Government sticking to residential youth-care plan, Jackman says

James
James McLeod
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NDP presents 3,800 names on petition in House

Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Clyde Jackman says the government won’t reverse a decision to change how it provides group home services to troubled youths, despite 3,800 names on a petition and sustained criticism from the NDP.

NDP MHA Gerry Rogers speaks to workers from residential care homes for youths with special needs. The government is changing how it provides those services, which means workers are losing their jobs.

Workers from several group homes around the province who are losing their jobs through the change in service were at Confederation Building Wednesday, along with Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).

When the government announc­­ed the changes in late March, then-minister Paul Davis said contracted residential placement services would provide better service for the youths involved. But NDP MHA Gerry Rogers calls it “creeping privatization” which will hurt services.

“Some of the staff have been working in these facilities for over 20 years,” Rogers said. “They will be gone and replaced by people who are going to be making $13 an hour. That’s what people make when they’re cooking hamburgers.”

In at least one case, in Stephen­ville, the new service provider is having trouble getting its operation up and running, which is adding to the turmoil right around the end of the school year for the youths in government care.

“We know how difficult it is just for an individual or a family to find a house, buy a house, renovate and furnish it,” Rogers told reporters. “In the Stephenville home, the children were to be moved on the 19th of May. Here we are on the 21st of May. There still isn’t a house ready. There’s no house at all bought yet, let alone renovated and furnished.”

Jackman said the timing of the switch-over isn’t ideal, but they’re doing the best they can.

“We deal with the circumstances that we have. Should we have gone a little bit longer? Maybe we should have, but it’s the circumstance that we’ve got before us now,” he said.

Jackman said the service is changing, which is why the types of people being employed will change, too.

“The type of qualification that would have been needed previously under a correctional type of facility is different than what we would need now under more of a foster type of support,” he said. “We’re providing a different type of care here now.”

Furlong told reporters that the whole saga is having an impact on the children currently in care.

“The children in Burin, for example, have been told that they will likely not be attending the same high school that they were hoping to attend next year,” she said. “They’re graduating from the junior high and would have been going to the senior high. Their graduation is Friday night. They’re so distraught that they’re saying they don’t think they’re going to be going to their grad now.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.comTwitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees

Geographic location: Stephenville, Burin

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  • Lomond
    May 22, 2014 - 09:18

    This is the PC government being Cozy with the St. John's Board of Trade and its policies. Farm out the care of foster children to an only for profit company whose only accountability is to the bottom line. I don't think you can rehabilitate or save children who are in need that way.

  • Dianne
    May 22, 2014 - 05:19

    Its about time the government took a stand on something..