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This article was published 9/6/2010 (3914 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

WINNIPEG - The Children’s Advocate should appear before a legislative committee to discuss a document in which she said that "child welfare in Manitoba is in a state of chaos," Opposition politicians demanded today in the legislature.

As well, Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen called for a halt to children being removed from longtime, stable foster homes until the system is reviewed.

"We continue to hear stories of children who are being taken from stable long-term foster family situations and being placed in situations that may present risk," McFadyen said.

"They should put a freeze on it today, on any further removal of kids from stable, long-term foster situations and work urgently to bring stability to a system in chaos," he told reporters after a raucous Question Period.

Reporters today obtained a copy of a previously secret submission by the Children’s Advocate that formed the basis of a funding request April 27 to an independent committee of MLAs.

The document said there were then 8,629 children in care in Manitoba, compared with 6,629 in 2005.

"As caseloads increase, more social workers are leaving the child -protection field. Some are retiring, others taking up positions in education, justice or health as those service sectors offer lower, more manageable caseloads without the threat of intense public scrutiny," the Children’s Advocate said in her submission.

"Foster parents are also leaving the system as they bounce from agency to agency trying to find the support they need to care for the children placed in their home and terrified the children will be removed by ‘uncaring’ agency staff or workers as they attempt to reunify indigenous children with their own family or community," the advocate said. "The combination is volatile."

Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh told reporters that giving up children they’ve raised for some time is an understandably emotional moment for foster parents. But a foster home is meant to be a temporary placement for a child.

He said the increased number of kids in care is a concern, and he noted that aboriginal leaders have used the words ‘crisis’ or ‘chaos’ to describe whole communities in northern Manitoba.

Mackintosh said that about 85 per cent of kids in care are of aboriginal descent. "We have some very serious family breakdown in this province that is causing some enormous pressures," the minister said.

Mackintosh reiterated that the NDP government has boosted funding for frontline services. And he said he’s encouraged that Ottawa seems on the verge of funding a new program that will assist social workers in providing support for families that are showing early signs of breakdown.

"We think that is a more effective way in investing in child welfare," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca