Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut March 20, 2014 - 7:56 am

Nunavut MLA questions last fall’s Iqaluit group home decision

“Time is of the essence and I’m really trying to do something about this”

DAVID MURPHY
The Illagiittugut Children’s Group Home in Iqaluit, which has served children and youth of all ages since the late 1980s, is now restricted to youth aged 10 to 16. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
The Illagiittugut Children’s Group Home in Iqaluit, which has served children and youth of all ages since the late 1980s, is now restricted to youth aged 10 to 16. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak wants answers to why a group home in Iqaluit is kicking out “medically fragile” foster kids and sending them to southern foster homes.

The Department of Family Services said last November that the Illagittugut Children’s Group Home in Iqaluit is changing its focus to serve youth aged 10 to 16.

Speaking in the Nunavut assembly, Angnakak said the group home will now house “troubled adolescents” and that the Department of Family Services is sending away its current batch of children.

“While I do not disagree that there is a need for such a service, it astounds me that the Department of Family Services would decide to simply replace one service for another,” Angnakak said in the members’ statement March 18.

Angnakak called the move “misguided and ill-advised” and said some of the special needs children who lived at the home are being sent to southern foster homes.

“They will most likely be sent out of the territory to foster homes in the south, even further away from their families, their culture and the society that they are familiar and comfortable with,” Angnakak said.

Ugyuk said some children are being transferred to another facility in Iqaluit.

And some with physical disabilities or medical conditions are still housed at the group home.

But time is running out — the change will happen at the end of this month, Angnakak said, and the majority of the kids have already found other homes, some in the South. 

“We know that the caretakers aren’t too pleased to see their long term wards no longer in their care,” Ugyuk said.

“This is part of the emotional attachment humans get and this completely understandable,” she said.

Angnakak asked Ugyuk how sending vulnerable children outside the territory is for the best, instead of staying and becoming a part of Nunavut society.

“Change is hard when it affects our fellow people. We understand that, but it is not proper to raise children in a residential placement,” Ugyuk said.

Angnakak wasn’t finished though.

She came back to question period March 19 with more complaints about the group home decision.

Angnakak asked where the children will now be placed.

Ugyuk said the government first asks relatives of the children to take them. If that doesn’t work, they look for a foster care parent.

“And if that foster care parent cannot look after them, we would place them in southern institutions,” Ugyuk said.

But that’s a last resort, Ugyuk said, especially for kids with special needs.

Speaking to reporters after question period, Angnakak said one of the volunteers at the group home asked to foster one of the children who stayed at the home — but was rejected.

“So I asked the minister and the director if they can revisit that one at least, because that child is still there,” Angnakak said.

“Time is of the essence and I’m really trying to do something about this because I think everything is going so fast.”

She also said it’s “really wrong to send kids down [south].”

“How are you going to grow up knowing about your culture?”

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