Group home gets go ahead
Committee approves development permit

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 11/00) - Two foster parents who have applied to run a group home will be able to use their Finlayson Drive house for the project.

The city's corporate services committee approved a development permit for the site Tuesday after discussing the proposed home with Paul and Rowena Brownlee and a few of their concerned neighbours.

"We've operated day cares, and we operate a day home in the area, all licensed," Paul said. "We like the neighbourhood and felt it has a lot to offer."

The Brownlees already foster parent a number of children.

Yellowknife Health and Social Services has called for proposals to run a six-bed group home for children ages birth to 16 who have been taken from their parents, and Rowena said the couple wants to try it.

"It's my home, and I can't think of any better use of my home than opening it to children who need a home," she said.

"There's not much difference between this group home and fostering," said Paul. "The only difference is it's a more structured environment where health and social services has more involvement."

However, three of their neighbours were concerned about the type of children who might live in the home.

"I don't have a problem with a foster home, but if I've got some control, I'd like to see some limitations," said Laura Debassige, who lives a few doors down from the Brownlees. "I don't want to have children who have been in conflict with the law."

Neighbour Donna Pich echoed Debassige's concerns.

"Once there's been a change, who's to say that later it won't become a home for young offenders?" she asked.

Paul said foster children homes are not for young offenders.

"This is not a jail and these are not criminals," he said. "These are children who have been left by their parents or apprehended from unfit homes. They are not young offenders."

Committee chair Bob Brooks, a foster parent for over 20 years, said he's only had one child come in contact with the law.

"We specialize in troubled teens," he said. "We've had 17 kids come through the house. The general types we've had are very quiet and try to keep a low profile."

Coun. Alan Woytuik said he was concerned about security for the Brownlees' neighbours and the ages of the foster children, suggesting an age limit of 10 or 12 years old.

He said he was also concerned about the city's liability if one of the foster children did break the law while living on Finlayson.

"If it were me and my child was molested by a troubled youth, then I'm not only going to sue (the Brownlees), I'm going to sue the city for allowing it to happen," he said.

However, Coun. Blake Lyons pointed out the city may not have the right to set an age limit. And Debassige said age was not a concern for her, only that the home not house young offenders. Pich and Nicoli Gordon, the Brownlees' next-door neighbour, agreed.

"My concerns have been met," Gordon said. "I just don't want young offenders next door."

After consulting with the neighbours, the committee approved the development permit. However, the Brownlees can have no more than six children in the home at one time, must cease running their day home and cannot care for young offenders.

After the meeting, Rowena declined to comment, stressing the couple had not yet won the group home contract.

"What we've done is put in a proposal. That's all we've done," she said.