Lifting NWT Children, Youth and Families: An All of Territory Approach to Keeping Families Together

Message to Children and Youth:

Thank you to the children and youth in the territory who shared courageously with us. We heard you, we respect you, we value you. From you, we learn and take your lead.

 

Call for Champions:

All children are sacred. NWT children and youth are talented, unique and powerful. But not all children and youth have access to what they need. Over 98% of children and youth in care in the NWT are Indigenous, even though just 57% of the population of children and youth are Indigenous. The extent of destruction and trauma on Indigenous peoples, families and communities due to colonization, residential school and the 60’s Scoop, and the resulting overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care is a territorial crisis that requires an all of territory response.

We call for champions at all levels of governments, Indigenous governments and groups, non-governmental organizations, and allies to work together to provide a broader continuum of care, including supports and resources for all children and youth across the NWT.
 

Who are we?

The Standing Committee on Social Development (Committee) is a group of regular members of the Legislative Assembly. The Committee reviews legislation alongside NWT residents and makes recommendations to the territorial government to improve legislation, policies and process.

In April 2021, we began a mandatory review of the Child and Family Services Act. The review focused on prevention strategies to uplift children, youth and families with the ultimate goal to keep NWT families together.

Given the importance of this work, it was important to our team that this work was done differently. We took a holistic approach to how we engaged with community members, Indigenous governments and groups, and non-governmental organizations to help people feel comfortable speaking about difficult things. To create safe spaces, private and confidential listening sessions, counsellor and elder support, and mental health resources were made available. We are grateful to every individual who shared their perspectives, insights and lived experiences.

Culture

Culture is the living, breathing embodiment of a people expressed in all aspects of life beginning before birth and is present throughout a person’s entire journey. Over time, culture changes and innovates. Culture is a source of strength, healing and positive identity. Therefore, respectful incorporation of culture must be visible in implementing the recommendations below.

 

Recommendations:

Recommendation 1: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Government of the Northwest Territories declare the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in Child and Family Services a crisis and develop a whole of government response in partnership with Indigenous governments.

Recommendation 2: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services provide birthing support that is holistic, client-centred and culturally safe with doula and midwife services staffed in each regional center.

Recommendation 3: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services establish a territorial treatment addictions recovery program or treatment supports specifically for youth to remain in the territory and maintain their support systems.

Recommendation 4: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services create a pan territorial youth homelessness plan that expands safe community-based housing options by collaborating with communities and non-governmental organizations.

Recommendation 5: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services tailor the Healthy Family Program for vulnerable families to access culturally safe and affirming child-rearing practices and expand the program to all 33 communities.

Recommendation 6: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends Municipal and Community Affairs lead an all-of-government approach to ensuring access to recreational programming by providing additional funding for recreational facilities and programming so all families have increased access to these spaces outside regular business day hours and additional funding specifically for those children and youth in care to participate in extracurricular activities.

Recommendation 7: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services establish family mentorship pilot projects that pair vulnerable parents with grandparents or elders to share encouragement, child-rearing practices and Indigenous knowledge.

Recommendation 8: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services increase funding to Indigenous governments, communities and organizations to deliver addictions recovery on the land healing options specifically tailored to youth.

Recommendation 9: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services lead work with communities to establish culturally safe and gender-inclusive family violence emergency shelters in each NWT community with sustainable funding.

Recommendation 10: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department of Health and Social Services deliver and make mandatory culturally safe and trauma-informed training for foster families. 

Recommendation 11: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services establish a recruitment strategy to increase the number of Indigenous foster families, including encouraging extended families to care for children by providing additional financial resources and support.

Recommendation 12: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services develop a Child and Family Services evaluation and monitoring framework, including a data profile on children and youth in care.

Recommendation 13: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services establish an Indigenous Advisory Body sub-committee specifically for Child and Family Services. 

Recommendation 14: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services audit all Child and Family Services resources, ensuring they are all plain language, culturally safe and easily accessible online, including a plain language summary of the Child and Family Services Act.

Recommendation 15: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services provide legal services to parents as early as the plan of care stage with Child and Family Services.

Recommendation 16: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services make legislative changes to the Child and Family Service Act to support the readiness of Indigenous governments to draw down jurisdiction for child welfare, using trauma-informed language that centers children and youth as individuals with rights, ensures cultural continuity for Indigenous children and youth, and affirms the unique political relationship with Indigenous groups and peoples.

Recommendation 17: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services establish a comprehensive spectrum of services available to children, youth and adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and their parents and/or caregivers to prevent developmental delay and mobilize support for families.

Recommendation 18: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Department and Health and Social Services annual Quality Improvement Plan reporting include progress on the Committee’s recommendations.

Recommendation 19: The Standing Committee on Social Development recommends the Government of the Northwest Territories provide a response to this report in 120 days.

 

To read the full report, please download it here.

To read a visual summary, please download it here.

 

If you have questions about this report, please contact committees@ntassembly.ca.

If you would like to request hard copies of the visual summary, please contact LA_PAC@ntassembly.ca