The number of children in the care of Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) has decreased for the first time in the last 15 years, according the department’s year-end numbers, Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.
“While these numbers capture a snapshot of one point in time, they provide us with encouraging sign that Manitoba is heading in the right direction,” Stefanson said. “We need to acknowledge and thank the authorities, agencies, front-line workers and communities for their commitment, dedication and hard work that we believe has led to this positive trend that is emerging.”
Numbers from March 31, 2018, show 10,328 children in care, a reduction of 386 or 3.6 per cent from the March 31, 2017, count.
An additional 448 were reported in non-paid care, either reunited in their own home (living with a parent, guardian or a lifelong family member) or placed in supervised adoption, without government financial support. The total of 10,776 open files is a reduction of 576 from last year, or 5.1 per cent overall.
Family reunifications have increased by more than eight per cent across Manitoba and apprehensions have decreased by more than nine per cent over the last year.
The total number of paid service days by government increased from 2,979,061 to 3,191,131, a
7.1 per cent increase. The department noted a growing need for extended agreements to help young adults age 18 to 21 transition to independence through access to resources such as education programs and employment opportunities.
Of the 10,328 children in care, 87 per cent are Indigenous. The province supports 77 per cent of children in care and the federal government funds 23 per cent.
This is the first decrease in numbers since 2003, when Manitoba’s child welfare system was devolved into four authorities to oversee agencies mandated to deliver services. In October 2017, the province launched a new plan to transform the CFS system to create better outcomes for children that focus on community-based prevention, results-based funding, legislative reform, and lifelong connections through reunification and permanence.
Progress on the reform plan up to March 31 includes:
- introducing The Child and Family Services Amendment Act – Taking Care of Our Children to pave the way for Indigenous communities to create plans for children that recognize and reflect unique customs, and allow greater extended family and community involvement in care and upbringing;
- working with the four authorities to develop new protocols for emergency placement resources to limit the amount of time an apprehended child spends in emergency care and enable more timely referral to an appropriate longer-term placement or family reunification;
- creating six block funding contracts with child welfare agencies to provide a pre-determined budget for child maintenance with more flexibility how to spend it; and
- establishing a committee to review child welfare legislation, which consulted more than 1,500 Manitobans and presented a report to government last week.
“Since we announced our reform plan, we have introduced important changes and engaged authorities, agencies, Indigenous leadership and community partners across Manitoba to develop new strategies and solutions to support prevention, safe family preservation and reunification,” said Stefanson. “We continue to move forward in collaboration with child and family services providers and community partners to transform the child welfare system and deliver better outcomes for children and families.”