A former group home worker says the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services isn't doing enough to protect the safety of employees and youth in Whitehorse.
Bethany Church said the residential youth treatment facilities aren't adequately set up to deal with emotionally disturbed youth.
"I was punched in the face and that was assault number one," she said — the assault happened her first day on the job.
Church knew the work wasn't going to be easy, but never expected what would happen next.
"Then I was assaulted again. Another punch to the face. Then I was put back on the floor the next night and was punched in the face again."
After a third assault, Church quit.
"I didn't even get a call from my supervisor asking if I was O.K. I got phone calls from my co-workers, which was awesome, but there wasn't any immediate follow-up," she said.
"There was a debriefing offered, but no re-integration, no support really."
She said there is a long list of other workers who have been assaulted in group homes in Whitehorse. She said she has had a lot of support from them.
"This is not right for so much opportunity to be provided to children and youth to be assaultive, and it's not right for workers to be exposed to so much violence," she said.
She has worked in the south as a support worker and spent time in care herself a child. She has drawn on those experiences to point out safety issues in Yukon.
"I'm an advocate. I facilitate change and I can't do that if I'm not even being heard."
Pat Living, who works with the Department of Health and Social Services, said she couldn't speak to specific cases.
"Individuals who come to work at a group home have to be aware that they are going to be working with potentially violent or aggressive youth," she said.
Church said the department should have more stringent policies and protocols to protect workers and youth. The former employee said the facilities in Whitehorse aren't conducive to de-escalating a violent situation.
Church also said workers shouldn't have to work with a client immediately after they've been assaulted.