The issues surrounding operation the Blue sky Child Youth and Family Care facility seem more and more to be one about failed communications.
In a press release Monday, Blue Sky says, statistically, the Centre on Lincoln Road is showing positive signs.
The C.A.R.E. model utilized, “is very different than models employed by predecessors, which were based on control of privileges or a points system,” said Anne Whelan, President and CEO of Blue sky in the release.
“Instead, we provide trauma-informed care, which requires a patient, positive approach to building relationships,” she continued. “Given what many of our youth have been through, it takes time for them to develop trust. Initially there may be challenges, and we accommodate by following detailed best practices, including calls to the RCMP on issues that could put a child at risk.
According to Whalen, Blue Sky staff are very well trained.
“The model used at our group homes in Grand Falls-Windsor and elsewhere is internationally-proven and working very well.”
Whalen said in the press release, however, what is disappointing for Blue Sky is “the lack of genuine communication from the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor, a key stakeholder in ensuring that these children have every opportunity to establish a productive role in their home community.”
The agency raised two questions: Are the youth actually causing major disturbances and whether the youth are making progress with Blue Sky?
“Trying to answer these questions by counting calls to the RCMP when 93 per cent of the 81 calls are made by Blue Sky out of concern for these children, is not a fair-minded means of evaluating,” the release stated
“While we have no specific information on the five calls made by Grand Falls-Windsor residents over the five-month period we have been in operation in that location, we have heard nothing that indicates these calls relate to vandalism or concerns over personal safety.”
Whalen said staff record “over a dozen parameters related to both positive and negative behaviours, ranging from challenging incidents such as self-harm and violations of curfew to positive developments such as disclosures of trust.
According to the Blue Sky CEO, positive disclosures range from 14 in June, to 29 in October; while incidences of challenging behaviour ranged from 209 in June, to 29 in October.
“This is not a debate over private or public operations,” she stated in the release. “Whether a company is contracted by government or a public institution, we all as a community have obligations to these children. Fear and rumour mongering is no way to fulfil those obligations.”
“We are happy to engage with those looking to find solutions focused on stability and success of the youth in care,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, Grand Falls-Windsor town councillor Barry Manuel, sees the lack of engagement as the real issue.
“The private company has said they have asked the town to reconsider (revoking their permit), and that’s just not true, unless they’re referring to what they’ve said in the media,” Manuel told the Advertiser. “They have not contacted the town to say they want us to reconsider, or that they’re willing to discuss making necessary changes in order to have this operate in a more effective manner.”
He added, when it comes to rineint
“In terms of finding solutions, we want to be part of that process,” he continued. “I know that the private companies in question has basically said that the town doesn’t want them in this community, and that’s not true at all.
“The issue is not about us removing the kids. The issue is proper management and care so that the kids get the care and support that they need and the neighbourhood is not affected.”
Manuel is surprised by the way the company addressed the matter publicly.
“They’re using terminology like ‘blindsided and shocked’ in terms of their reaction, but they were told of the problems and reminded of the conditions of their permit,” he said.
He added, “They were told that if changes weren’t made, or improvements realized, their permit would be removed. So, I don’t understand why they would be shocked or blindsided.”
The town has also been accused of not being an inclusive community, a claim Manuel also disagrees with.
“Even the Premier (Paul Davis) has basically said its ‘unfortunate and sad’ and used all those superlatives when, ironically, he was minister when the choice to privatize these group homes was made,” Manuel said.
“I think about the youth addictions centre that just opened here; that went with a lot of resistance from residents, and council pushed forward with that.
“We’ve been working with a local committee who have an interest in a women’s shelter here in town and we’re being very generous in terms of land opportunities for them to be able to pursue that. To me we are totally interested in being an inclusive community and that’s no different with this group home.”
The Advertiser spoke with a representative of Blue sky Thursday morning who said that the firm has issued written and verbal request for a formal meeting to meet with council for discussions about the matter.