By Bailey Sutherland
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Government of Saskatchewan has announced that it will be increasing its investment into Child and Family Programs in the province by providing more than $54 million in prevention programs to support families in caring for their children at home and over $49 million to support extended family caregivers and foster families.
“The Ministry of Social Services relies on its partnerships with community-based organizations to deliver essential supports and services to children and families across the province,” said Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky. “This year’s provincial budget is strengthening our support of the sector and enhancing services provided directly by the ministry to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable children and youth.”
In 2023-2024, the Ministry of Social Services Child and Family Programs will contract with 106 third-party service providers that support at-risk children, youth and families in their homes and communities, for an estimated total funding of $174 million.
According to the province, this is an increase of $4.9 million over 2022-2023 with contracted community-based organizations.
The Prince Albert Indian-Metis Friendship Centre is one third-party service provider that is contracted with Social Services to provide support to at-risk families across northern Saskatchewan.
Friendship Centre Executive Director Janet Carriere said the additional funding can make a big difference.
“If we can keep families together rather than having them split apart, I think that’s amazing,” Carriere said. “I think we all know the damage that’s done to a child that is taken away from their family and the years of healing that that takes. We see a lot of unhealed people coming through our doors every day because they were put in that position.”
Carriere added that keeping families together in the first place not only saves the government money in the long run but is a better outcome for the community as a whole; especially in the north.
“We’re under-resourced here in our urban city, but we have a lot more options than someone in a northern community does,” she said.
Foster families and extended family caregivers in Saskatchewan will be getting extra support as well, thanks to an additional
$825,000 investment from Social Services that will be used to increase the basic maintenance rate to help cover the costs of caring for a child in need.
The new funding is on top of the increases that were put in place last year to support the implementation of the PRIDE levels of pay for foster parents.
“We are thankful for the Saskatchewan government’s continued investment in our province’s foster families and caregivers,” said Saskatchewan Foster Families Association Executive Director Deb Davies. “This most recent budget increase builds upon the previous increases and truly recognizes the important role that foster families and family-based caregivers play in providing a safe and supportive network for children and youth in crisis.”
The ministry is also investing an additional $1.7 million to enhance services provided by the ministry to support positive outcomes for children and youth. This includes $1.4 million to increase the number of Child Service Workers who support children and youth in care, and a $350,000 investment to strengthen oversight of group homes in Saskatchewan to ensure all children and youth receive quality care.
The ministry has committed to six additional staff to enhance oversight capacity, strengthen investigation services and help support community-based organizations.
“Increasing our investment in Child and Family Programs helps to ensure that families and communities are supported to safely care for all children,” said Makowsky. “When a child does have to come into care, our goal then becomes reunification, providing services and tools on parenting, counselling, domestic violence prevention and addictions services.”
Bailey Sutherland is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the PRINCE ALBERT DAILY HERALD. LJI is a federally fudned program