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Children in group homes at risk: Saskatchewan's children and youth advocate

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REGINA -

Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth says children in group homes continue to be at risk because the social services minister hasn’t moved quick enough to address oversight issues raised in a previous report.

In March, advocate Lisa Broda released a special investigation report, documenting the case of a high-needs boy who ran away from his group home. Broda said she found this incident illustrative of a system that doesn’t not have proper oversight. 

Broda gave three recommendations for improvement, which the Ministry of Social Services accepted.

However, in a follow-up progress report released Monday, Broda said “the slow movement on achieving the recommendations made in March will continue to place children with highly specialized needs in harm’s way.” 

Broda pointed to incidents that occurred this past summer, when she was made aware of a children’s group home in Prince Albert facing allegations of neglect and harsh treatment, lack of nutritious food and medical supplies, and poorly trained staff.

“That’s egregious neglect,” said Broda. “Those children didn’t even receive the basic of human needs, the basic human rights that they should be afforded to, never mind children having the right to the highest attainable standard of health.”

Broda also noted an incident where a high-needs boy in Regina ran away from his group home, and was later found floating in a creek making ‘gurgling’ sounds.

“That child ran away the same as the child here in Saskatoon that ran from his group home. That’s pure and simple supervision,” she said.

NDP social services critic Meara Conway said action is needed now.

“This is like the stuff of nightmares. It is incredibly disturbing stuff. The advocate is clearly concerned about a lack of accountability and service quality,” said Conway.

Broda said the ministry did come up with a plan following her recommendations made in March, but said the plan is not enough.

“If we continue to operate in a reactive manner of our system, and not be actively looking and reviewing and monitoring and seeing how children are being cared for… then we’re going to expect more of this,” she said.

On Tuesday, Minister of Social Services Lori Carr said the ministry is working on creating a dedicated group that will work with group homes on oversight and receiving complaints.

“It should be up an running within a couple of months. It’s taken a little bit of time to get it set up to ensure that it is done properly,” Carr said.

The advocate said on Wednesday she was not aware this group was being set up, and will be looking for more information on it. Broda said her office will also continue to monitor the progress the ministry makes on her recommendations.

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