Nunavut’s only youth group home is closing its doors as the government won’t change contractors

The midday sun casts dramatic shadows over Iqaluit.  (Jeanette Gevikoglu - photo credit)

The midday sun casts dramatic shadows over Iqaluit. (Jeanette Gevikoglu – photo credit)

Nunavut’s family services department has ended its contract with a company that operated the Illagiitugut group home in Iqaluit and says the youth in the group home are being placed elsewhere.

The group home, which housed up to eight girls and young people between the ages of 12 and 19, was the only group home for young people in the area.

In an email, the Family Services Department said the girls in the group home are still being cared for elsewhere in Iqaluit and the department is working with them “to find more permanent positions.”

It said it had already given someone else a contract for the program but declined to give details or interviews due to privacy concerns.

“We can confirm that the department is committed to continually evaluating programs to ensure that children and young people in their care receive the best possible care,” the department said.

“This means that all current customers will receive the most suitable services according to the latest reviews.”

No explanation, no notification, says former operator

Shift, a Halifax-based company that operates other youth and adult care homes in the north, operated Illagiitugut for seven years before the territorial government terminated the contract in early February.

Andrew Middleton, Shift’s CEO, confirmed in an email that the department had closed the house.

“We have received no clear explanation for the closure, which took place in the middle of our third contract renewal, other than that they were reassessing their needs,” he wrote.

“We were not informed that the home continued to operate, but I trust Family Services has a thoughtful plan for the center.”

David Gunn/CBC

David Gunn/CBC

Abby McAllister, who has worked as a supervisor at Illagiitugut since June 2022, said the territorial government closed it without warning on February 2 and removed all youth from the center by February 6.

She said when it closed, two of the youths who were in the home returned to their families, while five others were placed with foster families.

“It’s very alarming. I know the kids have considered the group home [to be] her home,” she said.

“It’s very upsetting that the only place they felt safe was taken away from them.”

She said some staff are still in Iqaluit to clean up and close the group home, but they are expected to be sent home in early March.

rock relationship

The lack of communication surrounding Illagiitugut’s closure reflects what McAllister described as a difficult relationship between the facility and family services.

She couldn’t provide specific details for confidentiality reasons, but in general, McAllister said she felt the group home was trying to hold family services accountable for a lack of support and communication.

“I think they didn’t like that,” she said, adding that she often experienced “backlash” from the department when she asked them for help.

“Maybe there was something else going on that I have no idea…but all I can say is that we’ve had a really hard time ever reaching out to Family Services. It was difficult for them to support us when we needed it.”

Although other former group home employees declined to speak to CBC, McAllister said some of them called the Children and Youth representative to express their concerns.

The Commissioner for Children and Youth declined an interview request, but its November report lists the stability of foster care and support for foster parents as two systemic issues on which the Department of Family Services needs to take action.

McAllister said during her time at Illagiitugut she felt the youth there had benefited from the program.

“When they were in our care, they thrived, they excelled, they learned life skills that would help them in the future,” she noted.

In his email, Middleton said his team provides therapeutic and clinical care and incorporates Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit values ​​into their programs, as well as shore excursions and cultural activities.

He said Shift is “extremely proud” of the care provided.

He referred further requests for information to the Nunavut government.

It’s not the first time the group home has closed. In 2016, Family Services temporarily suspended its program because it couldn’t find anyone to run it.


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