Youth assessment employee fears for youth, staff
Marsha MacInnis doesn’t believe the new staff hired by Blue Sky Family Care has a full understanding of the complex needs of the young people currently living at the Bay St. George Youth Assessment Centre.
MacInnis, an employee of the assessment centre who is in the last week of her job, was speaking out following a debate in the House of Assembly on Tuesday between NDP MHA Gerry Rogers and Clyde Jackman, the minister of Child, Youth and Family Services.
The provincial government announced a new framework for staffed residential care for children and youth in need of out-of-home placements back on March 24. The changes will mean a move from not-for-profit resedential homes to contracted, for-profit centres.
The St. John’s-based Blue Sky won the contract to provide Stephenville with the Level 4 care — a level currently in place at the not-for-profit youth assessment centre.
MacInnis said Wednesday she was surprised to hear that Blue Sky could be given more time to look for a building to house the youth. Last week, Stephenville’s town council denied the company an application to renovate a home on Russell Heights for that purpose.
The province had set a target date of May 19 to have the new centre open.
As of Wednesday morning, MacInnis said the Bay St. George Youth Assessment Centre staff had not been told of any other plans for the youth and hadn’t been asked to extend their services.
She added she won’t be seeking a job with Blue Sky because the wages are close to half of what she’s making now.
“I feel I’m worth much more than that because of my level of education with university degrees,” MacInnis said. “Most current staff members have a college diploma and some have several university degrees.”
Tuesday in the House, Rogers said new home in Stephenville will not be ready by the May 19 target date. She said the lives of the youth and their care have been thrown into “utter chaos.”
“Why didn’t you have a plan to ensure a smooth transition for the moving of these vulnerable young people?” she asked Jackman in the House.
Jackman said Blue Sky is working with the town to find a suitable placement for the youth.
“I would encourage all involved to recognize the challenge these young people face,” Jackman said. “I hope that the provider and the community can find the agreement that will see that service provided to these youth.”
May 19 deadline looming
With only five days until the deadline, Rogers said Blue Sky does not have a house purchased, furnished, renovated or rezoned. She said no staff has been hired, so the company is not ready to receive the youth.
“Why is the bottom line more important than our moral and legal obligation to provide quality rehabilitation in a safe environment for our most vulnerable youth?” Rogers asked.
Jackman said he wasn’t going to let the NDP think they are the only ones who have a monopoly on caring.
“To suggest our bottom line is dollars and putting that ahead of the care for children is despicable,” he said.
Jackman said the youth homes will find their way forward and, if an extended timeline is required, his department would consider it.
MacInnis said the Bay St. George Youth Assessment Centre is perfect for the needs of the youth who are residents there, but she believes Blue Sky won’t try to purchase it due to union successor rights.
She said some of the incoming staff may have experience, but she doesn’t believe the company has a full understanding of the needs of the youth.
“We have a good staff here with some having 17 to 28 years of experience,” she said. “There is going to be a lot of difficult times ahead, especially for the youth who will have more stress on them if they’re moved to other homes outside Stephenville.
“Someone’s plan is not working here.”