Julie Green: Healthy Family Program Renewal

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — March 29, 2022

Check against delivery


Mr. Speaker, the Healthy Family Program is a voluntary, home-visiting and knowledge sharing program for pregnant parents, caregivers, and families with young children under six. Over the last five years, the Department of Health and Social Services has worked closely with communities to renew this valuable program. Elders and other community members have shared their vision for this renewed program, where children thrive, caregivers are supported, and communities care for families so that future generations are stronger and stronger.

The robust renewal process included an evaluation of the existing program, research on successful parenting programs in other jurisdictions, and extensive engagement with over 180 staff, families, and caregivers from across the Northwest Territories. The new program is designed to include innovative practices successfully implemented elsewhere and encourages integration with other community programming. It also includes a change in approach, from risk-based to prevention.

Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action Number 5 calls on governments to develop culturally-appropriate parenting programs for Indigenous families, both as a commitment to reconciliation and to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. Such programs are needed because government policy rooted in colonization has attempted to dismantle Indigenous family life and parenting practices for generations through assimilation and violence against children in residential schools. It is our responsibility to acknowledge this truth and commit to action. The re-design of the Healthy Family Program responds to this call as part of a system-wide shift to prioritize culturally-appropriate and prevention-based programming that supports parents and nurtures children.

Mr. Speaker, the renewed Healthy Family Program is available to all families and is responsive to their needs. It combines a traditional Indigenous approach to parenting with techniques and best practices learned through scientific research. It prioritizes children and families and provides a hub for support services and resources.  Healthy Family Support Workers work directly with families to develop their identity through a connection to community and culture. Workers encourage an active role for fathers, partners, extended family, and community in child development and well-being.

Implementation of the renewed program is taking place in all 14 original locations and is expanding to five additional communities. In the next year, we will focus on communication with families and staff, program delivery, and program evaluation.

Mr. Speaker, the Healthy Family Program staff have been the champions of this work from the beginning. They are dedicated to the families they work with and always do their best to treat clients with respect and as the expert in their own family.

Program staff are knowledgeable and experienced in the communities they serve and their expertise in early childhood development is vital to the success of this program. They apply the program’s guiding principles daily, and serve as coaches, facilitators, and community connectors.

The Healthy Family Program helps to create an environment where children feel loved and where parenting leads to healing. It can have lasting positive effects on children, their caregivers, and on the community they live in.

I am proud of our achievements to date. I would like to thank the Knowledge Holders who worked with us on this renewal project, including Elders, families and caregivers, social services staff, Indigenous scholars, and the project team. This government is committed to improving early childhood development indicators for all children in the NWT and renewing the Healthy Family Program is an important part of honouring that commitment.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.