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This article was published 13/8/2018 (1135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Our constituency office receives many calls regarding Child and Family Service Cases.
Whether it’s from Child Protection workers wanting my help to keep families together, or families calling me in tears wondering why their children have been taken away, folks are doing their best and at times need extra support. Simply put, it’s heartbreaking.
In Manitoba, there are currently over 11,000 children in care, with approximately 90 per cent of them being Indigenous.
The reality for Point Douglas is harsh. A recent Manitoba child poverty report card finds that 27.4 per cent of our province’s children live in poverty, which is well above the national average. Low-income parents often face greater challenges providing the level of care that higher income families can provide.
I hear from families and workers that too often inadequate housing, or a lack of food or absence of warm clothing result in the apprehension of their child. While poverty itself is not officially grounds for apprehension, the consequences of poverty and the challenges that low-income families face are sometimes considered grounds for apprehension. That’s not a solution, that’s a problem.
Earlier this year, I introduced Bill 223 — The Child and Family Services Amendment Act — in the legislature. This would have ensured that no child is found to be in need of apprehension solely as a result of their family’s social or economic situation. Sadly, the current government decided to vote down a bill that would have helped some of Manitoba’s most vulnerable children and families.
Child Protection Workers are already working for real-life solutions to ensure apprehension is a last resort, but they have limited means.
This government needs to invest in frontline services and supports to help keep children with their families. Better investments could be used to provide families with the tools they need to ensure basic care for their children. We know that front-line workers are doing everything they can with the resources they have.
A Child Protection Worker reached out to me because she did not want to apprehend a child, and wanted to see if I could help in securing housing. CFS agencies need flexibility so that struggling low-income families can be connected to real life-supports, rather than broken up.
It is more cost-effective to invest in upstream prevention and frontline services than to continue apprehending children. The harsh reality is Manitoba’s Child and Family Services system is broken, and until improvements are made that keep children with their families, we will continue to fail our children.
Point Douglas constituency report
Bernadette Smith is the NDP MLA for Point Douglas.