2 Winnipeg families fear for daughters' safety in child welfare system

Two Winnipeg families who turned to Manitoba's child welfare system for help with their teenage daughters now fear for the girls' safety in care.

'She's going down a dark path and we'd do anything to get her back,' says mom of 15-year-old girl

Winnipeg mom worried about daughter, 13, who has fled from hospital psych unit

8 years ago
Duration 2:12
A Winnipeg mother says she's fearful for the safety of her 13-year-old daughter, who was in CFS care but recently escaped from a hospital psych unit.

Two Winnipeg families who turned to Manitoba's child welfare system for help with their teenage daughters now fear for the girls' safety in care.

In the case of one 15-year-old girl, she has been in Child and Family Services (CFS) care since the weekend, but her parents say she has already broken curfew and has not attended school.

The couple told CBC News they fear she is in more danger now than she ever was at home with them. They now want to get their daughter back somehow, before she gets hurt.

The mother of a 13-year-old girl who is currently missing says she wants her daughter home. The mother cannot be identified because the teen is in CFS care. (CBC)
"She's going down a dark path and we'd do anything to get her back," her mother told the CBC's Caroline Barghout on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the mother of a 13-year-old girl in CFS care says she has not spoken with her daughter since Sept. 24, in part because the teen recently escaped from a hospital psychiatric ward.

"Whether she wants to see me or not, I have to fight for her to be OK," the mother told the CBC's Jillian Taylor on Wednesday night.

None of the parents can be identified because their daughters are currently in the child welfare system.

The 13-year-old girl's mother said her daughter began running away in 2013, but things got worse this past summer when the teen was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and began self-harming.

A school guidance counsellor suggested that the mother place the teen in CFS care.

"It was supposed to be a voluntary placement for the night, and then … I never saw her again," the mother said.

The 13-year-old girl has been in and out of hotels and a group home since October, said her mother.

The mother added that this week, police showed up at her door to say her daughter has escaped from a hospital psychiatric ward.

"When somebody leaves the psych ward, they're supposed to be escorted to the door and out so that nobody breaks out," she said.

"So with my daughter being high-risk and a runner, how did that happen?"

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority would not confirm if the girl was in a locked unit at the ward, but a spokesperson told CBC News there is a dedicated unit in the psychiatric ward for adolescent patients.

"This unit is a locked unit. However, it is, foremost, a treatment unit. As such, it is not intended to emulate high-security prisons," the spokeperson stated in an email on Thursday.

"Inpatients within the unit can be authorized, to varying degrees, to leave and return to the unit. The extent to which inpatients are authorized to leave is based on clinical assessment and judgment."

If a patient who is authorized to leave the unit does not return as scheduled, steps are taken to locate the person that may include alerting hospital security, calling the patient's parents or contacting law enforcement.

The WRHA says it takes the safety and security of all patients seriously.

15-year-old ran away over the weekend

The parents of the 15-year-old said she began dating a 19-year-old man last year, and she started to lie, skip school and behave badly.

The couple said they forbade her from seeing the man and took away her cellphone to punish her, so she ran away from home this past weekend.

The parents said they called Winnipeg police on Saturday to report her missing, but when she refused to go home, officers placed her in CFS care instead.

"CFS asked us if there were any other options, and we said, 'No, we're not going to give her the option of going to other family members.' If she has it so hard here, let's let her see what it's like to stay somewhere where less fortunate kids do," the father said.

This Winnipeg couple cannot be identified because their 15-year-old daughter is in the care of Manitoba's Child and Family Services (CFS) system. The teen has already broken curfew and not attended school in the three days since she was placed into care, according to her parents. (CBC)
Child-welfare staff brought the 15-year-old to an emergency shelter and phoned the parents to say she was OK.

However, the mother said when she called back half an hour later to check on her daughter, she learned the teen was allowed to leave with her boyfriend.

The girl was given a curfew of 10 p.m., which she did not follow, according to her parents.

"We needed to know that she was in a safe place and that she was going to stay there," the mother said.

Added the father, "CFS has zero say in what these kids are doing. They bring them in, drop them off at a house and say, 'Be back by 10.'"

"If that was a parent who did that, they'd have the worst kids on the planet."

The parents are now fighting to get their daughter back home, but they've been told the ball is in the teen's court — a fact that scares them.

"Why would she want to come home when where she is now, she gets to do what she wants to do — to see this guy, to not go to school?" the father said.

"CFS has had her now for three days; she hasn't gone to school one time."

The couple said had they known they would be in this situation, they would never have reached out to the CFS system for help, and instead sought their own ways to deal with the problem.

Child and Family Services officials told CBC News that families can file a court appeal to get their children back.