Anyone who practises social work in Manitoba, under whatever title, should be registered by the Manitoba College of Social Workers.
Status: not done. Social workers are only obliged to register with the new college if they have the words “social worker” in their title, which drastically shrinks the tally.
Bolster the children’s advocate
The watchdog agency should have its own legislation and the ability to advocate for children getting all kinds of publicly funded services, not just child welfare. And the advocate should be able to work for youth until they turn 21, not 18.
Status: underway, but a half-measure. Legislation now before the house gives the child advocate stand-alone legislation and boosts its scope, but not so much that it includes all children getting publicly funded services. For example, children being bullied at school can’t call on the advocate’s office for help unless they are in care.
Social work degrees
A bachelor of social work or equivalent degree should be required of all social workers hired by agencies to deliver child-welfare services.
Status: unclear. The province says the authorities don’t keep statistics on the number of child-welfare hires who have BSWs, so it seems impossible to know whether this recommendation is underway. On the other hand, the Southern Authority’s latest annual report says 72 per cent of new hires at the authority’s 10 agencies were brought in at “Designated Level Worker 2,” which requires a BSW. That’s down a little from the year before, when 82 per cent met the DLW2 requirements. Some argue, though, a blanket call for every child-welfare worker to have a BSW is overly prescriptive and unnecessary. A social work grad might know far less about child welfare than someone who has worked for years with children in a related job.
Social workers doing either prevention or child protection should have no more than 20 cases per worker.
Status: not done. Front-line social workers say caseloads remain very high. Bringing caseloads down to 20 will require even more social workers in a system that can’t hire them fast enough. The province says average caseloads now stand at 25, and it is working to achieve the target set in the Hughes report.
The rules should be changed so children in care can keep getting services and foster parents can still get funding until the age of 25.
Status: not done. Youth can still only get extensions of care until 21, but the number of young people getting those extensions appears to be on the rise, with more care given to children aging out. The General Authority granted 20 more “extensions of care” in 2014-15. In the Southern Authority, the number rose to 411 in 2014-15, 127 more than the previous fiscal year. And the children’s advocate said she’s getting fewer calls from youth worried about their support and funding coming to an abrupt halt.
Reform privacy rules
Legislation, including the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act should be fixed so social workers, police, teachers, doctors and others can share information about a child without being burdened by complicated privacy rules.
Status: not done. No legislative amendments have been proposed. Even proponents of more openness and information-sharing in the system say this is a tricky area since it’s difficult to legislate the fine line between sharing information in a child’s interest and breaching a child’s privacy.
Get a new CFSIS
The department should create a new database system to replace the cumbersome Child and Family Services Information System — the software that manages the case files of every child who comes in contact with CFS.
Status: underway, but slowly. The new software package is called Curam, and the province decided in 2008 it wanted it. In May, a “scoping” exercise for the new software was done. Now, the province is starting the detailed design phase. It’s not clear when Curam, originally thought to cost $50 million, will be in place.
Reform the funding model
Funding is still based on an artificial distinction. Children in care get one pot of money; families getting prevention services to keep their children out of foster care draw from another pot of money. But prevention should be embedded in all services, and the model still favours taking kids into care so they can access funding. The four child-welfare authorities (Métis, Southern, Northern and General) should be funded to a level that supports family enhancement. A good step would be to boost the $1,300 fund each family can draw from for support services. A next step is to work with the authorities and agencies to determine proper funding levels.
Status: no massive reform, but there are hints the province will increase the $1,300 fund to $2,100 — a move the child advocate said would be a good start.
One worker per child
Every effort should be made to ensure a child has the same worker throughout his or her involvement with the child-welfare system.
Status: unknown. The province could not provide an update on this recommendation.
Boost welfare’s housing allowance
The housing allowance provided by welfare should be increased to 75 per cent of median market rates.
Status: done. This was among the recommendations the Hughes report made that dealt with poverty and the root causes of children in care.