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This article was published 28/5/2013 (2679 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba has the highest rate of kids in foster care in Canada, an expert said Tuesday at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry.
Nico Trocme, director of the McGill Centre for Research on Children and Families in Montreal, added the families that need the most help are the least likely to get it.
The child-welfare system is eight times more likely to investigate neglect involving aboriginal kids as non-aboriginal kids. And a First Nations child is four times more likely to come into care as a result of abuse and neglect.
However, the killing of little kids such as Phoenix by a parent is "relatively rare," said Trocme.
Five-year-old Phoenix was slain by her mother and stepfather at the Fisher River First Nation in 2005. Her death wasn't discovered for nine months. The province ordered an inquiry to find out how the girl, who was in and out of care from the time she was born in Winnipeg, slipped through the child-welfare safety net.
Her profile of circumstances fits the pattern of aboriginal children taken into care described by Trocme.
The profile is a list of social ills plaguing aboriginals.
"Rates of poverty are dramatically higher, housing problems are far more significant, communities have a higher incidence of violence, parents themselves were removed (from their homes as kids and placed) in foster care, (and) problems with substance and alcohol abuse."
The system responds by removing the child.
"In a case where there are more difficulties in the home and fewer supports available, there is a high rate of removal," Trocme said. "A non-aboriginal child with a lack of support and housing problems is as likely to come into care as First Nation children."
In Manitoba, there were 18.4 children per 1,000 in foster care on Census Day in 2011 -- the highest in Canada, said Trocme, pointing to information gathered by Statistics Canada. The national average is just over eight kids per 1,000. He noted the provinces with the largest aboriginal populations listed the most kids in care but Manitoba had by far the highest number.
Trocme's research shows most aboriginal kids are in care because of neglect.
"Neglect is linked with poverty and structural issues and caregiver risk factors," he said. "It's probably the most concerning form of maltreatment.
"Short-term strategies don't address underlying needs."
Long-term neglect is more damaging to cognitive and emotional development than abuse, Trocme said. Across the board, neglected kids have the worst outcomes, he said.
"Exposure to a parent who doesn't have the energy to meet the needs of a child is devastating to long-term development."
Damage from neglect can be permanent, said Trocme.
"It requires sustained and long-term service" by agencies able to work with people in their homes, he said.
They may not show up for appointments, he said.
"You need workers and agencies who put a priority on working with these families who need extra help."
That means going to their home, not waiting for them to seek help.
"Better functioning families access services. The ones who need them the most don't get them," Trocme said.
Phoenix's parents avoided social workers, the inquiry has heard.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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