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Internal emails back up stories about youth turned away from Yukon group homes

Internal government emails support allegations about two young people who had been kicked out or turned away from Yukon government-run group homes.

Emails go against claims by government officials who said 'we would not move a youth'

Tyrell Jackson said he was living in the boys' receiving home, as a minor, when he says he was 'kicked out' one November afternoon. Jackson said he protested, telling the two social workers he didn't know where to go. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

CBC has obtained emails that support allegations about two young people who had been kicked out or turned away from Yukon government-run group homes. 

The emails counter claims by territorial government officials last month that children would never be turned away from group homes and left on the street. 

"We would not move a youth and say, 'You can't have this bed anymore, it's for someone else,'" Leeann Kayseas, acting manager of family and children's services, said on April 13.

But 19-year-old Tyrell Jackson told CBC that happened to him. He said he was living in the boys' receiving home, as a minor, when he says he was "kicked out" one November afternoon. Jackson said he protested, telling the two social workers he didn't know where to go.

"They're like, 'I'm sorry to say this but you need to pack up your stuff and be out of here in like two hours... there's other kids that are coming here to move in,'" Jackson told CBC earlier this year.

An email written in January 2017 by a worker who was involved in managing Jackson's case, backs up his story. 

Leeanne Kayseas, acting manager of Yukon's family and children's services, and Stephen Samis, deputy minister of health and social services, held a news conference last month to address allegations of neglect in the territory's youth group homes. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

The email, addressed to other workers involved in Jackson's care, talks about Jackson being sentenced in October under the Youth Criminal Justice Act to "deferred custody" at the boys' receiving home, for three months.

The worker goes on to write that a month later, "I had to ask Tyrell to leave and gave him a little over an hour to pack all of his belongings and find a place to stay. Tyrell handled it well considering."

Jackson has told CBC he hit "rock bottom" after losing a safe place to live. 

The worker's email confirms that Jackson was "bouncing between family members" and within a couple of weeks, was suicidal and admitted to Whitehorse General Hospital. 

'It was clear she felt let down'

Meanwhile, another email obtained by CBC affirms that a teenage girl who was voluntarily being treated for addiction was denied a safe place to stay by family and children's services.

A manager in the department, Jarrett Parker, had raised concerns about the girl in December. Parker told officials about his worry that the teenager had been denied a bed in a group home because officials deemed her "too high risk."

Parker has since been let go from his job, and is suing for wrongful dismissal.

Speaking to CBC, Kayseas insisted there "would never be a situation" when a child would be considered too high risk to be accepted into care — either foster care, a group home, or a receiving home.

CBC has obtained an email written on Jan. 5 by a professional who was working with the teenaged girl, and addressed to another worker in the system.

It says the girl told the professional she had written a letter to the director of family and children's services, asking to be placed into care.

"It was clear she felt let down by family and children's services ... [her] current state of homelessness is extremely stressful for her," the email says.

"Her feelings of helplessness are high and her motivation to change has plummeted. She is desperate for connection but also pushing away her service providers. I reassured her that I am not going anywhere."

The email continues "there was an opportunity missed" when the girl had been "stable and sober" for almost two months.

"She would have benefited from a stable placement in care with dedicated staff IF/when she would have relapsed she could have detoxed and at least have somewhere to work towards being released TO. She doesn't have that right now," the email says.

The professional wrote that they were concerned about the girl's safety, adding, "[she] is at very high risk for continued substance abuse, overdose, and sexual/violent victimization. [She] presents with significant trauma and mental health issues which cannot be targeted effectively when she is homeless."

Meanwhile, Jarrett Parker's December email notes that the possibility of family members caring for the girl "had been explored," but the family was "not willing to participate."

It's not known where the teenage girl is now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

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