POLITICS

Saskatchewan NDP raises concerns about infants placed in at-risk youth home

03/27/2013 04:30 EDT | Updated 05/27/2013 05:12 EDT
REGINA - Concerns are being raised about housing infants and toddlers at a home for troubled teens in Regina.

Opposition NDP Leader Cam Broten questioned why children as young as nine months old have been placed in Dale's House, which is an at-risk youth facility.

"It's simply not acceptable to have babies and toddlers at the same facility where there are teens and pre-teens who have had exposure to many troubling things, with violence, sexual abuse," Broten said Wednesday at the legislature.

"It puts the babies and toddlers at risk and I don't think it's acceptable."

Dale's House has two dorms and can house up to six girls and nine boys between the ages of 12 and 15.

One social worker, who doesn't want to be named for fear of being fired, Dale's House isn't set up for young children and youngsters were sleeping on cots or in playpens in a classroom.

"We put up office dividers to separate the beds," the social worker told The Canadian Press.

The social worker said staff members are stretched thin, but have managed to keep younger children from troubled youth.

"My concern is some of the youth that we have one our dorms are with us because their behaviours are sexually intrusive and then you add in the mix of young kids there, it's only because of the vigilance of the staff that ... there's no intermingling between there and no danger for the children," the social worker said in an interview.

"It has added stress to the staff."

Social Services Minister June Draude said she is aware of three incidents where younger children were placed at the home in the last year.

The minister said the younger children were taken there in a "rare emergency situation," such as a storm, and were kept in a separate room.

Draude said there is one staff member for every three children.

"I guess the only other choice, if we can't find an emergency foster home, is a hotel would be an option. We're trying not to do that," she said.

"We still think that Dale's House is more of a home environment, plus we're just double doors away from the staff at Dale's House who deal with children."

Broten said he trusts that staff are doing their best, "but it only takes one second" for a tragedy to occur.

He said in this circumstance a hotel, with proper staff in place, would be a better option.

"Hotels aren't ideal either, I recognize that, but to have the potential for mixing, that's my greatest concern and I think we need to do something better," said Broten.