When questioned by reporters on April 29 as to why there were so few responses to a child advocate survey, Frost said the survey came from an unidentified email address. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Minister Frost pressed as to why few YG employees responded to child advocate survey

Frost says survey request came from an unidentified email address

An anonymous survey by the Yukon’s child and youth advocate intended for government employees came from an unidentified email address, Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost told reporters on April 29 when asked why only a fraction of workers responded to it.

“Because we’re speaking on confidential matters, clearly the staff are not going to respond to an unknown address,” Frost said, “so the department really did its due diligence and followed back around to verify that it was indeed coming from the child and youth advocate office.”

The survey was part of the child advocate’s review released on April 25 that delves into systemic issues in group care.

There were 55 responses from roughly 200 workers who received the survey, with 62 per cent of completed surveys coming from frontline group care workers, the review says.

“After the survey was sent out, some employees reportedly made inquiries to management and were told they could choose to participate at their own discretion. However, some Group Care Facility staff were initially told ‘DO NOT fill out the group home survey at this time.’ This directive was later reversed.”

Once the origin of the email was confirmed, Frost said surveys were filled out.

“There was no delays. The staff are independent. They will respond accordingly,” she said.

The Yukon Party latched onto this during question period on April 29, with MLA Patti McLeod asking where the directive to not fill out the survey came from.

Frost didn’t answer the question.

McLeod also asked why the full report of a separate investigation into allegations involving youth in group homes wasn’t provided to the child and youth advocate for her review.

In response, Frost said the report, conducted by British Columba-based lawyer, Pamela Costanzo, has already been released (she’s referring to a summary, not the full report).

One allegation of mistreatment was supported, Costanzo wrote in the summary. She also found that the director failed to investigate one incident.

“With respect to the confidentiality of clients who were interviewed and issues that defined the protection of privacy — those are things that certainly we will not breach,” Frost said.

Frost told reporters that the department complied with the advocate’s review.

Asked whether the full Costanzo report will be made public, Frost told reporters, “Clearly, we cannot release the full report because of the confidentiality protecting youth.”

Asked if this means the public will never see the full report, she said, “That’s correct.”

The separate review by the child and youth advocate calls on the Yukon government to ensure children and youth in group care are able to maintain their cultural connections, which, by and large, means keeping them with their families.

It outlines 31 recommendations. An initial response from the territorial government is expected by July 31. Two annual progress reports are to follow every year afterwards.

Recommendations include supports that are culturally based for families “to address protection concerns for children and youth without removing children from their home,” increasing family visits, mandatory First Nations trauma training to staff working with youth and children and reviewing sibling placement policy.

During question periods on April 29 and 30, McLeod asked Frost whether her department’s response and progress reports will be made public.

Frost didn’t answer the question.

“We would be happy to assess them and provide a response back on the date specified and we will do that according to the rules that apply,” she said. “I would be happy to cooperate with that and provide the response in due time.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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