Broader approach needed to fix child and family services: MLA

(File photo).

 

Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Tom Beaulieu says he isn’t surprised that the territory’s Child and Family Services (CFS) worsened since 2014.

That’s according to an Auditor General report that came out last year.

He said following a plan from the Auditor General was one of the reasons things got worse.

“If we follow a plan that is developed according to what the Auditor General put out, we
are going to probably fail,” he said, and added that a plan “put together from the outside” won’t work.

That’s not to say he wasn’t supportive of the Auditor General’s report; rather, he wanted to see the Department of Health and Social Services’ (HSS), which oversees CFS, address root problems of children ending up in care.

For one, he said, that means dealing with alcohol issues.

The Auditor General’s report says there are about 1,000 children in CFS every year and, “Almost 80 per cent of the files we reviewed referred to alcohol or drug misuse as a factor that put children at risk.”

It adds that domestic abuse is a factor in 50 per cent of cases reviewed.

Recommendations received

Beaulieu made the comments during a review of 13 recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Government Operations to improve child and family services. Some of the highlights include implementing training for prospective foster parents, doing an in-depth review of the resources needed for CFS, and establishing standard caseloads for CFS workers.

Overall, HSS accepted most of the recommendations and “agreed in principle” with others, such as the caseload standard. Minister Glen Abernethy explained that introducing a caseload standard by June 30 (as was recommended) didn’t give the department enough time. This year, HSS put an additional $3.3 million for new positions to help spread out the caseload.

Beaulieu suggested including aspects of HSS’s addictions plan into child and family services to help families.

He spoke about looking at the justice system, the need for housing, employment opportunities–essentially outlining that CFS stems from many different factors and there’s no catch-all solution.

He said, “I am seeing this as a real opportunity for the government to have a real integrated approach with all of the departments.”

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