Group homes a top issue as chiefs meet Yukon premier and cabinet
'Very sad to hear the realities that [children in care] are currently facing,' says Grand Chief
Yukon's premier and cabinet met with First Nations chiefs in Dawson City this week for the first Yukon Forum since the Yukon government's public apology over the treatment of children in government care.
Premier Sandy Silver said foster care was a priority discussion.
"We have an awful lot of work ahead of us," he said.
The premier said some progress had been made to reduce the number of children in care.
"We're making significant improvements to child welfare through our efforts at the Yukon Forum and through our joint working groups," Silver said.
"Over the last two years, the number of children in care has dropped by 44 percent."
Neither the premier nor the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations criticized the current minister of health and social services, Pauline Frost, who delivered the government's apology earlier this month.
Instead, Silver praised the minister's work. "Kudos to the department, to the minister and her team for the direction," Silver said. "I believe it's being held up by the First Nations' governments as the right approach."
Council of Yukon First Nations calls to keep more children in communities
Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations says keeping more children in their home communities is a priority.
Last year the Yukon government increased payments made to relatives who are taking care of children within their extended family, making them on par with payment to foster parents.
Johnston supports this measure.
"They should be equal to what the foster care program provides. Unfortunately when it comes to extended family care ... [it] hasn't always been the same for us as First Nations people," he said. "We have a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren on a very limited budget."
Johnston said Yukon First Nations are "working continuously to improve the system" of childcare with the territory.
In reaction to the government's public apology he said it was "very sad to hear the realities that [children in care] are currently facing. But at the end of the day, these are things that government in the territory are now identifying as priorities."
Expanding the Yukon Forum to four times a year was a campaign promise of the current territorial government. The previous territorial government had held about one Yukon Forum every two years.