Business, Strategic and Operational Plans

Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services Of Nova Scotia

Business, Strategic and Operational Plans 2014 - 19

June 21, 2014

Revised May 8, 2015

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION

MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT

VISION

MISSION

PRINCIPLES

MI’KMAW AGENCY

PRIORITIES 2014 - 19

  1. 1)Governance
  1. 2)Service Delivery/Fiscal Management
  1. 3)Community Partnership and Preventive Services
  1. 4)Human Resources
  1. 5)Improving Outcomes

SUMMARY

APPENDICES

APPENDIX A – Cooney Report (2013) Recommendations

APPENDIX B – Operational Plan

APPENDIX C – Strategic Program Initiative

APPENDIX D – Budget and Salaries

REFERENCES

 

INTRODUCTION

This business plan is for the next five years, commencing April 1, 2014. It sets out the priorities that the Agency will focus on during that period. This Business Plan builds on the work that the Agency has done to date and looks to the future to build a better world for First Nations children and families. The Plan addresses many of the recommendations made by Cooney Consulting and Training (2013), which was funded by AANDC and approved by AANDC, the Department of Community Services and MFCS. A summary of the CCT recommendations, is attached as Appendix A. An operational plan which specifies the priorities, strategies and leads charged with the implementation of each task is attached as Appendix B. The Agency’s Strategic Program Initiative is outlined in Appendix C. Finally the budget is attached as Appendix D.

MESSAGE FROM THE BOARD

This Business Plan provides an opportunity for the Agency in partnership with AANDC, DCS and community agencies to strengthen our governance model, enhance service delivery and support our staff so they can continue to provide excellent services to the children and families in our communities. As a Board, we recognize that available resources must be managed effectively and efficiently, which is one of the goals of this plan. Funding must be realistic and stable in order to develop and plan for the future.

At the same time, we also recognize the work that must be done to build awareness and understanding about the Agency’s services and role in the community. Child welfare is a community responsibility and MFCS alone, cannot solve the problems of abuse and neglect. This includes the role the Agency plays in protecting children from abuse and neglect and the limitations of the Agency’s services. MFCS provides preventive services for children and families who are at risk of abuse. However, many families in our communities need services and support that should be available to them prior to intervention by MFCS. One of our priorities over the next 5 years will be to educate the community on what we can do and to partner and advocate with other community agencies so that children, youth and families can have the universal supports they need to be successful.

MFCS faces many challenges. “The legacy of residential schools has weighed heavily on the lives and well-being of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals and communities for generations” (Erasmus, 2008). There continues to be a disproportionate number of First Nations children in care throughout Canada and Nova Scotia is no exception to that reality. There is a need for more universal prevention programs in First Nations communities to enable children, youth and families to get the support they need before entering the child welfare system. Unless the issues of poverty, the lack of housing, addictions, domestic violence and mental health are addressed, the number of children in care will not be reduced. These are all issues of relationships that impact the quality of care provided by the family and communities. As Georges Erasmus stated in 2009 in the preface to the report, Response, Responsibility, and Renewal, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey. “Addictions, domestic abuse, suicide, and poverty are all ‘relationship indicators’ suggesting that the deep wounds of the past require a comprehensive response informed by an understanding of human relationships impacted by historic trauma.” (Erasmus, 2009). It is unrealistic to expect MFCS to address these issues alone. MFCS is one agency that in partnership with other community agencies including the Band Councils must address these problems with support from the federal and provincial governments.

The majority of the funding for MFCS comes from AANDC and we are very appreciative of their continued support. We believe the additional funding in recent years and the funding of the Cooney Consulting and Training (CCT) Report in 2013 recognizes the funding challenges that have faced the Agency. It reflects a new beginning to move forward with a renewed partnership. The Province through the Department of Community Services provides some funding. However, most of their valuable and significant contribution is in the form of in kind services. Budget information for the Agency is attached as Appendix C.

Further support from the Province in such areas as early childhood development, mental health, addictions services, and schools plus will be needed over the next 5 years.

The Board’s five (5) priorities for 2014-19 will be as follows:

  1. 1.strengthening the governance of the Agency
  2. 2.improving service delivery and fiscal management
  3. 3.enhancing community partnerships and preventive services
  4. 4.strengthening human resources and
  5. 5.implementing a plan to report on how well we are doing on 8 key Outcomes Measures.

The Agency will work in partnership with AANDC and DCS to identify how existing resources can be best utilized and allocated within the Agency. This will be an important in following through on the recommendation of the CCT Report “that AANDC and the Agency collaborate to reach agreement on a satisfactory budget for the Agency.” (p.35).This process has begun as a number of the recommendations are already being acted upon. In the meantime, the Agency will need financial support to deal with its current funding issues.

There are some challenges facing the Agency which will need support in order for them to be resolved. A new office space for Eskasoni, transition costs for a third office and escalating cost of living increases for salaries which are averaging two (2) percent.

We recognize that the best solutions for our children, youth and families will come not from our efforts alone, but from the coordinated efforts of working with AANDC, DCS, other government departments, and First Nations communities. We will also reach out into our communities to hear about their expectations and to share the successes of MFCS in meeting them.

Looking forward, the Board feels that MFCS is well positioned to better respond to the child welfare needs of the growing First Nations communities. However, stable and adequate funding is essential. MFCS will also partner and advocate for universal services for children, youth and families to prevent unnecessary involvement in the child welfare system. Its leadership, and community partnerships will ensure the needs of our children, youth and families are well looked after. We are excited about our Strategic Program Initiative , which is described in Appendix C.

None of the accomplishments of the Agency would be possible without its committed and dedicated staff and management. In fact, many of the recommendations made by CCT were already under consideration or in progress by the Agency. Each and every day they work to ensure the safety, permanence and well-being of vulnerable children and youth. As your Board Chair, it is a privilege and honour to lead such a dedicated Board and team. I commend you for the work you have done on this Business Plan and look forward to seeing the results of your efforts.

Chief Deborah Robinson

President

Board of Directors

Mi’kmaw Family and Children Services

Vision

Building caring families and communities

Mission

The purpose of Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services is to provide Child Welfare and Family Services to Mi’kmaw women, men and children.

Principles

  • We believe that community values and traditions are essential to provide the direction for programs and services.
  • We believe that the family is a powerful resource for change and that families sometimes need help and support from the Agency and the community to fulfill their role.
  • We believe that communities know their own needs and that with encouragement and assistance will develop their own responses.
  • We believe that healthful communities and environments are experienced through the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development of community people.
  • We believe that holistic programming for women, men and children is achieved by working with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal programs and services that share similar goals and beliefs.
  • We believe in the employment of community people who know their communities’ lifestyle, values and language.
  • We believe in and value modern and traditional education and we encourage and support all staff in their personal and professional development.

Mi’kmaw Agency

Mi’kmaw Agency is a registered charitable organization operating with full delegation by the Mi’kmaw Chiefs and the Provincial Department of Community Services since 1990.

The Agency delivers child welfare services to approximately 13,000 Mi’kmaw community members living on the 13 Nova Scotia Bands which have 23 inhabited Reserves. These are located throughout the Province and represent a mixture of urban, rural and isolated communities. Within the realities of our human and fiscal resources, we also provide support and consultation to off-reserve Mi’kmaw and other First Nation individuals and families and to those agencies working with them.

 

The Agency is governed through a Board of Directors comprised of the 13 Chiefs of the Nova Scotia Bands and a representative of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association. Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy is an honorary Board Member.

 

The Agency operates from two offices and has two Family Healing Centres as well. The offices are located in Indian Brook and Eskasoni. The Family Healing Centres are located in Waycobah and Millbrook.

>These Centres provide information, referral and follow up, individual and group counselling, and a 24 hour crisis telephone service to women, men and children who experience violence. The Centres are available to provide shelter to women and children year round.

The Agency was established through a Tripartite Agreement between Canada, Nova Scotia and the 13 Chiefs of Nova Scotia’s Bands. A Tripartite Committee composed of representatives from AANDC, the provincial Department of Community Services, and the Chiefs of Nova Scotia’s Bands meet at least three or four times each year. The Committee is a major vehicle for problem solving, budget negotiations, and decision making regarding monitoring and evaluation of services.

Priorities 2014-19

Through the review of report by Cooney Consulting and Training and other challenges known to the Agency, the following priorities have been identified.

  1. 1.Governance

Goal: To strengthen the governance and management of the agency resources.

  1. a)Business Plan

Develop, approve, and monitor implementation of a new Business Plan. The Annual Report will be used to report on the progress made towards implementation of the priorities. An operational plan will outline the accountabilities and time lines to implement the Business Plan over the next 5 years. It will also specify the staff members responsible to lead the implementation of each priority.

 

b)By-Laws

      Review, amend, approve the Constitution and By Laws and implement the changes. The revised Constitution and By Laws will be updated to reflect current principles of effective board governance including the role of the role of the board and the CEO, conflict of interest, mandate of committees, and process for meetings.

c)Strengthen Board Governance

  1. 1)Develop and approve a Board Governance Manual and implement the changes. This manual will cover such areas as roles and responsibilities of the board versus the CEO, Board Committees, Conflict of Interest and per diems/allowableexpenses for board members.
  2. 2)Conduct an annual training session for the board on principles of effective board governance.
  3. 3)Update the Human Resources Manual which is outdated. New policies including such policies as Respectful Workplace and Social Media will be included in the updated Manual. A training session for staff on the revised policies will be conducted once the Manual is updated.
  4. 4)Conduct an annual performance evaluation of the CEO. Measurement on success on achieving the goals outlined in the Business/ Operational Plan will be the primary focus of the evaluation.
  1. 2.Service Delivery/Fiscal Management

Goal: To improve service delivery and fiscal management so that children and families are better served by the agency.

 

  1. (a)AANDC and MFCS commence discussion to reach agreement on a satisfactory budget for the Agency. (Recommendation 2.1 of the CCT Report states “That AANDC and the Agency collaborate to reach agreement on a satisfactory budget for the Agency” p.35) As a first step in the process the Tripartite Working Group should review current salaries funded by the Agency to ensure they are in line with DCS salaries, the number of administrative/financial support positions, supervisory and program managers and those positions that are playing a key preventive role such as Family Support Workers and Family Group Conferencing Workers and are not included in operational funding.

       It should be noted that “In November 2012, MFCS with guidance from DCS prepared a re-structured organizational staffing model to meet Provincial staffing ratio standards. The DCS and MFCS anticipated the need for nine additional child welfare positions for a staffing compliment of 118 in the event a third office site is established. AANDC accepted the need for more staff and committed to ongoing operating dollars to cover the 109 positions. AANDC agreed to review to review the findings of CCT Organizational Review, the new Business Plan, and Human Resource strategy before committing to funding permanent staff beyond the 109 compliment.” (CCT, p.12).

  1. (b)The Tripartite Working Group review the following and make recommendations on each of them to the Executive Director and Executive.
  • Expenditures related to Congregate Care/Places of Safety (CCT, 2.2)
  • Use of Supervision Orders (CCT 2.3)
  • Improved case planning (CCT 2.4)
  • Use of Professional Services (CCT 2.5)
  • Use of Drug Testing
  • Use of Legal Services (CCT 2.6) Consideration should be given to hiring a lawyer in house for two years. This lawyer would be the first point of contact/consultation with social workers/supervisors before external legal counsel would be engaged on child welfare matters. This lawyer could also do some court work. Based on the savings achieved after two years, the Agency could decide to extend the positions or hire the lawyer on a permanent basis.

A special Needs Committee should be established immediately for the review and approval of all requests for special needs.

  1. (c)Examine alternative approaches to conducting meetings of the executive and board to reduce costs.
  2. (d)The Agency collaborate with AANDC and DCS as part of its next budget submission to AANDC to obtain approval of the 9 positions as outlined on page 37 of the CCT report as well as office rental and equipment funding to enable a third office. While CCT states “the current caseload indicates additional positions would be required to staff the third site” (p.7). “A third office would reduce current travel costs and employee overtime.” (CCT, p.37).
  3. (e)MFCS and the Eskasoni Band Council negotiate an agreement to enable a new building for the office for Eskasoni through a rental arrangement. This will have an impact on the Agency’s budget. The current space is inadequate for a number of reasons including occupational health and safety concerns, inability for clients using wheelchairs to access the building, lack of space for training/staff meetings, confidentiality issues and lack of parking space.

(f)   MFCS in concert with the Federation of Foster Parents Association should commence work on the development of Foster Parent Support groups. The Therapeutic Foster Care Outreach program should also be funded at MFCS for provision of comparable services to MFCS foster parents and children in care.

(g) The Agency decides on whether Provincial Emergency Duty should assume responsibility for this service for MFCS. Should the Agency decide to retain the status quo discussions should commence with E Duty on a protocol for those situations where E Duty and the Agency have interactions.  

(h)   The Agency orientation of staff should include a session on Mi’kmaw culture.

(I)   Request DCS to fund one additional Child Welfare Specialist whose role would be to provide consultation, advice and training for MFCS. It is unreasonable to expect the one DCS position in Sydney to play this role in addition to their other duties.

(j)   DCS should request ICM to add new Activities applicable to FGC’s such as “Referred to FGC” and “FGC Report” and “FGC scheduled (with a due date)”.

(k) The Agency place a special focus on implementing the specialized levels of foster care so that there would be two receiving homes and two specialized homes for children needing emergency/specialized level of care. This would reduce current costs and also provide improved quality of care. The costs related to congregate care/place of safety should be reviewed to identify possible savings.

(l)   Review the caseloads for both offices with the objective of achieving a more balanced caseload for all Social Workers with the Agency.

 

(m)  the “Agency recruit a Mi’kmaw social worker to provide specialized clinical supervision and training services to ensure the traditional First Nations practice, values and beliefs are available and integrated into service and program delivery options as well as communicated and available to any collaborating agency” ( CCT,p.74 ).

(n) Create a position of Assistant Executive Director to improve day to day management of the Agency.

  1. 3.Community Partnerships and Preventive Services

Goal:The Agency clarifies its mandate in the community and improves the range of preventive supports available to children, youth and families in the community through advocacy and partnership with other agencies.

  1. (a)The Agency engages in a communications/staff engagement process as part of building relationships and improving communications in the Agency.
  2. (b)The Agency develops a presentation that speaks to the role and mandate of the Agency under the CFSA for presentation to the various agencies served by MFCS. These sessions would also be used to identify ways MFCS could collaborate and advocate in partnership with these agencies for expanded universal prevention programs for First Nations communities.
  3. (c)The Agency continue to “develop and deliver preventive programming, such as Family Group Conferencing, culturally based parenting programming, and education regarding risk factors associated with children maltreatment.” (CCT, p.63).

The Agency should have one Family Group Conference Social Worker in each of its offices. The two Family Group Conference Social Workers are not funded .A third position will be required for the new office. There were 43 open files during the 2013-14 fiscal year and a total of 27 FGC’s were held from April 1, 2013 –November, 2013. The FGC is a preventive service that can reduce court costs and more importantly provide an excellent service to children and families. While speaking to the issue of Family Group Conferencing CCT noted that “AANDC will need to create new funds for prevention programming if the Agency is to find a balance in the services they offer” (p.83).

 

 

(d) The former local Directory of Community Resources should be updated. Staff and others could use it to make themselves aware of the differing resources available in each community. It would also be helpful for community agencies and parents.

(e)   The Agency should develop a website. The website should have the vision, mission, business and operational plan of the Agency. It should also include the names of the Board of Directors, Executive Director and staff of the Agency. Resources for parents to access should also be posted on the website.

 

 

4. Human Resources

Goal: To improve the level of human resources/training for staff delivering services. The CCT Report states “In response to the issues identified by staff, the Review team recommends, as a first step, that the Agency strengthen its human resources policies and build a healthy team and workplace.” (p.7).

 

  1. (a)MFCS implement the recommendations made by CCT (p.74) Updating of the HR Manual is progress. Sessions for all staff on the Human Resources Manual will be required once the Manual is approved.

   Staff need training is in the following areas: Respectful Workplace, ICM, documentation and standards. There should be more frequent PRIDE training for staff as well.

  1. (b)That the Agency develops a recruitment and retention strategy staff. There has to be a recognition that salary increases and other costs such as training result in an additional expenditure of approximately two (2) percent a year. Building such an annual increase in the budget each year would help support the recruitment and training of staff.
  2. (c)Formal orientation for staff be conducted at more regular and frequent intervals.
  3. (d)Program Managers and Supervisors be trained in doing performance evaluations. “Conflict resolution, managing performance and conduct, were training needs identified by Supervisors Methods to improve morale were also identified.” (CCT, P. 70).

5.  Improving Outcomes

Goal: The agency annually track how well it is doing to improve the outcomes for children and youth on 8 outcome measures

 

A greater focus on measuring how well the Agency is doing is imperative. As a result of excellent work that has been done by the Province with its Information Technology case management system it is now possible to report on the outcomes measures described below.

Outcome

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

Recurrence of Maltreatment

 

 

 

 

 

Child Deaths

 

 

 

 

 

School Performance

 

 

 

 

 

Out of Home Placement

 

 

 

 

 

Moves in Care

 

 

 

 

 

Permanency Status

 

 

 

 

 

Family Moves

 

 

 

 

 

Aboriginal Placement Matching

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recurrence of Maltreatment: It’s really recurrence of service. It counts children under the age of 15 who had a new report of abuse/neglect within the 12 months of case closure.

-   How many had a new investigation

-   How many resulted in an ongoing child protection case

-   How many resulted in children coming to care

 

Child Deaths: Number of children receiving ongoing services who died within the fiscal year.

 

School Performance: Number of children who are in out of home care (and are school age) are in grades appropriate to their age. NS can report on it but this is heavily dependent on workers completing the fields in a timely manner.

 

Out of Home Placement: Children who were placed in out of home care within 12 months of investigation.

 

Moves in Care: Children in out of home care who changed placements in the fiscal year (and how many times they moved).

 

Permanency Status: permanency status 36 months after coming into care (are they still in care; adopted; return to family; other)

 

Family Moves: Family receiving ongoing services who moved at least once during the fiscal year (and how many times). This one is not terribly reliable, as any change to the placement screen (including a correction) is counted as a move.

 

Aboriginal Placement Matching: Aboriginal children in foster care whose most recent placement was in a home with at least one aboriginal caregiver.

Summary

 

MFCS will build on and strengthen collaborations with AANDC, DCS and our many community partners. Our goal is the best possible outcomes for our children and families. Our Strategic Program Initiative is described in Appendix C. We will advocate and partner with our colleagues so that prevention and early intervention services are available for children, youth and families who are vulnerable and at risk. We will enhance permanency by working closely with families to reunite children in temporary care with their families and prevent these children from coming into permanent care wherever possible. We will focus on recruiting culturally appropriate foster and kinship care options which will enable Aboriginal children in permanent care to remain connected to their culture.

>We will strengthen board governance, service delivery, fiscal management and human resources so that our staff receive the support required to deliver excellent services. Finally we are committed to tracking how well we are doing by reporting on key outcome measures. We will report annually on our progress to implement this Business Plan at our Annual General Meeting.  

APPENDIX A

Cooney Recommendations

Governance Development

1.1     That the Board reviews the Bylaws with legal counsel and make such amendments as necessary to reflect the current or future governance practices.

1.2     That the Board develops a Board Governance Manual that provides guidance on behaviour and conduct. This manual will provide rules of governance that include per diems, and establish reasonable and allowable Board expenses.

1.3     That the Board develops a Board Orientation that would introduce and inform Board members about the Agency and child welfare practices.

1.4     That the Board consider a new Board composition that incorporates community involvement in the governance of MFCS.

Financial and Administrative Development

2.1     That AANDC and the Agency collaborate to reach agreement on a satisfactory budget for the Agency.

2.2     That the Tripartite Working Group reviews the expenditures related to Congregate Care/Place of Safety and develops a strategy to address this issue.

  1. a.That the Agency and the Mi’kmaw Child Welfare Strategic Planning committee review the current number of Congregate Care/Place of Safety, Contracted Homes and Foster Homes and establish a plan to develop resources for children and youth at the local level to reduce the number of children and youth having to leave their

2.3     That the Agency and DCS evaluates the use of Supervision Orders. The efficacy of drug testing, outcomes of case work practices, and legal representation should also be evaluated. A case review of files to assess the level of severity of cases to determine an appropriate response from Social Workers should be undertaken.

2.4     That the Agency researches alternative approaches of case work practice to reduce worker reliance on the Court ordered Supervision Orders to address child welfare concerns.

2.5     That the Tripartite Working Group and Health Services review the usage of Professional services and initiate a strategy.

2.6     That the Tripartite Working Group reviews the usage of Legal Fees.

2.7     That the Agency engages the Board of Directors in a discussion regarding the usage of on-reserve services.

 

2.8     That the Agency researches and considers employing in-house Mi’kmaw lawyers.

Third Office

3.1     That AANDC and the Agency develops a transition plan to allow for start-up costs associated with the establishment of a third office and that the office is funded adequately to provide safe, ethical and confidential work environment for clients and staff.

Staffing Analysis

 

4.1     That the DCS and Agency develop caseload standards for Intake, Early Intervention, Foster Care/Adoption, and Family Supports programs and an analysis conducted to determine what the complete staffing levels required are.

Organizational Development

5.1     That the Agency develops a communication strategy that addresses the lack of communication and information sharing within the organization.

5.2     That the Agency addresses the conflict within the workplace immediately. The first step would be for the Management to identify the issues and provide opportunity to restore relationships through mediation. The second step would be to provide a clear expectation of behaviour acceptable in the workplace.

5.3     That the Agency provides Mi’kmaw cultural training to all staff as it is critical to the delivery of quality services.

5.4     That the Agency researches and possibly invests in a videoconferencing system that would provide quality links between the offices to improve communication between the program managers and staff, between the offices improving efficiency. This upgrade would reduce staff travel and expenses.

5.5     That the Agency develops and delivers preventative programming, such as family group conferencing, culturally-based parenting programming, and education regarding risk factors associated with children maltreatment.

 

External Communications and Public Relations

6.1     That the Agency continues to participate in inter-agency forums for the purpose of developing a more Integrated coordinated service delivery system.

6.2     That the Agency creates a communication strategy to improve communication with community and clients by sharing information about services and programs in the hope that the image of the Agency could be improved allowing for better relations.

6.3     That the Agency creates a consultation strategy with communities to discover their needs and then work with other service providers, to partner to offer programs such as parenting programs to all parents to strengthen families.

6.4     That a working group be established to preserve and enhance the cultural strengths of a Mi’kmaw child welfare system and to develop benchmarks for assessing the cultural appropriateness of the services provided.

 

APPENDIX b

MFCS Operational Plan

2014 - 2019

January 2015 (Revised)

Planning Context

Operational Plan-2014-19

The operational plan is a management tool that translates the goals and priorities of the MFCS Business Plan, 2014-19 into action. The Business Plan is a high level document that identifies the goals and priorities of an organization usually for a five year period. Operational plans typically provides the what, who, when and how much. The focus of the what is on the priorities/tasks that must be undertaken. The who is concerned with the persons who have the responsibilities of each priority/task. The when specifies the timeline when strategies/tasks must be completed and how much details the amount of resources required to complete each task or priority.

This operational plan achieves the above by specifying the lead, timelines, partners, resources and impact of implementing each goal. In some cases the specific goals were very straightforward and have already been implemented. These include the by-laws, human resources manual and board governance manual.

Some of the goals will require significant work and will really require its own specific project approach. An example would be the one on the budget/staffing for the agency. A specific budget submission will be prepared with respect to this goal with the objective of realizing a satisfactory budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Another one is the goal related to outcome measures. A specific working group will need to be struck to examine the availability of data, the baseline that will be used and when reporting on these outcomes will take place. A lead for each of these will be identified.

Opportunities

MFCS plays a critically important role in the Province. The Agency is unique in that it is the only First Nations Agency that has the delegated authority to provide services under the Children and Family Services Act. In many jurisdictions there are multiple First Nations child welfare agencies providing child welfare services which detract from the opportunities to provide a coordinated and collaborative approach to service delivery.

From a fiscal perspective the Cooney Report identified a number of potential areas for savings and these will be examined as part of the implementation of the Operational Plan for 2014- 2019 . The completion of the Constitution and By Laws and Human Resources Manual will eventually lead to a reduction in costs for such areas as board meetings, staff recruitment, overtime, etc. Other areas such as legal services will be addressed as part of the implementation of the Operational Plan. The Agency has an excellent working relationship with the regional and head office child welfare staff of the Department of Community and this will be extremely beneficial for the Agency in its efforts to improve service delivery.  

The agency has considerable opportunity to positively impact the lives of children, youth and families in many ways. These include partnering with other agencies for the development of prevention services to the protection of children from abuse and neglect. In addition the agency services woman and children who are victims of domestic violence.  

The creation of a third office presents an exciting opportunity to provide services to the south western region of the Province as well as enable staff to better meet provincial child welfare standards. As noted by Cooney “To ensure that standards are met and to improve services to the South Western side, the creation of a third office was recommended. The size of jurisdiction currently prevents the Agency from meeting the Provincial standard of responding to high risk cases within an hour. In addition, the Review found that the use of staff resources and travel expenses could be more efficiently allocated if a third office was established. The current caseload indicates additional positions would be required to staff the third site. “(p.7)

Challenges

MFCS faces many challenges. “The legacy of residential schools has weighed heavily on the lives and well-being of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis individuals and communities for generations” (Erasmus, 2008). There continues to be a disproportionate number of First Nations children in care throughout Canada and Nova Scotia is no exception to that reality. There is a need for more universal prevention programs in First Nations communities to enable children, youth and families to get the support they need before entering the child welfare system. Unless the issues of poverty, the lack of housing, addictions, domestic violence and mental health are addressed, the number of children in care will not be reduced. These are all issues of relationships that impact the quality of care provided by the family and communities. As Georges Erasmus stated in 2009 in the preface to the report, Response, Responsibility, and Renewal, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey, “Addictions, domestic abuse, suicide, and poverty are all ‘relationship indicators’ suggesting that the deep wounds of the past require a comprehensive response informed by an understanding of human relationships impacted by historic trauma.” (Erasmus, 2009) It is unrealistic to expect MFCS to address these issues alone. MFCS is one agency that in partnership with other community agencies including the Band Councils must address these problems with support from the federal and provincial governments. In a presentation by senior child welfare staff of the Department of Community Services to the Board of Directors of MFCS on October 8, 2014 the following challenges with respect to MFCS was noted:

– Disproportionate number of children in care

– CW processes which do not reflect First Nations culture and practices

– Funding & staffing far below provincial level

– Fewer support services on reserve for families

– Challenges recruiting First Nations Social Workers

– Working from 2 sites – not as members of the community

The number of First Nations children in care in Canada exceeds by far the number of non-First Nations children in care. As noted by Vicki Wood, Nova Scotia is no different with respect to this very concerning situation. The following information made available by Vicki Wood, Executive Director of Family and Children’s Services to the MFCS Board of Directors on October 8, 2014 show the disproportionate number of MFCS children in care. As of October 1, 2014:

  • 1233 children in all care types (permanent care and custody, taken into care, voluntary care)
    • 974 are in the Ministers care
    • 259 are in MFCScare
    • 789 children in permanent care and custody
      • 574 are in the Ministerscare
      • 215 are in MFCScare”

At the same time, we also recognize the work that must be done to build awareness and understanding about the Agency’s services and role in the community. Child welfare is a community responsibility and MFCS alone, cannot solve the problems of abuse and neglect. This includes the role the Agency plays in protecting children from abuse and neglect and the limitations of the Agency’s services. MFCS provides preventive services for children and families who are at risk of abuse. However, many families in our communities need services and support that should be available to them prior to intervention by MFCS. In fact many individuals and families as well as community organizations expect MFCS to provide these preventive services. One of our priorities over the next 5 years will be to educate the community on what we can do and to partner and advocate with other community agencies so that children, youth and families can have the universal supports they need to be successful.

Further support from the Province in such areas as early childhood development, mental health, addictions services, and schools plus will be needed over the next 5 years.

The current fiscal situation of the Agency is of significant concern. As stated by Cooney “there is much disagreement between the parties (AANDC and MFCS) as to what expenses are eligible under “maintenance” and “operations”. This matter should be resolved by the Tripartite Working Group (p.34). An excellent example of this is legal expenses related to child welfare matters. The Province considers such costs as part of maintenance whereas AANDC considers these expenditures part of operations. This decision by AANDC has had a million dollar impact on the Agency’s maintenance budget.

The issue of a satisfactory budget has been an ongoing concern of the Agency. As noted by Cooney “MFCS expressed concern over the lack of timely release of funds and communication difficulties between themselves and AANDC. These long standing issues were seen by the Agency to have affected their ability to operate and created barriers to a healthy working relationship.[1] The funding and timing continues to be a concern. AANDC needs to find a resolution to this dilemma. “(p.11)

The Agency‘s is currently operating with a unrestricted deficit of $1,387,305 for child welfare and a surplus of $3,621,514 in Special Allowance. This unrestricted deficit is expected to be approximately $1,583,885 amount by the end of the current fiscal year but may be less as the first six months for this year are in a surplus position and if this continues would further affect the original estimated deficit.

MFCS is obligated to provide services in accordance with the Children and Family Services Act and related standards. The Agency has been the subject of a number of audits in recent years and these audits have identified concerns with Agency compliance with DCS standards. The Department has caseload standards which enable social workers to be in compliance. Unfortunately the current level of funding provided to the Agency does not enable the Agency to have caseloads that meet provincial standards. The consequence is that the Agency struggles to be in compliance despite these audits and more importantly there is the potential for children to be left at risk or children left in care without proper follow up and case planning. Thus the critical importance of the recommendation by Cooney “that AANDC and the Agency collaborate to reach agreement on a satisfactory budget for the Agency.” (p 35)

The issue of caseloads and number of social workers required remains an issue of debate however it was a very positive development when “AANDC accepted the need for more staff and committed to ongoing dollars to cover the 109 positions.” (CCT p.12)

As part of its implementation of the Operational Plan the Agency will establish a small working group to develop a business case that will hopefully lead to a satisfactory budget for the Agency in the near future.

 

OUTCOME                                                                                              WHAT ARE WE DOING TO DELIVER THIS OUTCOME

 

                     ACTIONS/STRATEGY                                                                                        

 

Goal #

ACTION

Impact

 

By When

Lead

Key Partners

Resource Implications

1 (a)

Develop Business Plan - Approved in June 2014

Priorities and Implementation of CCT Report

 

June, 2014 –Completed  

Executive

Executive, Board, AANDC and DCS

Funds required for specific projects will be included in annual budget submissions

1 (b)

Update By-Laws

Clear Roles for the Executive, Board and ED

 

September, 2014 -Completed

Executive

Executive and Board

Should lead to reduced costs with Chiefs not involved in selection of staff

C (1)

Develop Board Governance Manual(BGM)

Clear Responsibilities and Expectations for the Board, Committees and ED

 

BGM approved in November 2014

Executive

Executive, Board,   ED and Vice ED

None

C (2)

Conduct Annual Board Governance Training

Clarity of Board and ED Roles and orientation to BGM

 

March 2015

Executive

Executive, Board, ED and Vice ED

$500.00

C (3)

Update the Human Resources Manual

Clear HR policies for all staff and Board

 

October, 2014 – Completed

Human   Resources

Managers, Supervisors, HR and Executive

New HR Manual should reduce costs with more consistent practices regarding overtime, travel costs, etc.

C (4)

Conduct Annual Performance Evaluation on the ED

Demonstrate progress on Implementing Business Plan

 

June 2015

Executive     Committee of MFCS  

Executive and   Board

None

2 (a)

AANDC and MFCS Reach Agreement on a Satisfactory Budget

MFCS will have a satisfactory budget to provide services

 

March 31, 2015

Finance Committee, Chaired by Chief Sid Peters with ED, AED and Brenda Cope  

Executive, AANDC, DCS

TBD

2 (b)

Expenditure Review –Congregate Care, Supervision Orders, Professional , Legal and Other Services ( Hiring an In House Lawyer)

A Financial Policy Manual will also be developed.    

Reduced Expenditures and Improved Case Planning

 

June 30, 2015  

Special Needs Committee comprised of Brenda Cope, Monica, Kiera and Yvonne

AANDC, DCS,   ED, AED , Managers, Supervisors and Social Workers

Reduced costs  

2 (c)

Examine Alternative Approaches to Conducting Board/Executive Meetings

Reduced Costs

 

March 31, 2015  

Executive

Executive and Board

TBD

2 (d)

MFCS obtain Approval of 9 positions in the budget for the Third Office-funds for office space, computers and equipment will also be needed  

Improved service in southern part of Province and Reduced travel and Overtime costs

 

To be included in the Budget for the Fiscal Year 2015-16

ED, AED and B. Cope  

President, Executive , DCS and Chiefs of the Band Councils

TBD

2 (e)

MFCS and Eskasoni Negotiate Agreement for Office in Eskasoni

Improved Working Conditions and Improved Client Service

 

March 31, 2015

ED/Vice ED and Chief of Band Council

President, Executive, Band Council and AANDC

Band Council plans to build the building and will rent it to MFCS. Rent will be included in the 2015-16 budget ($175,000.00 annually using Indian Brook costs).

2 (f)

MFCS and Foster Parent Association develop Foster Parent Support Groups/Therapeutic Foster Care Outreach

Improved Support   for Foster Parents and Children  

 

June 30, 2015  

Sheraine, and Jody  

Foster Parent Association and DCS

TBD

2 (g)

MFCS to decide if Provincial Emergency Duty appropriate for MFCS

Decision made to continue with current approach

 

 

 

 

No additional costs

2 (h)

Orientation of New Staff to Include Session on Mi’kmaw Culture (Review of content)

Better Understanding of Mi’kmaw Culture

 

March 31, 2015  

Diana, ED, AED and DCS

TBD

None

2 (i)

DCs Fund additional CWS in Sydney for MFCS

Improved Consultation, reviews and training

 

Position approved, posted and selection underway by DCS

 

DCS and MFCS

None to MFCS

2 (j)

DCS to request ICM to add new Activities to Family Group Conferencing such as “Referred to FGC” and FGC scheduled with a due date  

Improved Reports and data on FGC

 

June 30, 2015

Kristen, ED and AED

Consultation with Carol, Wendy DCS

None to MFCS

2 (k)

MFCS implement specialized levels of foster care leading to 2 Receiving Homes and 2 for Specialized Care/Emergency Placements

Improved Quality of care and reduced costs

 

March 31, 2015

Sheraine, Jody and Karlena

TBD

TBD

2 (l)

Review caseloads in both offices to achieve balanced caseloads

Improved services and staff morale

 

Ongoing

Lesley, Karlena, Natalie, Kiera + supervisors

In Jan. 2015 Wendy is going to visit and do an assessment of caseload size to ensure balanced caseloads

None

2 (m)

 

 

 

Recruit a Mi’kmaw Social Worker to provide specialized clinical supervision

 

Management believes existing supervisors provide clinical supervision so this recommendation will not be implemented  

 

 

 

 

 

None-recommendation will not be implemented

 

3 (a)

MFCS engage in a communications/staff engagement process

Improved relationships and communications

 

Various initiatives underway that enable staff engagement/input from staff such as the HR Manual sessions, updated job descriptions. Further and training on respectful workplace and conflict resolution should improve communications/ relationships – To be done by between March,-May, 2015

Manager of HR

ED, AED, Managers and Supervisors and front line staff.

$10, 000.00 in 2015-16

3 (b)

Develop a presentation on agency role and mandate and present to agencies and Band Councils

Improved understanding of MFCS in the community and improved relationships

 

Slide presentation completed on the Role of the Agency/ will be piloted in January 2014; remaining band councils by June 30, 2015

ED , AED, Managers and Supervisors will present to the Chiefs and Band Councils

ED, Executive, Band Councils and Community Agencies

Presentations to Band Councils/ agencies will be done as part of regular visits to First Nations communities

3 (c)

Expand Preventive/Family Violence Programming such as Family Group Conferencing

Improved Services and reduced costs

 

June 30, 2015

Debbie, Kristen , Cassandra and Jean

Managers, Supervisors Social Workers and Family Support Workers

Increased focus on prevention and family group conferencing should positively impact costs over the long term

3 (d)

Update the local Directory of Community Resources

Increased Information for Parents and Agencies on Resources

 

June 30, 2015

Debbie

Community agencies in the region

None

3 (e)

Develop a website

Improved access to information for staff, community agencies and families

 

 

June 30, 2015

Vance

Rodew Web Services , Dartmouth

$3000.00

4 (a)

Implement the CCT Recommendations-page 74

Improved HR policies and practices

 

In progress

HR Manager

Managers, Supervisors and Admin. Support staff

None

4 (b)

Roll out of the HR Manual

Consistent HR policies practices/improved morale  

 

January, 2015    

HR Manager

Managers and Supervisors

Completed

4 (c)

Develop a recruitment and retention strategy  

Low staff turnover and improved services

 

Current level of staff turnover is currently low –Manager of HR will assess level of employee turnover –June, 2015

 

HR Manager

ED, AED, Managers and Supervisors

None

4 (d)

Formal orientation sessions to be held every 6 months/all staff to have job descriptions provided to them  

Better informed staff and   higher staff engagement

 

June, 2015 –Manager of HR to organize orientation for all new staff every 6 months/

Updated job descriptions for staff in progress

HR Manager

Managers and Supervisors

None-will be conducted in each office by Manager of HR, Managers and Supervisors

4 (e)

Managers and Supervisors trained in conducting performance evaluations of staff    

Managers and supervisors will possess knowledge and skills to evaluate and manage performance  

 

January and Feb, 2015

HR Manager  

ED, AED, HR, Managers and Supervisors

Will be completed in January, 2015

5

Track 8 Outcomes Measures

(recurrence of maltreatment, child deaths, school performance, out of home placements, moves in care, permanency status, family moves and aboriginal placement matching)  

MFCS will have a better sense of how well it is doing in key areas

Feb. 2015

Committee will meet by February, 2015

Lesley, Karlena, Brenda Cope, Natalie and Kiera  

Vicki Black and Wendy Bungay at DCS, Managers, Supervisors an Social Workers

None

 

Additional Initiatives In Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Development of a Performance Review Resource Binder for Managers and Supervisors

 

 

 

 

 

Completed

 

Development of an Interview Resource Binder for Selection of Employees

 

 

 

 

 

Completed

 

Client Complaint Process-When You Disagree

 

 

 

 

 

$500.00 for the new brochures

 

Protocol for Child Welfare and Schools

 

 

 

 

 

None for MFCS-being done by the Province

 

School Plus for First Nations Schools

 

 

 

 

 

None to MFCS  

 

Building Improved Working Relationships with the Health Directors

 

 

 

 

 

None to MFCS

APPENDIX c

 

Strategic Program Initiatives (SPI) (2014-19)

There are common risk factors for troubled children and youths. These include neglect, abuse, parental substance abuse, mental health problems of the parent or child, lack of parenting skills, child substance abuse, child behaviour problems, poor school performance and low self-esteem and family conflict. (Kurtz, Jarvis and Kurtz, 1991).

MFCS cannot address all of these factors alone however by working collaboratively with other agencies in First Nations communities the agency believes that it can play a positive leadership role. Through its prevention initiatives, Family Group Conferencing, and youth independence/life skills program the agency is already having a significant impact and will over the next 5 years strengthen its efforts for improved outcomes for youth.

 

Strategic Goal # 1: Expanded Culturally Based Prevention Programming and Community Connection to MFCS

Performance Measures:

  • Number of parents participating in parent training and support groups
  • Number of families participating in the agency’s Family Group Conferencing
  • Number of positive media press releases regarding the Agency
  • Number of First Nations Social Workers
  • Number of clients participating in Family Group Conferencing
  • Number of presentations to Band Councils and Community agencies on the Role and Services of the Agency
  • Number of interagency committees and functions in which MFCS participates jointly with other service providers
  • Amount of funds saved from reduced costs for legal fees and maintenance available for reallocation to prevention programming

 

Strategies:

  • Creation of a third office in the southwest nova area as recommended by Cooney Consulting and Training( CCT) 2013* (See note below)
  • Expansion of family support program , parenting training and family group conferencing in the southwest nova area with the third office
  • Development of a public relations and media policy to support positive public awareness of the Agency
  • Creation of the a web site for the Agency
  • Orientation of new staff to include a mandatory session on Mi’kmaw culture
  • Adaptation of the Department of Community Services’ child welfare standards so that they are more culturally appropriate for the Mi’kmaw communities and families through the leadership of a First Nations Child Welfare Specialist. This is a new position funded by DCS. The position will be filled in the near future.
  • Development of a framework for Family Group conferencing to allow all families to engage the entire family in a plan to reduce risk to children where this is possible
  • Submission of a report to the Minister of Community Services by the Board’s committee, Chaired by Chief P.J. on the CFSA regarding changes that should be made to make the Children and Family Services Act more culturally relevant for First Nations children, youth, and communities.

 

Strategic Goal #2: To improve outcomes including school performance and capacity for independence for youth in care

Performance Measures:

  • Number of children who are in out of home care (and school age) are in grades appropriate to their age.
  • Number of youth in care who graduate from post-secondary education/training programs
  • Number of youth participating in the Agency’s Youth Independence/Life Skills Program
  • Number of youth who exit care with a plan to care for themselves independently including an established social support network

 

Strategies:

  • MFCS and the Band Council’s Social Assistance Program negotiate partnerships agreements to place a special focus on supporting youth in care as well as other vulnerable youth in their communities.
  • Offering the Agency Independent Living Program to all youth in care within 2 years prior to their exiting care of the Agency
  • Using Family Group conferencing to help youth who have become disconnected from their family and/or community to establish a culturally appropriate support network prior to exiting care

 

Strategic Goal # 3: Improved permanency and cultural attachment for children in care of the agency.

Performance Measures:

  • Permanency Status-permanency status 36 month after coming into care (are they still in care? adopted by First Nations families? returned to parents or extended family?)
  • Aboriginal Placement Matching-Aboriginal children in foster care whose most recent placement was with at least one aboriginal caregiver
  • Number of children in care placed in Kinship, Foster or Adoptive families

 

Strategies:

  • Increased focus by social workers on case planning for children in care
  • Creation of a permanency planning committee in each office to review case plans on a quarterly basis and to follow up on any issues or concerns
  • Use of Family Group Conference to determine appropriate potential kinship placements for children entering care or moving placement

 

Strategic Goal #4: Enhanced Quality of Care and Services to Families and Children at Risk

Performance Measures:

  • Positive/Improved compliance reports during audits by the Agency and Department of Community Services
  • Recurrence of maltreatment ( service) This measure will count number of children under the age of 15 who had a new report of abuse/neglect within the 12 months of case closure: how many had a new investigation; how many resulted in an ongoing child protection case and how many resulted in children coming into care
  • Moves in Care; Children in out of home care who changed placements in the fiscal year (and how many times were they moved)
  • Number of First Nations children placed for adoption with First Nations families
  • Number of First Nations foster parents recruited and trained
  • Number of clients participating in Family Group Conferencing
  • Improved response times and time to complete investigations for families in the area served by the third office (once established) Consideration should be given to locating this third office in a school. This would be a powerful signal of the Agency’s commitment to work collaboratively with the community.

 

Strategies

  • Development of a framework for Family Group conferencing to allow all families to engage the entire family in a plan to reduce risk to children where this is possible
  • Improved working conditions for staff in Eskasoni through the rental of a new office to be built by the Eskasoni Band Council. Staff would be able to see clients/families in offices/boardrooms that are respectful, confidential for families and conductive to optimal employee performance.
  • MFCS and Foster Parent Association to develop Foster Parent Support Groups/Therapeutic Foster Care Outreach
  • MFCS to implement specialized levels of foster care resulting in 2 Receiving Homes and 2 for Specialized Care/Emergency Placements
  • Review of caseloads/workloads to ensure balanced caseloads in each office
  • Establishment of video-conferencing capacity in all offices of MFCS to facilitate communication between offices and with the Department of Community Services and increase access to staff training opportunities
  • Creation of the third office in the southwest nova area to improve the capacity to respond quickly to reports of child maltreatment, complete timely investigations and develop immediate support plans for those families who need it *(see note re 3rd office site)

Recommendation 3.1 of Cooney Consulting and Training ( CCT) 2013   was “ That AANDC and the Agency develop a transition plan to allow for the start-up costs associated with the establishment of a third office and that the office is funded adequately to provide safe, ethical and confidential work environment for clients and staff” . (p.38)

Is impossible with the two existing offices in Eskasoni and Indian Brook for staff to spend quality time with children and families and develop the collaborative relationship with the Band Councils and community agencies. An office in this area would enhance the ability of the agency to expand the preventive programming for First Nations children, youth and families. Current distances (in excess of 300km) do not support the timely delivery of Child Welfare Services or the meeting of required standards of response times. The lack of a visible presence of MFCS in an entire area of the province has compromised community relationships and potential partnerships in reducing risk to children and families in this part of the province. Reduced travel costs would offset some of the operational costs associated with operating from a 3rd location.

As stated by CCT “Using the communities identified by the 2010 DCs Audit, current caseloads and travel costs, this analysis concluded that a third office is required to enable the Agency to meet the DCS standard of providing service within one hour for emergency call outs. Further, a third office would improve service to the community by increasing staff availability, enabling staff to engage in networking with the community, and build positive relations with clients. Based on the current caseload numbers, nine staff are required to meet standards.” (p.38)

APPENDIX d

Salaries

References

Aboriginal Healing Foundation, From Truth to Reconciliation, Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools, Ottawa, 2008.

 

Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Response, Responsibility, and Renewal, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey, Ottawa, 2009.

 

Cooney, Glenda and Pollock, Ron, Cooney Consulting and Training, Operational Review of Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services of Nova Scotia, 2013.

 

Kurtz, P.D., Kurtz, G, Jarvis, S. Problems of Maltreated Runaway Youth. Adolescence.1991 26: 544-555

 

Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services Annual Report, 2013.

 



[1] Correspondence from MFCS to AANDC, 2012