Northwest Territories MLAs are telling the department of Health and Social Services to hurry up and finish updating its manual for child protection workers.
The document has not been updated to keep pace with new legislation since it was first developed in 1998.
“The MLAs were blunt that it’s an embarrassment that this has taken 16 years to complete and I can't argue with that, but we are determined to be the team that gets it done,” says Debbie DeLancey, the deputy minister of Health and Social Services.
MLAs met this week to review an Auditor General’s report on Children and Family Services in the Northwest Territories that found major problems with the foster care in the territory, including the fact that two-thirds of foster homes were not screened before children were placed there.
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The same report found that “the department’s guidance and tools to support the delivery of child and family services are inadequate.”
It found the department began work to update Child and Family Services Standards and Procedures Manual eight years ago, but the changes are still not complete.
The manual is used by child protection workers in the territories.
“The manual is really the document that any child protection worker can turn to if they need to check a standard or understand what they need to do next or who to call or what tool they can use to assess whether a child's in a safe situation so it really is a very important document,” Delancey says.
The report found the manual was missing information on “key steps in the investigation process, administering plan-of-care agreements, and screening prospective foster care applicants,” which was leading to “inconsistencies in intervention approaches.”
Some regional authorities had developed their own supplemental standards — to guide staff in things like case management, foster care home approval, and periodic reviews of child files — but there was no formal mechanism to share these tools.
A departmental response contained in that report said the updates would be completed early in 2014.
Now Delancey says her department aims to complete the Standards and Procedures Manual by December.