It will take a year for the Child and Youth Advocate Office to complete its review of Yukon youth group homes. That’s according to the terms of reference released by the office on May 4.
“Children and youth in need of protection or in government care are entitled to having their physical and emotional needs met and their rights upheld,” read the terms outlining the issue. “In the course of providing individual advocacy, the Advocate has learned of complaints regarding the care and placement of children in group homes.”
Those complaints became public knowledge this spring when the CBC reported on allegations of violence and mistreatment of youth in care.
Annette King, the territory’s child and youth advocate, says that while the allegations are important, the review is also part of a larger look that Canada is taking at the way Indigenous youth are being treated.
In March, the territorial government asked King’s office to launch a review.
King says she is in the process of putting together a working group that will examine services and supports offered to children and youth in Yukon group homes.
This includes a review of policies, records and reports, as well as in-person interviews with youth, health and social service employees and First Nations government representatives.
“This is about First Nations kids in care and the intergenerational impacts,” she says. “It’s really important to me that we have First Nations advice throughout.”
In addition to speaking with professionals and people working in the field, she wants youth to participate in the working groups, including those who lived in Yukon group homes from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2018.
King says this kind of review is something the office has wanted to do for some time. She says that while it doesn’t require media attention of the magnitude current allegations have received, part of the criteria for conducting a review is that such a review be in the public interest.
She says the last time the office conducted a similar review was 2016.
That review focussed on access to mental health for kids who had been sent out of the territory for treatment. She says the scope of that report was narrower because staff were doing research and analysis of existing files.
King says the challenge with this review will be in ensuring that it isn’t just another report that sits on the shelf, and instead brings about change for children in care.
At the end of the review period, the office will put together recommendations and advice for the health and social services department.
King says there is legislation in place that allows her to follow up and ask how her recommendations are being implemented.
“I’ll just keep on it,” she says. “And I’ll have the voice of children with me, asking about it.… I don’t think anyone will let this go. I won’t.”
The Child and Youth Advocate Office lacks the authority to decide whether a review should be made public, but King said her office has recieved permission from the Department of Health and Social Services in this case to release her report.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org