Information for children and youth on legislation and their rights - Alberta Human Services - Government of Alberta

Information for children and youth on legislation and their rights

What is the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act?

The Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act (CYFEA) is the law in Alberta that helps keep children and youth safe from abuse and neglect. It also helps to make sure you receive the care and services that you need whether at home or away from home.

When you are not safe from abuse or neglect, help is available under CYFEA. This help is called child intervention. When abuse or neglect is happening, Child Intervention workers, also called caseworkers, can get involved using the laws in CYFEA. Caseworkers will work with you, your family, other people important to you, and professionals in the community to help everyone make sure you are safe and cared for. Sometimes this help is provided when children and youth live at home.

Other times, this help is given when children and youth live away from home in places like kinship care. Kinship care means staying with family or someone important to you, or living in foster homes or group homes. If you are a child or youth getting help from child intervention, you will have a caseworker no matter where you are living or who you are living with.

Why is knowing about your rights important?

You also have rights. It is important to know what your rights are because they help protect you from being treated unfairly. Part of your caseworker’s job is to tell you about your rights, help you understand your rights, and to answer all of the questions you have about them.

If you have any questions about your rights, or anything else that is happening, you can always ask your caseworker or someone else you trust. It is helpful to your caseworker and the people around you who care about you if you share your opinions or feelings with them, especially if something is bothering you.

Remember to always ask questions if you don’t understand your rights or the decisions being made even if you think the question is not important.

Further information

Show Answer What are rights in general?

Rights are things that you are allowed to have or to do. There are two main types of rights:

  1. basic or substantive rights, and
  2. specific or procedural rights.

All people have basic or substantive rights protected by law. These can be most easily understood by thinking of them as rights or claims every human has, such as a right to life, freedom, and to be free from fear and harm. Your right to be involved in decisions and plans about you by your parents, family and caseworkers is a substantive right. This includes areas where your opinions must be requested and considered in decisions which impact you, such as plans for living arrangements, schooling, time with family, and health decisions.

Procedural rights are another set of legal rights and are important when the court system is involved in your situation. Procedural rights set out the formal steps involved when a judge is asked to make a decision about your care and living arrangements. If you are involved with the courts you have specific rights, such as being told about the court hearing time and location, the right to talk to a lawyer and the right to have your opinion heard by the judge. In some situations, you can also appeal a decision a judge has made. This means you can ask the court to look at its decision again. Everyone has the right to a formal court process. Procedural rights ensure the process is fair and consistent for everyone.

Children and youth also have rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC or Convention). The United Nations is an organization that works to build healthy relationships among nations so that they can help one another and maintain peace. The UN CRC is a moral and political commitment that almost every country in the world has agreed to follow. Our provincial legislation, CYFEA, reflects the values and principles of the Convention. UN CRC requires governments to recognize the importance of being attentive to the rights and best interests of children and youth when decisions are made that relate to and affect children’s and youth’s lives and future. All rights are connected to each other, and no one right is more important than another. As you get older, you have more responsibility and ability to make decisions and exercise your rights.

Show Answer What are my rights if I identify as Indigenous and am First Nations, Métis or Inuit?

You have all the same rights as any child or youth involved with intervention services. And, you have additional rights if your heritage falls within the definition of Aboriginal (First Nations), Métis or Inuit. As a result of treaties and land settlement agreements signed between First Nations peoples and government, First Nations children and youth also have rights under The Indian Act. Métis children and youth may have rights through the Métis Nation of Alberta or the Métis Nation of the province you currently live in. Inuit children and youth may have rights outlined through the Federal government.

These rights may include the right to registration, to a status or treaty card, registration with a Métis Nation, or band membership. You may also be entitled to additional rights including trust accounts, non-insured health benefits and education benefits. If you have any of these additional rights under the Indian Act, the Métis Nation, or otherwise, CYFEA supports them and requires caseworkers to ensure you are aware of these additional rights. CYFEA also requires child intervention services to provide you with access to any benefits that go along with Indian Status (treaty status) and/or band membership, or Métis Nation membership. You also have a right to remain connected to your culture and learn about your history and heritage

Indigenous peoples, which includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit adults and children, also have additional rights outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). UNDRIP affirms the equality of Indigenous people, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such. UNDRIP also sets out how governments should respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

If you are Indigenous but not part of a treaty agreement or a Métis Nation or are not eligible for status under the Indian Act, Child Intervention still believes you have a right to know your cultural history. And, to be connected to culture, spiritual beliefs and/or the religion of your choosing. Being connected to your culture creates a strong identity that contributes to high self-esteem and can help you be the best person you can be. (First Nations Information Governance Centre, 2014).

If you are involved with child intervention, some rights apply no matter where you are living:

  • I have the right to know about my own history, culture, spiritual beliefs and religion.
  • I have the right to develop my own identity and to express myself.
  • I have the right to say what my thoughts and opinions are, and to have them considered by people who make decisions about me as well as why a decision was made.
  • I have the right to freedom and privacy, including confidentiality, as long as I am safe, and to know why the rules may apply to me.
  • I have the right to request and know information about me on my file, and know why if I cannot access certain information.
  • I have the right to live with people who care about me, respect me and keep me safe.
  • I have the right to have my rights explained to me in a way that I understand.
  • I have the right to know about and be helped to call the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.
  • I have the right to talk to my lawyer, advocate or caseworker by myself.

When you are living in kinship care, a foster home or a group home your rights also include:

  • I have the right to know why I am in care and be informed of my rights while in care.
  • I have the right to keep my belongings with me as long as it is safe.
  • I have the right to know about the plans made for my day-to-day life.
  • I have the right to visit or talk with my family and friends, and know why if I can’t.
  • I have the right to privacy when visiting or talking to my family, as long as it is safe for me.
  • I have the right to disagree with decisions made about me. The decisions may be reviewed through an administrative review or an appeal.

Important information about administrative reviews:

An administrative review means that another person who is not familiar with your case or situation will look it over independently and can provide another opinion on the decision that you do not agree with.

When you do not agree with a decision that is being made about you: talk to your caseworker, your caseworker’s boss, your caregivers, or the Child and Youth Advocate. If you still feel that you are not being heard, ask your caseworker to explain an administrative review or an appeal to you. Or have someone you trust help you look up the policy on administrative reviews and appeals (Enhancement Policy Manual, Intervention Section, Chapter 1, Section 1.4)

  • I have the right to go to school, the same as any child or youth does in Alberta.
  • I have the right to receive physical, dental, optical, and mental health care and participate in planning for my health needs.
  • I have the right to funding for recreational activities, clothing and spending allowance.
  • I have the right to plan for leaving care and becoming independent.

If there is an application before the court or an order has been made about me I have procedural rights:

  • I have the right to ask for and have a lawyer represent me in court or during an appeal.
  • I have the right to be told about the reason, date, time and place of every court hearing.
  • I have the right to be at the court hearing and to tell the judge about what I would like to happen, unless the court orders otherwise.
  • I have the right to appeal a supervision, temporary or permanent guardianship order made about me within 30 days of when the judge makes the order.

If I am 12 years of age or older, I have additional procedural rights:

  • I have the right to request a court review of any supervision or temporary guardianship order about me.
  • I have the right to be informed of an adoption application or proceeding that is about me.
  • I have the right to be informed of a private guardianship application or proceeding that is about me.
  • I have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an adoption or private guardianship order being made about me, unless the court orders otherwise.
  • I have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when an application for a permanent guardianship order is made about me and the court takes that into consideration when it makes its decision.
  • I have the right to receive a copy of a private guardianship order about me.
  • I have the right to apply for an access order or to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to an access order or an access agreement about me. An access order sets the rules for who I can see, when I can see them and for how long.
  • I have the right to ask the court to review any access order or contact order made about me. A contact order sets out how a third party or parent that’s not a guardian can have contact with you.
  • I have the right to request my first and/or last name be changed in an adoption order made about me.

And if I am 16 years of age or older, I also have these rights:

  • I have the right to sign my own agreement for services, including a place to live if I am living independently and can’t return home because it is not safe.
  • I have the right to participate in the development of my Transition to Independence Plan.
  • I have the right to consent to the release my own information prior to its release.
  • I have the right to apply for voluntary contact to meet my birth family if I have been adopted but I am living away from my guardian.
  • I have the right to consent to the publication of my personal information, but my consent does not allow for the publication of parent/guardian information.*

* You cannot consent to the publication of other people’s information including information about your parents or guardians.

If I am turning 18 years of age:

  • I have the right to ask for ongoing support under an agreement with my caseworker until I am 24 years of age if I am already receiving services under CYFEA. Support and Financial Assistance agreements and the criteria are explained further in policy and legislation.

If I am 18+ years of age:

  • I have the right to receive adoption information such as my birth name and the names of my birth parents by contacting the Post Adoption Registry.

Show Answer What is Secure Services?

Under CYFEA a caseworker may, with or without a court order, place you in a secure services’ facility if they believe you may hurt yourself or someone else or other supports have not helped and you are not agreeing to keep yourself safe. A caseworker may only do this after obtaining a secure services court order or a secure services certificate (Enhancement Policy Manual, Intervention Section, Chapter 5, Section 5.4). Once you have been confined in a secure services’ facility you can only be there for a certain number of days before your caseworker has to apply to court asking for an extension of the time you are confined in the facility. The judge then must decide whether an extension of the time is necessary to keep you safe.

If I am receiving secure services:

  • I have the right to receive a copy of any certificate or order made about me with a written statement explaining why I was secured and when it ends.
  • I have the right to know about the date, time and place when the court will hear about a certificate made about me.
  • I have the right to receive a copy of the application for an order, at least one day before the court date, if someone is asking the court to extend my time in secure.
  • I have the right to review or appeal the secure services order. My caseworker will help me complete, file and serve the papers.
  • I have the right to call a lawyer and request a court review of my confinement

Show Answer What is the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act?

The Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act (PSECA) is legislation that provides protection and specialized services to children who are sexually exploited through their involvement in prostitution. The legislation recognizes that a child involved in prostitution is sexually exploited and a victim of sexual abuse who requires services and protection. When a child or youth decides to accept Voluntary Services through PSECA, this means that the child or youth has agreed to services and protection willingly. The PSECA legislation provides voluntary residential or non-residential community services to assist youth with their successful exit from sexual exploitation.

This legislation also allows police and caseworkers to apprehend sexually exploited children under PSECA, with or without a court order, to ensure their safety and well-being. This happens when a child or youth is unwilling to engage in Voluntary Services, and/or the Voluntary Services will not meet the safety needs of the child. An apprehended child may be placed in a protective safe house for up to five days.

Sixteen and seventeen-year old youth can access support services without their guardian’s permission. Youth who are engaged in Voluntary Services immediately prior to their 18th birthday can continue to access support services up to age 24, to ensure a healthy transition to adulthood.

Children involved in prostitution, their families and caregivers do not require child intervention status to receive services.

Under the PSECA, those who exploit children can be charged with child sexual abuse and fined up to $25,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.

If I am receiving services under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act:

  • I have the right to know why I was removed from a situation and placed in a protective safe house. I have the right to receive a copy of any order made about me with a written statement explaining why I was confined and when it ends.
  • I have the right to know about the date, time and place when the court will hear about a certificate made about me.
  • I have the right to be made aware of any court dates relevant to me and my situation. I also have the right to legal representation.
  • I have the right to call a lawyer and request a court review of my confinement.

Show Answer Remember: You have rights!

If you feel that your rights are not being respected, or that no one is listening to you, or that you need someone to stand up for you – you can do something about it!

Call your caseworker. Ask them to explain what your rights are.

If you don’t understand the answers or feel you were not heard, ask to speak to your caseworker’s boss. Your caseworker should give you that person’s name and phone number and you should write it down.

Talk to someone that you trust – it could be your parent, foster parent, teacher, elder, pastor, counsellor, or a family friend.

Call the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate and ask to speak to an advocate.

Show Answer More information

Show Answer Contact list

Toll-Free to any government phone number:
310-0000 + (area code) + (phone number) or dial *310 or #310 on a cell phone

Children’s Services:
Website

Child and Family Services:
Child and Family Services have offices throughout the province. To find the office in your area, you can call 310-0000 during business hours or 780-644-9992 for Edmonton. You can also find it online.

Child Abuse Hotline:
1-800-387-KIDS (5437)

Office of the Child and Youth Advocate:
Toll Free: 1-800-661-3466
Website
Email

Northern Alberta Office
600, 9925-109 Street NW
Edmonton AB T5K 2J8
Phone: 780-422-6056

Southern Alberta Office
2420, 801-6 Avenue SW
Calgary AB T2P 3W4
Phone: 403-297-8435

Post Adoption Registry (Adoption Records):
11th Floor, Sterling Place
9940-106 Street
Edmonton AB T5K 2N2
Phone: 780-427-6387
Toll Free in Alberta: 310-0000, then 780-427-6387
Website

Appeals Secretariat:
Edmonton Phone: 780-427-2709
Calgary Phone: 403-297-5636
Lethbridge Phone 403-381-5681
Red Deer Phone: 403-340-5531
Website

If you would like to ask for a copy of your child intervention file or if you would like more information about Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) contact:
Information and Privacy Office
Community and Social Services / Children’s Services
4th Floor, Standard Life Centre
10405 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton AB T5J 3S2
Telephone: 780-427-2805
Fax: 780-422-3204

Youth in Care Canada / National Youth in Care Network:
223 Main Street
Ottawa ON K1F 1C4
Toll Free: 1-800-790-7074
Website
Email

After-Hours Intervention Teams 1-800-638-0715
Press 1 for the Southern Team, Red Deer and South including Calgary
Press 2 for the Northern Team, north of Red Deer including Edmonton

Toll-Free to any government number or individual
310-0000 + (area code) + (phone number) or dial *310 or #310 on a cell phone

Created:
Modified: 2017-09-05
PID: 18549