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Rachel Alber, who retired two years ago, says many of the issues with group homes that have come to light in recent weeks have been long-standing ones. (Submitted by Rachel Alber)

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A former worker in Yukon government-run group homes says workers aren’t supported by supervisors, and are often put in precarious situations.

Rachel Alber worked in both girls’ and boys’ group homes for five and a half years before retiring two years ago.

She’s been watching with interest as several whistleblowers, as well as youth, have been speaking out about mistreatment and violence within Yukon’s child protection system. Alber says many of the issues that have been talked about recently are long-standing ones. ​Young people speak out about violence, mistreatment at Yukon group homes

Alber echoes others in describing the group homes as "dysfunctional and toxic", saying that workers are often overwhelmed and unequipped to perform their jobs properly. Alber says often, workers face a 12-hour shift alone, caring for up to four teenagers.

"Some of the workers are probably functioning beyond their capabilities, they’re burnt out to a point where they can’t handle it anymore," she said.

Alber says homes aren’t supposed to be staffed by a single worker, but in January she got a call from a former co-worker who was working alone, and was in tears.

"She was working with three or four youth, and one of the young ladies was threatening suicide and cutting herself — and the worker had to work alone on 12-hour shifts."

Alber says in her experience, there’s little support for workers, who are often auxiliary-on-call positions. She says they struggle when a group home goes "into crisis."

"There’s nobody to help you," she said.

Alber says she was put into the Annexe girls receiving home at one point, after some youth had accused male workers of inappropriate behaviour toward them.

"So I went over there and it was absolutely the worst chaos I’ve ever seen in my life. One of my co-workers said to me, ‘Rachel, before I come to work, I throw up. I go to the bathroom and I vomit because my anxiety level is so high, because I never know what is going to happen [at work].’" Yukon First Nations leader speaks out about group home abuse allegations

Alber says she was once physically assaulted by three youth while at the girls’ receiving home. She says she was unlocking a door where workers kept their personal items and purses, when "they attacked me from behind."

"I didn’t see any of them coming. The co-worker inside [the office] was trying to get these three youths off my back."

Alber says the girls, aged between 13 and 15 years old, later said they wanted money so they could run away. Alber says the incident left her with a back injury for several months. Not ‘bad children’ Still, Alber does not consider youth in the system to be "bad children," but rather kids who have experienced deep trauma in their young lives."The children start acting out, they’re children who have been hurt, they’re in crisis and they’re in puberty. And they will lash out," she says.Alber says sometimes there is conflict between group home staff, and that can make things worse for the youth."These children have already suffered so much trauma, and now they’re coming into a group home where the workers are fighting and arguing, and this dysfunctional system is going on, so now they’re acting out even more, and often toward workers."The Yukon government has asked the territory’s Child and Youth Advocate to conduct a review of the child protection system, but Alber doesn’t believe […]

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