Yukon child welfare must do better: auditor general

The Yukon government is failing to fulfill some of its key responsibilities for the protection of at-risk children and families, according to a new auditor general's report.

The Yukon government is failing to fulfill some of its key responsibilities for the protection of at-risk children and families, according to a new auditor general’s report.

Child and Family Services failed in most cases to regularly update the individual plans that guide social workers when working with a child or a family, as is required by policy and legislation, the report found.

“The department developed case plans for families and plans of care for children, but it did not review and update most of these plans,” said Ronnie Campbell, assistant auditor general of Canada, at a news conference Tuesday.”

“Without updated plans, the department does not know whether plans are being implemented as intended or whether plans are addressing children’s and families’ needs. These documents are one of the department’s main means of ensuring that it is looking after the best interests of the children, a matter of paramount importance.”

The department also is not doing enough to ensure children in care have access to annual medical and dental check-ups, according to the report.

Of the cases reviewed, 63 per cent had received a medical exam in the past year and 52 per cent had been to the dentist.

Child and Family Services also failed in most cases to develop a transitional plan for youth ages 16 to 19 to ease them into their adult lives.

“This is cause for concern, particularly since studies show that many youth who leave foster care have difficulties as they make the transition to adult life,” said Campbell.

The department also failed to conduct annual reviews of foster homes in most cases.

Staff from Child and Family Services identified two main challenges in completing their duties, said Campbell.

The first is recruiting and keeping social workers in Yukon communities.

Between March 2010 and March 2013 several communities went at least a year without a permanent social worker.

Another challenge is the out-of-date software the department uses to track cases.

The DOS-based Client Index System has been in use since 1999.

Staff said that in rural communities it can take up to 20 minutes for the system to accept a keystroke, and many simply do not use it because it is so slow, according to the report.

Because the software is used inconsistently, the department does not have reliable data for reporting purposes.

Child and Family Services has agreed to all of the auditor general’s recommendations, including upgrading its case management software.

“We realize we have some problems and we’re going to work on those right away,” said Doug Graham, minister of health and social services.

The next step will be for the department to come up with an action plan and timelines to achieve those goals, he said.

“It’s going to take an effort on the department’s behalf. We’re going to have to work on implementation of a new computerized system in some form, that’s for sure. We’re going to have to work on reviewing and updating case plans because obviously that’s something we have to do.”

The department should be able to achieve those goals at existing staffing and budget levels, he said.

“We have adequate resources to get the job done.”

Overall the staff do a great job and work hard to meet the department’s goals, he said.

“I have a great deal of faith in them.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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