A single mom in Winnipeg who gave her two sons up to Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) last fall said at least one of them isn’t getting the care he needs.
CBC News can’t name the mother because her kids are in care.
She said after months of struggling to care for her kids, both of whom require special care, she made the decision to voluntarily hand them over to the province in hopes that they would receive the attention they need.
It was the most agonizing decision of her life.
“I still sometimes at night, I cry because I feel like I’ve failed as a parent, because I can’t give them the help that they need,” she said.
'With one, we're getting help, but the other is being left to rot.' - Mom of two boys under CFS care
Both of her boys have severe mental health and behavioural issues. The nine year old has bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the mom said. He also has a severe mood regulation disorder and may have autism.
Her 10-year-old son also has bipolar disorder and has an anxiety disorder.
Both boys have violent outbursts and constantly run away from home.
“We could never figure out what's setting them off,” she said. “We have gone through every kind of medication through the psychiatrist that you can imagine.”
'He ... would pull a knife on someone': Mom
The nine-year-old has even posed a physical threat to people in the past.
'For the most part the people that are working with the agencies haven’t got a clue what they’re doing' - Mom of two kids under CFS care
“I had to keep the knives all up on top of the fridge where he can’t reach them, because he doesn’t understand that if you stab someone with a knife, it's game over, because it’s really going to hurt and he actually would pull a knife on someone,” she said.
“He actually has done that.”
The mom said she contacted at least a dozen organizations and politicians for help before giving her kids to CFS, but to no avail.
“I have fought. I have called everybody I can think of, done everything I can think of to try to get help for my boys, and we live in a society where I’ve been told nonstop that there's ‘nothing we can do for you.’”
Didn't qualify for care
She said they either told her the boys didn’t qualify for their care because they don’t have an intellectual delay or because they're under 12 years old.
“If my younger one did have a diagnosis of autism that was concrete he would qualify, but until that happens he doesn’t qualify.”
CFS was the only organization that would take the boys, she said. Her eldest son is currently in a group home getting help tailored to his needs.
The younger son, however, has been in an emergency placement shelter since September. The mom said the province has told her his current living arrangements are all they can provide at the moment.
“With one, we're getting help, but the other is being left to rot,” she said.
The province told CBC News "there are a range of mental health services available to children and youth," but did not offer details about this particular case.
A spokesperson with the province said there are several new initiatives in the works to help youth in need of special care.
CFS said it does everything it can to assist children under its care but wouldn’t comment on the specifics of this case.
The mom said that if that were the case, her youngest boy wouldn’t be in the situation he is in.
“My overall feeling is that the people who are working with us are trying, but their hands are tied so hard in a bureaucracy that doesn’t work that even if they wanted to ... provide assistance at home, they can’t. They're barred every step of the way.”
More group homes, resources and funding are needed for children with mental health issues in the province, she said.
“The pain and the anger and the confusion they have to suffer through every night is not right,” she said. “No little kid should have to go through that.”
If she can't keep her kids with her at home, the mom said they should at least be getting all the help they need.
“For the most part the people that are working with the agencies haven’t got a clue what they’re doing,” she said.
“They don’t know anything about kids with mental health issues. They're completely out of their element. They think that what works for regular kids is going to work for the boys and it’s had detrimental consequences in some cases.”
Keep family together: children's advocate
The Manitoba children's advocate said parents should not have to face giving up their children to the province in order to access appropriate treatment.
"This can add the trauma of being separated from family to whatever challenges the child and his or her parents are already facing," Darlene MacDonald said in an email statement to CBC News.
"The better option is often to provide active supports within the home to assist the family in meeting the needs of their child and prevent these situations from reaching a crisis point."
She said she encourages any parent who faces that type of challenge to contact the office of the children's advocate for support.
"Our team of advocates can work with the child, the family, and the child’s care team to ensure there is a plan in place that meets the needs of the child and that supports are being accessed which reflect the best interests of the child. I have a call in to the province requesting more information about the story being reported today in the news," MacDonald said.
“I will be releasing an update soon on how the province is meeting the needs of children with complex needs and how the need for specialized supports for Manitoba children is far outpacing the province’s development of these resources.”