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Children's advocate office investigated 61 child deaths in 2012

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Manitoba’s Children’s Advocate wants parents to be better informed of sleeping with infants.

It’s just one of the recommendations made in its 2011-12 annual report released Tuesday.

Children’s Advocate Darlene MacDonald said while popular, parent-infant bed sharing may give rise to significant hazards including entrapment, overlay, overheating, and smothering by soft bedding.

"We’ve heard of caregivers that have accidently rolled over on their infants during sleep while intoxicated," MacDonald said.

She said her office investigated seven such cases between 2005-11 and in the past year her office has seen one death.

MacDonald said a wider public education is needed through medical and social services agencies to reduce those preventable deaths. The province’s Advisory Committee on Child Abuse has recently released a pamphlet called the ABCs of Safe Sleep.

The Children’s Advocate’s office investigates child deaths referred to it by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office who were involved with child and family services. The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OAC) is an independent office of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. It represents the rights, interests and viewpoints of children and youth throughout Manitoba who are receiving, or entitled to be receiving, services under The Child and Family Services Act and The Adoption Act.

The annual report said 61 child deaths were referred to the office’s Special Investigations Review unit last year. That’s up from 53 deaths the year before. Twelve were children who were in care.

In total, 148 Manitoba child deaths were reported in 2011-12, down from 156 in the previous year and 177 in 2009-10.

There were 9,432 children in care in 2011, up from 5,782 in 2004 — a 63 per cent increase (3,650), according to the report.

MacDonald also said her office received a total of 2,382 requests for services last year, a 3.5 per cent increase from the 2,299 requests for service the office received in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The main concerns of those requests related to children's rights, case planning and quality of care.

The report also said high caseloads and demands of frontline work social workers are behind a lack of contact between children in the child-welfare system and their social workers.

The OCA said this breakdown leads to cases where there has been little or no assessment conducted at critical times during service delivery to children and families.

The report also said OCA continues to get requests for advocacy regarding a lack of planning for independence when youth in-care turn 18 and must leave care. It also get requests related to young adults 19-21 who are having difficulties with the terms of their extensions of care.

The office also continues to get complaints regarding the removal of children from foster placements.

MacDonald added her office has developed, with input from the four authorities that oversee child and family services agencies, a more collaborative approach to writing recommendations after child death reviews.

The full report is here.





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