First Nations young people wouldn't be exposed to drugs and violence if Manitoba did more to keep them in their own communities, not ship them off to foster care in Winnipeg, says a former Child and Family Services investigator.
“They're creating a new residential school system and one day these children are going to come back. They will complain and who's gonna answer to them someday?” said Darrell Shorting, who used to work as a child abuse investigator for Anishnable CFS.
The chief and council of First Nations communities should have a say in where children end up, Shorting said.
"Why can't we keep our own children," he said.
- Some kids in Manitoba CFS care staying too long in hotels
- Boy in CFS care catches support worker sleeping on the job
- Teens in CFS care in Winnipeg hotels say they've seen prostitution, drugs
- Manitoba First Nations woman shares story of life under CFS care
- Tina Fontaine died because police, CFS failed her, family says
One First Nations girl, Carolee, told CBC News her mother got sick and wasn't able to raise her. Although she wanted to live with her grandmother, Carolee was instead sent by CFS to Winnipeg to be with strangers.
"I never really thought that I would end up as a kid in CFS," she said.
CBC News can't tell you her real name or what community she comes from because Carolee is still in CFS care.
"The first batch he gave me was probably a kilo and I got three grand for that," she said. "He's like, if you can keep doing this over and over I can possibly make you a drug dealer."
And he did. By the time she was 16, she'd been convicted of assault, arson and break-and-enter.
"I started getting into the gang life and selling a bunch of drugs, fighting," she said.
It was a far cry from the bright future her family had envisioned.
"They always just thought of me as a bright young kid, but ever since I moved to the city that all changed"
Support families to keep their kids
Shorting wants CFS to invest more resources in First Nations families to help them care for young people like Carolee and Tina Fontaine, the teen whose body was found in the Red River in August.
There are parallels between the two girls: both lived in safe homes but their caregivers needed extra support.
Fontaine's aunt, Themla Favel, said she didn't get that when she ran into problems with Tina.
"They failed her," she said.
Favel called CFS in the weeks before Fontaine's body was found, asking for counselling for the girl, but was told the only way to help her was to put her in foster care.
"I think if they did, if somebody stepped in in the beginning when I first started asking for help, I think Tina would still be here," she said.
In the 6 years Carolee has been in and out of CFS care, she said she's still waiting for counselling.
"Honestly, no kid deserves what I had to go through and stuff," she said.
Carolee turns 18 in a few months and said she is counting down the days till she ages out of a system she said she shouldn't have belonged to in the first place.