Current Problems

Child Welfare (1-5)

“Are They Listening?”

November 19, 2020

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) – In 2018, without involvement or engagement of First Nations in Manitoba or the AMC, the Province of Manitoba unilaterally passed “The Advocate for Children and Youth Act” that expanded the scope and authority of MACY. As part of their expanded mandate, the MACY is now able to publicly report on the government’s progress regarding recommendations made in various reports. From 2018 to 2020, MACY identified 23 recommendations to improve government services as it pertains to children and youth. However, the compliance rate to implement these recommendations is significantly lower.

“Many of the recommendations in these reports were informed by the tragic loss of First Nations children and youth who were chronically underserved by government systems. Our First Nations children are grossly overrepresented in these systems including 90% of First Nations children in the provincial foster care system, and 80% of Indigenous youth in the Manitoba youth justice system,” stated Chief Francine Meeches, Chair of the AMC Women’s Council.

In addition to the lack of compliance, the report identified that due to the lack of comprehensive youth-focused mental health supports, the province has been utilizing Child and Family Services and the justice system to intervene in crisis situations. It was further identified that front line workers in the child welfare system are not adequately equipped to respond to high-risk interventions; as a result of a lack of training in the implementation of the provincial minimum standards under the Child and Family Services Act. “This is an issue of deeply rooted systemic racism in the Province of Manitoba, coupled with what appears to be strategic underfunding of preventive care needed to support these vulnerable children. The province of Manitoba needs to do more than perpetuate the status quo,” concluded Chief Francine Meeches.

Three critical barriers to the implementation of recommendations:

  1. Publicly release and take action on existing reviews into child serving systems, including the youth justice system review and the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education review
  2. Release an action plan with timelines to implement the youth-specific recommendations issued in the government’s 2018 Improving Access and Coordination of Mental Health and Addiction Services: A Provincial Strategy for all Manitobans (also known as the Virgo Report). In addition to an action plan and timelines, the government of Manitoba needs to commit appropriate resources to eliminate service barriers and improve mental health outcomes for children and youth, and
  3. Ensure that the four child and family services authorities and the Department of Families engage their respective legislated roles and responsibilities to ensure that training for workers and supervisors is adequately resourced, accessible, and monitored. Further, they must ensure that minimum service standards are clarified and effective, and that a quality assurance framework is developed and used to verify that all families receive the standards of service to which they are entitled. This is of particular importance during a time of significant transition with the coming- into-force of federal CFS legislation.