Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 18, 2014

Areas need improvement, AG report concludes

Key areas of responsibility under the Yukon’s Child and Family Services Act need improvement, says a report by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

By Chuck Tobin on February 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Key areas of responsibility under the Yukon’s Child and Family Services Act need improvement, says a report by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

The report was delivered today to the legislative assembly.

It acknowledges the government is fulfilling many of the requirements set out in act, which came into effect in April 2010.

There are, however, weaknesses in key areas that prevent the Department of Health and Social Services from providing the level of service required under the legislation, the report points out.

It says department staff, for instance, routinely develop case management plans for clients but more often than not they do not fulfill the requirement under the act to review and update the plans.

“In some files, the plans were six years out of date,” says the report, completed in early December.

“We also found that the department had not reviewed and updated the family assessments and child assessments to guide the plan.”

The report says without the regular reviews and updates required by the act, it’s difficult to determine if the service being provided is meeting the goals identified in the case management plan.

The department has agreed with all of the auditor’s recommendations. It did develop an action plan last September as a result of the auditor’s assessment of the fiscal year 2011-12, of how well the department was complying with the act in 2011-12.

The action plan is meant to bring the department into compliance by the end of next month, notes the office of the auditor.

The auditor draws attention to the need for a new computer program to assist staff in maintaining current client information and case files, as the existing system is old, slow and unreliable – and staff don’t like using it.

There is also acknowledgment of the trouble keeping full-time social workers in the communities, a problem for rural Canada in general.

The report by the office of the auditor notes the services under the act are provided by Family and Children’s Services, with an annual operating budget of $38.8 million for the fiscal 2011-12 year.

There were approximately 240 full-time equivalent positions, and the branch provided service to 579 families and had 211 children in its care that year.

The report also indicates that in the fiscal year of 2007-08, the number of children under Yukon government care was four times greater than the national average.

Of the 49 files reviewed by the office of the auditor involving child protection services, 37 per cent involved First Nation clients while the Yukon’s First Nations account for 23 per cent of the territory’s population.

Of the 49 files reviewed, 44 involved the use of alcohol and drugs as a factor in the requirement for child protection.

The report found Family and Children’s Services did fulfill the requirement of contacting the First Nations to which the client belonged, and that it did maintain contact with the First Nation.

“These requirements are important because they help to keep children connected to their communities and cultures,” says the report.

On the other hand, the report goes on to note that while First Nations generally describe the act in a positive light, “because there is no funding attached to some of the services outlined in the act, such as family support and prevention, First Nations have been unable to participate in providing these services to the extent they feel necessary.”

The office of the auditor made a total of five recommendations.

It recommended, for instance, the department take greater care that children in its custody have access to annual medical and dental checkups.

It’s of the utmost importance that transition plans be developed for clients who have been in the care of the government but are about to reach 19, at which time they enter adult life, says the report.

“This is cause for concern, particularly because studies show that many youth who leave foster care have difficulties as they transition to adult life,” says the report, which goes on to recommend:

“Transitional case plans should be developed for youth who are in the department’s care or custody. The plans should be in place for these youth, starting at age 16 and until they leave the department’s care or custody.”

The office of the auditor found the department was fulfilling the requirements in assessing qualifications for foster home parents and family.

But it’s not fulfilling the requirement of performing annual reviews of each foster home, and it needs to, says the report.

“Between April 2010 and June 2013, it should have conducted 45 annual reviews for the 20 foster homes files we examined,” says the report. “While the department had conducted parts of the annual review process for some foster homes, it had completed only seven reviews in full.”

The report recommends the annual report by the department to the Health minister be more than just a description about the type of work carried out by Family and Children’s Services.

It recommends – and the government has agreed – that the annual report provide performance indicators that will allow the minister to determine if the branch is fulfilling its obligations under the act.

Representatives from the office of the auditor held a briefing at noon today to answers any questions regarding the report.

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