Child and Family Services in Nunavut—Government of Nunavut failing to protect vulnerable children and youth

Child and Family Services in NunavutGovernment of Nunavut failing to protect vulnerable children and youth

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Iqaluit, 30 May 2023—A report from Auditor General Karen Hogan tabled today in the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut concludes that the Department of Family Services failed to protect vulnerable children and support families, front line workers, and communities, and that the Department of Health and the Department of Human Resources have not provided needed support and resources in critical areas such as training, staffing, and staff housing. This is the third time since 2011 that the Office of the Auditor General of Canada has raised such concerns.

The audit found that the Department of Family Services did not always respond to reports of suspected harm, it did not complete investigations, and it did not monitor the welfare of children following interventions. Early audit findings were so alarming that the Office of the Auditor General immediately raised concerns in letters to the department, citing the inadequate response to reported cases of child maltreatment, the insufficient supervision of children and youth in care, and the gaps in meeting obligations for the health and safety of employees.

The audit also found that there was no evidence that the department was doing essential check‑ins and screenings to ensure that the children who were placed in foster care were safe. For example, only 2 of 12 new foster homes in the audit sample had undergone criminal record checks of the adults living in these homes. “In the case of 23 children and youth placed in care outside the territory, we did not see evidence that community social services workers checked in monthly with youngsters as required. These check‑ins are meant to ensure that children and youth are housed in appropriate conditions and receiving the psychological, emotional, and cultural support they need,” said Ms. Hogan.

The audit found that the department’s failure to meet its responsibilities is linked to a number of root causes that have contributed to this persistent and chronic crisis. These root causes include funding, the inability to hire and retain permanent staff, and a lack of housing, office space, and timely training for front line workers. These challenges are compounded by poor information management practices. Access to reliable, accurate, and up-to-date files in a central system—and training staff to use it—is essential for continuity of knowledge about the status of vulnerable children, youth, and families.

In a departure from usual practice, the audit report provides no formal recommendations. It instead calls for immediate action—a whole‑of‑government approach to overcome the challenges in protecting children and youth in Nunavut’s 25 communities. “The departments agreed to the recommendations in our previous 2 reports, but we have yet to see vulnerable children receive the protection they deserve,” said Ms. Hogan. “This report is more than statistics, trends, and a compilation of facts—it is an urgent call to action.”

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The report Child and Family Services in Nunavut is available on the Office of the Auditor General of Canada website.

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