Youth counselling program ‘not working’ in some NWT communities

Youth counselling program ‘not working’ in some NWT communities


The NWT government is accelerating an evaluation of its child and youth care counselor program after regional health councils and education committees raised concerns.

Announced in 2018 at an estimated cost of $7 million over four years, the program — known as CYCC — involved hiring more than 40 primary and secondary school counselors across the territory.


CYCC is now fully rolled out, but the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Services says concerns are being heard “loud and clear” and a phased assessment planned over a period of years will now happen much faster.

“The Child and Adolescent Care Counseling Initiative approach works in some areas, but doesn’t necessarily work in others or work on intent,” Jo-Anne Cecchetto said at a meeting of the NWT Health Authority’s Executive Council earlier this month.

“We had planned for an assessment to be conducted later [but] Working with the educational leaders in particular, we have been asked to drive the process around the assessment. And we do.”

The Department of Health and Human Services told Cabin Radio that the assessment will cover all regions of the territory and will involve a youth advisory committee led by the Western Arctic Youth Collective. (More than 100 youth from the territory were also consulted before the program was originally launched.)

The assessment will “assess what is expected of the program and the basic needs of children and young people, and how it has been implemented in schools and communities,” a department spokesman said via email, and will assess to what extent “The program has increased access to mental health and wellness counseling for college students, youth and families.”


A final report is expected in August this year and the department said the intention is to make any necessary changes in time for the 2023-24 academic year.

“The process didn’t work”

Critics of the CYCC program say the idea of ​​centrally paid counselors in every school was initially exciting – but disappointed in its implementation.

Ted Blondin, chairman of the Tłı̨chǫ Community Services Agency, said departments in Yellowknife had the final say in situations where local school leaders were almost certainly in a better position to make decisions.

“Over time, it became very clear that the process wasn’t working,” Blondin said at the same Leadership Council meeting.


“If there was a problem, they had to deal with headquarters in Yellowknife, and they made decisions in Yellowknife. That’s when the problems started.

“We all know that no two schools are the same. They are all different. And every one of our principals, every one of our teachers knows that. Over time, it only made sense that if there was a problem… it was the principal [that] had more information about the family unit and how it functioned in the community.”

Muaz Hassan, Chairman of the Dehcho Regional Wellness Council, said: “For me, the CYCC? If you asked me about Fort Simpson, I’d close it tomorrow.”

Hassan said the model could work for Yellowknife or Hay River but is not appropriate for smaller dehcho communities. Blondin said Tłı̨chǫ communities are already looking to alternative solutions in some cases.

“In our region we now have peer groups made up of local people to bridge the gap,” Blondin said.

“Students feel they are more in the mood to engage with someone local who speaks the language, who knows more about the community and feels more comfortable talking to them about the issues and putting them in touch with a professional be able . That seems to be working much better.”

He also criticized the NWT’s efforts to prioritize consultants with a master’s degree in a related field. “Counselors who came from God knows where” were undoubtedly professional, Blondin said, but “they don’t know the culture, they don’t know the community, they don’t know the students, they don’t know the families, they don’t know the problems.” ”

“We are aware that we do not have this in the entire area,” Cecchetto replied. “Therefore the evaluation is coming faster than intended.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said lessons learned from the assessment – which has already begun – would be implemented as soon as they are received rather than waiting until a firm future date.

“We have an understanding between both entities to work to improve the things that we do and to review things earlier,” Cecchetto said, “so that we’ve actually implemented any necessary changes over the next school year.”

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