December 16, 2019

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Apprehended newborn's family anxiously awaiting word from CFS on reunion

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This article was published 15/1/2019 (334 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The family who live-streamed an apprehension by Child and Family Services and Winnipeg police on Facebook last week don't know when they may be reunited with their newborn.

In an emotional video posted last Thursday, Winnipeg CFS staff and two Winnipeg police officers were shown taking a two-day-old girl from her weeping mother and family at St. Boniface Hospital.

The mother speaks to the media about the apprehension of her newborn baby by Child and Family Services the day before while at a press conference at the First Nations Family Advocate Office in Winnipeg on Friday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The mother speaks to the media about the apprehension of her newborn baby by Child and Family Services the day before while at a press conference at the First Nations Family Advocate Office in Winnipeg on Friday.

By Tuesday afternoon the video had been shared nearly 26,000 times and had 1.1 million views.

"I am doing everything that CFS is asking of me to ensure the return of my baby to my family," the mother said in a statement Tuesday.

According to the family — who spoke with media Friday, but cannot be identified because the child is in CFS care — the Winnipeg mother was in contact with CFS while she was pregnant, seeking parenting and addictions support. The baby was apprehended despite a plan in place to have an aunt look after the girl.

Citing confidentiality clauses in the Child and Family Services Act, CFS officials could not comment on the case, including the reason for the apprehension.

The office of the First Nations Family Advocate put out a statement Tuesday, noting the family had attended their first court date and had one visit with the baby and were hoping to hear more about a possible reunion Wednesday.

"My aunt and I had made private arrangements before my baby was born to transfer guardianship to her," the mother said. "We are disappointed these were not followed but we are pursuing our goal to have my newborn baby placed in the care of my auntie as soon as possible."

The baby’s file was transferred to Island Lake CFS from Winnipeg in order to be closer to the family’s home community, an advocate's office spokesperson said.

Neither CFS nor police could provide statistics on the frequency of officer participation in child apprehensions. Both said they don’t track such calls, though the Winnipeg Police Service keeps tabs on calls to "assist to other agencies."

WPS spokeswoman Const. Tammy Skrabek said officers receive one module of training during their recruitment class dedicated to CFS-related issues and they can ask for additional seminars.

"It’s not uncommon from any other situation we have, it’s just this one was recorded," Skrabek said. "I thought the officers did an outstanding job.

"It’s a very difficult spot to be in because you want to be somewhat empathetic. There’s nothing fun about taking somebody’s child, especially a newborn, away from them. Especially when you have a large group of family and parents, you’re hoping that they have that understanding from the agencies that have called us in that this is a temporary situation, hopefully."

Cathy Rocke, associate dean in the faculty of social work at the University of Manitoba, cautioned people who have seen the video not to jump to conclusions, particularly since CFS cannot legally comment in the media.

"One of the challenges is that most families, if they’re struggling with issues, don’t necessarily paint the entire picture. So then you’re only getting half of that (story)," Rocke said.

"We see that just on social media, generally. As a video comes out, everybody is up in arms thinking, 'What was that about?' And then more information comes out and, all of a sudden, the whole narrative changes."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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