Nova Scotia Partnership Framework for Enhancement Focused Approach - July 2008

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Table of contents

Preamble

The enactment of Nova Scotia's Children and Family Services Act in 1991 emphasized the importance of prevention services for families at risk. Nova Scotia's prevention services for families are designed with three ends in mind:

In 2005, the Province of Nova Scotia ordered a public inquiry into the death of Theresa McEvoy; a mother and teacher, who was the victim of a fatal car crash. Questions were raised about the youth who drove the car that struck Ms. McEvoy's vehicle, given that the youth stole the car he was driving and had previous/extensive involvement with the justice system (having only been released from youth custody two days prior to the fatal accident). Although the primary impetus for the inquiry was Ms. McEvoy's tragic death, the inquiry additionally looked at youth crime given the youth offender's history and previous contact with the law.

Justice Merlin Nunn's commissioned report into the death of Theresa McEvoy was released December 2006. Justice Nunn's report referenced strongly the critical need and importance of early intervention and prevention services for children/youth and families. Government responded to Justice Nunn's report in January 2007; accepting all 34 recommendations of the report. The Minister of Community Services undertook responsibility for services to children, youth and families and since February 2007, the Department of Community Services has:

Prevention services build on a family's strengths and help address family issues in collaborative ways. First Nations children and families served by a Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services have not received the full benefit of the prevention focused child welfare practice, because of their inability to provide family enhancement based services. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services, INAC and the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services have agreed to work together to improve family focused services on reserve.

Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services, INAC and the Department of Community Services are committed to improving outcomes for First Nations children and families. All parties recognize the benefits of supporting families, preventing crisis situations from developing and working in partnership with communities. The family based prevention emphasis in the Children and Family Services Act, has led to better outcomes for children and families. It enables parents, families and communities to problem solve together to prevent crisis situations from developing, which may lead to children coming into care.

Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services must have the capacity to provide the full range of services set out in Nova Scotia's legislation, regulations and standards/policy. In order for this to occur three things must happen:

Background

A tripartite agreement sets out the terms and conditions for child welfare services delivered to First Nations children living on reserve in Nova Scotia. Under the agreement, the Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services Agency is required to follow provincial legislation and the Department of Community Services' child welfare policies, standards and protocols. The Agreement clearly identifies roles and responsibilities of all parties (INAC, Nova Scotia and Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services). INAC provides the funding;Footnote 1 Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services delivers the services; and the Department of Community Services contributes both financially and in kind.

The Department of Community Services contributes a number of in kind services to Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services, including:

In addition, the Province of Nova Scotia supports the work that Mi'kmaw Family and Children Services does in their Restorative Justice program, Family Conferencing Circles, and Customary Care and Custom Adoption practices. Department of Community Services views Mi'kmaw Family & Children's services as a fully integrated part of the Provincial child welfare system, viewing the Agency as a fifth region in a four region province.

Although the agreement has formed the basis for an excellent working partnership between the three parties for many years, improvements in service delivery are still called for. In 2005, Mi'kmaw people represented 1.2% of Nova Scotia's total population however, Mi'kmaw children represented 15% of all children in care. This is seven times higher than the provincial average.

The higher number of children in care in First Nations communities is part of a broader social issue. The 2003 Child Incidence Survey indicated that major contributing reasons for children coming into care are poverty, poor housing conditions, substance abuse and exposure to family violence; conditions that may be found on reserve. While the relevant partners work to address these broader issues, strengthening the First Nations Child and Family Services is part of the solution.

In 2005, the Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services submitted a Business Plan for Flexible Funding, the goal of which was to move towards a more proactive, early intervention approach. The programs which were developed and implemented were very successful and achieved the intended goals. Experience to date has been that the number of children has stabilized and maintenance costs have declined. The result of this was the signing of a Flexible Funding for Operations and Maintenance agreement, effective 2006.

In June of 2007, Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services, INAC, and the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services expressed a strong joint interest in working together to implement a more flexible, child, youth & family enhancement (early intervention and prevention) focused approach. A joint working group was then established to develop an enhanced, prevention-focused approach for First Nations children; one that more fully reflects the traditions and values of the Mi'kmaw community and is consistent with the principles and aims of the Children and Family Services Act.

Vision, Beliefs and Principles

Vision

  • First Nations children, youth and families will be well cared for, safe and healthy.

Beliefs

  • First Nations children, youth and families have strengths and potential.
  • First Nations communities are committed to and are in the process of building capacity to support First Nations children, youth and families.
  • Individuals, families, communities and governments are working towards achieving better outcomes for First Nations children and youth who come into contact with the child and family services on-reserve.

Principles

  • First Nations children, youth and families do best when they feel connected to their culture and traditions and supported by their community.
  • First Nations families need to be able to access child, youth & family enhancement and support services early, before a crisis occurs.
  • Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services alone cannot keep children safe; community members have an important role to play in supporting local children, youth and families.
  • Efforts to reduce child maltreatment and neglect should be part of the broader social initiatives and priorities within each First Nations community.
  • Services to First Nations children, youth and families should be individualized, recognizing and respecting their unique characteristics, culture and traditions.
  • Service providers can most effectively support First Nations children, youth and families when they collaborate and work toward common goals.
  • Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services and related community-based services will have the opportunity to support the above principles.

Objectives

Nova Scotia Model: Prevention & Early Intervention Services

Prevention and early intervention services for families builds on successful practices; such as early intervention and prevention services, service integration and increased access to community-based services. They encourage willing families to stay involved to meet their child's needs. As a result, families feel more comfortable seeking help before problems become critical. Families link to community-based programs and services which will work with them to identify their strengths, reduce risk factors, promote/increase resiliency and access needed services.

Nova Scotia's prevention services to families transforms outcomes for children and youth by supporting and strengthening families through extended family members, networks of community-based services and other natural supports in the community. Simply put, Nova Scotia's prevention services to families is family-focused practice with child-centered outcomes.

Strategic Priorities 2008 to 2013

Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will focus on the following three broad strategic directions that form the approach in delivering prevention and early intervention and support services. This will assist the agency in addressing issues and trends affecting First Nation on reserve children, youth, families and communities to achieve their goals:

  1. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will implement a culturally appropriate differential response approach to address the needs of children at risk and their families.
  2. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will ensure that children reside in permanent nurturing placements. Targeted case management strategies will continue to be developed and implemented to increase the emphasis on traditional customary care and custom adoption practices with extended family and to support the role of family/those considered as family (grandparents and godparents, in permanency planning. At present, approximately 75 children are in this category of care, supported by the use of Family Conferencing and Circles.
  3. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will continue to engage with the Inter-agency Committee in each community to develop and implement strategies that will enhance relationships with key partners and community resources to provide integrated services for children, youth and families. This will involve continued dialogue and working partnerships with community partners to promote the capacity of communities to both intervene early and strengthen and preserve families.

Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services must have the ability to provide services in accordance with legislation, regulations and standards. The Mi'kmaw agency has demonstrated that changes, introduced through the Business Plan for Flexible Funding have resulted in the provision of better services and outcomes for children and families. These changes have increased expectations for services and programs and have widened the gap between service need and the ability of First Nations to meet that need. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services, INAC and the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services are committed to ensuring that all children and families in Nova Scotia benefit from Child, Youth & Family support and enhancement.

Goals, Strategies and Performance Measures

Goal One

Provide safe and nurturing environments for children to develop to their full potential in communities that will provide a full range of community based, prevention orientated supports for both children and their families.

What it means:

First Nations recognize the importance of setting the foundations for children to learn, grow and reach their potential. While parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children, government, communities, extended families, organizations, schools and businesses all have supporting roles to play in meeting the needs of children and youth.

Expected outcomes: Children and youth are physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually and spiritually healthy. Children and youth meet individual developmental milestones.

Strategies:

  1. Strengthen and continue to integrate community-based support and early intervention services for First Nation children, youth and families; particularly with respect to early intervention, enhanced support and post intervention services.
  2. Continuing our partnerships and working relationships with National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NNADAP), Health, Education, Schools, Social Services, Chief & Council Leadership and Elders.
  3. Family Support Workers intervene early; provide intense in-home services based on and supported by assessments and linkages to appropriate community resources.
Goal One – Performance Measure for years 2008 through 2013
Performance Measure Target
2008-09
Target
2009-10
Target
2010-11
Target
2011-12
Target
2012-13
Percentage of families who are served by a community resource and indicate positive outcomes Baseline to be determined Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline

Goal Two

Programs and services will support families and foster healthy child development.

What it means:

Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will work in partnership with the Department of Community Services and all partners to promote community-based strategies and resources that help families be safe, healthy and self-reliant in over coming at-risk circumstances.

Expected Outcomes: Children, youth and families overcome at risk environments. Children, youth and families are safe, healthy, resilient and self-reliant.

Strategies:

  1. Implement the First Nation differential response model.
  2. Implement the Casework Practice Model that supports leading social work practice in implementing differential response.
  3. Work with other partners to develop a seamless continuum of services to preserve families and support their ability to nurture children's well-being and development.
Goal Two – Performance Measure for years 2008 through 2013
Performance Measure Target
2008-09
Target
2009-10
Target
2010-11
Target
2011-12
Target
2012-13
Percentage of families who are referred to Family Support and Enhancement services

Percentage of children in a First Nation / Aboriginal placement

Percentage of children and youth reported to be at-risk who received family support and enhancement services and afterwards did not require child protection services within a 12-month period
Baseline to be determined Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline

Goal Three

Children in care will be supported through a range of interventions and placed in permanent, culturally appropriate and nurturing placements.

What it means:

Every child deserves a home where they are safe and nurtured. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services intervene to support families in providing children with environments that are safe and nurturing and free from abuse and neglect. When circumstances require children to be taken into care, the goal is to reunite the children with their families or to place children in other nurturing permanent homes as soon as possible.

Expected Outcomes: Children and youth in need are protected from further abuse and neglect. Children and youth in care are placed in secure and stable environments that allow for the development of life-long relationships and connection to family, culture and community.

Strategies:

  1. Increase the number of permanent placements of First Nation children.
  2. Explore permanency planning options for children and placement in other nurturing, permanent homes, with priority on placing children with extended families and/or kinship homes.
Goal Three – Performance Measure for years 2008 through 2013
Performance Measure Target
2008-09
Target
2009-10
Target
2010-11
Target
2011-12
Target
2012-13
Percentage and number of children in kinship care

Percentage and number of children in a permanent placement

Average number of days a child spends in care until a permanent placement is secured

Number of placements for children in care

Percentage of First Nation / Aboriginal children in foster care that are placed with First Nation Aboriginal families
Baseline to be determined Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline

Goal Four

To support youth who are under the care and custody of Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services to successfully transition to independence as young adults.

What it means:

First Nations have the desire, ability and commitment to improve outcomes for and the success of their First Nations children. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services works with various stakeholders to build on the strengths of First Nation communities in supporting youth in the successful transition to young adulthood and to receive assistance to obtain further learning, employment and adult supports where needed.

Expected Outcomes: Youth who are in the care and custody of Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services successfully transition to independence as young adults.

Strategies:

  1. Work with key partners and service providers to ensure youth in care and those who recently left care (19–21 years) are provided with the opportunity to access vocational and educational pursuits.
  2. Work with key partners to ensure youth who have disabilities receive the services they need in order to achieve their developmental milestones and successfully transition to adulthood.
  3. Ensure that transition planning occurs for all youth in care, including cultural connections and sense of belonging/identity to family and communities of origin.
  4. Improve access to mentoring programs to help increase the educational attainment of youth in care, and ensure that plans are in place to support the needs for a successful transition of youth to adulthood.
Goal Four – Performance Measure for years 2008 through 2013
Performance Measure Target
2008-09
Target
2009-10
Target
2010-11
Target
2011-12
Target
2012-13
Percentage of 16–18 years old youth attending vocational or educational studies

Percentage of 19–21 years old youth demonstrating progress toward Transition Plan goal achievement
Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline

Goal Five

Communities will have the capacity to develop and co-ordinate initiatives focused on prevention of child abuse, better outcomes for children, and parent education and support through Family Resource centers.

What it means:

First Nation children must have safe places to leam, grow and thrive outside the home, and a strong connection to family and community. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will work in partnership with community based services to build on the unique capacity of communities to deliver the right services for children, youth and families; in the right place and at the right time.

Expected Outcomes: Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services is responsive to issues/needs faced by their children, youth and families. Children, youth and families participate in decisions that affect them.

Strategies:

  1. Promote the capacity and accountability of Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services to design, integrate, deliver and assess services for children, youth and families.
  2. Enhance the capacity of Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services' Board to govern effectively.
  3. Work with partners to improve communications with all partners in the design and delivery of community protocols and policies.
Goal Five – Performance Measure for years 2008 through 2013
Performance Measure Target
2008-09
Target
2009-10
Target
2010-11
Target
2011-12
Target
2012-13
Percentage of children, youth and families accessing community services that indicate positive impacts for themselves and their children

Number of Protocols and Agreements in place with community stakeholders

Percentage of community stakeholders reporting an increase in the community's ability
Baseline to be determined Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline Equal or greater than baseline

Accountability Framework

The flexibility required to deliver prevention and early intervention services can be achieved through transition funding and a more flexible funding arrangement. The Accountability Framework will include the development of a 5-year Business Plan that identifies key goals and strategies.

Nationally, Directors of Child Welfare were tasked with developing a national strategy for measuring and reporting on child welfare outcomes. Ten outcome measurements were developed; measurements for eight of the ten outcomes have now been finalized for the collection of baseline data (child behavior and parenting capacity outcomes remain works in progress). Nine provinces and territories have committed to providing baseline data however they are at various stages of implementation.

Outcome Measures

  1. Recurrence of Maltreatment
    • The rate of children experiencing more than one incident of maltreatment over a specified time period.
  2. Serious Injury/Death
    • Number of children who died while receiving child welfare services.
  3. School Performance
    • Number of children in care, in school and at an age-appropriate grade level.
  4. Child Behavior (under development)
  5. Moves in Care
    • The average number of significant placement changes experienced by children in care during a specified time period.
  6. Admissions into Care
    • The number of children who were receiving child protection services who came into care.
  7. Time to Achieving Permanency
    • Number of children for whom the Director (Minister) has guardianship who are placed in permanent homes where the Crown (Minister) no longer has guardianship.
    • Number of days to achieving permanency.
  8. Family Moves
    • Average number of times that a family moves while receiving services over a specified period of time.
  9. Aboriginal Placement Matching
    • The rate of Aboriginal children in care who are placed with a foster or substitute care giver, where at least one of the care givers in also Aboriginal.
  10. Parenting Capacity (under development)
    • In Nova Scotia, work is underway to identify key goals, outcomes and performance measures utilizing some of the indicators outlined above. Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will develop a 5 year Business Plan that includes the goals and performance measures outlined in this document and the Agency will move towards the indicators outlined above along the same pace as the province.
    • Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services will provide annual results, reporting to their respective First Nations communities, INAC, and Province of Nova Scotia (Department of Community Services).
    • The parties will on a regular basis, continue to discuss progress toward achieving results which are consistent with the goals identified in the Mi'kmaw Family & Children's Services' business plan.
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