Jennifer Pritchett, NNSL,
takes a look at the
privatization of the
Trailcorss youth facility
in Fort Smith

Problems at youth facility
Employee says big changes occurred after privatization of Trailcross

NNSL (Mar 24/97) - A former employee of Trailcross said that the Fort Smith youth facility has been experiencing difficulties since it was privatized last November.

Len Tuckey, who quit his job in February, maintains that there was "most definitely a change" when the operation of the facility was turned over to a Kelowna-based company called Integrated Human Resources Ltd.

"It went from a facility that was operating extremely well to a facility that was operating extremely poor," he said.

Tuckey and parents of children living at Trailcross share the same concerns that are now the subject of a department of health and social services review.

The review is designed to address their concerns, as well as to set out the actions necessary to improve the facility's operations, said Andrew Langford, superintendent of child welfare.

Langford, who's in Fort Smith conducting the review, noted some problems with Trailcross when he visited the facility Feb. 26. There were questions about management, operations, the number of aboriginal staff members and the level of professional support that arose after an incident with several teenagers in the facility, he said.

Langford won't comment on that specific incident at Trailcross. He won't, however, deny that a January incident where a young girl nearly froze to death when she passed out in the snow hasn't raised questions about the care teens are receiving.

Tuckey said that there was a lack of counselling services for the youths and this has contributed to the facility's problems.

"I can't comment specifically on the incidents, but I have documented all my concerns," he said.

He maintains that the absence of both a facility director and residential counsellor from November to the end of February had a huge impact on the operation of Trailcross.

Tuckey expects the review will identify the problems and ensure the necessary services are available to the youths who live in the 10-bed facility.

"I hope the department has a good look at the facility and the management while keeping the interests of the kids in mind," he said.

Langford said Trailcross is one of the last group homes to be privatized in the NWT and has a lot of good, precedents to examine. He also said breaking the contract with the current operator of Trailcross is not an option at this time.