Manitoba

Child advocate says CFS kids come away with ‘wounds’

A former Manitoba's Children's Advocate said the province should create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for foster children.

Former child advocate recommends Manitoba install truth, reconciliation commission for CFS kids

A former Manitoba’s Children’s Advocate said the province should create a Truth and Reconciliation Committee for foster children. CBC’s Katie Nicholson reports. 1:34

A former Manitoba’s Children’s Advocate said the province should create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for foster children.

Billie Schibler served as the province’s child advocate during the restructuring of Manitoba’s child and family services system.

The restructuring was supposed to help the system better accommodate Aboriginal children who make up the vast majority of kids in care.

The restructuring was supposed to deliver better and more culturally appropriate care, but Schibler said that "really needs to be reviewed because I don’t see that it has actually unfolded the way it was intended to."

The inquiry is examining the circumstances around the death of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair. Sinclair was killed in 2005 on Fisher River First Nation. Her mother, Samantha Kematch, and her mother’s boyfriend, Karl McKay, were convicted of first-degree murder in her death.

Sinclair was in and out of the child welfare system in Manitoba for much of her short life.

"There needs to be a truth and reconciliation of the child-welfare system, just as there has been with the residential school system," said Schibler.

"I think the outcomes that we see with many of the families that have been serviced historically, generationally through the child-welfare system — and those children that have been raised in it — come away with the same wounds."

Schibler said the Manitoba’s Children’s Advocate also needs more power to investigate children at risk in the system.

She said more funding would help family support services and lower caseloads for social workers.

"You can’t expect a child welfare system to provide those good assessments, those good therapeutic supports, if they are just running from putting out fire and fire and fire," said Schibler.

She added the failures of the CFS system have will have a long-standing impact on Manitoba families.

"[The system] has impacted the generations to come and their ability to be able to parent well," she said.

Schibler is now the CEO of Manitoba's Métis Child and Family Services agency.