Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Tracking children

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Auditor general Carol Bellringer's followup of an audit of the child welfare system found the primary means of tracking children in care still is not working properly. The centralized computer-record system is shot through with gaps identified six years ago as having a role in the death of little Phoenix Sinclair.

The abbreviated report on Phoenix, murdered by her mother and stepfather, noted the central information system lacked timely detail on children at risk. A 2006 audit by Ms. Bellringer's office called the system neither accurate nor complete.

The Child and Family Services branch hired a consultant to recommend a new system urban and remote agencies could use. In 2009, the Treasury Board refused to fund possible fixes. Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard says the government chose to invest in social workers, not computers.

Children move in and out of an agency's area and cases change social workers frequently. Without good, reliable tracking of the 9,432 kids in care, front-line workers can be working blind, making really bad decisions. Repeatedly identified as a gaping hole, the computer system Ms. Howard is gambling on makes it likely more vulnerable children will fall through the cracks.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2012 A12

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