Saskatchewan’s Child and Youth Advocate says she’s deeply concerned about how the provincial government monitors group homes following an investigation in Prince Albert.
Advocate Lisa Broda’s office received a report of what she called “disturbing allegations” involving a Prince Albert group home that opened in March 2021. Complaints ranged from insufficiently trained staff, inadequate staff vehicles and poor supervision to insufficient nutritious food and medical supplies, hash treatment towards children, and medical neglect.
The group home operator was a privately contracted company, which runs five other group homes across the province. Broda’s investigation showed there was sufficient evidence to support all allegations.
Broda said the province needs to show they’re implementing the recommendations quickly.
“Pocketed policy points aren’t helpful here,” Broda said in an interview Monday afternoon. “We’ve said at the very beginning that a top-down oversight approach is what’s required because group homes have grown exponentially over the last five years. If (contracted care) is the model the ministry’s going to, then figure out how best to ensure that you can observe a top-down approach, to ensure that the children safe.”
Speaker Randy Weekes introduced Broda’s report to the legislature on Monday. The report outlines three recommendations the government take, including re-designing its group home oversight and accountability structure, rethink how it approves group home openings.
Broda’s office released a report on group homes back in March—the same month the Prince Albert group home opened.
The Ministry of Social Services released a one page statement on responding to the Advocate’s report. In it, the ministry outlined plans for a new Group Home Operational Support Unit to provide training and oversight of group homes.
Broda pointed out the ministry accepted recommendations in the old report released in march, but said there was a “significant delay” in implementing them.
“The ministry was slow to pick up our recommendations,” she said. “The home was opened in Prince Albert in March and we issued our report in March. These are children who are extremely medically fragile, so vulnerable because they’re children, but also because of their fragility, and the care that they require is of the high need nature.
“I think the takeaway is, really, that the ministry really needs to take up the recommendations for ensuring that all of those children are safe and protected in the care that they’re receiving. The Ministry is contracting that service out and those services providers need to ensure that those children are safe and protected and getting what they need.”
The provincial government has said it will monitor the five remaining group homes operated by the company. Broda said her office would be paying close attention to the review. However, a spokesperson for the Advocate’s office said they purposefully do not identify organizations in the report.
Tobie Eberhardt, Saskatchewan’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Child and Family Programs, thanked Broda’s office for their work, but said the government is making changes as fast as it can.
“We are continuing our work to support group homes and enhance the safety for all children,” she said. “We will continue to provide the Advocate with details on how we are working to strengthen our programs and services based on these recommendations.”