Clyde Jackman said Blue Sky Family Care will be operating a group home in western Newfoundland.
That, despite plenty of questions fired at him by the NDP in the House of Assembly on the issue of group homes this week, along with a petition containing 3,800 names.
At one point during the week, NDP Child, Youth and Family Services critic Gerry Rogers said a crisis has been created by government trying to farm out its responsibility for children in care to a for-profit company, when in fact the existing group homes worked very well. One of the group homes she was referencing is the Bay St. George Youth Assessment Centre in Stephenville, operated by a non-profit organization, which is being replaced by a service being provided by Blue Sky Family Care, a private company.
Jackman, Minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, said this is a complicated issue due to the type of service that will be provided being different than that provided in the current group homes, which, up to 2010, provided totally protective custody. He said the care Blue Sky offers is that young people being placed aren’t placed by the court, making it more of a foster type home.
He said this came about because the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services needed a new course of action for the four levels of care that the province provides. He said to provide that a competitive process was put in place. Jackman said Blue Sky Family Care, which has been operating inside the province for 10 years, came forward with an application that ranked highest from government’s standpoint and a contract was signed.
He said in the request for proposals it outlined the service is to be located in the western region and Blue Sky was looking at keeping it in Stephenville. But the company has been turned down in acquiring a permit from the town.
Jackman said if they can’t get the issue resolved, they may look to move out of town. He said the deadline to start the service is by the end of May and his department would work with Blue Sky on an extension if needed, but not a long one.
He recognizes the youth who will be staying in the group home operated by Blue Sky have complex needs and they need the support of the people who will be working with them. Jackman said these are children who have come into the care of the province, but they are not referred through the youth justice court.