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CFS system is improved, Phoenix inquiry told

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The man who stickhandled much of the upheaval in the child welfare system while Phoenix Sinclair was in and out of care, told the inquiry into her death today that things have settled down and the system is improved.

"I believe the service system we have today has seen enormous enhancements," said Jay Rodgers, chief executive officer of the General Authority. He chaired the interim management board when Winnipeg Child and Family Services switched from a community-run agency to a provincial government one in 1999. In 2004, Rodgers became WCFS chief executive officer.

The inquiry has heard that a growing number of cases and agency upheaval affected the work atmosphere from the time Phoenix was born in 2000 until she was killed in 2005 by her mother Samantha Kematch and stepfather Karl "Wes" McKay. Her death wasn't discovered until 2006 and Kematch and McKay were convicted of her murder in 2008. In 2011, the province ordered an inquiry to determine how Phoenix slipped through Manitoba's child-welfare safety net.

During the changes taking place at that time, they tried to help workers anxious about devolution and the creation of aboriginal agencies, said Rodgers. The front lines of child protection were never an easy place to work, however, he said.

"No matter what, child welfare is very difficult work."

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