Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Manitoba children's advocate says she'll open file on foster care service's handling of sexual abuse case

Manitoba's advocate for children and youth, Daphne Penrose, says she will open a file to probe the circumstances around the handling of sexual abuse allegations in a foster home.

Probe follows recording revealing B & L Resources director said company 'dragged our heels' on allegations

Daphne Penrose, Manitoba's advocate for children and youth, is looking into how sexual abuse allegations in a foster home were handled. (Trevor Brine/CBC News)

Manitoba's advocate for children and youth, Daphne Penrose, says she will open a file to probe the circumstances around the handling of sexual abuse allegations in a foster home.

This comes after a CBC News investigation, which reported on a secret recording that captured the director of a foster care agency saying it did not act quickly enough to separate children from their abuser after allegations of sexual abuse arose in a foster home in 2016.

The foster home was overseen by B & L Resources for Children, Youth and Families.  A director for the for-profit company says, "We dragged our heels big time," in the 2017 recording.

"My reaction to the story [Thursday] was that I was a bit concerned, for sure," Penrose said in an interview with CBC News.

"I want to know a little bit more about what happened there," she said.

"We will be opening a file on it and looking into what happened and try to figure out ... what was done and how we can make any improvements, if there is room for improvements." 

Other agencies may be involved

Penrose says other players in the child welfare system have a role to play in getting to the bottom of what happened. 

"The director of Child and Family Services can investigate. But I'm not sure whether or not they would do that," said Penrose. The CFS director reports to Minister of Families Heather Stefanson.

Penrose also pointed to the Metis Child and Family Services Authority, which oversees the Metis Child, Family and Community Services Agency.

If there is something here that is concerning, I will do a special report. But if there is not, I won't.- Manitoba children's advocate Daphne Penrose

That agency was the legal guardian of the alleged victims at the time the abuse is said to have occurred. The biological parent of the children claims to have first reported allegations to a worker at Metis Child, Family and Community Services Agency months before B & L became aware of them.

"Certainly the authority will be looking at this case, I'm sure, as well as the agency," said Penrose. 

Metis Child and Family Services Authority​ CEO Billie Schibler declined an interview request Thursday. 

In an interview in October, she was asked if there was anything to learn from this case. 

"In this particular case, I can't suggest that there was anything major that would stand out as a particular learning, aside from maybe how … we're working with these service providers, who's relying on who, is our expectations exceeding what we're thinking we're going to get for service delivery," said Schibler, who oversees and speaks for the Metis CFS Agency. 

'Just don't know what happened here yet'

Penrose's thoughts are echoed by Child and Family All Nations Coordinated Response Network (ANCR) CEO Sandie Stoker. Her agency, along with Metis CFS, was eventually called in to investigate the abuse allegations.

Stoker could not comment on the specifics of the case. 

"I'm not going to give an opinion around where the gaps were," she said.

"That is something for the Metis Authority to take a look at and determine where the gaps were, if anything fell through the cracks or if there was maybe a miscommunication. That's something that I think needs to be reviewed by the mandating authority and potentially the province."

Families Minister Heather Stefanson said she is taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to asking the director of CFS to review the case.

"Certainly to date I have not received any information to say that we would move in that direction at this stage. But certainly, if it warrants that type of a direction we will consider those at the time," said Stefanson. 

"We just don't know what happened here yet," said Penrose.

"If we do find something that concerns us, we will do the job that we're supposed to do … and if there is something here that is concerning, I will do a special report. But if there is not, I won't," she said.

"The report that I do will be independent and others in the system can do what they feel they need to do based on the information that they collect."

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