Wanted: Stay-at-home care providers for youth with complex needs

·4 min read
The Department of Social Development plans to set up eight homes across the province by the end of the year that are catered to supporting the most traumatized youth in protective custody. (Costea Andrea M / Shutterstock - image credit)
The Department of Social Development plans to set up eight homes across the province by the end of the year that are catered to supporting the most traumatized youth in protective custody. (Costea Andrea M / Shutterstock - image credit)

New Brunswick says it's going to establish a new model of care for youth with the most challenging developmental and behavioural problems.

Professional care homes will be added to the stable of current programs, including foster care, group homes and specialized placements available to children who are wards of the Department of Social Development.

Specialized placements are run by private companies under contract with the province and are set up to care for individual children whose needs may be too great for a foster parent or group home.

Sometimes their main priority is to stabilize the child for everyone's safety.

Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch says the homes will offer a 'family-type' situation with wraparound services for the youth living in them.
Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch says the homes will offer a 'family-type' situation with wraparound services for the youth living in them.(Shane Magee/CBC)

The new professional care model is supposed to feel more like a family with a stay-at-home caregiver who has received intensive training and has access to professional help.

"A professional care home is 24/7 care," said Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch.

"It's an in-home situation, a family-type situation, but it includes all those wraparound services that were sometimes not co-ordinated before."

These are not new buildings, said Fitch.

Searching for suitable homes

Instead, the province is looking for families or individuals who have some experience and skill caring for youth with complex needs and are willing to welcome them into their homes.

Foster parents may also apply.

These caregivers would be given extensive training at the outset and ongoing professional development opportunities.

They would also be compensated in the range of $2,800 to $3,500 per month and receive some paid vacation and respite support.

John Sharpe says this new model is long overdue in New Brunswick.

He worked for two decades in residential youth care and is a longtime advocate for youth-at risk.

John Sharpe, executive director of development with Partners for Youth, says such a model for youth in care is long overdue in New Brunswick.
John Sharpe, executive director of development with Partners for Youth, says such a model for youth in care is long overdue in New Brunswick.(CBC)

"It addresses a lot of concerns that folks have with the current system and lack of skilled clinical support for children under the age of 12 who really require a high level of care and clinical support," said Sharpe, executive director of Partners for Youth.

"Social Development obviously provides a lot of the connection to kids in care, but it's the partnership with Health that provides the opportunity for wraparound services and clinical supports."

The province said the recruitment process for families will start in the coming weeks.

The plan is to get eight homes operating across the province by the end of the year.

Sharpe says there should be no problem finding qualified people.

"I don't think it's going to be difficult at all," he said.

"I think we're going to see a lot of folks interested in doing this. They recognize the value of helping kids in their community. New Brunswick is a very caring province."

Plan follows auditor's recommendations

The new model is part of the department's response to previous concerns raised by the auditor-general in 2019.

Kim Adair-MacPherson said the department needed to do a better job of planning for complex youth and setting standards for their care.

"Children taken under care of the Province and placed in group homes are among the most vulnerable in the Province," said her report.

"They often suffer from neglect, abuse, addiction and/or mental health issues within the family when taken into care.

"Their future outcomes may depend on the care they receive as a temporary or permanent ward of the Province."

Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson outlined in a 2019 report that youth in care were among the most vulnerable in the province and that the government needed to do a better job in setting standards for their care.
Auditor General Kim Adair-MacPherson outlined in a 2019 report that youth in care were among the most vulnerable in the province and that the government needed to do a better job in setting standards for their care.(Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada)

Fitch said the new professional care homes will also receive clinical support and supervision.

While early consultations with stakeholders talked about prioritizing children under the age of 10 or under the age of 12, Fitch said age is not the defining factor in choosing who will be the first youth to be placed in these homes.

"The staff know exactly where the needs are and who should benefit most from this," said Fitch.

"Whether it's under 12 or over 12, that's going to be the triage that some of the staff does, and it may be determined by who is the first to step up."