Minister orders probe into agencies dealing with at-risk kids

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Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross has ordered a review into the services provided by private companies that tend to at-risk kids in hotels and group homes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/10/2014 (2919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross has ordered a review into the services provided by private companies that tend to at-risk kids in hotels and group homes.

The internal probe follows revelations contractors play a far greater role in the care of such children than previously thought. In 2012-13, these contractors received a total of $13.7 million — much more than some small Child and Family Services agencies get from government.

The workers employed by the private contractors are said to be ill-equipped to deal with troubled teens. They have little training, poor language skills and are badly paid.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press A review ordered by the province will focus on the quality of care provided to at-risk kids by private companies such as Complete Care.

Irvin-Ross said Tuesday her department’s “accountability unit,” which scrutinizes contracts with agencies, will conduct the review.

It will focus on the quality of care supplied by the agencies — the largest being Complete Care — as well as whether contract staff receive adequate training and whether the government is getting “value” for its money, the minister said.

“It will be a thorough, in-depth review,” she said.

Such reviews occur periodically, but Irvin-Ross said she wanted to ensure it be done immediately “based on the information that I’ve heard over the last 24 hours.”

She also said she wanted more details, in general, about the services private contractors provide to her department.

A former Complete Care worker told the Free Press Monday there were inadequate supports for employees looking after at-risk kids in hotels.

She said staff often knew nothing about the child they were expected to supervise for shifts as long as 12 hours.

Irvin-Ross also said the province will open a facility for high-risk girls and young women in the coming weeks. She did not disclose the location for security reasons. She said further details will be released when the formal announcement is made.

“It will be a secure facility that will provide support to kids involved with Street Reach,” she said, referring to a program that attempts to prevent sex abuse and exploitation of runaways.

“These are very high-risk young women that have lots of complex needs, and we need to protect them,” Irvin-Ross said.

A government spokeswoman said the girls targeted for the new facility would generally be more high-risk than those placed temporarily in hotels. She said, however, the existence of such a facility would help ensure such high-risk kids don’t wind up in a hotel.

Sources say Tina Fontaine was not listed as a high-risk youth until after she was reported missing. Tina, the 15-year-old whose body was discovered in the Red River in August, had apparently been taken to a downtown hotel for supervision by a CFS worker before she disappeared.

Irvin-Ross said the new facility will contain fewer than a dozen beds.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Updated on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 6:30 AM CDT: Changes photo

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