Auditor general finds weaknesses in how Department of Social Development approves, monitors, funds foster homes05 December 2013
FREDERICTON (GNB) – The Department of Social Development does not always comply with its documented foster home standards, according to the latest annual report of the auditor general, released today in the legislative assembly.
The report, reflecting audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2013, reviewed how the department has complied with its documented foster care standards for providing a safe and secure environment for children who must be separated from their natural families.
"While department staff acknowledge the importance of the approval standards and believe the standards are always met prior to approving a foster family, we tested a sample of foster family files and found only two of the 20 files contained all of the required documentation for approving a foster family," said auditor general Kim MacPherson.
New Brunswick had 531 foster families as of March 2012. At any given time, more than 1,100 children are in foster care.
With regard to monitoring of approved foster homes, she found annual reviews are not always completed as required by the standards. In fact, only three of the 18 files tested contained documentation indicating annual reviews were done regularly. MacPherson made several recommendations to address shortcomings in the approval and monitoring of foster families.
The auditor general reported a decline of 41 per cent in the number of available foster homes during an eight-year period. She recommended the department develop a long-term strategy to ensure sufficient appropriate foster homes are available to meet regional needs.
"The significant decrease in the number of foster homes is very concerning," said MacPherson. "Stakeholders are concerned an inadequate supply of foster families can result in adverse consequences to vulnerable children in need of care."
The auditor general also commented on the funding for foster care. She noted that the foster care monthly rate for a child who is 11 years old or older increased by 15.3 per cent from 1996 to 2013, while the consumer price index increased by 38.7 per cent during the same period.
"Changes in the monthly foster care rates since 1996 have not kept pace with inflation," said MacPherson. "Several reimbursement rates relating to foster care appear outdated. For example, the clothing and seasonal allowances currently paid to foster parents for items such as winter coats, boots, gloves and school supplies are based upon a rate that is 10 years old."
Accordingly, she made several recommendations relating to foster home funding.
MacPherson also reported that the department does not publicly report on the effectiveness of its Children's Residential Services program. The department has not established measurable performance indicators or performance goals, which are prerequisites for effectiveness reporting. She recommended the department include such effectiveness reporting in its annual report.
Today's report contains two volumes. Volume I focuses on matters arising from the annual financial audit of the provincial government and Crown agencies. Volume II reports the results of Value for Money projects completed during 2013. Both volumes are on the Office of the Auditor General website.
● Office of the Auditor General