The Manitoba government launched a new plan to end the crisis in the child welfare system and create better outcomes for children, Premier Brian Pallister and Families Minister Scott Fielding announced today.
“We know we can do better for our children,” said Pallister during a community event at Andrews Street Family Centre in the north end of Winnipeg. “The number of children in care has nearly doubled in the past decade and Manitoba has among the highest rates in the country. We made a promise in the 2016 Throne Speech and 2017 Budget to reform the system with a goal of fewer children in care, stronger partnerships with families and communities, better service co-ordination, and greater transparency and accountability across the system.”
The Manitoba government committed to develop a comprehensive plan that acts on the many outstanding reports and recommendations from sources such as the Office of the Children’s Advocate, Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Indigenous organizations, the premier noted.
“Child and Family Services can’t change alone; we must work in collaboration with government, Indigenous and community partners as we all share the same goal for our children’s futures,” said Fielding. “We want to keep children and youth safely within their family networks and home communities. We must reduce the number of children coming into care by supporting families, communities and neighbourhoods and inviting them to be part of the solution.”
Fielding noted there are four essential areas of reform, which will guide the province to:
- develop a community-based prevention model that involves demonstration sites, co-ordination of cross-departmental services and increased alignment of federally funded services on reserve;
create lifelong connections for children through reunification and permanence, which includes improved emergency placement resources to shorten duration in care through early case planning and family reunification through a multi-disciplinary assessment team and availability of family group conferencing, as well as evidence-based permanency initiatives such as subsidized guardianship and modernized adoption;
- fund for results through initiatives such as block funding pilots to Child and Family Services agencies that fund based on outcomes, rather than provide incentives for larger caseloads and longer stays in care; and
- reform legislation, which includes the creation of a legislative review committee to modernize The Child and Family Services Act and support a shift in practice.
“Sandy Bay Child and Family Services is excited about the block funding pilot project and the unprecedented flexibility to support families in a way that was not possible before,” said Richard De La Ronde, executive director, Sandy Bay Child and Family Services. “This government’s child welfare reform takes into consideration the innovation happening within communities providing those services.”
The minister said the province plans to complete a legislative review by the spring of 2018. It would look at amendments to support various permanency options, such as customary care for Indigenous children based on the unique customs and traditions of each community, review The Authorities Act to determine options for improvement, and explore options to increase openness and transparency. Fielding noted government departments must come together to provide more seamless access to supports for families to prevent the need for apprehension.