Sean was in the receiving home far too long, says Social Services spokesperson Pat Living.
The 18-year-old, with severe Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, almost froze to death on the riverbank in December on his way to work.
He wound up in the hospital with brutally frostbitten hands.
He was in Social Services’ care when it happened.
But he was no longer living at the Yukon Children’s Receiving Home, said Living.
After spending more than a year in the facility, he was moved into a room-and-board situation in December, she said.
Sean (not his real name) had lived with the same foster parents since he was a baby.
And, when the family left the Yukon and moved back to Newfoundland, he went with them.
But more than a year ago, he came back to the territory.
“He was put in the receiving home with the understanding we would find a more suitable placement for him right away,” said Living.
“But the spot we thought would become available, didn’t.”
Some people are more difficult to place than others, she added.
“Finding the appropriate placement for kids in care can be a huge challenge.”
So, Sean remained in the receiving home.
“No one cares about you,” he said, in a previous interview with the News. “It’s not a good environment.”
Sean spent a lot of time on the street, often calling his foster mom in Newfoundland drunk, crying, hungry and cold.
“If you’re in the receiving home, you’re a young adult – we don’t lock the door,” said Living.
“When someone is in our care, we give them supports to participate in the community. But we can’t be there 24/7 joined at the hip.”
Many of these kids go to school or to work.
And Sean’s one constant was his job, said Living.
“He was very conscientious,” she said.
The incident happened when he was going to work.
There can only be so many expectations put on caregivers, added Living.
“He got on the bus and was on his way to work.”
Somewhere along the way, Sean must have got off the bus, got drunk and fallen down.
He hit his head and crawled through the snow without gloves, Sean said in an interview.
He’d just moved into his new room-and-board accommodations.
“The caregiver was very aware of this young man’s needs, and was very well-versed in dealing with individuals with FASD,” said Living.
Social Services had an agreement with the caregiver.
“But I don’t have the details of this agreement,” she said.
All Social Services staff are fully qualified, said Living.
“They’re professional, and they get further training for kids with cognitive disabilities, like FASD.”
There are also programs run through Alberta’s Telehealth available to social workers and foster parents, she said.
In March, Sean turns 19 and will no longer be in government care.
But such people aren’t tossed out on the street, said Living.
There is a transition from family and children’s services to adult services, she said.
“We had already started working with adult services.”
Social Services recognizes that although Sean “is chronologically 19, cognitively he’s not,” said Living.
When Sean’s foster mom found out what had happened to her son, she came to the territory and took him home with her.
Social Services is now in contact with its counterpart in Newfoundland, said Living.
Sean’s situation was not ideal, she added.
“He should not have been (at the receiving home) that long.
“But the difficulty was where to place him.”
Social Services always needs foster parents, said Living.
“The people that come to us and volunteer may require training, or may not be appropriate for an individual who has significant needs.
“But we try and match up the foster parents we have with the needs of the kids.”
Social workers in the territory are “among the most caring and compassionate individuals I have ever met,” said Living.
“And they are the same as parents, in a lot of ways, for kids in the receiving home or group homes.”
Contact Genesee Keevil at firstname.lastname@example.org