Child and Family Services workers are connecting in-person with family members, where possible, and have been using technology to provide virtual services (i.e., telephone calls and video chats) that connect children, youth and families with frontline workers; and to maintain court appointments.
Frontline workers are making sure that meaningful contact occurs with children, caregivers and families with attention on safety, health, and well-being.
In collaboration with the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT, we have established respite services for foster caregivers in the NWT to support them during the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on the availability of respite care providers, the following services are now available to foster caregivers in all communities:
- Daycare for foster caregivers who have to work and need child care during work hours
- Respite care for up to four hours per week for all foster caregivers
We are making sure the right checks are in place for the safety of children before placing them in foster homes and with respite care providers.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also made it easier for families to access one-time, short-term support if they are not adequately supported through other means to meet their basic needs. Examples of supports could include money for food, gas, fuel, diapers, and baby formula.
Child and Family Services is allowing in-person visits, where possible. Families can visit their children if they are residing with a foster caregiver or an alternative caregiver.
Technology is also used to provide ongoing contact with children and families. Where there are technology gaps, every effort is made to fill them.
A COVID-19 screening process is completed by frontline workers with the foster caregivers and child before a child is placed into a foster home. The COVID-19 screening questions assess potential exposure to the virus, as well as seeing if the individual is showing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
- If someone in your home tests positive for COVID-19, they, or their foster caregiver, will be contacted by a healthcare provider. All members of the household will be required to isolate. The healthcare provider will assess the individual for continuing or worsening symptoms and talk to them, or their foster parent, about the illness, how to care for themselves, and how to prevent spread of COVID-19 to others who may be living in the home.
- A protocol has been established if a child in care is showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been tested and is waiting for the results. Child and Family Services would support the family or caregiver to follow isolation guidance from the Chief Public Health Officer. The Child Protection Worker would complete daily virtual check-in for updates regarding the child’s and caregiver’s health. This protocol also outlines what would happen if a child cannot remain at their current placement, such as placing the child with extended family, a medical foster home, or alternative placement, such as a rented accommodation with two rooms.
- If a child has been exposed to, or has tested positive for COVID-19, Child and Family Services would notify the prospective foster caregiver prior to placement.
- Furthermore, careful attention would be made to not place the child in a home where they are vulnerable persons to COVID-19, such as an Elder or someone with respiratory issues.
- Child and Family Services would support the family or caregiver to follow isolation guidance from the Chief Public Health Officer. The Child Protection Worker would complete daily virtual check-in for updates regarding the child’s and caregiver’s health.
During this time of increased stress for families, children and youth have the potential of being at greater risk of harm. Anyone who suspects child maltreatment and neglect has a responsibility to report these concerns to their local Child and Family Services office. Contact information for these offices is available on the Department of Health and Social Services website at www.hss.gov.nt.ca/report-child-neglect.