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Glen Abernethy – Building Stronger Families – An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services

Glen Abernethy - Official PortraitMr. Speaker, later today I will table “Building Stronger Families – An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services”as well as the formal response to Committee Report 6-17(5).  This Government is committed to a fundamental shift in how we deliver child and family services in the Northwest Territories. The Action Plan will guide necessary and transformational changes to improve the overall quality of these services, and achieve better outcomes for children and their families when they require services under the Child and Family Services Act.

In the past four years, over 100 recommendations have been made with respect to legislation, policies and practice in child and family services.  The Standing Committee on Social Programs of the 16th Legislative Assembly undertook a comprehensive review of the Child and Family Services Act, and in March 2014 the Office of the Auditor General of Canada’s report was tabled in the Legislative Assembly.  This was followed by the report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, which was tabled in the last Session.

“Building Stronger Families: An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services” forms the Government’s comprehensive response to the Auditor General of Canada’s report on Child and Family Services and the report from the Standing Committee on Government Operations.

The Action Plan outlines three overarching goals of increasing accountability between Health Authorities and the Department, improving service delivery, and better assisting children and families in our communities.  The Plan identifies three significant areas of reform.  The first will be to make changes to service delivery and child protection practices.  The second will focus on risk management and quality assurance; and the third will be to improve program administration and management.

We need to find ways to reduce the number of children taken into care, and at the same time we need to protect children and put their interests first.  To accomplish this, child protection workers will receive additional training to assess risk, determine the strengths and needs of each family and develop responses that are appropriate to each individual situation. This fundamental change to child protection practice will ensure that children and families are provided with appropriate support.

To improve risk management and quality assurance, the Department has already completed and implemented a number of items outlined in the Action Plan.  The

2013-2014 Report of the Director of Child and Family Services will be tabled later this Session. The format for new quarterly performance reports from Authorities to the Department has been designed, and reporting activity begins this month.  The quarterly report covering October through December 2014 is due in January 2015.  We have developed audit teams and a common audit tool for use by both the Department and Authorities when auditing child protection and foster care files.  Annual auditing of each authority starts in January 2015.

Information is key to case management and service delivery planning.  This year 3.5 million dollars in capital funding was approved to replace the Child and Family Services Information System.   This project spans three years and the Department is currently engaging professional services to oversee the development and implementation of a new electronic case management, information and data system.

Changes to program administration and management include the development of an improved Accountability Framework and the appointment of all Health and Social Services Authority Chief Executive Officers as Assistant Directors under the Act, creating clearer accountability in the system.  The CEOs were trained and appointed in July 2014.  We have also undertaken legislative amendments to the Child and Family Services Act that will support more community and Aboriginal involvement in child protection matters including prevention and the development of a plan when we need to step in and assist families under the Act.

In addition, the Department has contracted the Child Welfare League of Canada to undertake a review of child protection caseloads and workloads in order to ensure we have the resources needed to provide adequate and essential programming across the NWT.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, “Building Stronger Families” acknowledges the role Aboriginal governments play in the delivery of programs and services and recognizes their future interests in this program area.  We are committed to working together and to understanding the unique interests and challenges of each region and community as we improve our delivery of child and family services.

I look forward to working with Members as we transform child and family services in the NWT.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.