In the story ‘Can the ministry ensure that family programs will remain intact?’ published in the Lakes District News’ Nov. 25, 2015 issue, the ministry of children and family development had issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the family programs offered at the Lakes District campus of the College of New Caledonia (CNC).
The CNC board of directors decided to transfer all family programs offered at the Lakes District campus to other agencies by March 2016.
Among the agencies expected to apply for these contracts was the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society (LDFES).
Cathy Ashurst, LDFES President, confirmed that LDFES will be applying for the contracts. However, they still haven’t decided if they will apply for all of the contracts.
The family programs are separated into six different contracts. The ministry of children and family development is the primary funder for some of these contracts. Other funding agencies include Northern Health, Nechako Valley Community Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“At this point we are not sure what the bids will require so it is unclear if we will be applying for all [contracts] or not,” said Ashurst. “We are hoping that a partnership approach will be possible in this process but so far we have not had any response back.”
According to Lake Babine Nation chief Wilf Adam, Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) will also be applying for some of the contracts. However, CSFS did not confirm nor provide any details of their plan.
Also expected to apply for the contracts is the Lakes District Community Services Society. However, they did not provide a response by press time.
Ashurst added that no matter which agencies acquire the contracts, she hopes there will be “limited disruption for clients and that services will remain in a hub format to best serve the clients.”
The hub model of service delivery – a model that took over 25 years to develop – is an integrated approach to multiple issues that affect many of the clients including poverty, mental health issues, domestic violence, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and alcohol/drug dependency.
Impact of potentially losing programs and services
According to the College of New Caledonia (CNC), 680 individuals currently access family programs in the Lakes District.
These programs have benefited hundreds of families in the community – through early childhood intervention programs, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) prevention, complex development and behavioural condition diagnosis, and a host of other initiatives.
Community leaders have expressed their concerns that once these programs are transferred to other agencies, some of the services might be lost.
According to Anne Guarasci, FASD Training Lead for CNC, a loss or change in service structure could cause an increase in teenage pregnancy, unplanned pregnancy, FASD and dependence on social assistance, as well as a decrease in stable housing and access to medical and prenatal care.
Guarasci made a presentation to the board of directors of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako on Oct. 22, 2015, saying that a FASD birth is estimated to cost government approximately $1 million over the course of a lifetime.
“We know we’re preventing FASD births because we’re working with women who struggle with alcohol dependency and addiction and we have successfully supported them to access birth control,” she said.
Guarasci explained that Lakes District campus staff has been providing comprehensive services including wrap around supports to families so they can effectively access programs and services.
“Family support workers assist families in accessing stable housing, medical/prenatal care, early intervention therapy services, mental health services and food,” she said.
In addition, these support workers assist families in navigating complex systems such as social services and justice.
“Parenting sessions are developed to meet various learning needs and include transportation, reminders, support with organization and child care,” she added.
The family programs offered at the Lakes District campus are regarded as one of the college’s most successful operations.
What the ministry says
The ministry of children and family development told Lakes District News they are “working to ensure that services to the community will not be interrupted as a result of these changes.”
When Lakes District News asked the ministry if they could ensure that the hub model of services would remain intact, the ministry didn’t answer the question directly. Instead the ministry said the aim of the request for proposal (RFP) issued last week is to find a service provider who is going to be able to “deliver services in a way that’s consistent with the way it’s been delivered in the past and with the needs of the community.”
Last week the ministry issued RFPs for early intervention and school age therapies, and protective family support services. The ministry also issued a notice of intent (NOI) to work with a specific service provider that is already familiar with providing quality services to children and youth with special needs.
The announcement of successful proponents for the RFP and NOI contracts is anticipated in January 2016.
CNC president reschedules meeting in Burns Lake
In the story ‘CNC president cancels meeting in Burns Lake’ published in the Lakes District News’ Nov. 25, 2015, CNC president Henry Reiser had cancelled a community meeting in Burns Lake.
The meeting was intended to discuss the future of the family programs offered at the Lakes District campus. Reiser said the reason for the cancellation was that he had decided to wait until he obtained more details from government about the transition of the programs.
Burns Lake residents will now have another chance to ask the CNC president questions about the transfer of the family programs. The meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday Dec. 2, 2015, at the CNC Lakes District campus at 5:30 p.m.
Reiser said he encourages all Burns Lake residents to attend CNC’s community meeting.
“We really want the community to participate in these community sessions so that it gives us an opportunity to explain what we’re doing and it gives them [community members] an opportunity to give us their input,” he said.
Reiser said CNC has been working with government to try to ensure that the transition of the family programs is done in a “smooth and timely manner” to an appropriate agency.
“When we talked to government, we explained to them what we are providing,” he said. “We are hopeful that government will ask for the same services in the proposal process and in a single location.”
The college has made a series of cutbacks to address a deficit of $2.8 million in its budget. However, the decision to transfer all family programs in Burns Lake had little to do with money.
“The core business of CNC is education, and the core business of the province and the health care system is supporting the family and social programs,” said Reiser. “Our core business is education and that’s what we want to focus on.”
Reiser added that if for some reason the transition of family programs still hasn’t occurred by March 2016, CNC will continue to provide the programs until they have been successfully transitioned.