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The Department and regional authorities are not meeting key responsibilities for protecting children

Yellowknife, 4 March 2014—The Department of Health and Social Services and the Health and Social Services Authorities are not adequately meeting their key responsibilities to protect and ensure the well-being of children, youth and their families under the Child and Family Services Act, says Michael Ferguson, Auditor General of Canada, in his report presented today to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

“The Department of Health and Social Services and the Health and Social Services Authorities have a duty to protect and care for children when their parents fail to do so,” said Mr. Ferguson. “I am concerned that children are not receiving the protection and care required by the Child and Family Services Act.” said Mr. Ferguson.

The audit found that regional authorities were often quick to initiate investigations in response to reports of children needing protection, but not all reported concerns were investigated. Regional authorities are also falling short on other key legislative requirements, such as fully investigating and monitoring children’s safety and staying in regular contact with children in care. For example, they often did not complete the required screening of foster parents before placing children in homes, and they also did not perform the required annual reviews of homes to ensure children were receiving quality care.

The audit also found that the Department, which has overall responsibility for child and family services, has not ensured that regional authorities have the resources, guidance and tools they need to meet the day-to-day requirements for delivering child and family services. It also has not established an adequate framework to ensure regional authorities are accountable for delivering child and family services, and it does not adequately monitor whether authorities are delivering those services in compliance with the Child and Family Services Act.

“These are long-standing issues that are within the Department’s control to rectify,” said Mr. Ferguson. “Addressing the significant deficiencies we found will require the immediate attention and commitment of both the Department and the regional authorities.”

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The report “Child and Family Services in the Northwest Territories” is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada Web site.

For more information, please click here.