Keeping children safe and early collaborative resolution of child-protection issues are the goals of a new pilot project announced today by Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton.
The Parents Legal Centre, located at the Vancouver Law Courts at Robson Square, serves parents or guardians who are involved with the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a Delegated Aboriginal Agency about a child-protection concern. The centre offers a range of support services including information, advice, referrals and legal representation at specific types of hearings and conferences. The centre provides an alternative to court by facilitating access to collaborative processes such as mediation and family-case-planning conferences between parents and child-protection authorities to find the best ways to keep children safe.
The Parents Legal Centre is operated by the Legal Services Society (LSS), and is designed to help parents or guardians who are willing to collaborate on out-of-court resolutions to child-protection issues. Evidence shows that parents who participate in collaborative planning and decision-making achieve more sustainable solutions, ultimately building healthier family relationships. Early resolution to child-protection cases is also anticipated to help avoid lengthy hearings, thereby freeing up judicial resources and improving the flow of cases through the courts.
The Parents Legal Centre is funded by the Ministry of Justice as part of dedicated funding for justice innovation and transformation initiatives. The ministry is providing LSS with $2 million a year for three years for this purpose, starting in 2014-2015, bringing government’s total funding commitment to $74.6 million in 2015/16. The centre is the fourth of five pilot projects developed by LSS in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and other justice system participants.
The Vancouver Law Courts at Robson Square was chosen as the location for this pilot project because of the volume of cases, availability of space and the accessibility to transportation options. The pilot will continue until March 31, 2017.
Suzanne Anton, Attorney General and Minister of Justice -
“The Parents Legal Centre is a pilot project with tremendous potential to help families reach mutually agreed upon solutions to child-protection issues. This will ensure that children are safe and will allow families to get on with their lives. At the same time, we anticipate that it may also help relieve pressure on the courts. This kind of innovative justice transformation project can make a real, tangible difference in the lives of British Columbians, and we’re proud to partner with LSS to focus on what’s best for families and children.”
Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Development -
“Whenever concerns about the safety of a child are brought forward to the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a Delegated Aboriginal Agency, everyone involved in the situation is anxious to address those concerns and get to a resolution as quickly as is appropriate. Our government is committed to finding long-term solutions that strengthen families and help them work together to overcome any challenges they face.”
Tom Christensen, Legal Services Society chair -
“This project has the potential to help families resolve their underlying issues and ensure a safe and stable environment for children, potentially without having to go through the court process. And if court is unavoidable, the centre can help parents understand their legal rights and responsibilities and enable them to improve their courtroom experience.”
Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree, Provincial Court of British Columbia -
“I am very pleased to see the development of this new service of the Legal Services Society aimed at assisting families involved in child protection issues. The service provided by the Parents Legal Centre will provide families with a greater opportunity to work collaboratively in resolving matters in the best interests of their children.”
- Services provided by the Parents Legal Centre include:
- Legal information and advice
- Preparation, representation and support for collaborative meetings
- Representation at non-contested hearings
- Referrals to social service agencies
- Other services to support court processes resolved by consent
- Clients must be eligible for legal aid services, which are provided without charge by the Legal Services Society to people who meet specific eligibility criteria.
- The service is only for parents or guardians.
- Potential clients may be referred to the centre by social workers, community agencies, judges, the LSS provincial call centre, local legal aid office, or the LSS website.
For more information: http://www.lss.bc.ca/media/newsReleases.php
Ministry of Justice
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Legal Service Society