Fasting for children in care
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/11/2020 (938 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
From noon on Thurs. Oct. 22 to noon on Fri., Oct. 23, my wife Naomi and I were fasting in a tipi in front of the Manitoba Legislature.
Our fast was part of an effort by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Office of the First Nations Family Advocate to draw attention to the impact of the provincial government taking money from children in the care of Manitoba’s Child and Family Services.
The money in question is the universal child benefit which is provided by the federal government to every family with a child or children in our province.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, these monies for children who had been removed from their families and put into the care of Child and Family Services, instead of being provided directly to the families, were provided to the agency responsible for the children and were to be used to directly benefit the children.
Many agencies put a proportion (usually half) into a trust fund for the children in care to be available to them when the children turned 18 and aged out of care.
Starting in about 2007, the NDP took these monies away from the children and the agencies (including the monies in trust) and put them in to provincial general revenue. This practice continued until 2019 under the Conservatives. The cumulative amount taken from children and the agencies was more than $300 million.
While we were in the tipi, we were supported by members of the Bear Clan who kept the tipi fire going during the night, while we were sleeping.
One benefit of the Bear Clan’s involvement was that we got to speak to members who had been and were directly involved with children in care. What we learned was that, in the years since money was taken out of the trusts for children in care, children were often sent to homeless shelters when they turned 18 because there was no longer money in trust to provide any alternative opportunities such as renting rooms and/or post-secondary education.
We were very dismayed to learn that this practice still affects people today. I know and have met families in River Heights who have lost children to the CFS system and those who are wonderful foster parents. I am certain that all find this practice shocking.
It is no wonder that a disproportionate number of people who are homeless in Winnipeg are adults who were in the care of Child and Family Services while a child. According to a Winnipeg street census in 2018, more than half of homeless people in our city have been in CFS care at some point in their lives, with more than 62 per cent of this group experiencing homelessness within a year of leaving care.
Naomi and I believe that the money which was taken from the children in care should be returned to them, and that other measures should be taken to make sure every child in care can get off to a good start as an adult when they age out of care.
We will be using the knowledge we gained toward an effort we are involved with this winter to help those who are homeless and to reduce the number of children and adults who are homeless.
Anyone interested in more information about our efforts or in helping can reach me at email@example.com
River Heights constituency report
Jon Gerrard is Liberal MLA for River Heights.