Family and Children's Services needs to follow its own rules, says Yukon child advocate
Systemic review of children in group care tabled in the legislature Thursday
A review of Yukon children in group care has found that rules to protect the rights of those children are already in place, but not being followed by the territory's Family and Children's Services division.
The allegations, which included government employees telling a youth with nowhere else to go to leave his group home, also led to an investigation by the Yukon Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner. That investigation led to eight recommendations to the territorial government, which said it will implement them all.
"I was a little bit surprised and disappointed that there's so much policy already in place to support these children and youth but that their lived experience is not in line with the policies that are there," Annette King told reporters Thursday afternoon, shortly after the report, "Empty Spaces, Caring Connections: The Experiences of Children and Youth in Yukon Group Care," was tabled.
King recommends Family and Children's Services review how its policies are used on the ground by staff and find any gaps where those rules are not being followed.
She also says staff need to be trained on the policies and legislation that are in place.
The review looked at the experiences of 94 children in care from April 2015 to March 2018, and included 31 recommendations.
By doing a systemic review and looking at the experiences of children in general, King says she wanted to layout the reality of the situation and not just one or two cases.
'Not true,' says minister
However, Pauline Frost, Yukon's minister of social services, disputes the policies are not being followed by staff now.
"That's not true. They are being followed. Now what we've seen a small part of the management historically causing... there were some challenges," Frost told reporters.
The review also found many children and youth in group care are not connected to their culture.
During the review's three-year period, 79 per cent of those in group care were Indigenous.
King says children have a right to maintain their culture while in group care.
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"The legislation isn't built to be as colonizing as the past is, but the reality in the lived experience of the kids is that they're still living in a really colonized system where their relationships are the people most important to them are severed for the sake of being safe, of going into care," she said.
The report included recommendations to close that distance from culture, including making sure children and youth who are eligible to register with a Yukon First Nation are enrolled and hiring cultural advisors to act as a liaison between the child or youth and the First Nation.
Despite the report's findings, King is optimistic change can happen.
"We're at a time when people who have authority to make decisions and changes are ready to listen," she said.
The government has until July 31 to respond to the report.