More emergency group-home beds and a new website to connect foster parents with children who need a temporary place to stay went live on the web today, Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard announced.
Manitoba launched its new website to allow the public to track key indicators in the child-welfare system, like the number of kids being put up in hotels for lack of foster home beds.
"We’re trying to demystify what is a complicated system," said Howard, adding "and we want to build in some clear accountability measures."
Child welfare costs nearly half-a-billion dollars a year to run, with 9,370 kids in care, including over 400 who are over 18 but are still in the system because they are in university, college or in training for jobs.
Another 24 beds for kids apprehended on an emergency basis, for instance because of a fire, or the threat of childhood abuse or family violence, are to be up and running within a month in the province, the minister announced. That will bring the total number of emergency beds up to 300 across the province.
"Over the last few months we’ve seen a growing demand for the services we provide to protect vulnerable children and an increase in the number of children staying in hotels temporarily when coming into care," Howard said. "We’ve made a lot of progress in connecting vulnerable kids with caring families through record foster-parent recruitment over the last six years. Investing in new emergency group-home beds and launching a new website to recruit short-term foster care beds will help us place these children with nurturing families more quickly."
As of September, 29 children are waiting in hotels for temporary or permanent foster homes, on any given day.
The new website can be found here.
In addition to public information, the website also includes a feature for agency-eyes only.
That internal feature will allow social workers looking for homes quick access to available beds across the province’s child welfare agencie, serving as a first step to finding beds that agencies may have available.
It will list foster parents with beds available for kids on an emergency basis along with group homes with available beds.
"I’m not going to say we’ll never have another kid in a hotel. This is going to take some time. But we do think we’ve got lots of people with lots of room in their hearts and their homes for these kids," Howard said.
Howard said she hoped the new website will encourage licenced foster parents to come forward and offer to take kids on an emergency basis.
There are 4,800 foster homes, including 800 new ones this year.