The Foster Family Coalition of the NWT is looking for people across the territory to become foster parents.

“We pretty much are open to anybody who is interested and able to open their home,” says executive director Tammy Roberts. She says the coalition is looking for families interested in fostering short- and long-term, as well as adopting.

“It’s important to realize that there isn’t a bunch of kids waiting,” she says, adding 50 per cent of children receiving help are still in their own homes. “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.”

Minister of Health and Social Services Glen Abernethy says the ultimate goal is fewer kids in care. The number of children in permanent care has gone down in the past few years, he says, but the number of children accessing the system is up.

“We know there are more people accessing voluntary services, we know there are less people in permanent care. But even temporary care is important, we need to make sure we have foster families and other supports for short-term care as well.”

For now, Abernethy says the need is for ‘people who are loving, caring and can provide a safe place for kids in need. If it’s temporary or longer term, we need people to help.’

Abernethy says the foster family initiative is not related to the GNWT’s response to the auditor general’s report, although he says it ‘fits nicely.’

In October 2018, the Auditor General of Canada released its report on child and family services in the NWT. Of 37 foster care files the auditor reviewed, two-thirds of foster families had not been screened properly to begin with (a screening includes criminal record checks, home studies and references). This was the same finding the auditor made in a 2014 report. The auditor also found annual reviews of foster homes were incomplete in ‘almost all’ of the files, and quarterly reviews were not done for any of the homes.

“Children will remain at risk until the Department and the Health and Social Services
authorities make the changes they said were critical, and that they committed to making,” the auditor said.

The minister says a working group co-led by the coalition has been created. The group will recommend improvements to the foster care system, as well as address the needs for support and improve training for foster parents.