The government of Nunavut is failing in nearly every area associated with protecting vulnerable children, says Auditor General Karen Hogan in a scathing report issued Tuesday.
“This audit report describes a crisis. It is a call for change. We are urging the Government of Nunavut to take immediate action to protect the vulnerable children and youth of the territory,” said Hogan in the report.
Hogan said her audit found that the territory isn’t supporting vulnerable children, supporting families, front-line workers or communities.
Hogan’s report is aimed at Nunavut’s Department of Health, Department of Human Resources and Department of Family Services, for not providing needed support and resources in critical areas such as training, staffing and staff housing.
According to Hogan, this is the third time since 2011 her office has raised these 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,” said Hogan.
“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.”
Hogan’s report also found that there was no evidence that family services was doing “essential check-ins and screenings to ensure that the children who were placed in foster care were safe.”
The report cites the fact that only two of 12 new foster homes in the “audit sample” had undergone criminal record checks of the adults living in the 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,” Hogan said.
She said a number of root causes have contributed to the “persistent and chronic crisis” including, “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,” said Hogan.
Hogan didn’t offer any recommendations in the audit, rather called 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 Hogan. “This report is more than statistics, trends, and a compilation of facts—it is an urgent call to action.”
In a statement posted online, Margaret Nakashuk, minister of family services in Nunavut said she fully accepts the contents of the audit.
“I am deeply committed to making the changes that need to be made. My officials are moving forward with a roadmap that lays out a whole-of-government approach,” she said.
According to Nakashuk, her department is developing a plan with “broad objectives and a detailed framework with measurable outcomes.”
“Work will include all levels of the department and government, as well as community and Inuit stakeholders.”