Manager who raised concerns about Yukon child protection no longer works for gov't

Jarrett Parker was released from employment on Monday afternoon, after his extended probationary period had ended. He has filed an appeal.

Jarrett Parker was let go this week, and has filed appeal to the deputy minister

The Yukon Legislative Assembly building in Whitehorse. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

A senior manager within Yukon's Department of Health and Social Services has been let go, after raising concerns about youth who have asked to be in government care.

Jarrett Parker was the manager of regional services with the department, and was released from employment on Monday afternoon, after his extended probationary period had ended.

Parker has filed an appeal to the deputy minister.

He declined an interview with CBC but an email written by him, and obtained by CBC from a separate source, documents several serious concerns he had raised with senior government officials.

Yukon's child protection system has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, after several whistleblowers spoke to CBC about what they describe as a failure of the system, particularly within group homes.

Parker was not one of those whistleblowers.

Some young people have also spoken out about their experiences within the facilities.

The issue has also prompted several days of questioning from the opposition benches in the Yukon Legislature.

Government ministers have promised that staff who come forward with concerns will not be targeted, and have urged them to approach their supervisor or deputy minister, adding they can also go to the public interest disclosure commissioner under the territory's whistleblower legislation.

It's not known exactly why Parker was let go from his job. A spokesperson for the Public Service Commission said the department can't comment on individuals.

'Grave concerns'

Parker's email was sent on Dec. 22 to the Assistant Deputy Minister Brenda Lee Doyle and the Director of the Family and Children's Services branch, Geraldine MacDonald, and describes "grave concerns" he has with the system.

In the email, he cites three separate incidents involving youth, including one young woman who had "asked for 24-hour care and has a significant history."

The email goes on to say that another staff member had denied the youth a bed in a group home.

"[The staff member] was adamant that given [the youth's] history, she was 'too high a risk' to place into care and questioned why I would 'take on that liability,'" the email reads.

"I had thought our job was to work with high risk youth and protect them, even if from themselves."

Parker then went on to tell the assistant deputy minister and the director that it was the third time he'd seen a "high risk" youth "either ... denied, or made to wait, in order to obtain an appropriate placement."

He also recounted the case of another female youth who was under a "continuing care order" under the Child and Family Services Act — meaning the child has been legally declared a ward of the state.

Parker said he was told there were no group home beds available for the youth, contradicting what other staff told him.

After the girl disclosed in a meeting that she had been "unsafe" and, writes Parker, "strongly suggested that she was sexually assaulted where she did stay," a placement was then found for her.

"One of the manager's concerns was that we needed to do 'damage control' as the director was involved," Parker wrote. "I was very demanding that we needed a placement for this youth."

Parker's email says after that youth was given a bed, he inquired whether any other youth had been discharged and was told none had been.

"This demonstrated to me that this bed was available," he writes. 

Inadequate placements

Parker's email offers another example, this time a youth from a rural community "with no supports."

Parker wrote that once case planning began, he was advised that the family placement "had to fail" before other options would be looked at.

Parker notes that the youth had been put in an "inadequate placement ... there was never a home study done to support this, and [the fact] that there were those with criminal records in the home ... was not addressed."

Parker concludes his email by referring to the high-risk youth who had been asking to be placed in care. He says the youth had been in Alcohol and Drug Services [ADS], which he considered a "band-aid placement."

"This youth has now left ADS and is missing. It is a concern, especially if we do have a vacant bed she could have been in as she had been asking for," Parker wrote.

Parker concludes by saying he has "grave concerns over the way we provide placement services to the youth in our care, especially those in our permanent care.

"I question if we are set up to provide services to high risk youth who have emergency or immediate housing and support needs who meet the definition of a child in need of protection under section 21 of our Act ... I would like to be part of the solution."

He also asked for a meeting to discuss his concerns, which he said have "kept me up at night for the last month." 

About the Author

Nancy Thomson

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.