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Glen Abernethy: Building Stronger Families – Milestones Achieved in 2014-2015

Mr. Speaker, in October 2014, I tabled Building Stronger Families – An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services supporting the Government’s commitment to improve the quality of child and family services for those receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act. I am pleased to provide an update to Members on the progress to date and implementation of our Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services.

The Action Plan outlines 12 major initiatives in response to the many recommendations made for system-wide change. These initiatives support our goal to provide more assistance to families at risk. Increased early support will reduce child apprehensions and the need for court proceedings. The initiatives contribute to a flexible approach to service delivery, grounded in collaboration and building on family strengths and needs.

In order to transform child and family services we must ensure staff have the tools required to assess risk and improve practice and service delivery.

In the past year, we have taken a number of steps to increase staff capacity. We have begun to adapt Structured Decision Making tools that staff can use when screening reports of child protection concerns to help them assess the immediate safety and long- term risk to the children and families involved. We have revised the Child and Family Services Standards and Procedures Manual, ensuring it reflects best practices and provides increased resources to support children. We have brought forward amendments to the Child and Family Services Act that, if passed, will extend child protection services to the age of majority and the provision of services for children in permanent custody to the age of 23.

Work in areas of risk management and quality assurance focuses on the systems in place to support the work of our staff. In the past year, we redesigned the Child and Family Services annual file audit process by introducing a revised audit tool, establishing a regular annual audit schedule, and creating regional audit teams with a collaborative approach to the audit process. We are also replacing the current Child and Family Services information system, with a new system that will provide enhanced case management capabilities and improved data reliability.

In the area of Program Administration and Management, we have strengthened accountability by appointing Chief Executive Officers as Assistant Directors of Child and Family Services and have provided training on their responsibilities under the Child and Family Services Act. These appointments ensure there is direct accountability to the Director for the delivery of services.

Last year the Auditor General recommended improving leadership and communication within child and family services. In response, the Directors of Social Programs Forum has been reconvened. This group brings together senior staff from each region who deal with child and family programs, meets by teleconference monthly and face-to-face twice a year to discuss Building Stronger Families and the variety of initiatives guided by the Action Plan.

We have enlisted the Child Welfare League of Canada to complete the first phase of a workload management study. We worked with Child Protection Workers and other Authority staff to identify significant workload drivers that impact their ability to efficiently provide services. We now better understand the primary drivers we will address to create an effective and efficient workload management process in child and family services.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, as we move forward with the system transformation outlined in Building Stronger Families, we will continue to work with our partners at regional and community levels to ensure these changes acknowledge and reflect the many participants in the delivery of programs and services. We are committed to working together and understanding the unique interests and challenges throughout the NWT as we improve our delivery of child and family services.

Mr. Speaker, our government remains committed to realizing this Assembly’s goal of healthy, educated children. The steps we are taking will help ensure NWT children and families get the services and support they need. I look forward to working with Members as we continue our work to transform child and family services in the NWT.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.