North

'We need people to help': Campaign launched to improve foster care in the N.W.T.

The recruitment drive is part of the government's plan to improve the quality of the child and family services it provides.

Main objective to improve match between foster kids and families

Foster Family Coalition executive director Tammy Roberts, centre, shows one of the recruitment campaign posters to Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy Thursday at the legislature in Yellowknife. (Richard Gleeson/CBC)

A drive is underway in the Northwest Territories to recruit adults interested in helping kids in need, with a view to better matching kids with foster and adoptive parents.

The campaign, which is a collaboration between the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT and the Department of Health and Social Services, includes a promotional video, flyers being delivered to homes across the territory, and posters hanging in every community.

"We want people who are loving, caring, can provide a safe place for children in need, if it's short-term, mid-term or longer term," said Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy. "We need people to help."

As of Nov. 1, 2018 there were 136 children and youth in foster care in the territory, according to the health department. Abernethy said there are more than that number living in their own homes receiving some form of help from the department's child and family services.

Anyone interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents can get support from both the government and the Foster Family Coalition. Executive director Tammy Roberts said the recruitment drive is more about improving the quality of foster care than addressing a shortage.

"There isn't a bunch of kids waiting, but it's nice when we have homes that come forward, we can see what their strengths are, then you can properly match kids with a caregiver that can meet their needs," said Roberts.

The recruitment drive is part of the government's plan to improve the quality of the child and family services it provides, in part to address severe shortcomings identified in a 2018 Auditor General of Canada report. The lead auditor said it was "deeply disappointed in the results" of its audit, which found issues such as children in the care of guardians who hadn't had basic background checks, and officials not properly supervising children placed outside of the territory.

The government is spending an additional $3.3 million to improve child and family services.

Part of that improvement plan is providing training to foster parents and making sure standards for foster care are being met in every home.

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