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Minister overturns proposed cap on payments for special needs foster care

EDMONTON - Alberta's children's services minister is apologizing to roughly two dozen foster parents who were told that money for special needs children in their care would be restricted starting next month.

EDMONTON - Alberta's children's services minister is apologizing to roughly two dozen foster parents who were told that money for special needs children in their care would be restricted starting next month.

Yvonne Fritz moved quickly to remove a funding cap after the NDP revealed at a news conference Monday that payments would be capped at $100 a child on April 1.

New Democrat Rachel Notley said she feared a cap would drive away foster parents at a time when more are needed in Alberta. She released documents given to parents by social workers in Edmonton last week that outlined how payments would be reduced by 10 per cent per every six months until they were under the cap.

But 10 minutes after Notley's news conference ended, Fritz called reporters to her office to explain that she had been blindsided. The minister said she didn't know that department staff were planning the cap in the Edmonton area as part of a pilot project.

She pointed out that foster care got a funding increase of nearly $1 million in the recent provincial budget, so there was no need for such a cap.

"This meeting did not need to occur with these foster parents and cause the stress that it did," she said. "And I very sincerely regret that that has happened and I am dealing with this."

The minister said she had recently communicated to all staff involved with foster care that services should be improved, not cut. But she couldn't explain why regional staff in Edmonton went ahead with the cap anyway.

"I've asked the CEO of the region and the department director about why this occurred. I've asked that he meet with these foster parents ... and I apologize that that has happened."