Rob Wilson

Rob Wilson

  • Former manager, Winnipeg CFS
  • 20 years of experience in child welfare system
  • Sent letter to province talking about crisis in CFS system
Linda Trigg

Linda Trigg

  • Former CEO, Winnipeg CFS
  • Left agency in 2004 to start psychology practice

Hold the fort

Monday, January 28

Linda Trigg's time as CEO of Winnipeg Child and Family Services sounds rather unsatisfactory.

Trigg was at the helm of the agency for most of the time Phoenix Sinclair was moving through its system. It was also the same period the great tectonic shifts of devolution rumbled through Manitoba's child welfare system.

Devolution was all about transferring services to more culturally appropriate agencies.

In 2003, the process really gathered steam as Manitoba's child-welfare agencies split family services into four new authorities: one each for aboriginal children in northern and southern areas of the province, one for M├ętis children, and a general authority for all others.

The change was aimed at creating a system in which First Nations people control the delivery of their own family services. The intention was to help more kids remain with their families.

It was a massive undertaking involving hundreds of staff and thousands of files.

For the social workers in the system, devolution meant a period of prolonged uncertainty.

Over the last few months, we have heard workers testify about not knowing if they would have a job at the end of the process, about increased stress, and about workload logjams as bundles of files were being prepared to be shipped off to new agencies.

Now we are hearing that it was no joy ride for those at the top, either.

Linda Trigg outlined her frustrations with the agency in the early 2000s. She spoke of an alarming lack of training and experience among staff in both front-line and supervisory roles.

Devolution, we learned, prevented Trigg from improving training among staff.

It happened when lawyer Jeff Gindin asked, "Is there anything specific that you would have liked to see happen right away, but for the fact devolution is coming, so let's wait a little longer before we do it?"

Trigg's simple reply: "I would have liked to have seen more training."

Trigg testified about shockingly high turnover rates: 100 per cent in some units.

She also told the inquiry she was asked to keep positions vacant as the system made its glacial shift to the new "devolved" reality. That compounded the workload issues.

In an attempt to soothe the jangled nerves of the workforce, Trigg sent out a letter urging supervisors to reward creativity in the workplace.

She tried to assure workers that if mistakes were made, the agency would be behind the workers and support them with training or whatever might be needed.

Today, she told the inquiry it was greeted with deeply-entrenched cynicism.

There were also serious budgetary shortfalls. The province gave Trigg $77 million to run CFS in 2002-2003.

Trigg told commission counsel Sherri Walsh it wasn't enough:

Trigg: Let's put it this way: we ran a deficit.
Walsh: The entire time you were there?
Trigg: The entire time I was there, there was a deficit.
Walsh: Did you inherit a deficit?
Trigg: Yes.
Walsh: Is that a problem, running a deficit?
Trigg: Well, government was unhappy about it, let's put it that way. But they did cover the deficit year after year.

Trigg left the agency in 2004, before the devolution process was complete. A clinical psychologist, she started up her own private practice.

Walsh asked Trigg about her frustrations in running the agency. Walsh wanted to know if there were other things Trigg had hoped to accomplish during her tenure with the agency.

Trigg: Specifically?
Walsh: Yes.
Trigg: There were probably lots of things that I wanted to accomplish, but time and money wouldn't allow them to happen.

"I was," Trigg stated simply at one point, "asked to hold the fort."

Inside the inquiry

With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.


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