This is page numbers 5333 - 5364 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was services. View the webstream of the day's session.

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Committee Motion 95-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Draft Action or Implementation Plan, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5341

The Chair Daniel McNeely

Question has been called. All in favour of the motion? Against? Abstentions? Passed.

---Carried

Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

March 11th, 2019

Page 5341

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair, I move that this Assembly recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services act immediately to ensure that all gaps in screenings and reviews identified by the Office of the Auditor General, including screening for guardianship agreements and foster homes, are addressed, and that it advise the committee when this is completed.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5341

The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Testart. To the motion. Ms. Green.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I wonder if it is appropriate in this setting to ask the Minister whether he can report on this recommendation at this time. Is that possible?

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Not at this time. Mr. Thompson.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I support this motion; however, I am a little concerned that it reports to the Committee on Government Operations instead of the Standing Committee of Social Development. Social development is the committee that will end up with this document after the Auditor General's report, and direction will come to social development. That is my concern with it. It can be cc'd to the Standing Committee on Government Operations, but it should go to standing committee. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5341

The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Thompson. Mr. Testart.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5341

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I will address the comments made by my honourable friend from Nahendeh. The committee's remit in this instance is to consider the report of the Auditor General, and to again ensure that this is not a "one and done" process, that we remain in constant contact on these issues, and to ensure that they are addressed.

I appreciate where the Member is coming from, but the committee does want to ensure that these recommendations are followed to the satisfaction of our findings and the satisfaction of the recommendations made in this report. It's a small Assembly. We work very closely together on both sides of the House, and I think we can ensure that the Standing Committee on Social Development is engaged in this, and certainly, if that standing committee has the department and this area of the department's work within its own mandate, it can certainly act on that to enquire further. Our work is solely related to the Auditor General's report and the specific recommendations.

I think there could be more work to be done on this issue, especially around this area. If the department completes its recommendation, then our work is done, but Social Development may want to reach further and develop more scrutiny on this area of child and family services. I encourage the Member who is chair of that committee to look into that, but I think it's important that the Standing Committee on Government Operations continue to pay close attention to the outcomes of the department's work in responding to the Auditor General's reports.

To the specific recommendation, Mr. Chair, there were very troubling findings in the Auditor General's report around screenings and reviews for, in particular, guardianship agreements in foster homes, and we want to ensure that those screenings have been done because, at the time of the issuance of the report, many had not been done. This is about ensuring that children in these homes and in these agreements are safe, that the agreements are compliant with the relevant legislation and regulations, and that the department knows these facts are true. With that, I encourage everyone to support the motion. Thank you.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5341

The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Testart. To the motion. Mr. Abernethy.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Chair. We agree with the Auditor General that all the foster homes must be appropriately screened, assessed, and reviewed, and also supporting documentation be placed in the files to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in foster care. We do take a responsibility to ensure that we are placing children with properly approved, trained, and nurturing foster parents very seriously; however, compliance with the standards that would assess those various things as the Members have indicated was very low. The ongoing quality review process we've implemented will better monitor compliance to the standards that ensure proper assessments are completed prior to children being placed in a foster home, and allow for timely feedback to the front line staff.

New tools, Mr. Chair, are in place, Matrix NWT, which includes checklists, reminders, and approval processes. This will support improvements to the screening and monitoring of foster homes. Improvements to the staff and the caseload, as well as training for both staff and foster parents, will ensure supports are available for prospective and future foster parents.

Mr. Chair, the authority is taking a broader approach than improving the gaps found by the OAG in their screening reviews for foster homes, for example, the 37 files that have been raised previously. All open foster homes in the Northwest Territories are being reviewed in regard to addressing any gaps to ensure that children are being placed in homes with appropriate documentation and screening. The authority completed their first quality review for foster care service, which covered a three-month period. The authority is working with each region, the TCSA, and Hay River to develop and implement strategies to continue to make improvements and improve on compliance.

Mr. Chair, this recommendation, in my mind, also speaks to guardianship agreements and orders, and we accept that there was confusion and a lack of clarity in our standards around the role of child protection workers in supporting guardianship applications in the court. This one really is about helping keep Indigenous families together. This is something that I know the honourable Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh and I heard loud and clear when we travelled throughout the Northwest Territories on our initial review of child and family services.

To ensure due diligence in transferring guardianship from the director to a prospective guardian, a new standard has been developed that requires proper assessment to be completed in order to ensure the safety and well-being of childcare. The standard identified processes for assessing prospective guardians, financial support through voluntary support service agreements, requirements for ensuring guardians understand their roles, and for situations in which guardians return children to the care of their parents. With guardianship, it is the parents who are the key decision-makers in allowing their children to be placed with guardians.

We did seek legal advice on whether child and family services can screen new guardians, where permanent custody orders have been withdrawn and the guardianship order has been granted. For the cases identified in the Auditor General's review, the department cannot retrospectively screen guardians once a guardianship has been assigned through a legal agreement. Once the director is no longer the legal custodian of a child, Child and Family Services has no legal right to be involved with the family, unless there is a new child protection concern. This standard that we have developed is to make sure that we are doing our work on the front end, rather than having to come back at a later time.

We agree with the recommendation in principle. We look forward to making progress in this area. As it is a recommendation to government, Cabinet will be abstaining. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Minister Abernethy. To the motion. Mr. Beaulieu.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I was hoping that there would be a bit of an opportunity to just speak in general terms about all of the motions, and I just thought this would be as good a time as any to just speak in general about my own feelings about what happened with child and family services and the auditor's report.

I strongly feel that to follow the auditor's report to the T is not going to solve the issue. Unfortunately, the department has tried almost everything according to the act to try to resolve child and family services, but it can't be resolved until we deal with the root problems that are facing child and family services.

Maybe this seems to be out of place, but I just feel that I have to speak up at this point. It is in the Auditor's report, a clear indication in the Auditor's report, that there are 1,000 kids going through child and family services or through care or are in some sort of care, whether it be care at home or care in somebody else's foster home, and 80 percent of those are related to alcohol. I know that the department has an addictions plan, and what I would like to see done is that addictions plan amalgamated into Child and Family Services first off, at the very beginning, to try to resolve the root problems. If we follow the act, which we have a legal obligation to do, it will make it a lot easier if we are dealing with families that are sober. The Auditor General said it, but I didn't know the number. I knew it was high, but I didn't know the number, and right now, we are looking at this number that the Auditor General put out, that 80 percent, or, in other words, 800 out of 1,000 kids who are in care are because of alcohol-related issues. You look at that, and it seems like just about everything stems from that.

I am a firm believer that kids in care are coming from poverty and that poverty is something that we need to address in order for the families to stay together. I think that I have said this in the House, and it is not a comfortable thing to say, but I have said it many times, and it is because it appears as though some of these kids in foster care are in foster because their families are poor. Do poor families and poor parents have the right to have kids? They do, and they should be supported in order to keep their kids. If poverty is the reason, if alcohol is the reason, we should address those root problems. Why are kids poor? Because there is a lack of employment. You take a look at what is happening in our communities; there are low employment rates, and the kids come from those communities, where there are low employment rates.

Just based on the numbers, there could be a lot of kids out of Yellowknife as well. I realize that. For the mainstream people who have work, many double incomes or even one good single income, their kids aren't being taken away for the most part. It happens. It happens to everyone, but for the most part, it is not happening. It would also be good to take a look at the work that is being done by the anti-poverty group and, again, amalgamate that into the Child and Family Services action plan that is directed by the Auditor General.

Maybe the Auditor General doesn't have all of the answers. Maybe we have the answers, as well, and some of the people in the communities, maybe they have the answers, as well. I agree with a lot of what the Auditor General is saying, and a lot of what the Auditor General wants to do are good things under normal circumstances, but when you have a lot of alcohol involved and you have a lot of poverty involved, then those things won't apply. This is assuming that people, you know, were rich enough to be able to care for their kids, and it is all neglect, that they are losing their kids because of other reasons other than alcohol and poverty. I feel that that is what it is.

I also think that we need to start looking at the justice system and determine how many of our inmates have come through the foster care system. That is something that is important. I think that we have to look at housing, and we have to take housing and make sure that the kids have proper housing.

I am seeing this as a real opportunity for the government to have a real integrated approach with all of the departments. I know that Education, Culture and Employment is responsible for employing or providing support for individuals, and I think that that support should be sufficient so that individuals do get to keep their children at home.

I guess the last thing that I just want to talk about that was in the Auditor General's report is the training of foster parents. I think that what is important in order to keep the foster children in their home communities is to train the foster parents and find foster parents. Maybe some people don't think that they are capable of being foster parents, and maybe they are. Some are not eligible, I realize that, but many can be eligible. With proper training and proper supports, I think that it is something that will actually resolve the issue.

If we follow a plan that is developed according to what the Auditor General put out, we are going to probably fail. I mean, I am not surprised that the Auditor General indicated that things got worse, because yes, well, if you just follow a plan that is put together from the outside, then it is not going to work. There needs to be an approach by everyone and we have to address the root problems that are facing us and that are causing us to have to take a lot of kids into care.

I just wanted to make those comments for the record, Mr. Chair, because I think that, if we just follow what the Auditor General said, I think the next group will be sitting here facing the same problems the next time the Auditor General does a report on Child and Family Services for our territory. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5342

The Chair Daniel McNeely

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. To the motion.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 5342

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Committee Motion 96-18(3): Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of the 2018 Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Northwest Territories (Child and Family Services) - Gaps in Screening and Reviews, Carried
Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Daniel McNeely

Question has been called. All in favour? Against? Abstentions? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Mr. Testart.