Published online at Edmonton.Ctvnews.ca on Aug. 31, 2012.
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton: August 31, 2012
Changes to program serving high-risk youth raises concerns
The province is making some changes to a program that serves high-risk youth in Edmonton – and it’s raising concerns from young people who access those services.
Child and Family Services says the change is an expansion – but others say the High Risk Unit is being torn apart.
The unit, which operates out of a drop-in centre in Old Strathcona, provides specialized support and care to some of the city’s most vulnerable youth.
The province is making some changes to a program that serves high-risk youth in Edmonton – including shuffling around the social workers who work in the High Risk Unit, which operates out of a drop-in centre in Old Strathcona.
Many of them turned to the drop-in centre, which used to have four social workers, but now two of the workers are being moved.
It’s a change that has disappointed one youth, who shared her concerns with CTV News and cannot be identified.
“What do we have left?” the youth said.
“It’s just like a broken home. It feels like your parents are practically getting ripped away from you again. It feels like your best friend or someone important to you is getting ripped away, again.”
The young girl said the drop-in centre changed her life.
“Before I came here I was in a lot of trouble. I was abandoned, I was alone, I feel like they rebuilt me,” she said.
She says her social workers told her they were being moved. She believes the change will negatively impact young Edmontonians who use the program’s services.
The province says two social workers have been relocated to a different office, but say the others will remain at the Old Strathcona drop-in centre.
A long-time Edmonton youth court worker says the move is a wrong one.
“If they wanted to expand it, if they wanted to enhance this model, then they should have brought the workers here to train, but what they’ve done is they’ve sacrificed these kids and dispersed this unit,” said youth court worker Mark Cherrington.
“They develop something very successful, very innovative, very respected, and then they shut it down. (The unit) provided a lot of one-on-one attention and a lot of support that no other unit in the city or in the province is able to do… the concept, the structure, the team aspect of the High Risk Unit is no more.”
But Child and Family Services say nothing is being shut down, and the change is part actually part of an expansion that will see eight social workers shifted into the High Risk Unit.
“We are going to spread around our high risk youth workers throughout the region. There are still going to be some that serve youth out of that facility,” said Trevor Davis with Child and Family Services.
“We have youth who don’t access that facility who need services say in the west end of the city. This is an opportunity to provide that to them.”
The province says it is investing an extra $110,000 into the High Risk Unit.
They goal is to have the eight social workers trained and in place by the end of the year, with one operating in various locations across the city.
The teen who spoke to CTV News says she wishes the province would have done things differently.
“If they keep it going the way that they are going, they are going to have a lot of destroyed kids and they are going to have a lot of kids who are going to fall, instead of going up,” she said.
With files from Sonia Sunger