Western Nunavut youth home set to re-open soon
Home will have new management, new staff, new vision and new clients
Special to Nunatsiaq News
CAMBRIDGE BAY — Nearly two years after the youth group home in Cambridge Bay closed down, a new facility is set to open its doors in this western Nunavut community.
The 4D North Centre, run by Atlantic Youth Consulting, is still completing the hiring process, but the centre expects to fill its rooms with boys aged 10 to 17 over the next month, said Andrew Middleton, its chief executive officer.
Middleton is hoping to remove the stigma of the youth home’s past.
“One of the big things is that we don’t really want people thinking of this as a group home,” said Middleton. “It’s more of a therapeutic home, we don’t want to call it a group home like it [was before].”
Within the next month, up to six boys from across Nunavut, move into the house and participate in various programs.
“We want their time with us to have a purpose,” said Middleton, explaining how there will be music, sports, leadership, culture and traditional programs in place for the youth.
And one important step toward a successful home in Cambridge Bay is building relationships with the community, he said.
“We are really looking for community investment,” Middleton said. “We want to work with the community. We don’t want [the residents] to feel like they’re in a southern-run program in the North. We want to make it as much a northern program as possible.”
That means youth living at the group home will have the opportunity to go out onto the land to hunt and fish.
“Food is a huge part of any program,” said Middleton. “We are trying to hire a local cook who will be able to help us with providing country food to the kids.”
The former group home, which operated for a dozen years in Cambridge Bay, was run by a husband-wife team of “house parents,” under the company Kalvik Youth Services.
But mental health issues, severe trauma, suicide ideation, history of self-harm and severe behavioural challenges proved to be too much for the “family resource model,” under which that home operated.
An official within the Government of Nunavut’s children and family services department said in June 2014 that they had made mistakes with the previous home and that they planned to implement a new placement review process to ensure youth who were sent to the home would be appropriate for the level of care offered.
The 4D North Centre for youth is still in the process of hiring a number of part-time child and youth workers as well as a cook.
Once the new centre is up and running, there will be at least two full-time, live-in staff members present — and part-time child and youth workers will fill in during day shifts.
Steev Blackette, originally from Montreal, is one of six full-time workers who will rotate in and out of the centre.
“I’ve been working with youth for 12 years,” said Blackette. “My favourite part is the way they challenge you. They keep you young and vibrant and creative and always thinking ahead.”
The new home’s managers have also thought ahead, and made changes to how past homes have operated.
Not only will there be a rotating full time staff, they have also changed the way in which residents are admitted into the home.
“The type of youth who will access our help will be a different type of child,” said Middleton. “It will be all boys with similar profiles. That alone is a significant change.”
And sometimes change can be a good thing.
“I’m looking forward to having an impact of their lives,” said Blackette. “[The kids] all have different cases and are coming from different situations. Just being in an environment where we can help is rewarding and fulfilling.”
A crucial piece of the environment is what 4D North calls a “circle of courage.”
“It is based around four components,” said Middleton. “It is the foundation to achieving a sense of belonging.”
Those four categories flow one from the other: generosity, belonging, mastery and, finally, independence.
“For many youth who come [to the house], they lose the sense of their belonging,” said Middleton. “The program finds a positive sense of belonging that they feel a sense of accomplishment with. Because once they find [belonging] the other three come along easier.”
As well, the residents will take part in educational programs and other tasks.
“We will educate them on the community impact that suicide has and that addiction has and that residential schools had,” Middleton said. “We want to show them how addiction looks whether it’s alcohol, drugs, video games or food addictions.”
And, by trying to make connections, staff hope the whole community can get behind them and support these youth..
“We want kids to come in as one person and leave with an understanding of themselves and who they are and who they could be,” said Middleton.
The home will officially open in late January.
“It’s a different place [than what it has been],” said Middleton. “The operator is different, the house is different. And we are committed to being here.”