Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CFS audit combs files of all kids in agency's care

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AN operational review of Southeast Child and Family Services will comb through the file of every child in the agency's care, looking to ensure there are no more children like Tracia Owen slipping through the cracks.

The review was triggered last fall following the inquest into 14-year-old Tracia's suicide, which among its many avenues of investigation questioned decisions made about the teenager's life in the care of Southeast and how she was monitored.

On Aug. 25, 2005, Tracia hanged herself in a dilapidated garage in Winnipeg's west end, ending a downward spiral of drug use and prostitution. She had been in foster care most of her life and was moved over 64 times between foster homes and back and forth to her parents, whose substance abuse problems made them unable to care for her properly.

Elsie Flette, CEO of the Southern First Nations Child and Family Services Authority, said the operational review will in part be checking on the status of children in the care of Southeast and that will mean it will reveal if there are any other children whose circumstances may be similar to Tracia's.

"We are going to look at every file," said Flette.

There are more than 1,300 files to go through at Southeast, which looks after the child welfare systems in several Manitoba First Nations, including some of the most impoverished such as Little Grand Rapids, Pauingassi and Bloodvein.

More than 40 per cent of the kids on those three reserves are currently in foster care.

In his inquest report, Justice John Guy said Southeast spent more time attempting to help Tracia's parents solve their own substance problems, than trying to help Tracia with hers, and the agency's operations played a role in the problems Tracia developed.

"Contributing to this spiral was the lack of long-term planning, proper assessment, insufficient documentation, lack of accountability to standards, lack of oversight," Guy wrote.

He does, however, credit the agency for addressing some of those problems in the years after Tracia's death.

Flette said one of the things the file review will be looking for is the quality of case planning for Southeast's kids. When a child becomes known to CFS, either through foster care or through services delivered to the child and their family, the social worker is to create a service plan for the child.

That is to include things such as any therapy the child or family may need, substance abuse programming, schooling, health services, or anything else which may help reunite the child with their parents.

The operational review -- which began in November -- will not be fully completed until next fall, Flette says. It hired external reviewers to look at the agency's governance and finances.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2008

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