Manitoba

Manitoba hires several companies to watch children in CFS care

The Manitoba government pays millions of dollars to more than one company to look after children who are in the province's child-welfare system and placed in hotels, CBC News has learned.
The Manitoba government pays millions of dollars to more than one company to look after children who are in the province's child-welfare system and placed in hotels, CBC News has learned. 2:24

The Manitoba government pays millions of dollars to more than one company to look after children who are in the province's child-welfare system and placed in hotels, CBC News has learned.

Most of the money, $8.4 million, goes to Complete Care In-Home and Hospital Health Services, which provides workers to watch over children and youth in CFS care who are placed in hotels.

However, it's not it's not the only one. Last year, the provincial Child and Family Services Department paid three other companies for similar work:

  • Drake Medox Health Services — $5.2 million.
  • We Care health services — $247,669.
  • Compassionate Care — $157,088.

The province says it has also used the services of CH Health and Home Care Services Inc. and Revera Home Health in the past.

A spokesperson said for hotel placements and shelters, the province uses mostly Complete Care and Drake Medox, with most of the hotel-related work done by Complete Care.

"Family Services uses the services of such third party service providers in a number of programs to ensure that care and safety needs of clients are met in urgent situations, where regular staff resources can't meet the need," the spokesperson said in an email.

Employees of service providers hired by the province must undergo criminal record and abuse registry checks and must meet specific training requirements such as knowledge of CPR and first aid and non-violent crisis intervention, according to the spokesperson.

But CBC News has learned that staff otherwise get minimal training and are paid minimum wage, resulting in high staff turnover.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union, which represents social workers in the province, says it wonders how the province can ensure children in care have proper supervision when the work is being contracted to outside organizations.

"I think it would be better to have people that are trained in being able to deal with the emotional and the psychological issues that these children are dealing with on a daily basis," said MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky.

'It takes a toll on you'

On Friday, CBC News reported that some teens who are in CFS care have been exposed to prostitution and drugs while staying in hotel rooms.

A 15-year-old girl, who CBC News is identifying as "Katy," said in the four months she's been in CFS care, she has already lived in 10 foster homes and three hotels.

Fifteen-year-old 'Katy' tells CBC News she has been introduced to a variety of illicit drugs at a hotel, while under CFS care, within the past few months. (CBC)
She added that she was introduced to drugs while she was placed in a hotel.

"I'd say it's hard. It takes a toll on you because you find someplace and you think you're comfortable, and then the next thing you know you're getting moved again," she said.

"It keeps happening and sometimes … we give up hope."

Katy said not only has she been shuffled around in the CFS system, she is not being forced to go to school and she often skips curfew and gets reported missing.

Minister not familiar with all companies

On Friday, Child and Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said she wasn't familiar with some of the companies used by her department.

"There's hundreds and hundreds of contracts that we have, and I'm not familiar with all of them," she said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said what Irvin-Ross said is concerning to him.

"There's serious issues here around how anyone could claim that they're overseeing [a] government department and managing the accountability and the quality of care when they aren't aware of the company that is being hired by taxpayers' dollars to do that service," Pallister said.

With files from the CBC's Caroline Barghout