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This article was published 5/2/2019 (258 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A Manitoba foster mother says she might not have decided to take in children with high needs had she known the provincial government would cut the rate to $20 a day from $60 for the care of those aged 18 to 21.
In a province already short of foster parents, this move won't help, said the woman, who didn't want her name used because of confidentiality of the youth in her care. The money is not only a vital part of the care and shelter foster parents provide, but, in her case, either she or her husband has to home at all times with the children, she said.
"It is really frustrating," the woman said Tuesday. "I've been a foster mother for about eight years, and it has always been $60 — it hasn't gone up since 2002. Now, they are reducing it by 67 per cent. We know there will be foster parents that won't be able to continue.
"It's already a very challenging way to live... Would I have done it if it had been $20 when I started? The scary thing is, maybe not."
'It is really frustrating. I've been a foster mother for about eight years, and it has always been $60 — it hasn't gone up since 2002. Now, they are reducing it by 67 per cent'
The province, in internal documents provided to the Free Press, made the change in policy Jan. 1, with the reduction to be put in place "no later than March 1."
The $60 per day will continue to be paid to foster parents who are looking after children under the age of 18. However, once they turn 18, it will drop to $20 because, the report says, "the level of care provided is very different from what is needed for a child."
The changes affect the foster parents of about 130 young adults — and don't apply to adults living with special needs who are eligible under the Community Living Disability Services program or Independent Living programs.
The documents say the provincial government is making the changes in advance of its review aimed at keeping children with biological families instead of in foster care.
In a five-page FAQ about the changes being made for care of young adults who are under a permanent order when they turn 18, the province says its Child and Family Services division "has undertaken a review of policies and child maintenance expenditures in order to manage increasing costs and support a transformation plan for child welfare that focuses on prevention and reunification."
"To move forward, it is necessary that we begin to assess and make the required amendments to policies and funding mechanisms that support improved outcomes for our children, youth and families," the document says.
The province says the changes in policy and rate structures will also help youth in care begin the transition into the independent adult world more quickly by focusing on "early referrals and timely transition from the CFS system to more appropriate long-term care programs that meet the needs of our youth."
A provincial government spokeswoman said Tuesday "foster parent providers can also request reassessments of young adults in their care if they feel they need a higher level of support."
"The changes only affect young adults who opt to stay with their foster care provider and special care needs are still taken into consideration," the spokeswoman said.
However, Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said others in society are staying in their parents' home longer while they are getting post-secondary education or a job — and these children are no different.
"The government's being a cheap and irresponsible parent," Kinew said. "The rest of society sees kids staying longer at home and these are the most vulnerable.
"They are more likely to end up on the street homeless, the more likely to get involved in crime, and the least likely to finish school... The government has the resources to make sure they move forward," he said. "We should be increasing the support. Instead, they just cut."
The foster mother said before these cuts were announced, she and her husband were already dipping into the money the province gives them to pay for extra clothing and other expenses for their foster children above what the province allots.
"Imagine if, with your own job, they said, 'We'll cut your wage by 67 per cent, but you still have to do the same work." What would you do?" she said.
"I don't want people to think I'm complaining — we are blessed with these children and I couldn't imagine a different life — but with a four-year-old, they might have trouble sleeping, while with a teen, you are calling missing persons (police) and you're becoming a detective to keep them safe."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.