Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Province orders probe into foster agency following CBC investigation on handling of sex abuse

Manitoba’s Minister of Families has ordered a review into a foster care company following a CBC investigation that revealed children were left in the same home as a minor who was sexually abusing them.

'I'm happy about it because finally it's being listened to': biological parent

Families Minister Heather Stefanson ordered a review of a private foster care agency Saturday. She was not available for an interview to explain how the review will work. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Manitoba's Minister of Families has ordered a review of a foster care company following a CBC investigation that revealed children were left in the same home as a minor who was sexually abusing them. 

"I'm happy about it because finally it's being listened to," said the biological parent of the children who were victimized.

The provincial review, which will focus on the for-profit foster care agency, B & L Resources for Children and Youth and Families, began Saturday and is being led by deputy minister of Families Jay Rodgers.

"Based on allegations reported in the media and information received by my department yesterday, I have directed that this review be conducted," Families Minister Heather Stefanson said in an emailed statement Saturday.

The parent would like to see the review extend to the Metis Child, Family and Community Services Agency, the children's legal guardian. The parent says they told Metis CFS about abuse allegations months before B & L got involved.

"When I explained to them what happened I felt like I wasn't listened to. They need to look at the social workers involved, they need to look at the people, the supervisors. They need to look at Metis [CFS], they need to put all of that [to figure out] why this wasn't taken seriously," said the parent.

First Nations family advocate Cora Morgan wants the results of this review to be made public. She says the confidentiality surrounding CFS is not designed to protect the children or the parents, it's designed to protect the system. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

There were 275 children in B & L foster homes in early 2016, 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 CFS, West Region CFS, Metis CFS and Dakota Ojibway CFS.

"The first step in the review process is ensuring that children currently placed with B & L are safe and are being properly cared for. Based on the findings of the review, we will take whatever additional steps may be required in the circumstances," said the minister in a statement.

The government would not provide anyone to explain the scope of the review, and what specific steps are being taken to make sure the children are safe and properly cared for.

Cora Morgan, Manitoba's First Nations family advocate, said this review should have started long ago. The allegations first emerged in 2016.

"At the end of the day, there were little kids that were suffering in this home," said Morgan. "Now because there's media highlighting the story that there's some action and it should never be that way."

Morgan would like to see the province and the agencies who are using B & L homes to mobilize right now and check on children's well-being.

'These kids deserve to have a thorough thorough investigation to ensure that this doesn't ever happen to any other child again in this system,' said Families critic NDP MLA Bernadette Smith. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

"When we put kids into care and we expose them to things that they otherwise wouldn't be exposed to in their families — especially abuse — we're not doing our job, and our job is to keep kids safe. And clearly these kids were failed," said NDP Families critic Bernadette Smith, MLA for Point Douglas. 

Smith called on the province to "stop all contracts" with  B & L Resources in the legislature on Friday. Metis CFS hired the company to recruit and supervise foster homes. 

Smith wants the results of the review to be made public to make sure it does not happen again. 

The children's legal guardian, Metis CFS, is in favour of the province's review.

"The safety and well-being of our children and youth is paramount," wrote CEO Billie Schibler on behalf of the Metis Child and Family Services Authority and its agencies in an emailed statement. 

"We welcome any review of care services being provided to our children." 

'The safety and well-being of children entrusted to our care has always been and remains B & L's primary focus,' Bruce Bertrand-Meadows, managing director of B & L, wrote in a statement. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

B & L did not respond to a request for comment but sent an emailed statement last week. 

"The safety and well-being of children entrusted to our care has always been and remains B & L's primary focus.  We have an exceptional team of foster parents and staff members who dedicate their time, energy, passion and expertise to helping our province's children and families in crisis and we are proud of the work that they do every day," wrote Bruce Bertrand-Meadows, managing director of B & L. 

He noted that agencies such as Metis CFS are responsible to identify any specific care or supervision needs.

"B & L immediately responds to any such requirements from CFS Agencies and advocates for additional precautions whenever deemed warranted," wrote Bertrand-Meadows. 

Manitoba's Minister of Families has ordered a review of a foster care company following a CBC investigation that revealed children were left in the same home as a minor who was sexually abusing them. CBC's Katie Nicholson reports. 2:09