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Supervisors must ensure welfare workers visit children, inquiry hears

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The inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair heard today how child welfare workers should be doing their job from an expert who hasn’t followed media reports on the ongoing, oft-delayed probe into how the five-year-old girl in and out of care slipped though Manitoba’s child-welfare safety net.

Alexandra Wright, executive director of the Canadian Association for Social Work Education in Ottawa, testified that notions of seeing the child and monitoring changes in the family aren’t new social work ideas.

Supervisors making sure workers do their jobs are part of child welfare’s quality assurance system, the University of Manitoba social work professor on leave told the inquiry as its second phase began.

During 54 days of testimony in phase one, the inquiry heard about social workers involved with Phoenix’s case not seeing her and supervisors signing off on closing the child’s file. It heard about Phoenix’s mother having a new boyfriend and a new baby without anyone monitoring the situation.

Witnesses testified that, back then, the standards social workers were to follow weren’t clear. Since Phoenix’s 2005 death was discovered in 2006, there have been changes to the way social workers in Manitoba are doing their job, the inquiry has heard.

Those changes are to be laid out during phase two of the inquiry over the next few weeks.

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