Nova Scotia Auditor General Slams Oversight of Child Care Homes

A scathing report by Nova Scotia's Auditor General Kim Adair criticizes the Department of Community Services for inadequate oversight of temporary emergency arrangements (TEAs) and child and youth care homes, putting 227 vulnerable children at risk, with a 283% increase in TEAs over five years, and a lack of regular contact between social workers and children in care." This description focuses on the primary topic of the report's criticism of the Department of Community Services, the main entities involved (Auditor General Kim Adair and the Department of Community Services), the context of Nova Scotia, and the significant consequences of the inadequate oversight. The description also provides objective and relevant details, such as the number of children at risk and the increase in TEAs, which will help guide the AI in creating an accurate visual representation of the article's content.

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Nitish Verma
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Nova Scotia Auditor General Slams Oversight of Child Care Homes

Nova Scotia Auditor General Slams Oversight of Child Care Homes

Nova Scotia's Auditor General Kim Adair has released a scathing report criticizing the Department of Community Services for inadequate oversight of temporary emergency arrangements (TEAs) and child and youth care homes, putting vulnerable children at greater risk. The report, discussed in a committee meeting at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, highlights the plight of 227 children placed in TEAs with an average stay of 252 days and 271 children in youth care homes, many of whom are not receiving proper care.

Why this matters: The failure to provide adequate care and oversight for vulnerable children can have long-term consequences on their physical and emotional well-being, as well as perpetuate cycles of neglect and abuse. Moreover, the mismanagement of resources and lack of accountability in the Department of Community Services can erode public trust in government institutions and undermine efforts to protect those most in need.

The report reveals that TEAs, intended as short-term solutions, have seen a troubling upward trend over the past five years. The number of approved TEAs has skyrocketed by 283%, from 36 to 138, with the cost ballooning from $4.6 million to a staggering $27.9 million. Children in care homes, ranging from 3 to 18 years old with an average age of 14, are frequently moved between different homes, with an average stay of 240 days.

Adair expressed grave concerns over the Department of Community Services' failure to adequately oversee child and youth care homes and assess and manage risks related to TEAs. "Temporary emergency arrangements are necessary in some situations, but our audit work shows the province's growing reliance on these interim measures," Adair stated. "Their use is becoming more frequent, and children are not staying in these for short periods of time at a significant cost to the department."

The report also highlights the lack of regular contact between social workers and children in TEAs, as mandated by the department's standards. This gap in communication, coupled with incomplete unannounced visits to TEAs, may hinder social workers' ability to thoroughly assess the well-being of the child, plan for their care, and be fully aware of the condition of the home and the quality of care the child is receiving.

In response to the report, the Department of Community Services has agreed to address all five recommendations related to TEAs and the 15 recommendations regarding the functioning and monitoring of children in child and youth care homes by September 2025. The Children and Family Services Act, which determines when and how children at risk of harm or neglect can be placed in the custody of the Minister of Community Services, is set for review in 2024.

The Auditor General's report serves as a wake-up call for the Department of Community Services to prioritize the well-being and safety of vulnerable children in their care. As the province grapples with the growing reliance on temporary emergency arrangements and the challenges faced by children in care homes, immediate action is crucial to ensure that every child receives the care, attention, and support they deserve.

Key Takeaways

  • Nova Scotia's Auditor General criticizes Department of Community Services for inadequate oversight of temporary emergency arrangements (TEAs) and child care homes.
  • 227 children in TEAs with an average stay of 252 days, and 271 children in youth care homes, many without proper care.
  • TEAs have increased by 283% over 5 years, with costs rising from $4.6 million to $27.9 million.
  • Lack of regular contact between social workers and children in TEAs, and incomplete unannounced visits, hinders assessment of child well-being.
  • Department of Community Services agrees to address all recommendations by September 2025, with Children and Family Services Act review in 2024.