Capacity expansion in foster system needed now: NDP

Children being placed in hotel rooms as Social Services is out of capacity

The Opposition is asking where the Minister of Social Services is and what she’s doing about a further development in the crisis in Social Services’ foster care system. The New Democrats are calling for an urgent campaign to expand the child welfare capacity – including hiring more front-line case workers, actively recruiting foster families, and expanding family and parenting support programming.

In Regina, every foster home is full, every emergency space is full and since May 23, children that come into the care of Social Services are being put in hotel rooms. This according to an investigative media report released Friday afternoon.

“There has been a decade of record prosperity in Saskatchewan, but our foster system is a mess. Too many children are unsupported, and some have been in danger. We know this government doesn’t have enough front-line case workers and we know the over-stressed and under-resourced child protection program is mired in bad communication and poor record-keeping. We also suspect that disorganization and lack of front-line support is scaring off foster parents and potential foster parents,” said David Forbes, NDP critic for Social Services.

“The Sask. Party keeps making up excuses for the state of the child protection system. Enough is enough. The overhaul needs to start now.”

Forbes said the Sask. Party has been highly dismissive of significant concerns in child welfare, even making up untrue examples of progress to shut down questions. For example, in response to concerns repeatedly raised by the Advocate for Children and Youth about too-heavy front-line caseloads, government parrots that it hired 90 workers – never mentioning that they also cut 100 workers at about the same time. In another example, the advocate twice recommended in writing that an independent caseload study and plan be developed, and twice the government responded in writing that it had already contracted an independent body to do that when it actually hadn’t.

“We’re not looking for dismissive defenses – especially twisted fabrications,” said Forbes. “We’re looking for changes that better protect very vulnerable children.”

The Opposition has been calling for an overhaul of the child welfare system that includes licensing foster homes, using social workers licensed with the Saskatchewan Association of Social Work, a hard cap on the number of children in a foster home, more front-line care workers and more training that is more timely for foster families.

Better care for foster children will result in lower costs to the justice system, the adult welfare system and the health system, contends the NDP.