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Child advocate insists her review of Yukon's group homes will be worthwhile

The territorial government has asked Annette King to review Yukon's six government-run group homes. The request follows public allegations of violence and mistreatment of youth in government care.

'The time is right to make some really important recommendations and meaningful change,' says Annette King

'The children are growing up. We need to get this done and we need to get something going quickly, where it actually changes for the children today — not just for the children tomorrow,' said Annette King, Yukon's child and youth advocate. (Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office)

Yukon's child and youth advocate promises her review of the territory's youth group homes will lead to change, and won't just produce a document with "broad-brush recommendations" that can be shelved and forgotten.

Annette King says that's because her findings will be made public.

"When we go public with things, it increases the level of accountability on the part of programs and services in implementing the change," she said. 

"All of a sudden now there's all this attention to this really important issue, so I think the time is right to make some really important recommendations and meaningful change."

In March, the territorial government asked King's office to do a review of Yukon's six government-run group homes. The request follows public allegations of violence and mistreatment of youth in government care.

The CBC has recently obtained internal emails supporting allegations by two youth that they had been kicked out or turned away from group homes, claims that territorial government officials had refuted.

Some people — including King's predecessor — have questioned the value of the review, saying King's office has no power to make change and can only advocate. The Yukon Employees Union has suggested an independent third party from outside the territory look at the issue, while the opposition Yukon Party has written to Canada's auditor general.

Last week, King's office released its terms of reference for the review. Officials describe the objective, scope, and methodology for what King calls "a priority for our office."

"The children are growing up. We need to get this done and we need to get something going quickly, where it actually changes for the children today — not just for the children tomorrow."

Interviews with youth, workers

The review will involve interviews with children and youth who are currently in group homes, or have lived in one between April 2015 and March 2018. Case workers, supervisors, group home managers and staff will also be interviewed.

It will also look at policies, reports, and decision-making processes at the group homes. King insists that anybody who is interviewed — youth, or government staff — will remain anonymous. 

"We are certainly aware of the culture of fear that's in the department," she said. "We won't be sharing where we hear information from."

King also insists her office is independent of the Legislative Assembly.

"We don't work for anybody but the children," she said.

King expects to complete the review by March 2019.

With files from Sandi Coleman and Nancy Thomson

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