Foster Family Coalition and N.W.T. government agree to collaborate on fixing foster system

About three weeks after the group representing N.W.T. foster parents delivered a searing rebuke of the territory's foster care system — spurring a rush of grievances and horror stories from people involved in the system — the board of the Foster Family Coalition of the NWT and the territorial Department of Health and Social Services have found some common ground.

The coalition's board met with Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom and officials from her department and from the territorial Health and Social Services Authority last week.

According to a joint statement released Friday, the coalition and the government have agreed to work together to heal the territory's ailing foster care system. 

The meeting was "an important step" toward improving the situation of foster families and children in care, Dawn Pottinger, president of the coalition's board, said in the statement. 

"Foster caregivers want what is best for children in care, and today was a positive step towards finding better ways to communicate and collaborate so that critical information is getting to officials at all levels and to our front-lines and in our foster homes," said Pottinger in the news release.

Earlier this month, the coalition sent a letter to N.W.T. MLAs alleging child protection workers misled families about children in their care and "verbally abused" foster parents.

We are more committed than ever before to work together to make things better for children, families and youth. - Diane Thom, N.W.T. Minister of Health and Social Services

After that, front-line workers in the Child and Family Services division spoke out. They said they're overworked and not getting the support they need from superiors.

On Friday, the coalition and the territorial government said they agreed to "look at ways to improve communication" and to collaborate on ways to ease challenges on the "front-lines and in the homes of caregivers." 

Thom thanked the coalition's board for sharing their frustrations and challenges. She said their talks were "positive," and that "we are more committed than ever before to work together to make things better for children, families and youth."

The coalition's executive director declined a request this weekend to speak about the meeting, and the minister did not respond to a request for an interview before publication.