Nunavut hopes to re-open Cambridge Bay group home for youth
“This image of us taking people’s children away and shipping them off to the south ain’t exactly accurate”
Iqaluit and Chesterfield Inlet are the only two communities in Nunavut with children’s group homes — but the Government of Nunavut hopes that number soon grows to three.
The director of children and family services for the Government of Nunavut, Peter Dudding, said his department will re-issue a request for proposals in mid-June for an operator to re-open and run the Cambridge Bay group home.
And Dudding hopes this is the first of more group homes to come.
“I’m hopeful with the passage of the new budget there’s going to be new money for the development of some new resources in Nunavut,” Dudding said.
There’s no immediate plans to open other group homes throughout the territory, he said — but Cambridge Bay is a good start.
The Cambridge Bay home closed last year because its British Columbia-based operator was overwhelmed with “higher needs kids.”
Located in downtown Cambridge Bay, right behind the elementary and high school, the shuttered youth home is currently ready to re-open; the GN has bought new furniture and completed repairs to the house.
“It does need some tender loving care,” Dudding admits.
But “as soon as we can get this RFP [Request for Proposal] responded to and a new operator, we’re kind of ready to go,” Dudding said.
He admitted the government dropped the ball when it came to managing and operating the previous facility and they’re looking to correct their mistakes this time, including implementing a placement review process before children are sent to live in the home.
The home will use a parent model approach — two parents and staff on rotation, typically up to four — caring for a maximum of six kids at a time.
“It’s about the better management of the group home that is going to, A, allow us to get a better selection, more appropriate set of house parents into the program,” Dudding said. “And, B, quite frankly, better work on our part as well around being a bit more careful of the children that will be placed in the program.”
And this time he’s hoping the RFP will lure a northern operator.
“I think this was one of the problems — someone from the south trying to run it from such a distance,” Dudding said.
The home will serve the whole of the Kitikmeot and focus on boys aged 12 to 16 — but that’s if an operator actually bites.
This is the second time in 2014 the GN has sent out an RFP, seeking a group home operator for Cambridge Bay.
Dudding said the RFP last time wasn’t clear enough about what the GN expects of the operator, and the parent model they hope to use.
“There was really a bit of a disconnect I think in terms of what we need and what potential contractors would see as a reasonable set of expectations. So we worked hard to try and make that clearer in that RFP,” Dudding said.
The GN has recently been under fire over how it runs children’s group homes in the territory.
Dudding announced last November that the children’s home in Iqaluit was shifting its focus to care for adolescents aged 10-16.
That caused a stir at the community as well as the legislative assembly, particularly with Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak who claimed some of the children were kicked out and sent to southern homes.
On May 30 in the assembly, the MLA for Tununiq, Joe Enook, asked family services minister Jeannie Ugyuk how sending children south to be cared for is better than living with their parents in Nunavut.
“In parts of our lives, there are waves,” Ugyuk responded.
“There are daily troubles in waves that happen to us. We all know about how life can be. We are recognizing the welfare of the child when we do these things.”
Dudding argues Nunavut doesn’t always send kids south of 60.
“This image of us taking people’s children away and shipping them off to the south, ain’t exactly accurate,” Dudding said.
He said 290 kids are in some sort of placement care. Of those, 223 are in Nunavut, and 67 are outside of the territory.
“Actually that, from my vantage point, is a pretty reasonable number,” Dudding said.
That’s because two-thirds of the 67 children housed outside of Nunavut leave on “voluntary service agreements” with their parents.
And 26 of the 67 are on a medical placement — meaning doctors say the children need to stay in hospital.