Yukon News

Yukon’s lack of foster parents means preschoolers are staying in group homes

Ashley Joannou Wednesday March 15, 2017

Alastair Maitland/Yukon News


The front door of a group home in Whitehorse. The News has learned that children as young as three are staying in the territory’s group homes.

Kids as young as three are staying in the territory’s group homes, sometimes living with older children, the News has learned.

Group homes normally don’t house children younger than eight. But the health department now admits children as young as three are staying in group care.

The Yukon Employees Union says it has been happening since at least September.

No one from the health department was made available for an interview. But in a statement the department called the issue “complex.”

“One major part of the answer is because there are not enough foster homes,” the statement said. “In addition, and likely because of the housing considerations, we are finding that many of the current and new foster homes are unable to support sibling groups. Unfortunately the issue of younger children being placed in group care is a problem that is national in scope and Yukon is no exception.”

The statement does not say how often younger children are being taken into group homes or how old the other children are who live in the same homes.

“At times we do have younger children residing with older children, just like in typical families. We make every effort (to) keep sibling groups staying together and this may mean providing group home programming that can allow for different ages and genders,” the statement said.

“But in general we try to maintain our group home programs where children are placed by age.”

The news has both the union and the territory’s child advocate asking questions.

Union president Steve Geick wondered whether staff at the group homes were being appropriately trained to help preschoolers.

“There are things they are trained for, but I don’t know if that translates to that age group of kids.”

If things are going to continue this way, the department needs to consider expanding the mandate of the group home system, Geick said.

“They need to look at possibly separate homes and keeping dedicated space for preschool and ensuring the staff has the tools they need to deal with it.”

Annette King is the Yukon’s child advocate. Part of her mandate is to ensure the rights of children in government care are being respected.

King wouldn’t say whether her office has heard complaints about preschoolers in group homes, citing privacy concerns.

She wants more information from the Yukon government about how it decides to send young kids to group homes.

“It’s the developmental age that we’d be concerned about. I’d want to know what resources were put into these group home situations that promote their development,” she said.

“Is there different training for staff? We think of group homes as being teenagers’ homes and adolescent development is different than preschool development.”

The department said: “Many different efforts are being made to help address the needs of younger children who require out of home care.”

That includes “trying to improve the training made available to both foster parents and the social workers who provide supports and services in the area of child welfare.”

Last year the department said there were 61 Yukon foster homes. At the time, CBC reported that number was down from 70 the year before.

The health department says it runs a foster parent recruitment campaign that tries to dispel the myths of being a foster parent, including the misconception that you have to be married to apply.

“This issue illustrates that our system needs to remain flexible and adapt to the changing needs within our communities and territory as a whole. In addition, it is clear that preventing children from coming into care has to remain a system priority,” the statement said.

In 2013, the Yukon’s occupational health and safety officials investigated the territory’s group homes after an influx of employees reported workplace violence on the job.

In 2014, the health department admitted that children were being housed in bed and breakfasts because the department didn’t have enough space.

The department’s latest statement makes no mention of whether older children are being displaced from group homes to make room for younger ones.

Contact Ashley Joannou at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


April wrote:
7:17am Saturday April 1, 2017

Foster parents have decreased over the years because they get treated poorly.  Foster parents find that the department expects way too much from them and often find themselves scrutinized.  It takes a very special person or family to become a foster family and an even more special person to remain one.  Think twice before signing up and get in touch with a few past and present foster parents for their valued insight.
Yes, it is too bad that children, babies even, get dropped into foster homes or motel rooms BUT this is often because of poor work due to the social workers.  They social workers are not properly trained, often overworked, and have bad management. 
Possibly with a new government this department will be reviewed again.  Are they actually doing the jobs they are supposed to be?  Are they fully respectful to our diverse cultures?  Do they fully consult with First Nations as they are regulated to? 
End result, they should be respectful to our families and children and not treat them like criminals.

Groucho d'North wrote:
4:50pm Wednesday March 29, 2017

Mr. Colby, I have no desire to argue the status quo with you or how it became that way. I didn’t make the rules, but I understand what they are and how they are used and abused by a variety of players. If you don’t like the way things are run, get elected and make the changes you believe are right, but lets not ignore the problem of children not being properly cared for today here and now. Lets focus on the kids and help to make them feel and do better.

Jonathan Colby wrote:
3:37pm Wednesday March 29, 2017

“Parental neglect and other concerns” =/= working “rightly or wrongly in the best interest of the child”

Just like forced adoption across cultural lines =/= foster care, regardless of any intersectionalities in effect.

Has the residential school “excuse” been used for too long? Sounds like more of the colonizing class telling the colonized how to protest their conditions, but ok.

Groucho d'North wrote:
11:21am Wednesday March 29, 2017

Jonathan Colby, that was the government thinking of the day and was justified rightly or wrongly as being in the best interest of the child. The government thinking of today follows the same pattern as Yukon’s Child and Family Services Act which came into effect in April 2010. Is centred on the best interests of the child. How that plays out is still in some dispute.

Jonathan Colby wrote:
7:55am Wednesday March 29, 2017

“Recently there was some revival media about the Sixties Scoop where aboriginal children were removed from their homes due to parental neglect and related concerns.”

Groucho, are you honestly making the argument that the 60s scoop was the fault of FN’s parents? That the reasoning behind it was justified?

Groucho d'North wrote:
11:23am Tuesday March 28, 2017

I believe the headline to this story is incorrect. It should read: Yukon’s lack of responsible parents means preschoolers are staying in group homes. It’s the same situation in the Education system, kids coming to school hungry and tired from no breakfast and not enough sleep, homework not completed, no lunch with them. These are signs that parents are failing in their responsibilities to care and nurture their children. Perhaps it is a continuing symptom of the residential school history - perhaps not, but that excuse has been used for far too long. Recently there was some revival media about the Sixties Scoop where aboriginal children were removed from their homes due to parental neglect and related concerns. Not much has changed but millions of dollars has been spent to understand and hopefully correct what was leaned in the past. Doesn’t appear that is the case though. And to be clear, it is not exclusively a First Nations situation we are dealing with here. There are plenty of white kids with parents who are not doing their jobs well if at all. Booze and drugs, apathy and a low sense of self-worth are creating a new generation who are being introduced to institutional housing, substance abuse, low self-esteem, a lack of ambition and as reported in some locales, an increase in suicide due to frustration to achieving a better future.  The problem is well known, but nobody has the courage to talk about it for fear of being called some name like racist, bigot or conservative. I don’t know what the solution is, but perhaps we really should begin by identifying honestly what the problems are and try dealing with those first.

Alan wrote:
6:46pm Friday March 17, 2017

To anyone outraged, obviously this is a hot button issue for you but to deny that parents are the sole agents of responsibility for children is a refutation of a thousand years of Western civilization.

Max Mack wrote:
4:36pm Friday March 17, 2017

Rant on. Why is the YEU involving itself on this issue? Focus on your members and your constituents, and in areas where you have legitimate influence. Last time I looked, foster parents were not unionized. Nor should they be. Foster parenting is not a “job”. Rant off.

Foster parents are over-taxed with the excessive demands and whims of bureaucrats, regulators, safety zealots and university-trained “social workers” who have no real idea what it takes to raise a child. Foster parenting is a hugely demanding role, not a job, where financial incentives can hardly been seen as adequate compensation for the enormous costs to the foster parent’s life.

No wonder people do not want to carry this torch.

Past Child of the Yukon System wrote:
1:26pm Friday March 17, 2017

I have been a ward of the court at one point in my life in the Yukon. I stayed at the receiving home, NNS (I think it is called something else now) and had my own set up in an apartment. The group homes are run sooo VERY poorly. The Social Workers in the Yukon do a crap job at protecting children in the Territory. I remember my Social Worker torturing me and taking away very personal things, my journal (which was therapy in itself) actually amongst a few other things and telling me she will give it back to me when I am a “good” girl. The therapist they had told me I was a bad girl when I wore braids and a good girl when I didn’t have them in….. The director was a TOTAL PIG!!!!  I am sickened thinking that young children are being housed in the same homes as very troubled teenagers (most of us were) and potentially being put in dangerous situations. This is such a sickening issue. The Territory needs to get on this issue and NOW!!!!! They definitely need a better incentive to have more people wanting to foster children. The system in the Yukon for children is totally FAW**D and the flaws are so very DEEP. This is the reason why so many children and youth are falling prey to the issues that plague the Yukon and why they are following a circular cycle that still hasn’t been broken. Such a sad reality!!!! I feel sorry for all of the kids in care in the Yukon. :(

Give Your Head a Shake wrote:
10:00pm Thursday March 16, 2017

The Yukon is known for it’s heart and it’s generosity… time to think long and hard about our commitment to our children and youth, and to pick up a phone and call FCS to see what it takes to become a foster parent and then actually DO IT. It’s easy to complain and point fingers, much harder to take action and actually commit to change. Social workers can only do so much without community support… Rally people!

Missing the point - we need foster parents wrote:
8:18pm Thursday March 16, 2017

I am always amazed at those who comment on children in care and child welfare, those who do not have to make these decisions and have never done this work. The Social Workers and staff who care for these children and have to bring them into care dedicate their lives to caring for and protecting children. They give up nights and weekends to protect and care for children who require protecting. All of those making comment are you foster parents? Do you care for children that are not yours and need care and safety ? No I think not…..the message here is we need caring people who want to become foster parents so these children do not have to be in group homes.  Be part of a solution and let’s support the people who dedicate their lives to caring for and protecting children. So easy to sit in judgement when you do nothing !

cam wrote:
3:40pm Thursday March 16, 2017

Where are the parents?  Why are there children that no one wants!!!!
Do not blame the system or residential schools (that is getting old)
If you have children look after them or do not bring them into the world.
We as taxpayers cannot be blamed for everything that goes wrong in this territory.  Take some responsibility.  Maybe each band should create a safe home facility for First Nations Children to ensure that they do not lose their cultural identity and language and the rest of the children that need help will have to hope that the foster parents get paid more.  Will you open up your home to help???

To any one outraged by this... wrote:
2:33pm Thursday March 16, 2017

Alan, only through the most short sighted and reductionist lenses does your comment make sense. And even then, just barely. It’s actually just a really silly and needless comment. If the issue is a lack of safe, nurturing foster homes, how is “holding the parents accountable” going to fill that gap? Really. Think your way through that one. Most, almost all, foster children are NOT abandoned. Foster children are an unfortunate byproduct of many many systemic failures. FCS works tirelessly toward the ultimate goal of reunification when at all possible.

Marina, see my last comment. Do you really think that more “gov run facilities” is the answer? How can you expect any traumatized child to learn safe attachment and trust when his or her entire life is surrounded by adults that are constantly in and out working a nine to five job? It doesn’t matter how consummately professional they are, it’s fundamentally not a healthy way to raise a child. It is only through fruitlessly exploring every other available option that children end up in group homes (or B&B’s or hotels, or…)

Honestly, if you’re not willing to consider fostering, then please just refrain from commenting. Everyone can already see the problem. Try to help out with a solution.

Ya No wrote:
2:25pm Thursday March 16, 2017

Holly - Yeah no.  Groups homes are far far far more expensive to run than foster homes.

sad but true wrote:
1:19pm Thursday March 16, 2017

Having been a foster parent here in Yukon, in my experience, it is the social workers that need an overhaul. They lie to potential foster parents about the children’s needs in order to secure a placement and then once the foster parent realizes that the child has needs greater than their ability, the social worker says they can not help as those tasks (or whatever you ask for help with) are they are responsibility of the foster parent. There are a lot of placement breakdowns due to the lacking support of the social workers and I am sure a lot of foster parents/families that no longer foster because of how difficult the social workers make it for them.

To anyone who is outraged by this... wrote:
12:00pm Thursday March 16, 2017

...before you post a guffawed response demanding that “more needs to be done” and what an outrage it is the children as young as three are ending up in group homes, stop and ask yourself:

Am I willing to open up my home and foster a child?

If the answer is “no” then just walk away from the keyboard.

Josie wrote:
11:31am Thursday March 16, 2017

Grouphomes are NOT cheaper. Fosterparents get paid crap. They needs to be more incentives.
Grouphomes are no place for little 2-3 year olds.
Maybe the foster parent regulations are too hard for some family members to qualify (i.e. Room is in the basement ).

MARINA wrote:
10:57am Thursday March 16, 2017


Alan wrote:
8:29am Thursday March 16, 2017

Who is responsible for this disfunction?
Ultimately and entirely it is the parents of these unfortunate children who have abandoned them, NOT the government, social workers, blah blah blah.
The parents who are not held accountable and are simply not part of the equation.

Bonnie Murrell wrote:
8:07am Thursday March 16, 2017

Providing more cooperative planning options at the earliest stage of involvement would provide a wider scope of support for struggling families and identify healthy family placements for these children…should an out of care option be needed. With only two cooperative planners for the entire territory, lengthy vacancies within those positions, and other systemic challenges, the results are evident in this article. Mike Doolan, renowned cooperative planning advocate, expressed concerns related to the care of children within the territory back in 2012. He documented his findings and provided solutions before finishing his work supporting growth and change in the Yukon.

Anti-H10 wrote:
10:45pm Wednesday March 15, 2017

There is a reason why there are elementary schools and high schools.  There needs to be more homes built for different age groups.  There needs to be more family stepping up to the plate for their families and extended family,,, oh but wait, foster parents get paid a heck of a lot more then any family would be paid to look after children.  And yes, family needs money to look after their relatives,, it’s expensive to raise kids.  Look at the rates a foster parent gets and then look at the rates a family member gets paid, there is no comparison.  Any family out there who’s children are in group care with a mix of babies to youth should be doing something about that.  Go to the advocates office, go to the media… There are huge neglect issues going on and not just by the parents , it is the department of CFS that need to have a huge overhaul and take a long hard look at themselves.  They expect top notch work with not enough social worker’s to do effective work, which is neglectful in itself.  Expecting little kids to live with youth is a really stupid move and most group home staff are not educated enough to look after at risk youth so how are they going to look after children in the same environment?  It is a totally different skill set.  Wow, who is really looking out for the kids? Terrible!

Sarah wrote:
6:33pm Wednesday March 15, 2017

It’s not like the bureaucrats come to the Cabinet Office with papers for the Minister to sign off on the age of the kids placed in care. The people who place the blame on any party are stupid. This isn’t a Yukon Party problem. It’s just a problem. It was social workers and the health department’s fix that apparently wasn’t a good idea.And now that it’s become a problem, it makes its way to the political offices. It’s up to them to fix a problem not their fault though. Hope the Liberals can fix this non-political problem. Did the last government not build a big beautiful group home? Far from the picture of the decrepit door with a creepy sign as shown attached to the story on Facebook. Now it’s time for Yukoners to step up and be foster parents. Time for the new gov to create for incentives for people to do it. And time for stupid posters to stop posting that its political to stick it to the old government. Be foster parents. At least the kids are being cared for. It’s not like they were thrown in a room with a bunch of older kids and told to survive how they see fit.

Accurate wrote:
4:57pm Wednesday March 15, 2017

The first three comments here are accurate.  Especially from Holly.

Holly wrote:
4:14pm Wednesday March 15, 2017

This is what they have been planning for.  It’s much cheaper to put children in a group home that pay foster parents.

We have a problem wrote:
2:32pm Wednesday March 15, 2017

This and worse has been happening. Family and Children’s Services is in shambles (not to mention other departments under Health and Social Services). The department is beyond toxic, they offer no job security, and stretch them far too thin. They are failing children, ignoring their needs, and causing more damage. The Territory as a whole has been ignoring disabled and disadvantaged youth and their families for far too long.

The Liberals have a long steep hill to climb to fix what 14 years of the Yukon Party left behind. Can they do it? I don’t know. But for you fiscal conservatives out there, it is far cheaper to invest now than to continue to allow Health and Social Services kids to turn into Health and Social Services adults. Lets start making the ethical and fiscally responsible choice and start taking care of our children and families.

This has been happening wrote:
1:24pm Wednesday March 15, 2017

This has been happening since 2014, at least. It is atrocious and yet, no one wants to foster. Why would they? HSS doesn’t treat their foster parents kindly or fairly—- word of mouth is your best recruitment and your former (and current) parents are talking.  These poor kids in group homes .... rotating staff, no attachment, no consistency.  That is neglect.  Better then then abuse they experienced at home though?

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