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Tougher screening rules introduced for B.C. caregivers

A new B.C. government policy will require all adults who taken in the child of a family member and receive aid through the Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program to receive background checks.

When a screening policy was first introduced for new CIHR applicants to the in December of 2007, an exemption was made for caregivers already in the program. Under the new rule announced yesterday, those who entered the program prior to December 2007 will now be subject to background checks as well if they wish to continue receiving provincial assistance.

The Child in the Home of a Relative (CIHR) program offers assistance to caregivers throughout the province who have taken in nieces, nephews, grandchildren or other child relations after the minor's parents have proven unable or unwilling to provide adequate care. Approximately 3,300 families receive benefits through the program.

"We know this process may be uncomfortable for some families, but our top priority is the safety of the children," wrote Shae Greenfield, public affairs officers for the Ministry of Children and Family Development in an emailed statement to The Tyee. "Ensuring that all CIHR recipients are screened will help identify circumstances where there may be risk to a child and where there may be a need for child welfare worker involvement."

The change in policy comes a year after B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond issued a report calling for an expansion of the CIHR program screening policy.

In a statement released yesterday, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond wrote that she was both "pleased and deeply encouraged" by the change in policy.

As The Tyee reported last February, the CIHR program is being phased out by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Households seeking financial assistance to raise the child of a relative are now directed to the Extended Family Program (EFP).

According to Jeremy Berland, Deputy Representative for Children and Youth, because the EFP falls under the purview of the Child, Family and Community Service Act, there is no reason to worry that caregivers within that program will not receive adequate screening.

The new CIHR screening policy will go into effect on September 1. The process is expected to continue until March of 2012.

Ben Christopher is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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