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Youth home closures devastating for community – Cuts to child protection services put Aboriginal children and youth further at risk

MOOSE FACTORY, ON – Communities across Hudson and James Bay are once again reeling from the impacts of the latest Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) cuts to child welfare funding, now faced with the closure of two receiving homes that provide supports to at-risk youth in Aboriginal communities.

Receiving homes provide temporary accommodation for children and youth who have been removed from their families because of abuse or neglect and who need a period of assessment and stabilization, giving them quiet, safe places to live while in transition.

Faced with a budget shortfall of over $2 million, Payukotayno: James & Hudson Bay Family Services, an agency charged with protecting at-risk children and youth, has announced the closure of two receiving homes and other necessary services and supports, putting at jeopardy the ability of the agency to meet its mandate to protect children and youth,” says CUPE National Representative Carrie Withers.

As a result, layoff notices have been sent to approximately 30 staff and as of August 31 the doors of these receiving homes will subsequently be closed. A total of about 12 at-risk aboriginal children and youth will have to be placed elsewhere. For some this will mean removing them from their community, core support groups and culture.

Earlier this year, the Ministry claimed they remained committed to supporting and working collaboratively with the agency to strengthen and enhance services to children and youth of Moosonee, Moose Factory and the remote coastal First Nations communities that they serve – instead they are doing just the opposite. 

This is unacceptable. For some time now the government has been promising funding for high risk Children’s Aid Societies and services to aboriginal communities. That we would witness further cuts to services to children and youth in an already under-resourced community, with kids and families struggling with huge challenges including poverty and a lack of good jobs, shows a complete lack of commitment on the part of government to take seriously the challenges our communities face,” added Withers.

“We have a responsibility to hold the ministry accountable for funding the agency at levels too low and are calling on the province to take seriously its mandate to protect children and invest the necessary funding in child welfare services.”

A new facility is being built in nearby Chapleau and the agency claims they took this into consideration when they decided to shut down the homes – however, this facility is not slated to open any time soon and the affected children will already have been moved to other locations that could go as far as Kingston.

Additionally, the agency has said that any new money that would be made available by MCYS would go towards reducing the current deficit and not towards finding viable solutions to adequately support children and youth.

The fact that there is money to build a new facility but not enough to save the important supports and services that our staff currently provide is appalling,” concluded Withers. “This permanent closure will not only affect the employees that have developed relationships with these children and youth but it will likely see them placed in unfamiliar territory where they will be separated from family members and subsequently may face loss to their heritage and culture.”

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS) have raised concerns that the Government of Canada has a longstanding pattern of providing less government funding for child welfare services to First Nations children on reserves than is provided to non-Aboriginal children.

Across the province, it is anticipated that the latest round of government funding cuts to child welfare will result in deep cuts to services and supports that ensure the safety of children and youth, putting kids further at risk.

For more information, please contact:

Carrie Withers, CUPE National Representative: (705) 987-1650

Marjorie Savoie, CUPE Communications: (613) 864-9924