MANITOBA GOVERNMENT SHIFTING FROM PROTECTION TO PREVENTION, OFFERING MORE SUPPORTS SERVICES TO FAMILIES
– – – AMR Planning & Consulting Offers Options for Actions on Hughes Inquiry Recommendations
The Manitoba government is revising its funding model for Manitoba Child and Family Services (CFS) agencies to significantly expand supports for families with the goal of keeping children at home and in their own communities rather than taking them into care, Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said today.
“Based on the work of the Hughes Commission and AMR Planning & Consulting, we are going to strengthen supports for families and create healthier communities for children,” Minister Irvin-Ross said. “We’re shifting our emphasis from protection to prevention. Prevention is the best protection.”
The Manitoba government began implementing 31 of the 62 recommendations from the Hughes inquiry after receiving its report in January 2014, Minister Irvin-Ross said. AMR was contracted to meet with front-line service providers, families, elders, community agencies and organizations to develop options for action on the final 31 recommendations. AMR’s report was received by the Manitoba government this month.
“It is only with the support, experience and wisdom of all the stakeholders who provided their time, ideas, thoughts and options for action that we could prepare this report. The report is an account of their input,” said Barbara Bruce, a partner with AMR.
This increased focus on early supports for families will be phased in as quickly as possible, Minister Irvin-Ross said. In the short term, the minister said the Manitoba government will:
revise the funding model for CFS agencies including a 60 per cent increase for family supports that would allow for greater flexibility in dealing with family size, complexity of needs, geography and other individual factors;
hire an indigenous associate children’s advocate to work on behalf of indigenous families and children, ensuring they are treated fairly in all dealings with the CFS system;
introduce legislation that would give the Office of the Children’s Advocate greater independence and make it more transparent by allowing greater public reporting of critical incidents and greater sharing of information with families; and
create a pilot project called Circle of Care based at Sagkeeng First Nation that will assist families in working their way through difficult issues while respecting cultural needs and by focusing on the family first, rather than the system.
“The Circle of Care is an important step toward keeping families together and providing children with the love and support of their communities,” said Chief Derrick Henderson, Sagkeeng First Nation. “It will respect culture, honour the role of families, give them a voice in their own futures and offer a better chance to raise children in the best possible environment in their own communities.”
While this work is underway, the minister said the Manitoba government will also:
begin working on a made-in-Manitoba solution to meet the Hughes inquiry recommendations to strengthen the role of the Office of the Children’s Advocate;
build the capacity of non-government community agencies to offer more services for families earlier to help prevent families falling into crisis;
amend existing legislation to include the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;
require CFS agencies to work more collaboratively with community partners to better serve families and children who need supports and to prevent their entry into the child welfare system;
expand work through the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet on initiatives such as the Children and Youth Mental Health Action Framework to identify and develop services for children and youth; and
work with authorities and other stakeholders to develop a retention and recruitment strategy for CFS workers.
Funding for the increased emphasis on enhanced family supports is expected to come in part by redirecting funds within Manitoba Family Services as more children remain with families and in their own communities and fewer are taken into care, the minister said.
Minister Irvin-Ross said improvements to the child welfare system are being built upon earlier initiatives, particularly Changes for Children, an action plan stemming from reviews of the Manitoba Child and Family Services system after the murder of Phoenix Sinclair in 2005.
Changes for Childrensaw budget increases, better foster care and child safety and improvements to accountability, Minister Irvin-Ross noted.
Information on the Hughes inquiry, its recommendations, Changes for Childrenand the ALL Aboard poverty reduction strategy can be found at www.gov.mb.ca/fs/index.html.