Manitoba expanding Coach program for high-risk children, youth

The Manitoba government is expanding its Coach program, which provides mentoring, academic and treatment services to children with serious mental health needs, to include older youth in the province's child welfare system.

Program offers intensive support to children and youth with mental health needs

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross speaks to reporters inside the Coach program classroom at Mission Baptist Church in Winnipeg on Tuesday about the program's expansion. (CBC)

The Manitoba government is expanding its Coach program, which provides mentoring, academic and treatment services to children with serious mental health needs, to include older youth in the province's child welfare system.

The province announced on Tuesday that the program, which has been offered to children between the ages of five and 11 in Child and Family Services care, will also help youth between the ages of 12 and 15.

As part of the Coach program, children and youth in CFS care with "profound mental health, behavioural and academic needs" receive intensive, year-round support with the help of mentors, teachers, principals and others.

The program aims to "help children in need develop the coping skills needed to succeed in school and in society," Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said in a news release.

"We're now expanding the program to help older children and youth in CFS care. These young people have complex needs and face huge hurdles every day in their lives," she added.

"The mentoring, academic and family supports they receive through COACH will give them hope for a better future."

Melanie Wight, the province's minister of children and youth, said a young girl who is currently in the Coach program helped persuade the government to expand it.

"She knew she wasn't ready yet just to go to a regular school, and she practically begged us to open up Coach to older kids so she could keep going," Wight told reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

"So I want to say to this child that we heard you."

The province works with the Winnipeg School Division and Macdonald Youth Services to offer the Coach program to a maximum of 15 children a year in the intensive phase and about 40 children in follow-up phases.

The expanded program will double the number of intensive phase participants to 30 a year.

In addition to treatment and training programs for the young participants, the program comes with community activities, volunteer work, support for parents, cultural teachings and reintegration into a satellite school, as well as long-term follow-up programs.

"I think it gives the opportunity for the students to become students again — to not lose hope in them, to kind of never give up on a student," said Peter Correia, the principal at Mulvey School, which is a Coach program partner.

Irvin-Ross said evaluations have shown that children and youth in the Coach program go to school more regularly, have better social skills and perform better in class.


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