Manitoba CFS failing youth with complex needs: children's advocate
Children's advocate Darlene MacDonald says the province must "reimagine" child welfare
The Manitoba child welfare system is not meeting the needs of youth in care who have complex issues, states a report from the Office of the Children's Advocate.
The Safe For Today report, released by the OCA on Thursday morning, says Child and Family Services (CFS) doesn't look to the future but "remains in a chronic state of emergency," focused on keeping kids safe in the short term.
Yet, the report points out, there aren't enough placements for children with complex needs, which has led to the use of hotels — a practice Manitoba has now banned.
"In general, the child welfare system has struggled to develop enough placements for the growing number of children in care. Consequently, children and youth with complex needs are often left waiting for an appropriate placement and specialized supports," states a press release from the OCA.
"However, their challenging needs often strain the capacities of their current caregivers, resulting in placement breakdowns, admission to crisis facilities, and placement in emergency shelters, and in the recent past, hotels.
"Increasingly, with limited capacity to access or develop the appropriate specialized resource, child welfare agencies are forced to make decisions that reduce child welfare practice to short-term, crisis-bound decision-making, rather than proactive and developmental planning that assesses, anticipates, and responds to a child's needs."
Children's advocate Darlene MacDonald says the province must "reimagine" child welfare, so it responds better to a child's long-term needs.
About 3,000 of 10,000 children in government care are high-needs because of childhood trauma, the report states, adding that many are not there because they need protection, but because their families can't manage them on their own.
"These are highly traumatized children," MacDonald said. "They have lived through significant adverse events and are trying, to the best of their abilities, to find their places in the community."
The problems that require specialized intervention include mental health issues, cognitive and physical disabilities, behavioural issues, addictions, involvement in the youth criminal justice system, attachment disorder, and other unresolved trauma, according to the report.
In some cases, and in far too many communities outside of larger urban centres, the necessary specialized services are not available at all, the report adds.
"As a province, we need to reimagine the child welfare system for this group of unique youth and demand creative solutions from our public systems which can achieve long-term successes," MacDonald said.
With files from The Canadian Press