Is it fair to say that most people who have their children apprehended by CFS, do not know what their rights are? Having been in community conversations lately, I get the feeling that many people do not. I have been working on a plan to end youth homelessness this summer, and the majority of the service providers that I have interviewed have told me that CFS is one of the main causes of Winnipeg’s youth homelessness problem.
As much as 70% of the people who are experiencing youth homelessness, have been involved in the Child Welfare system at one point or another. There is 10,000+ kids in care in Manitoba. 8000+ kids are of indigenous descent. The Province of Manitoba spends an estimated $470 million annually on Child Welfare, making that a significant part of the budget. In order to work on the plan to end youth homelessness, The Child Welfare system in Manitoba needs to change.
There are members in the community who are unsure of where to turn to when they feel their rights are being violated. It would be a good idea for the government to set up a support system that people can turn to, in terms of what resources are available to them when an apprehension occurs. The system is too adversarial. The Province could do a better job at letting people know that this is a problem that needs to be solved by everyone involved, parents, caregivers, government, and most importantly, the community. The number 1 goal should be re-unification, and prevention.
As much as I criticize the CFS system, I understand that it needs to exist. There are people out there who do not have the proper parenting skills required to raise children. However, What I would like to see, would be more preventative approaches being taken to reduce the number of children in care. I think if we remain status quo, Manitoba will end up having 20,000 kids in CFS care in the near future. This is unacceptable.
Housing and addictions problems are one of the things that obviously needs to be addressed. Last week, I visited the Main Street Project, where we interviewed chronically homeless individuals. It was a small sample, but some of the people that we interviewed had told us that addictions treatments were tough to get into in terms of waiting lists. Many of the people who are at risk of losing their children to CFS due to addiction will also tell you that it is difficult to get into rehabilitation facilities.
Having community-based addictions facilities is one of the many examples that can be used in terms of providing solutions. Another example that I would like to use is community centers. In my opinion, community centers are the most important places in the inner city, outside of the schools. There is an opportunity to expand on the infrastructure in terms of what types of services they offer. Community kitchen co-ops, social enterprises, traditional family parenting programs, incentive based learning for youth, among many more ideas. There is opportunities to provide the communities that are being effected by poverty, to reclaim the family structure that is fractured.
The CFS system is COMPLEX, but is an extremely pressing issue in terms of deciding what the future of Manitoba looks like. We don’t want to end up having future Manitoba governments to do another 60’s scoop apology. We want to be able to help fix something that is flawed.
This work is going to require the help of everyone.