers of physical and sexual hate crimes against those that cannot defend themselves. And this morning, it cost a little girl her life.

  An 18 month old baby was taken to a Medicine Hat hospital on Monday with multiple head injuries that she could not recover from. The child had been attending a licensed in home daycare and was beaten to death by the 23 year old owner of the operation. The disgusting part is that the woman was arrested and released with an appearance order that she can run from. She can also care for children if someone is stupid enough to entrust their young with her. I'm actually nauseated typing right now.

  This child's death may come to save others because the hundreds of abuse reports have done nothing to change the way that children are cared for in Alberta. The government is so desperate for caregivers that they even will pay for the pitiful educational component and give incentives to people to turn their trailer park shacks into nurseries. The government will even subsidize child care for those who do not work under the present system. Alberta doesn't even require facilities to be accredited in order to not only accept children, but be subsidized. This must come to an end. Here's a thought- provide a living incentive for one parent to stay home  or for companies to provide monitored child care and flexible shifts. Just because someone can breed doesn't mean that they are qualified to parent the offspring of others. Alberta needs to raise the qualification standard of providers to include not just passing the government-paid classes, but psychological screening and a minimum education level for providers. Again, because you dropped out after grade 6 and got knocked up by some vacationing oil worker are not qualifications. Children need to be put first over giving employment to anyone with a uterus.

  To the 97% of the readers that do not live in Alberta, these things seem given. We all expect our children to be cared for suitably and while some instances of terrible adult behaviours do rise, nothing comes within a football field of Alberta. The dozens weekly accounts of abuse that come from a province of only a few million give disservice to the fine folks who live, work, and adore children in this province. the majority of Albertans are not bad people- they just want to enjoy their province's new opportunities and have someone responsible to look after their kids while they earn their kids' future needs. Being ambitious while still adoring your children should never be a crime.

  The system is broken in Alberta but the solution simply requires that no more children should suffer. We should never need to demand that children be given carefree beginnings that do not end their lives.

Be well.

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