Root problems need to be addressed to fix child and family services in Canada’s Northwest Territories: MLA

MLA Tom Beaulieu says, ‘To follow the auditor general’s report to a ‘T’ is not going to solve the issue.’ (CBC)
The effort to properly care for and protect the Northwest Territories’ most vulnerable citizens is going to fail until larger issues of addictions and poverty are addressed, says a small-community MLA.

Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA Tom Beaulieu made the comments in legislature on Monday, during a review of a standing committee report on the federal auditor general’s review of child and family services.

The 2018 auditor general’s report was the second to identify major problems with child and family services in the N.W.T. It said things have gotten worse rather than better than the last report, done four years earlier.

The committee that reviewed the report made 13 recommendations, including developing and delivering a training plan for all foster parents and completing an assessment of how much money and manpower is needed to properly deliver child and family services.

“To follow the auditor general’s report to the ‘T’ is not going to solve the issue,” said Beaulieu.

“A lot of what the auditor general wants to do — they’re good things, under normal circumstances. But when you have a lot of alcohol involved and a lot of poverty involved, then those things won’t apply.”

Referring to the auditor general’s report, Beaulieu said 80 per cent of children in care are there as a result of alcohol abuse in the family. He said poverty is a result of the fact that there are not enough jobs to go around in small communities.

Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy said the department accepts all of the committee’s recommendations. But some, like developing standards for the number of cases front-line workers can reasonably be expected to handle, may take longer than the committee wants.

A lot of what the auditor general wants to do — they’re good things, under normal circumstances.

Tom Beaulieu

Abernethy said the department has started making changes to improve the quality of care. It’s begun a territory-wide recruitment campaign for front-line staff. As well, it’s provided additional training to supervisors, managers and assistant directors.

The department is spending an additional $3.3 million this year in an effort to address the shortcomings.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Child advocates worry about funding for Canada’s ‘path-breaking’ Indigenous child welfare bill, CBC News

Finland: One in 10 Finnish families with young children dealing with food insecurity: survey, Yle News

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska and its tribes sign child services agreement, Alaska Public Media

Richard Gleeson, CBC News

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