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Northwest Territories not meeting key duties in child services: auditor general – CP

by ahnationtalk on October 24, 201813 Views

Source: The Canadian Press
Oct 24, 2018 

YELLOWKNIFE _ Nearly two-thirds of foster care homes in the Northwest Territories don’t get basic screening before receiving children to look after, says a critical report from the auditor general’s office.

The report says the territory isn’t meeting key responsibilities to protect children in care and the situation is getting worse.

“We determined that many of the services provided to children and families in the Northwest Territories that we examined were in fact worse than when we examined them in 2014,” audit director Glenn Wheeler said in a release.

Glen Abernethy, the N.W.T.’s minister of health and social services, acknowledged the problems.

“These findings are very concerning,” he said Wednesday. “Clearly, without question, more needs to be done and we need to do it better.”

Abernethy said the territory has been bringing in a more preventative model for child services and some of the administrative issues the report found are a result of the changes.

“We haven’t necessarily translated that well on the front line.”

The report, tabled late Tuesday in the N.W.T. legislature, compares results from the previous audit to the present situation. It said there is little improvement for the roughly 1,000 children involved with child and family services.

In 2014, social workers failed to check on children in care at least every two months in 59 per cent of cases. By 2018, that had risen to 88 per cent.

The previous audit found 69 per cent of foster care homes didn’t receive basic screening such as a criminal record check. That level remains at 66 per cent _ with the additional warning that 89 per cent of foster homes didn’t get an annual review, slightly worse than 2014.

The audit also found that guardians, who assume full parental control and responsibility for children, were poorly screened. Auditors found one guardian had been criminally charged with assaulting the child.

“We were seriously concerned when senior departmental and authority officials told us they were unaware this was occurring,” the report says.

Although the figure has improved modestly from 2014, in nearly one-fifth of cases child welfare officials don’t respond to child protection concerns.

The report also says that children are constantly shuffled around.

In 2015, the N.W.T.’s own internal audit found children in permanent care moved homes an average of 12 times. In 2016, one child was moved 20 times.

Abernethy promised quick action on the recommendations.

“I want to see changes starting immediately,” he said.

He noted child welfare has been totally reorganized over the last four years, which has created confusion over roles. The N.W.T. sees “incredible turnover” in staff, he said.

As well, Abernethy acknowledged the department may have been underfunded, but will increase staffing and improve training.

“I’ve given staff a two-year time limit to turn this around.”

Abernethy said two annual internal audits uncovered some of the same problems the auditor general found.

“We have been fixing (the problems.) Some of them aren’t as simple as flicking a light switch. They do take a significant amount of work.”

However, Abernethy believes child services in the N.W.T. are improving.

“As we continue to roll out these recommendations, we are going to have a safe, robust system for all children who are in care.

_ By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow ?row1960 on Twitter

INDEX: NATIONAL SOCIAL POLITICS

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