Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wish lists from the front line: Children's advocate

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MANITOBA'S Children's Advocate has a long list of ways the child welfare system could be improved.

One of the most critical, Billie Schibler says, is tracking what happens to children who age out of care.

"If they're 18 when they die, we would not receive that information from the chief medical examiner," says Schibler. "We know that statistically these children are the most vulnerable."

Traditionally, children are out of the child-welfare system (and on their own) when they turn 18. Sometimes, they can remain in care until they are 21.

"We need to know the statistics of how many of these kids die of homicide or suicide, This is a critical piece. It tells an important part of the story."

Schibler has made this point before. In the 2006 report Honouring Their Spirits", a Child Death Review, she called on the province to set up a support system that would help kids make the transition out of care.

Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are especially vulnerable, the report says.

Schibler says care would be improved with a change in legislation to allow the deaths of people who have recently left the child-welfare systems to be identified and tracked.

"The story of whether or not all the supports were in place, that story needs to be looked at," she says.

As well, Schibler hopes to receive accurate and timely information on children who suffer critical injuries in care but don't die.

"That in itself is a story that needs to be told," she says. "This is really about every publicly funded service that should have been attached to the family."

Schibler says she believes there are some things that Manitoba's child-welfare system does "very, very well."

"Do I want things to move faster? Of course I do," she says. "But I have never seen the child-welfare system as open to being examined or as open to being publicly transparent."

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2008 b3

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