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‘The system has been broken for a long time’: Manitoba announces child-welfare reform

In Manitoba there are 11,000 children in care. And over the last decade there has been a 73 per cent increase in the number of days they’ve been in care.

Diane Redsky, executive director at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, said the Manitoba government is making 'critical' reforms to child welfare system.

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Diane Redsky, executive director at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, said the Manitoba government is making 'critical' reforms to child welfare system.

The Manitoba government is overhauling the province’s child welfare system to cut down on the high rate of kids in foster care.

On Thursday, Minister of Families Scott Fielding said the reform includes a care plan for children just days after they enter the system. Currently, creating that plan can take up to 130 days.  

“The child needs addictions treatments, mental health treatments, a whole bunch of services and supports,” he said.

Fielding added that the government will table new legislation aiming to support adoptive parents through subsidized guardianship.

Manitoba currently has 11,000 children in care and nearly 90 per cent are Indigenous. Over the past decade, the province has seen a 73 per cent increase in the number of days those children spend in care, according to government data.

“We think that the numbers are unacceptable ... in terms of the amount of children in care. And if we can do this effectively right ... we think that's going to make a difference and it's going to substantially drop the amount of children in care.”

The plan is expected to reduce the number of kids in the system, though the government has yet to set a benchmark, Fielding said.

He added that the reform plan was created following consultations with Indigenous groups.

The reform plan also aims to stop kids from moving into the system in the first place by allocating part of the existing budget toward early intervention and prevention.

Fielding said the government is aiming to clarify and narrow down the reasons Child and Family Services (CFS) can apprehend children.

Last week, the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre saw increased funding to support its Family Group Conferencing program. The system works to return decision-making of the care and protection of a child to the entire family.

“The system has been broken for a long time,” said Diane Redsky, executive director, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.

“That’s what makes today’s announcement so critical, it’s really bridging and bringing together the mandated and non-mandated agencies to work together more collaboratively … now we have the resources and supports and the legislation. All of the tools that we need.”  

The government is looking at block funding—a method that will allow agencies to re-allocate funding for prevention.

Currently, the system funds organizations based on the amount of children in care and the number of days in care.

The government’s existing child welfare budget is $514 million. A set dollar amount for next year's budget has yet to be determined.

With files from the Canadian Press

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