Press one of the expand buttons to see the full text of an article. Later press collapse to revert to the original form. The buttons below expand or collapse all articles.
September 12, 2009 permalink
Alberta workers are protesting the loss of their jobs following three homicides by their wards. On June first Alberta residents Susan Trudel and Baldur Boenke were found dead, murdered by two runaways from Bosco Homes, a residence for provincial wards. On June 12 a sixteen-year-old provincial ward murdered Curtis Todd Osterlund. Alberta has stopped placements of children with Bosco Homes, dooming its staff to unemployment. It is hard to find sympathy for the workers who cynically claim to be promoting the welfare of children — had they done their jobs properly, their wards would not have become killers. Natural parents committing the same offense might be behind bars by now.
Bosco workers rally at Alberta legislature
Last Updated: Friday, September 11, 2009 | 5:47 PM MT, CBC News
About 50 workers from Bosco Homes attended a rally Friday at the Alberta legislature to protest the closure of the agency, which they blamed on the provincial government.
Workers beat a drum and marched to the steps of the legislature chanting, "What about the kids."
"Where do these kids go, you might ask? To the streets," Bosco worker Blair Croft told the crowd. "There is nobody who is going to be able to meet the needs of the kids. They're being placed back into facilities or into their homes where the structure and the security may not be the same as it was at Bosco Homes."
Bosco runs eight group homes, including the Ranch, a treatment facility in Strathcona County that housed two runaways charged in a double homicide in June. This week, workers were told the non-profit was shutting down operations in 90 days.
Workers were told the agency was no longer financially viable because the province was no longer placing clients with them. The province also recently decided it would not help pay for a new security fence at the Strathcona County Ranch, Croft said.
The $320,000 fence was to be constructed to help address community concerns about runaways from the facility.
Even though she is facing a layoff, Bosco employee Iva Bariffe said the fate of the children was more important to her.
"I will go clean a house when it comes to paying my bills. But what about the children? They are defenceless. We have to fight for them," she said.
Children and Youth Services Minister Janis Tarchuk said the province would find new placements for the 80 children affected by the closures.
In Calgary on Friday, Premier Ed Stelmach suggested the children could be placed in foster homes.
"We will place them in the most appropriate, safe environment, and of course, as we await ... more spaces, whether it be with foster parents or foster homes, but this is a situation that safety of the children that are under our care is our first priority," he said.
System stretched to the limit, workers say
News the Bosco groups homes are closing has alarmed child protection workers, who say spaces with other agencies will be hard to find in a system already stretched to the limit.
"Given the shortages that we do have right now, it leaves a hole," said Sandra Azocar, child protection worker and a vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. "It stretches us to a point where we don't know what to expect."
With Bosco Homes no longer an option, she said she has many questions.
"Does it mean that more kids are going to be staying home? Does it mean that more kids are going to be out in other types of placements?" she asked. "There's always that insecurity and uncertainty as to what happens to the kids that we work with when there's a lack of placements."
The Strathcona County facility handled many children with complex needs, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Many were chronic runaways.
In early June, two runaways from the facility were charged in the slayings of Barry Boenke and Susan Trudel, who were found dead June 1. Safety concerns from the people who lived nearby prompted the facility to stop taking youths who were chronic runaways or charged with "volatile acts."
Over three months, the number of clients at the group home dropped by almost half. This created financial problems for the agency, and the board of directors decided to shut down operations in Alberta.
No other option for hard-to-place kids: Braun
Azocar's questions about how the child-welfare system will be affected by the closure were echoed by Maureen Braun, who represents child-care workers for the AUPE.
"If they're hard-to-place children that were in a treatment facility, they need something like that. To the best of my knowledge, there's no other facility at this date to put those children," Braun said.
Azocar wants the province to redirect the money that is no longer being spent at Bosco Homes.
She said she hopes the province will set up a new facility with spaces for the children and youth who need them so they don't fall through the cracks.