Saturday, March 27, 2010

Foster Parents and Politics

I do try to put some effort into understanding what is happening within the political world, albeit from time to time I do tend to jump to "mini conclusions".  Most of the time the conclusions I come to are pretty close to reality, but not always.  In this post I am not going to link the hell out of the various articles and blogs done concerning the Alberta NDP's and Governments dealings with the recent funding issues with foster parents. Instead, I want to comment more about the politics of the politics.

After several days of prodding the NDP for some answers on twitter, I was told that they got news of the issue late Thursday night and the legislature was not sitting on Friday. They had to verify "things" and broke the story (per say) on Monday.  And of course, we all know what followed.

I was told by the NDP twitter person that "in this business it is extremely important to be accurate otherwise you get burnt".  And I can understand that, after all politics is an incredibly dirty game. When you deal in the "public" side of things, you best have the i's dotted and the t's crossed.  But with that said, most people that know something about me, know that I love to think out of the box, rules be dammed, and let's put some common sense into issues.

Had I "been" the NDP, I would have been pounding on Ministers door first thing Friday morning, stating what I had found out, saying nothings been verified, and wanting some answers and insight.  Is this against the politics of being a politician? Is it against the rules?  Well, if THAT'S the case, then change the rules!  Even if those WERE the rules, I would still have pounded on that door.  This would have put the Government on immediate notice of the issue.  Had action not been taken at this point, then by all means take it public. Why wait because it's the weekend?

During the twitter discussions yesterday, I also received a tweet from @CupeAB (we don't follow each other by the way) asking, "Do you also agree with @premierstelmach that foster parents should have spoken up, on Friday?".  Well, that's really a very good question. Put yourself in the shoes of being a foster parent for a moment.  If you are one, then I am sure that you are painfully aware of how frustrating and complicated it is in dealing with the politics of being a foster parent. Do you go running, screaming, and hollering (or any other form of complaining) to the Government, risking getting your hands slapped and cuffed upside the head, knowing that perhaps if you say too much or the wrong thing, that in the end, you might very well be investigated, and have the kids you love and care for, be removed?  Now I am NOT saying that this happens, but I am fairly comfortable thinking that this might very well be what a foster parent would think.

To me, the bottom line here is that you, the politicians that represent the people, seriously need to STOP playing the game of politics. STOP making it a dirty game, STOP with the prissy rules, and get BACK to reality.

I know it can be done when it needs to be done, because I have done it.  When I worked as a volunteer Probation Officer dealing with Young Offenders, I had a situation where a youth under my supervision was in a situation where he had violated his probation, and the potential of harm coming to a baby was potentially a reality. I tried dealing with the police, and was told "you are his probation officer, you need to deal with it". So I did. I talked with the youth, he agreed things were bad and agreed he needed to go back into custody. I took him down to the 'system' in the wee hours of the morning, spent several hours arguing with government paper pushers, woke up the Crown and insisted a warrant be issued, so he could be taken into custody. The Crown *finally* agreed, I signed the warrant, and the youth was taken.  In court, the warrant was upheld, and the youth was able to receive the services he needed.  And as a side note, you will all be happy to know this youth was able to change his ways using that help, and I understand he has been successful in getting on in life.

Thinking out of the box works some times, perhaps those in charge should try doing it a bit more.


  1. With all due respect, I think that you are barking up the wrong tree.

    I am not NDP, but can understand their holding this information, confirming it and waiting to go public with it when it would have the biggest impact, not only for them, but for the foster care system.

    Years and years of this government have shown that kissing butt might help one case, but it will also ensure that nothing gets said so that others getting the short end of the stick don't know that anyone else is and thus feel isolated and alone.

    Had the NDP taken this to the Minister on Friday morning, a quiet clean-up would probably have been done, stories co-ordinated, and by Monday Fritz would say it was an abberation, miscommunication, or something along those lines and thank you for bringing it to my attention, but there are no problems now. She probably would have sacrificed a nameless minion in the department, and the dysfunction in CYS would continue unabated. In addition, the ND's would be seen as trying to milk a dry cow, since it had all been looked after.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Linda. I found nothing disrespectful with your response, and indeed you bring up one of the many intersting scenerios that could have happened. I was going to expand a bit to cover that, but I was trying to avoid getting into the 'pointing of fingers' at any particular party. When I first heard of this, I avoided reading what transpired over the next few days because I knew it was just going to get into a "piss-match" of he said, she said, he could have, she could have ... type of thing.

    From what I understand, and I COULD be wrong, other foster parents were subjected to this little speech over the weekend, and had it been brought forward sooner rather than later, those folks could have potentially been spared from the anguish this has caused.

    No matter how it was addressed, had it been Friday or Monday, the endless ramble of justification, excuses, cover ups, or whatever else could have transpired, would still have transpired in some form or another. It would appear that people are getting more and more fed up with how things are being done. As I sit and watch all of the MLA's fighting in various ways, no matter if it is for or against "whatever", I sit on the fence. There are many things the current government does that irks me to no end, and that comes from all of the parties, no matter if its the PC's or Liberals or NDP or WRA.

    The system is broken. How things are decided is broken. How things are managed after the fact is broken. I am not going to point fingers at people and say "you broke it, fix it", simply because there have been SO many people involved, albeit the CONTROL of that system has been dominated for perhaps too long. Ideas are stagnating, and there are too many "creatures of habit" that exist within the people, and within the system.

    We could blame the voters for being complacent, the politicians for being indifferent, and the system for making us believe we don't count.

    However I firmly believe that the people are waking up, and the politicians are all getting worried. These are good things, I think. An election is coming, and I want to make it known that the dirty little games of politics are not going to be tolerated anymore, by any party.

    As far as THIS particular episode goes, the bottom line is I am glad the issue was found out, and it was brought forward. The NDP did "good", by exposing it. What irks me is that it never should have happened in the first place and I can't help but wonder what else is going on that we the people, are not aware of.

  3. Well done Gary, and Linda as well. Your conversation in these posts is encouraging. I too am hopeful that more Albertans pay close attention to what's happening in provincial politics. My only parting comment is this: what was debated last week about who knew what when, and who told whom when – distract from the real issue: these budget cuts have a real effect on real people, and often it’s not a pretty picture. Focus on anything else is exactly what the government wants following exposure of an embarrassing plan like the one to cut services from disabled foster children. The simple facts are these: government officials facing multi-million cuts to their departments devised a poor policy to cut services to vulnerable Albertans, they didn't utter a peep about it in any public realm - in fact the minister denied it when Notley questioned her about it in the Legislative Assembly, and when Notley learned it was a fact she made sure every voter to whom this government is accountable was informed. Notley did what voters - and the Premier by his own admission on Friday – expect of an opposition MLA: she held government accountable. In the Premier’s own words last Friday re: Notley: “She's holding my feet to the fire on this file or any other file...and she's doing a good job of that.”
    Brookes Merritt
    Director of Communications
    Alberta NDP Caucus.