Published:November 10, 2021
The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth has released a new report that details more horrifying conditions in some of the province’s group homes.
The new report, released Monday, is a followup to a report released in March, which said four children in the care of the Ministry of Social Services were neglected and restrained during their time at a Saskatoon group home.
Reports of serious incidents in group homes kept coming in after the March report, prompting this week’s followup, which is also intended to evaluate the ministry’s progress since March.
The ministry is still working on recommendations from the first report, but that needs to be accelerated, said children and youth advocate Lisa Broda, who is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.
“The advocate continues to see the most vulnerable of children neglected, as evidenced in the newest critical incidents,” her report says.
It details one recent incident in Prince Albert that shows poor training of staff working with children with complex medical needs.
Staff caring for a deaf and blind child with prosthetic eyes left them out of his eye sockets for eight hours, contrary to medical standards. Staff were then directed to insert them without proper training.
“This is like the stuff of nightmares,” Meara Conway, the provincial NDP critic for social services, said Tuesday.
“The advocate is clearly concerned about a lack of accountability and service quality.”
The report details another incident in Regina, in which a five-year-old escaped one-on-one supervision via an emergency exit. The report says the child was known to run and was interested in water.
He was found floating in a nearby creek, making a gurgling sound. The child was taken to the hospital, where medical staff cleared his lungs and he was released the next day.
The same child escaped two months later and was found at a Walmart more than five kilometres away.
‘Little confidence’ in ministry’s system: report
Other incidents highlighted in the new report include:
- Nursing staff locking a child with an acute psychological disorder in a room.
- Staff sharing feeding bags between three children.
- Not seeking medical attention for children who needed it.
- Medications not being given on schedule.
“This is inflicting trauma on children who are in the care of the ministry,” Conway said.
“The ministry is in the place of the parent. These children have been taken out of environments deemed to be unsafe and … they are not safe under the care of this Sask. Party government.”
Social Services Minister Lori Carr said she has seen the new report and is working on creating a special team within her ministry for better oversight.
“They will look after every aspect of that group home piece, whether it be setting up the group home, the oversight, taking care of any complaints that may come forward,” she said Tuesday.
“We do take children out of the home if they’re in any danger of any type, so that’s very important to our ministry.”
Broda’s report, however, expresses a lack of confidence in the ministry’s current approach, accusing it of “over-reliance on the group home model” without appropriate policies and procedures to ensure children are safe and cared for appropriately.
“Given these pervasive concerns, and in consideration of the ever-growing reliance on group home care, the advocate has little confidence at this time in the ministry’s current system in keeping children safe and stresses the urgency of implementing our comprehensive recommendations,” the report says.