Agencies will meet with all children in foster homes managed by Winnipeg company after abuse allegations
Sexual abuse allegations emerged in 2 homes managed by B & L Resources for Children, Youth and Families
The Manitoba government is promising to speak with every foster child in the care of a for-profit agency under fire for allegations of sexual abuse at a foster home it was responsible for.
The province ordered a review of B & L Resources for Children and Youth last weekend, following a CBC investigation in which a secret recording revealed a manager from B & L admitted the company did not act quickly enough after sex abuse allegations involving a minor arose in a foster home overseen by B & L.
Heritage Minister Cathy Cox, speaking on behalf of Families Minister Heather Stephenson during question period at the legislature, announced Wednesday that the province has further instructed agencies to meet with every child in a foster home overseen by the service provider, to be assured of their safety.
"They will meet in an area outside of the foster home to ensure that the child can speak freely," Cox said.
Child safety foremost concern
She added the government is taking steps to address the allegations by launching the review, overseen by deputy minister of Families Jay Rodgers, and prohibiting any new child placements in homes run by B & L.
"Our government will always put the safety and well-being of children first," Cox said.
Since the initial allegations arose last week, CBC News reported on Tuesday another allegation of sexual abuse by a man hired by the company.
Through his lawyer, the 66-year-old foster father has denied the charges, which reportedly involved two boys he was fostering with his wife between 2009 and 2015.
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The Opposition NDP renewed a call on the government Thursday to go a step further and remove all children currently in B & L foster homes from those placements.
"What about the kids that are still in this agency, that this government is still failing to protect?" NDP MLA Bernadette Smith asked.
Barb Temmerman, executive director of the Manitoba College of Social Workers, said she wants the province's review to include the perspectives of registered social workers, who are governed by a code of ethics and standards of practice.
"We're hopeful that [the government] will follow suit with other professions like doctors and lawyers and nurses, that are also employed with government and are licensed and regulated and accountable to the public," she said. "The public receiving service from social workers deserve the same quality of service through accreditation."
Sexually abused by a minor
CBC initially reported on an allegation that children were being sexually abused by a minor in a foster home overseen by B & L that surfaced in 2016.
A director with the foster care company said he failed to act quickly enough after the allegations came forward, according to a 2017 secret recording obtained by CBC News.
"We dragged our heels big time," he is heard saying in the recording.
In 2016, there were 275 children in B & L foster homes, according to information obtained by CBC News. More than a dozen agencies sent children in care to B & L foster homes at that time, including Winnipeg Child and Family Services, West Region CFS, Metis CFS and Dakota Ojibway CFS.
In an statement emailed to CBC News last week, Bruce Bertrand-Meadows, managing director of B & L, said "the safety and well-being of children entrusted to our care has always been and remains B & L's primary focus."
With files from Kristin Annable