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B.C. ends practice of ‘birth alerts’ in child-welfare cases

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Maternity ward at Richmond Hospital


Francis Georgian / PNG

The B.C. government is ending a practice that allowed hospitals to inform child-welfare agencies of possible safety risks to infants at birth without the consent of parents.

Katrine Conroy, the minister of Children and Family Development, says so-called hospital or birth alerts have “primarily” been used in cases involving marginalized women and “disproportionately” in births for Indigenous women.

Conroy says the province is changing its approach in cases where children might be at risk.

Instead of alerts, Conroy says the province will work collaboratively with parents expecting a child to keep newborns safe and families together. She says birth alerts are used by a number of provinces and territories, but B.C. is ending the decades-old practice effective immediately.

Conroy says Indigenous communities and organizations, as well as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, has called for the practice to stop.

“We acknowledge the trauma women experience when they become aware that a birth alert has been issued,” Conroy says in a statement released Monday. “Health-care providers and social-service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent from those parents and will stop the practice of birth alerts.”

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