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N.W.T. government updates improvement plan for Child and Family Services

Friday, July 17, 2020 @ 1:21 PM | By John Schofield

The government of the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) has marked the halfway point in its two-year plan to repair its ailing Child and Family Services system, highlighted by a $3.7-million infusion in funding to hire 20 additional staff, increase training and create Youth in Care networks to support children in foster care.

As part of the plan, the Department of Health and Social Services has provided training to a number of foster caregivers and foster care staff from across the N.W.T. on how to support children and youth with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, according to a July 15 news release.

In addition, the department has developed virtual training for new and current staff, including case aides and family preservation workers, and specific training that will enable them to refer families to the Strongest Families Institute, a Nova Scotia non-profit chosen by the government to provide mental health and other supports to children and families.

System-wide audits of regional Health and Social Services Authorities for 2018-19 have also been completed, as well as updates to the Child and Family Services serious occurrence standard, tool and form in an effort to improve incident reporting standards and include situations related to COVID-19. 

“We have experienced some delays in implementing some of the action items identified in the Quality Improvement Plan as we had to reallocate our resources to address COVID-19,” Minister of Health and Social Services Diane Thom said in the news release. “We have made progress in other areas, and with an additional $3.7 million into the Child and Family Services System, we will see improved outcomes for children and families.”

The Northwest Territories Child and Family Services Quality Improvement Plan 2019-2021 was released in 2019, partly in response to a 2018 investigation by the auditor general of Canada that found “systemic, serious, long-standing deficiencies in services provided to children and families that put children’s safety at risk and failed to support their best interests and well-being.”

To date, the news release states, 35 action items have been completed, 28 are on track, four are delayed and three are on hold. Since October 2018, it notes, the staff vacancy rate in the Child and Family Services system has decreased from 25 per cent to 6.3 per cent. A quality improvement progress tracker has been published online. 

The Quality Improvement Plan sets out four strategic directions: Create a culture of quality; make sure the right people are in the right place; invest in staff; and draw on the knowledge and experience of others.

The territorial government has allocated just over $34 million for Child and Family Services in its 2020-21 budget.

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