Rhino's Ramblings - Love, Desperation and Hope
Rhino’s Ramblings - Love, Desperation and Hope
A look at the Jobransa story
By Robert Thomas - Opinion/Commentary
It is one of those issues which garnered a lot attention last week on MJ Independent, the announcement at Moose Jaw City Council about the silent closure of the Jobransa Foundation/Centre (Jobransa) for Children. See Related - Jobransa Centre/Foundation Closed
For those of you who are unaware as to who or what Jobransa is, or rather was, it was an NGO set up to be a one stop shop to serve the needs of children with special needs or disabilities and their families.
Jobransa had a concept of having all of the professionals in one place where families could get help almost immediately with a multi-disciplined team.
It was the realization of a dream for Jobransa founder Tammy Beutle-Spilchuk. A dream she claimed to the media at the time borne out of necessity and to help others.
The seed for Jobransa had planted when Beutle-Spilchuk's own son was severely ill and in hospital. Beutle-Spilchuk, according to media reports, said she needed help at that time but there simply wasn’t any supports available so after her family’s crisis ended she started Jobransa to help others. A means to fix a major problem.
At the August 20, 2016 grand opening of the Jobransa Centre on Ross Street Beutle-Spilchuk posed with her arms held up high in celebration right on the front page of the now defunct Moose Jaw Times-Herald.
In an interview with the Times-Herald Beutle-Spilchuk would speak about bold expansion plans for Jobransa not just into Moose Jaw but a prediction within 18 months similar centres would be established in Calgary and Brandon.
But here we were at last Monday night's Council meeting the announcement was made Jobransa had closed its doors and therefore the bylaw giving them a seat at the Special Needs Advisory Committee needed to be changed. They would no longer need their representative on the Special Needs Advisory Committee. Here we were approximately 30 months later and Jobransa was done.
Now there is some discussion within the community regarding whether or not the group is still operational and they have simply changed their name to a programs they ran called Kids In Motion.
And yes I can state it as 100 percent factual that when the Jobransa Centre closed their Ross Street doors – following their being sadly victimized by a still unsolved break and enter - they first moved to Zion United Church and then into the building formerly housing the South Hill Bank of Montreal on 4th Avenue SW.
It also is true Jobransa’s founder Tammy Beutle-Spilchuk officially retired from active involvement in April 2018.
It is right there at the bottom of an August 2, 2018 email sent to the Office of the Rentalsman by Sarah Becker, president of Jobransa and Beutle-Spilchuk’s daughter. See letter below.
Now I am going to be 100 percent honest and say I had been working on a story involving Jobransa for 11 months on an intermittent basis.
My involvement began when I was approached on more than one occasion by former staff and parents who expressed their concerns about what they alleged was going on at Jobransa.
They had also taken their concerns to various media, government and local agencies but seemingly their concerns were turned down.
So I agreed to take a look at the story with the only promise that if it fell back on them I would publish that as well.
In many ways this is what is called a “he said and she said story” which is a nightmare. How does someone determine the truth of the matter? Which one is right? Who do you believe?
Speaking to parents they all told similar stories about why they initially got involved with Jobransa. It all revolved around love, desperation and hope.
The parents loved their children and had been looking for help for so long they had all but given up hope.
Then one day they heard about Jobransa and after speaking to Beutle-Spilchuk many saw it as the miracle they had been searching for.
“I was excited because my child has a disability and he didn’t fall under other supports like other children with disabilities,” one parent said about her first interactions with Jobransa.
Then along the way what was, or at least what they felt was promised, was not delivered.
As the parent told me in their opinion in the end they felt they were worse off than when they started. Over a year later they are just finally recovering from what they called in their opinion broken trust and promises.
Additionally some of the parents earlier involved with Jobransa allege other things were happening which in their opinion should not be happening.
This is where you get into the he said, she said scenario and how do you prove it? Is it all just a case of sour grapes at not getting what they had hoped for?
Well I asked the parents who came to me that question and all of them gave me the same answer they were all speaking out to protect other families.
And yes, there were also supporters of Jobransa out there to some extent.
But as I carefully looked at the concerns raised to me by parents and former staff there are those which in my opinion can be proven and are legitimate.
When it came to some of the staff not being paid in full in my opinion there is validity to it. There are wage claims into the thousands of dollars against Jobransa.
I have not only spoken to former staff members claiming they are owed unpaid wages but they showed me original documentation from the Labour Board where claims of unpaid wages have gone to collection agencies in the hopes of being paid.
The former staffers who approached me are owed in most instances $1,000 or more in unpaid outstanding wages.
One of the big things I did find myself thinking did Jobransa actually think too big and did not have a proper business plan?
It is something which happens to many Non Government Organizations (NGO) the need and dreams are too large and the funds are too limited to ever accomplish them. The NGO ends up financially collapsing because their government or other funding expires or they overspend without a proper financial perspective in place.
Now I cannot tell you if this is what happened with Jobransa, I am not an accountant and I have never seen their entire books.
A second issue where in my opinion I find it to be highly distressing is Jobransa did not insist on criminal record checks of it employees and volunteers.
One former staffer even showed me the form she had filled out to take to the police to run the check but had never gotten around to doing it.
Parents I spoke to pointed to Beutle-Spilchuk’s son Joseph “Joey” Beutle being employed or volunteering - something Jobransa has disputed on social media - with children as a major concern.
In the internal documents, staff chat texting logs, photographs and videos I was provided there is in my opinion enough evidence to state Joseph Beutle did interact with the children at least on a volunteer level.
The problem the parents and former staff had with Joseph Beutle's involvement was his addiction problems and his lack of a driver's license when he drove their children to activities. He had lost his license for driving while impaired.
In court following an incident involving the January 9, 2018 discharging of a firearm in a residence and subsequent short standoff with police it was revealed Beutle had severe addiction problems.
Part of Joseph Beutle's subsequent sentence was for him to seek assistance for his addictions. One of those addictions is Crystal Methamphetamine or better known as Meth.
It is something which set off alarm bells for some of the parents. The question they asked was how could someone using meth be around special needs children?
If you look at the court proceedings – in which Joseph Beutle received house arrest and probation – it is obvious Meth was involved prior to the incident he was convicted of. And yes the Meth use would have been during the time he was at the Jobransa Centre.
With that said I could not find anybody who could say they had personally witnessed Beutle using Meth while at the Centre itself. A former staff member did said he had friends drop in at the Ross Street location she described as “sketchy.”
Now can it be proven any of the Jobransa management knew about the Meth use? Sorry it is something only they can admit to.
At the present time Joseph Beutle is wanted on warrants on other serious criminal charges which occurred in rural Saskatchewan.
One of the charges dates back to the time when he was actively around children at Jobransa. It needs to be noted he is only accused of the offences and is to be considered innocent until convicted in a court of law.
Writing on the Saskatchewan Crime Stoppers Facebook posting Tammy Beutle-Spilchuk – Joseph’s mother - thanks people for sharing the post because finding her son would be a step to helping him with his addictions. The posting is below:
Joseph Beutle’a whereabouts months later is unknown and the warrants for his arrest remain active.
I tried to get Jobransa's founder Beutle-Spilchuk to address the concerns raised but was unable to schedule an interview in a neutral location.
Beutle-Spilchuk in an email wrote it had to be at her location as she had a file folder she had given to the Moose Jaw Police Services (MJPS) regarding the allegations and at the time just gotten it back from MJPS. She was tired of taking the “high road” in the accusations which had been levelled against her and Jobransa and was going to tell the entire truth into what really happened.
Beutle-Spilchuk declined to answer questions by email or over the telephone insisting it had to be at her building.
The reason Beutle-Spilchuk gave for the refusal was in any interview she wanted her records handy in case questions were asked so she could easily refer to them. This despite she had officially retired from Jobransa in April 2018.
Additionally a number of individuals she did not identify would be present.
A further attempt was made to conduct an interview after I had to cancel a Christmas Eve meeting. Beutle-Spilchuk said she was not in town the week after the New Year but would contact me when she was available but she never did.
In the end though the sad thing about the closure of Jobransa is every parent I spoke to with a special needs child said there was a need for services. That there was a gap in the system and it is why they went to Jobransa from the beginning. Many felt after Jobransa and the controversy it was unlikely their needs would be addressed any time soon.
As someone told me “the only people who pay for it all are the kids” and that in my opinion is sickening.