Chief pushes for a safety net for First Nation youth

Kwanlin Dun First Nation Chief Doris Bill can attest to the struggles children face when growing up in the foster care system. A foster child herself, Bill doesn't want to see other youth experience the same things she did.

Kwanlin Dun First Nation Chief Doris Bill can attest to the struggles children face when growing up in the foster care system.

A foster child herself, Bill doesn’t want to see other youth experience the same things she did.

“When I aged out of the system I had nothing,” she said last week following a forum where almost 300 people gathered to brainstorm ways to help down-and-out Yukoners.

“We have five young people who transitioned out of a Yukon government group home and they’re now on the street and that’s unacceptable. I believe the government has a moral and legal obligation to these young people; they’re sort of the de facto parents after all.

“They should have been released (from the group homes) with the skills they need to survive and it saddens me that this is not the case.”

Plans to build a group home within the Kwanlin Dun community are in the early stages of discussion with the Yukon government, she added.

It’s an issue that’s close to Bill’s heart.

Two of her brothers died as a result of homelessness.

“The one brother went through residential school and was completely traumatized by it,” she said.

“He actually graduated from high school but could never let go of that part of his life. He ended up on the streets and eventually died on the steps of the Salvation Army.”

The other brother spent time in Whitehorse and Vancouver before ending up on the streets in Toronto.

For almost 25 years, Bill and her relatives tried to track him down.

In 2000, while working at the CBC, she discovered he’d been living under an alias and was buried in a Toronto cemetery under that name.

Bill said she doesn’t want to see children age out of the system and end up on the street like her brothers did.

“Being a former foster child, there are young people who tend to float through the system with absolutely no care or attention paid to them,” she said during an interview yesterday.

“Then they are out and they don’t know how to function.”

Bill also envisions a transition home for Kwanlin Dun, one that would be attached to or possibly near the group home.

There, young adults would learn the necessary life skills that would help them survive once they’re on their own.

It’s too early to determine the size and location of the homes, she said.

It’s a support that two of her brothers could have benefited from.

“It’s totally preventable,” Bill said.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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