Manitoba children's advocate investigated 26 deaths in last fiscal year, report says

Nearly 200 child deaths were reported to the children's advocate in that year, the report says, including 13 children who were in care when they died.

Advocate's office notified of 198 deaths, including 13 children in care, in 2019-20 fiscal year: annual report

Daphne Penrose, Manitoba's children's advocate, and her office were notified of the deaths of 198 children in the 2019-20 fiscal year, a new report says. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth completed 71 reviews and 26 investigations into the deaths of children in the 2019-20 fiscal year, according to a new report from the advocate's office.

The deaths of 198 children were reported to the advocate in that year, the office's new annual report says, including 13 who were in care when they died. The advocate's office is notified of all deaths of young people in Manitoba.

The office also provided "ongoing advocacy" supports to 1,053 children, youth and young adults, including opening 789 new ongoing advocacy cases — roughly a quarter more than were opened the previous year, the report said. Ongoing advocacy cases involve significant, long-term supports and complex interventions.

"My staff have been incredibly busy over the past year, helping thousands of young people and others interested in young peoples' care, despite several office moves and a global pandemic," said children's advocate Daphne Penrose in a written release Thursday.

"I am proud of the work we have accomplished so far and our continued advocacy."

The children's advocate can assess all Manitoba deaths of people under the age of 21. If the young person received any child welfare services within a year of their death, the advocate can review and investigate the public services they received.

The goal of the reviews is to examine how effective and responsive those services were and whether they can be improved, and to make recommendations to help avoid a similar death in the future.

The advocate made 29 formal recommendations in the 2019-20 fiscal year, the report says, based on concerns that arose from the investigations and systemic research on children's rights issues.

The advocate's office had 2,085 points of contact with children, youth and young adults through its youth engagement team, and received 3,196 requests for advocacy services.

Youth deserve the spotlight: advocate

In addition to its standard annual report, the advocate's office released another, kid-friendly companion document that focused on its youth engagement program and Youth Ambassador Advisory Squad.

The document, called Nothing About Us, Without Us, includes a comic book-style story about how young people can become rights ambassadors. Copies of the document will be distributed in some Manitoba schools on Nov. 20, National Child Day.

Penrose said the youth who work with the office are helping advocate for children across the province.

"They deserve the spotlight here and accomplished so much in just their first year of working together," Penrose said in the written release.

"We are privileged to use our platform to lift up and amplify their voices and ideas."