More needs to be done to help keep children safe in CFS care: Manitoba youth advocate

WINNIPEG — Since Phoenix Sinclair’s death in 2005, Manitoba needs to do more work to ensure children under child and family service care are receiving equitable care in the system, and to identify when children are at risk of maltreatment, according to a new report from the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth (MACY).

The report, released Thursday, examines the deaths of 19 Manitoba children who died from maltreatment between 2008 and 2020.

“This special report is a heartbreaking collection of stories of children who died far too soon,” wrote Ainsley Krone with MACY. “Their lives underscore the tragedies that can occur when children need protection and when their environments are not safe.”

MACY has been calling for changes in the child and family services system in Manitoba since Sinclair’s death. Sinclair, five, died in June 2005 after being severely beaten and abused by her mother and stepfather after she was reunited with them. Her body was discovered in a shallow grave eight months following her death.

Sinclair’s death prompted an inquiry, and in 2013, 62 recommendations were given to the provincial government. In 2016, 50 per cent of the recommendations were in progress, 21 per cent were pending, and 29 per cent were complete or ongoing. MACY said since the public inquiry ended, the province has not updated the status of the recommendations.

The report is calling on the Manitoba government to finish implementing the recommendations.

It is also calling for improved access to parenting resources for caregivers in the CFS system.

“Our work with families tells us that too often, parents worry about asking for help because they fear the power held by service providers,” Krone wrote. “We need to make sure that if parents need help, they know support is available because this makes homes safer for all family members, especially young children.”

MACY is recommending the province work with First Nations and Metis community governments and organizations to improve access to parenting resources, with a focus on access for families living in rural and remote communities.

The report is also calling for “the implementation or enhancing of culturally-safe reunification policies to be used by child and family services agencies, as developed by their mandating authorities,” and is calling for agencies across the province to conduct case reviews for all children in care under five years old where a reunification is planned.

MACY is also calling for mandatory training to help identify signs of child maltreatment, and more training on reunification.

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