Youth counselling cut
Just at a time when the youth crime rate has escalated to the point where a public dialogue ensued and suggested we have a youth curfew in the city, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services is terminating the Community Support Team (CST).
Some people may not know about the CST, a mandated program within Creighton Youth Services with social workers providing programs for high-risk youth in Thunder Bay and district with individual counselling, family counselling, sex offender programs, etc., and the youth stays with same CST worker. There’s no waiting list, nor are youth judged by whatever got them into trouble in the first place, but rather as youth with potential, needing guidance and understanding. Youth are court-ordered and CST’s objective is to keep them out of custody, although some may already be in custody.
CST workers work with youth at home, school, on the street, etc., but do some counselling in their offices with comfort and security of the youth being first and foremost. Workers are always on call. Twenty-five years ago I was one of the first social workers hired by Creighton Youth Services to be a community support team worker.
Bridget Perrier, a former prostitute, who recently presented a seminar, Sex Trade 101, in Thunder Bay, was a former client of mine at the CST. She was a youth at the time but on the phone from Toronto she gave me permission to use her name in this letter.
She remembers all those who tried to help her many years ago and the one thing that she said she remembered was her CST worker being non-judgmental. This and treating each client as important and deserving of respect is what is remembered.
Today Bridget is a professional woman trying to keep other young girls from falling into the same abyss as she herself did many years ago.
What’s important to taxpayers is that it costs $10,000 a year for a youth to receive services in the CST, whereas in a secure or open custody facility it costs between $150,000-$200,000 a year.
Keeping youth out of custody is a good idea. Cutting back on funds now will not save funds in the future because many of these youth may go on to a life of crime, some mired in mental health issues on the street or in jail, and then where are the savings to the taxpayer? CST is presently servicing 62 youth.
If you think we should keep providing these services for the youth, please contact your MPPs and tell them to revisit the reason for defunding this important program for the sake of a few dollars, which would actually be saved in the long run if the program were to remain viable.
The future of our young people is at stake. Someone who believes that people really care about them does not go out and steal, beat up people or do drugs; they have an inner sense of pride and that is something on which nobody can place a price tag.
25 June 2012