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Minister embraces slate of inquest's urged reforms

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Kerri Irvin-Ross says her department will compare the inquest's findings to those in the Sinclair case.

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Kerri Irvin-Ross says her department will compare the inquest's findings to those in the Sinclair case.

Manitoba's family services minister says she has accepted all 14 recommendations arising out of an inquest into how a little girl was killed by her mother at a city transitional-housing centre while under CFS supervision.

"It's incomprehensible that this short life... ended as tragically as it did," Kerri Irvin-Ross told the Free Press on Friday.

"Manitobans will also feel the horror and the sadness -- the sadness weighs very heavy on a number of people," she said. "We have a responsibility to learn from what happened."

Allen's recommendations range from CFS improving the risk assessments its workers perform on clients to having yearly audits of NWTC's practices.

He also advocates for the crafting of service agreements when external "satellite" service providers are employed by CFS to make sure all parties know who is responsible for what.

Judge Larry Allen's inquest report into Jaylene Redhead's death comes just months after the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry concluded

That process saw commissioner Ted Hughes make more than 60 recommendations to the government on how to better protect Manitoba's children.

Irvin-Ross said her department will be combing over the recommendations in each case to filter out any duplications and move ahead with their implementation.

"Judge Allen... outlines a path to making sure that we're protecting children," she said.

One of Allen's major findings was that the province could do more on the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder front, including by hiring more FASD specialists to work with CFS-involved families and provide targeted services. "We as a society can and must do better to accommodate people affected by gestational alcohol consumption," Allen said.

CFS authorities currently have a limited number of FASD specialists.

Expanding their number is "complicated," Irvin-Ross said. "I think you have to realize that there are FASD specialists outside of the child-welfare system, too. We do have the specialists -- and I think what's important is that we're sharing information with the front lines (in child welfare)."

Irvin-Ross said she recognized that at the heart of issues leading to Jaylene's killing were assumptions made by CFS and NWTC about who was doing what for the mother and child.

"We need to make sure that we're not making assumptions when we're making decisions based on the safety of children," said Irvin-Ross.

Allen also recommended the province revamp its standards for CFS workers, to make them more "readily usable" to them.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2014 A5

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