Monday, 21 October 2013

Investigating the Child and Family Services of Manitoba: A History of State Parenting

Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard came to the University of Manitoba on Oct 17, 2013 to speak about his new report on the child welfare system in Manitoba. While speaking to the teacher candidates in the Aboriginal education class he talked about his long journey in gaining greater knowledge of many of the faults of system in Manitoba. It seems that while there are many caring individuals within the system the state as the final decision maker within our institution makes for a very poor parent. It seems that state can never be a loving or caring parent to the actual parents. The current CFS system is quick on the gun not taking due process to assess families and simply just removes the child. It is a poor parent indeed. 

Jon Gerrard and Robert-Falcon Ouellette 
While listening to Jon Gerrard presentation I was struck by the number of children currently in care. There are very few in Manitoba who will not say the child and family services model is broken. When a child is taking into custody they could be moved 15 times in a 7 year period. While this is certainly due to a number of reasons some being the child was returned to the parents a number of times and the placements in foster families was of a short duration. Other nations have similar problems, but they are experimenting. England is doing something completely different in the providing of services to families and ensuring the protection of children.

Some English Child and Family workers instead of having large case loads will only be assigned a few families. The working day will often begin at 7 AM when they arrive at a family’s home and consist of getting the children out of bed and packing them off to school. The workers must be tough because some parents will tell them to f*&^* off. They will also video tape the going on in the home and replay what transpired to the parents in order to find better actions to different circumstances such as when kids are screaming and parents are having trouble coping. We need a Grandmother program here in Manitoba someone to demonstrate good parenting and help keep people on track at home and in looking for working and education. Manitoba currently has over 9 700 children in custody. They have become an industry in and of themselves. These children have been removed either voluntary or forcibly from the custody of parents who are unable to ensure the basic needs of their children. The great majority of children move from short term to short term placements. The system has become a self-perpetuating machine that is unable to innovate or change.

While in many cases the removal of children from biological parents care may be the best course of action for the long term interests of the child. This is especially true if they can be placed in caring foster families on a long term basis. The province though is a poor substitute for the love of a parent. Due to the nature of bureaucracy little long-term human love is given these children and the provinces becomes like a cold parent or worse a dead-beat parent.  People need to learn how to be a parent from a Grandmother. Manitoba should institute a similar program as found in England and as talked about in your presentation the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. Families should not be forced into the program, but many who are eligible will surely gladly sign-up for the extra help in the fight to keep their children. Families should sign a contract about certain behaviors. The English experience finds that only 15% of families will break the contract forcing the government to proceed with the removal of the children. This is a stark improvement over current rates. Too often families will meet with bureaucrats a few times in a year as we are learning in the Sinclair enquiry. We need programs that develop a sense of relationship with not multiple agencies, but one individual who allows them to better understand what actions they need to take in order to keep their children.

As we continue to maintain a system which creates a class of people that are locked into perpetual poverty and dependence upon the state, many are asking for a different way of managing child and family services. The role of the province in the daily lives of people should only be in extreme circumstances, but their role should be insuring that people have the tools and are able to get back on track. As the families are better able to perform in their personal and social responsibilities they gradually should see less of the provincial grandmother, but some parents need the chance to learn those parenting skills and the role of the state is to provide the tools so the individual can create the life that all human being deserve.    

The principal problem is that often statistics are difficult to find and to compare between jurisdictions. It is quite easy to find the information for countries such as England. When a child has been in care of the state they are 50 times more likely to not finish school. Children are also likely to repeat the same patterns of behavior with their own off spring. They are 66 times more likely to see their children taken into custody. The cost for each child in custody is 67 777$. I suspect the statistics are the same here in Manitoba, but that is difficult to ascertain. There is an enormous amount of money being spent by CFS. Sometimes you ask would be better off cutting a check to each parent in order to vanquish the poverty of the family.


  1. It was interesting to hear about the current practices of Child and Family Services and John Gerrard’s new proposal last week. Shocking….over 9700 children are in custody, this needs to change. Think about all the money spent on alternative child welfare, when it could be spent on support for the real family in need. I agree with Gerrard’s proposal on some accounts. If CFS is just jumping to conclusions and taking the children away from their families that is wrong. I program like the one suggested in this blog post, from the English Child and Family sounds beneficial. Working with the parents to create good parenting skills and a safe environment for that child, would create a positive change for all children in need. Children would receiving the care they deserve from the parents that should be ones to care for their children, and children would have a stable lifestyle instead of being place into foster home after foster home. Now, having said this there may be some situations where CFS has no choice, and the children need to be removed from the primary caregiver due to serious situations. I would hate to see a child be badly hurt or even in a life threatening situation because CFS has to thoroughly work through the issue before removing the child.
    Personally, I have taught students who are in foster care, and I have seen all different outcomes. Some good, and some bad. I have seen children who are placed into a loving, caring home where the child is able to thrive with their foster family, and I have worked with children placed in to foster family, where the family doesn’t treat them like one of their children and there is an obviously bad relationship between foster parent and child. If CFS is placing children into foster care, they absolutely need to be 100% that this family will care greatly for the child. Also if a child is placed into foster care, CFS has to think when the best time is for the child to be placed back with there biologically family. I have worked with children that have lived with a lovely and caring foster family, who truly treated them like there own child, and then placed back with their biologically family who wasn’t giving the child the same support and this cased emotional, and academic issues for the child. Overall it’s a tricky subject to solve. Children should be in the best care available to them.
    Lastly this quote, “Aboriginal children who were raised by non-aboriginal adoptive families face challenges as adults in finding their cultural identity, says a Manitoba First Nation leader.(Harper, 2013)” is from a recent CFS aboriginal debate. I agree with is his statement. If children need to be taken away from their families, aboriginal or not, CFS should be making the there best effort to place that child in not only a loving and supportive family, but one that shares the same cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs as their biologically family. Classes about a specific culture for intake foster family, which CFS says they provide, is not an adequate solution.

  2. I was lucky enough to hear Jon Gerrard’s speak on his new report first hand. I have to say I found it very interesting to listen to him speak. As trivial as it sounds I never knew that before his political career he was a pediatrician. I think that this little fact gives him a unique perspective on children in general and more specifically children who are within the system. It was interesting to me that he referred to the state as the parent of the children within the CFS system. I mean it makes sense, I guess I just never thought of it in that way before. It is kind of sad when you start thinking of a non-human entity as being a parent to these children, as if to say that they belong to no one and everyone all at the same time.
    While, I understand that in cases of abuse or neglect, the first task is to ensure that the child is safe (act now, question later), I was shocked at the sheer volume of children that are currently within the system in Manitoba. In addition the idea that if there’s a mistake made, it doesn’t matter because we can just put the child back is disturbing to me. The fact that very few seem to stop and consider what this may do to the child in the long run is again disturbing. It almost made me feel like we were discussing a commodity, like a car; as if to say oh well the car isn’t the right car or maybe it’s not broken, just return it. This idea seems to have been transposed on to children, almost making them appear to lose their humanity. This just didn’t sit well with me. That being said I appreciated that Jon Gerrard and his people are working towards revising and reviving the CFS system within Manitoba, so that more children don’t fall victim to the system (ironically this system was and still is meant as a means of protecting these same children). The fact that you refer to CFS as an “industry” definitely fits with this idea of the child as the commodity or the goods for sale.
    I agree with your point that “the provinces become like a cold parent”. This is no fault of the province; how can a non-entity, non-human, abstract notion, love and care for a child in the same way that a human can? The reality is that, children are better off with the people who love and care for them properly; this is not limited only to the biological parents of the child. I also agree that social workers having smaller case loads would definitely be a benefit. However, this raises the issue of the shortage of people wanting to work in the area of social work; lack of people to work as social workers means that those who are social workers have to take on a heavier load, which is not conducive to a healthy environment for the child.
    I don’t know what the solution is or if there is an easy solution...I suppose if there was one, it would have been reached long ago. I do agree with the idea of teaching and essentially training parents to ensure that the cycle is stopped. (The TV show that used to be on called “Super Nanny” came to mind when I was reading about the solution of England and working with the families. This is the premise for the show; she goes in and works with families whose children have behavioral issues. While I realize this isn’t the same thing, it does have some similarities.) I’m not sure I agree with leaving children in an undesirable home. Especially in cases of abuse and neglect (like the Sinclair situation). Perhaps these situations would happen less, if the province did investigate more before removing the children; thus giving the social workers the ability to work with the families that need them the most. Being that I do not have a solid answer for this...I leave you with this question...What is the solution? Or is there a solution?

  3. The whole concept of CFS is a very strange one. First of all, we are taking children away from parents, with the institution claiming that it is in the interest of the child. The ironic part of this all is that rarely, if ever, are social workers actually asking what the child's interests are. It is assumed that CFS is acting in the best way possible, but the viewpoint of such an institution, I would argue, is highly one-sided. I think that this is especially true of immigrant parents, whose forms of obedience differ greatly from the norms of North American parents. Corporal punishment, for instance, I think is a great divide when it comes to parenting styles and what CFS deems as inappropriate. Striking a child with the intent to harm him or her is obviously abuse, but what about spanking? It is understood that many cultures around the world use spanking as a form of punishment. I can think of at least one experience that a family I know had with CFS and spanking. A neighbouring family found out about this family using spanking as a means of punishment, called CFS and the child was promptly removed from the home. The child did not want to leave and there was no evidence of actual abuse. This just goes to show that institutions like CFS, while doing an amazing job protecting children from dangerous situations, can also err and act in an unwarranted manner in other situations. I believe that the expectations to conform to a certain parenting style is a roundabout way of forcing assimilation; it's a way of forcing immigrant and minority families to parent "the right way". Now, I've also had some experiences in which a child was rightly removed from the care of the parents and CFS handled the situation superbly. No institution is perfect, but there are indeed some areas in which they can improve, and I think that is should start with cultural awareness when it comes to parenting styles. The focus should be less on differing parenting styles and more on cases with evidence of actual abuse and negligence.

  4. With over 10,000 Manitoba children in CFS in Manitoba, mainly due to poverty and inadequate housing, Liberal leader Jon Gerrard is apparently determined to make dynamic changes to the current Child and Family Services system. According to an Interview dating back to May 2013 published by the Winnipeg Free Press, Gerrard states that: “It’s just a matter of shifting focus and doing things differently,” the Manitoba Liberal Leader said during a break in one of a series of forums on CFS mismanagement and links to crime Sunday. “There’s enough money in the system, it just has to be used much more wisely." In that same article, the WFP states that " a recent Child Advocate's disclosed that 88% of Aboriginal inmates and 63% of non-aboriginal inmates at one Manitoba correctional facility surveyed in 2001 had not lived at home during adolescence, mainly because they were in foster care." We've seen a plethora of issues that emerged specifically with the Phoenix Sinclair case, which highlights the need for immediate change within the CFS system. However, I don't believe changes to CFs can be as clear cut as Jon Gerrard imagines. Although Money is always been mismanaged, there is more that needs to be addressed. I recall the retelling a story of a boy who lived in the same foster family for 8 years and having to be removed immediately on his birthday, and placed in the inner city because apparently that was the best option for him. This sounds absolutely ridiculous. Although I don't know a ton on the current CFS regulations in Manitoba, I have attended school with far too many kids in troubled Foster care situations. I won't ever forget one girl I grew up with running away from her Foster care group home five times in a single year due to the conditions. Although I do understand that CFS has a supposedly good intention to come to children’s aid and interest of the child, which I value the intent, but the current state of CFS is just sad. When is the child’s pure interest ever heard? more needs to be done to ensure children are actually getting help they need to succeed, not just a temporary solution.

  5. Your final paragraph left me thinking. With the estimates of children who are currently in state custody and the estimated cost per child, the government is spending approximately $675,000,000 annually for the care of these children. I agree with you that the money could be appropriated into better hands, but would the money be best in the hands of parents whom the state deems unfit to raise a child? I think there could be a serious conflict of interest for the parents in this case, if we were to simply cut them a cheque for the full amount of the annual child care. This could potentially encourage low income families to have more children because of the government aid that they would receive. Even if these families didn’t receive the full $70,000 if they have multiple children who would otherwise be placed in CFS care they could potentially earn a greater income than another family who would otherwise be kept together. I agree with Jon Gerrard in his argument that there are much easier ways to help families out than simply taking away their children. Taking children away from their parents should be an absolute last decision, and from what I took from his talk this happens much earlier than it needs to. It’s obvious that state guardianship doesn’t work well for children when we look at the stats, so what can we do? I believe children should be in the best care they can possibly be. What about the idea of forcing parents to go to educational classes in how to properly care for their children if they want to keep them in their custody and receive financial assistance from the government? If the government is going to help, the parents need to be willing to cooperate. I believe that England’s idea of having a social worker come into the home and help out in mornings/evenings is a great idea, why have we not tried it? I feel like more often than not the province goes with what they know is safe, rather than trying more pilot projects which may or may not work. These projects could have the potential to save the province an incredible amount of money in areas such as: health care, criminal justice system, education, and welfare.

  6. CFS is a program that is in desperate need of a complete and total transformation. There needs to be a process that social workers must go through before they remove children from a home. It seems to me that all it takes to rip a family apart is one phone call from an individual. I have seen this firsthand when my cousin was taking from her parents. In this case the child was angry at the parents and wanted to get them back. This involved making false accusations against my aunt and uncle and these accusations were taken as complete truth. Without any further investigation this family was torn apart and would never be mended. This individual who was taken away is now involved deeply with the wrong crowd. This should never happen to a family. If only the time had been taken for an investigation it would have been found that the accusations were false. It was later found that they were false and all charges were dropped, however by this time it was too late. Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty? CFS needs someone to answer to, someone to hold them accountable. Like mentioned, there are just under 10 000 children in care in Manitoba. This is a huge number of children relying on the government to be their parents. I think that it becomes a problem when the government tries to take the place of parents in children’s lives. I know this problem is not one sided and CFS is definitely needed in some situations. What needs to change is the way they handle complaints and the way they apprehend children. When examining the website for Manitoba Family Services I noticed at the top it read “strengthening families [and] building communities” (Manitoba Family Services and Labour, 2013). I find this almost to be laughable. How can they believe that they are strengthening families when they have removed 10 000 children from their families! Someone needs to take responsibility for CFS and someone needs to hold CFS accountable.

  7. Social workers for Child and Family services in Manitoba have extremely high case loads caused by all the children taken from their family and put into care. Although specific statistics are unknown, it is fair to assume that each child placed in foster care creates further money loss from government funds. I feel that something needs to be changed about this. Instead of just placing a child into foster care, I can see the Grandmother approach working to the benefit the child and their family. With the Grandmother approach, money used on children who are in foster care can instead be used for counselling and teaching life and parenting skills to the child’s guardian. Stability is one of the most important factors to contribute to success in school and other personal and social aspects of a child’s life. By using the Grandmother approach, stability is provided for the child and they no longer need to worry about being bounced around from foster homes causing a huge shift in daily routine, which happens when they are forced to leave their school and friends. However, in cases of abuse or neglect I feel that the child should immediately be removed from the home as it is an unsafe living environment, detrimental to their well being. In cases like this it is crucial child and family services step in but instead of solely taking the child away, they should also provide counselling for the parents. In some cases these parents may possess the ability to eventually get their children back through rehabilitation. If drugs or alcohol is an issue in the home it is important they first seek help with any underlying addictions and anger management. After these criteria are met I feel the parent should be allowed monitored visits with their children with the potential of (after and only after intense and repetitive proof of change in their life) getting their biological child back. As in the end, the best choice for the child is usually the biological parent.

  8. You mention that the province is a poor substitute for the love of a parent. I don’t disagree with this statement, but I am hopeful that sweeping systemic changes can be made so that this statement can be reversed. That is, I believe that people, other than the biological parents, of children can act in a caring and responsible manner to help raise a child.

    As teachers, we are protected in law by in loco parentis – this Latin phrase translates to “in place of the parent.” If unintentional harm is caused to a child under our care as a result of actions that we took which were noble in nature, we have some measure of protection. That is, if we are acting as a caring and responsible parent would, then we are safe from certain legal ramifications. The extension of this is that the law, and societies wishes (which are, to a certain degree, reflected in our laws) believes that individuals and systems other than biologically connected family members can act in place of parents. The problem we, as teachers, face is that our job is feeding more into the system that currently is a terrible substitute for parents. We are becoming agents of the state where cold, heartless interactions devoid of care and concern are the norm. Students are pumped through schools to learn how to be orderly, productive members of a future workforce – not to blossom to their full potential as participants in society. Care and concern do not enter the equation.

    I think the problem is clear, but how to change the system is anything but clear. One alternative that I’ve spent some time examining has been put forth by the Michif Child and Family Services ( department which identifies alternative placement services. There is a tiered placement structure in place: Kinship Care, Foster Care and Specialized Foster Care, and finally Emergency Placement Resources. It seems that Manitoba Child and Family Services treats every issue as an emergency, where the children are apprehended from their homes with little to no explanation or justification. I think the Kinship Care Program is a great alternative – not just for Aboriginal individuals, but for people from all cultures. This involves extended family and community involvement to help teach parents having difficulty how to provide care. Quite often, parents want to be able to care for their children properly, they just have not, themselves, been taught how to do this safely and effectively. The Kinship program keeps the children in their families, and the extended family grows together to learn how to help out struggling individuals.

    Specialized Foster Care mimics the foster care the CFS offers – but there’s an opportunity to blend foster care with kin mentorship programs. I wonder about the possibility of developing an integrated foster program whereby children are housed safely away from threats their parents pose, while the parents still have a chance to change the destructive behaviours. We claim to be a society of redemption and education – this is a perfect opportunity to show how education redeems.

    Regardless of this solution, the original assertion stands – the system, as it stands now, is failing our children and our community. It must be changed.

  9. While reading this post I was shocked when I read that a child could be moved up to 15 times in a 7 year period, especially when you think about what a significant amount of time 7 years is for a child; that could be your whole life if you are 7. Despite the fact that at times the child could be moving back and forth between home and foster homes, it doesn’t change the fact that the continuity a child needs is completely lacking. A friend of mine is a social worker who works for CFS and sees the impact of children being moved around first hand. Just recently she described to me a time when a child was so distressed that she was being taken away from her parents again that she threatened to commit suicide. Clearly the trauma associated with apprehension has an impact on the children that as adults we cannot truly understand unless we experienced it ourselves.

    In my opinion, while the story on CFS does require a focus on the affect of the system on the children, it is also important to take a deeper inquiry into the affect on the workers. Outsiders often do not understand the decisions social workers and care givers (ie. foster families) make, but these decisions may have been out of the control of the individual. I read the article “Who’s Taking Care in Greenville” by Dick Mendel and although it may not relate perfectly to the problems going on in the Manitoban and Canadian systems, there was a quote that struck me as quite thought provoking:

    “Every day human services workers tackle urgent problems and make pivotal choices in the lives of needy kids. Yet to an alarming extent, the caretakers are themselves overworked, underpaid, ill trained, hamstrung by excessive regulation and frustrated by inadequate support” (Mendel 7).

    If we expect Manitoban children to be cared for and protected, both Aboriginal children and otherwise, we must remember the importance of creating a system in which the health and safety of the service providers is valued and respected. There are some obvious and not so obvious flaws in our current system, but maybe we should consider the staff and the services they are able to provide and work from the inside out.

    “Who’s Taking Care in Greenville” - Dick Mendel. Pages 5-9

  10. I agree with many of the arguments made in this blog which discusses the current issues of Manitoba Child and Family Services. Although children do not deserve to grow up in destructive and unhealthy environments, there have been many studies that prove removing children from their birth parents is even more damaging. In 2012, Fred Chartrand of the Canadian Press reported that; “Some children are placed in foster care without full safety checks while others wind up in supervised apartments or overcrowded homes, say child advocates who warn of a deepening crisis across the country”. I agree that an alternative service should be created which views removal of a child from their home as a final and drastic action. I disagree that this service should be a choice for certain families. If a child’s wellbeing is being compromised then there should be certain actions that families are forced to complete. Teaching parents appropriate childcare behaviors would be far more beneficial than removing a child and damaging their future. Often, children who are taken away from their family go through a series of foster care homes and may experience further abuse. This service acts as a parent but fails to meet the needs of all children. According to Mr. Chartrand; “British Columbia's children's advocate has reviewed the child-welfare system extensively over the years, finding numerous instances of children being placed in homes that weren't adequately screened”. The Child and Family Services program seems to be resolving some issues but at the same time is creating new problems.
    My aunt was adopted by my grandparents when she was five years old. Before her adoption she had been taken away from her birth parents and placed in several foster care homes. Although my grandparents provided her with a stable and loving environment, she still faced huge difficulties in dealing with her past as a teen and adult. This example shows how damaging it can be to remove a child from their home even if they end up with a loving family. I think that the only way to solve this growing issue is to address these problems and change the current system that we have.

  11. The debate on how CFS should be run has been ongoing almost since its creation. The statistics noted within this article are, sadly, not surprising to me. CFS is indeed broken; the never ending inquiry over Phoenix Sinclair’s unfortunate passing is testament to that. The bureaucratic system never lent itself very well to the care of children. The paperwork, covering of ***es, unwillingness to adapt, and general lack of emotion that is inherent in the system was never a winning bet. It has always been my view that the removal of a child from the home is the last option that should be explored. Programs like those mentioned above that attempt to educate the parents are much better suited than the removal of a child. In cases where the welfare of the child is suspect, CFS should explore temporary lodging with willing relatives. Putting them into the system can be damaging beyond repair.

    Another problem that presents itself in the system is that children are moved from homes for reasons that could only happen in a bureaucracy. The metis adoption scandal that took place last year is one such instance where overregulation exhibited itself. The reasons for the creation of the legislation may have been good, but the implementation became over applied. Culture is an important facet of a child’s upbringing, and there is a history there (see an excerpt of David Harper’s take on the issue here: but removing children from perfectly good homes because it doesn’t satisfy the often irrational needs of the system is unfortunate.

    The more pressing issue that I came across in a CBC article was, “Manitoba has almost 10,000 children in care, among the highest in the country. The vast majority of them are aboriginal.”(1) The poor living conditions that many aboriginal parents have to tolerate make it an impossibility to raise a child in many cases. This shows the compounding issue that has been taking place for too long on reserves.

    At any rate, we should be hearing some of the recommendations from the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry quite soon. I can only hope that the vast amount of money we spent on this will prove to have a positive effect.

    CBC article:

  12. The debate regarding child and family services, and the removal of children from their homes will always be ongoing. On one hand it is true that there are far to many children being bounced from home to home throughout their childhood, but on the other hand the question lies at would life at their biological home be any better. Over the past couple of years a close family friend has become a single foster mother, and has opened my eyes to the different situations that child and family services has to deal with.
    My friend has provided a fantastic home to two young Aboriginal boys. They are involved in a lot of activities, and have a stable home. When looking in, it looks like she has provided these boys with a great home, but you don’t see the fight she has put up to keep them and provide this home for them. This fight is primarily against their mother. These boys had never met each other until they moved in with my friend, but they are biological brothers. Neither of them has any relationship with their mother at all, and loves where they currently are living. Their mother fought for them, but her home was ruled unfit, much to the relief of the boys. When looking at this particular situation, it appears as though even though the boys are in the CFS system, they have great life.
    After reading on the CFS website, and looking at the statistics, I believe that for the most part, children in the CFS system are there for a reason. It is unfortunate that some are bounced from home to home, but it is hard to say that being in the home they were removed from would be a better situation. There are also numerous cases of homes like my friends, where these children truly are given a better life. When dealing with children and their well being, there will always be differing views, but I believe that if the home is unfit, they are better off under the care of CFS.

  13. Before reading this blog, I read Robert’s other blog on customary adoption in Aboriginal communities. My opinion on this was that they should be recognized, but still policed to make sure that they are at the best interest of the child. Currently Aboriginal people do not have a system to do this, so I thought that, regardless of CFSs current failures, they would have to be that system. However I agree that CFS does need to make many changes so that the “9 700 children in custody” are not moved “from short term to short to term placements” while a cycle of loss of custody continues in future generations.

    In his blog Jon Gerrard puts it eloquently when he says that in order to “leave behind the legacy of residential schools systems” we must work towards “changing CFS away from primarily apprehending children and taking them away from families to primarily supporting families and only taking children away as a last resort”(Oct 16, 2013). In England they seem to do this with their smaller case loads and I agree with Robert that “we need programs that develop a sense of relationship with not multiple agencies, but one individual.”

    Robert quotes the amount spent for each child in custody (in England) as $67 777. It seems to me like, in certain cases, it would make more sense to spend this money on interventions to help parents obtain jobs and learn how to parent more successfully. If this could be successful, we might be able to save some children from a lot of trauma and repeating the “same pattern with their own offspring.”

    Jon Gerrard, Oct 16, 2013.

  14. I found this blog post about Child and Family Services to be very interesting to read. I understand that there are many instances where CFS takes a child from their home because of the poor treatment they are receiving from their birth parents and it’s in the best of the child and it turns out to be a good thing. I have never had a first-hand experience with Child and Family Services but I have heard about other people’s stories and experiences. For example, my grandparents had six children of their own and they almost always had one or two foster children at a time. Over the years, I think they probably had close to ten foster children in and out of their house. Although each of the foster children had a wonderful experience at my grandparents’ house, most still ended up with issues due to the fact that they were taken from their birth parents or because of the abuse they had received from their birth parents prior to living at my grandparents house.

    The foster children that my grandparents had were all taken from their birth families for reasons such as abuse, poor living conditions (filthy houses), poor nutrition, and so on. So being taken from their homes was definitely a good thing for them because their living situation was greatly improved at my grandparents’ house. Although all these cases ended up being good for the children, I know that it’s not the case for all children taken by CFS. There are many occasions where children are removed from their homes under false accusations and the child’s situation worsens after being placed in foster care. I agree with your statement of “the current CFS system is quick on the gun not taking due process to assess families and simply just removes the child.” CFS should have a more extensive process of evaluating the situation before removing the child from their birth parents.

    I read another article about Canadian foster care which stated that “some children are placed in foster care without full safety checks while others wind up in supervised apartments or overcrowded homes, say child advocates who warn of a deepening crisis across the country.” (Canadian Foster Care in Crisis, Experts Say) This article made me better understand the problems that face these children that are being torn apart from their families.

  15. I was absolutely astonished to read that over 9,700 children are currently in the hands of Child and Family Services of Mantioba. I agree that something needs to be done to lower the number of children in custody, however I have a difficult time accepting alternate programs such as the Grandmother program in England as a positive alternative. One of the reasons behind this is I believe there is no one right way to raise a child. Parenting styles may differ according to where the child was raised or even cultural differences. To have a complete stranger force their way into the family’s home and threaten the parents as far as to say “if you fail to follow our way of parenting we will take your children away” would be traumatizing for the children and parents alike.
    As clearly indicated by the stats provided Child and Family Services currently has its struggles as well. Unfortunately there are no further details as to why the nearly 10,000 children were removed from their biological families in the first place. I would imagine a few if not many were put into the system for reasons I would deem unnecessary. For example, I’ve heard of children getting taken away from their families because the parents chose spankings as a form of discipline in their household (not to be mistaken for abuse). On a more positive note, I also know children who have been raised in a kind, caring and nurturing foster home that has provided them a better life then they would have had living with their biological parents.
    I think most would agree that Child and Family Services has the right vision such as demonstrated by the statement “Children have the right a continuous family environment in which they can flourish.” However, I question whether all the children in their care truly receive a continuous family environment.

  16. The blog’s fact that “Manitoba currently has 9700 children in custody” (Ouellette, 2013) is heartwrenching. Children are the heart of any community and the fact that so many are in foster care is terrible. A lot of finger pointing and blaming seems to go on, towards parents, families, foster families, and CFS but the fact is that the system is trying. However, it is a system that needs changing and for that to happen people need to be aware of what is going on. The statement that “when a child is taken into custody they could be moved 15 times in a 7 year period” is telling about some of the problems with the system. There needs to be stability. My Aunt and Uncle have been foster parents for at least two decades and they have been with this one child for the last eight years and it is crushing to realize that he could be taken away at any moment, he is a part of our family.

    “The system is run with an inexhaustible supply of blame. When we get done blaming the social workers and the entire social services system, we blame the parents” (Mandryk, 2014, para. 11). People often say that the best place for a child is with their family. Family however can be defined in many ways. It’s not just about biology. We need to be trying to make sure that a child never needs to be taken out of their home. One of the problems with the First Nations community is that families have been broken because parents were abused (Residential Schools) and do not know what to do. “The problem is a First Nations community that has never been given the economic or social support to help the next generation.” (Mandryk, 2014, para. 6). Using resources to educate parents and families on how to care for their children properly makes a lot of sense and the cycle can be broken. The Grandmother program in Manitoba would be a smart move. Education is never a waste of money right? By teaching parents and future generations how to help themselves we can perhaps eliminate the need to remove children from their homes.

    The state is a poor parent for children but what about parents who are not taking care of their children. I did not know that the state should be a parent. While the state has failed First Nations people time and time again it’s biggest failure has been not helping them know how to care for themselves and their families. That needs to change.


    Mandryk, M. (n.d.). Regina Leader Post. Retrieved January 28, 2014, from

  17. The CFS system within Manitoba is significantly flawed to the point that it is, as stated in the post, “a self-perpetuating machine that is unable to innovate or change.” There is no doubt that the system is broken. I have some experience in working with adults who have spent time in and out of the prison system due to many different issues, from gang life, to drug and alcohol abuse and even homelessness. One common feature in many of the young Aboriginal individuals I have met over some time is their connection to the CFS system. One gentleman in particular told the story of having a “run in” with a principle at school at a very young age, in which the end result was him being taken in to care within a week. He spent 13 years in and out of different foster homes from which he would consistently run from in order to try and get back home to his parents who were described as “always their for us.”
    It is with this in mind that I reiterate the notion found within the blog that CFS is “quick with the gun” in its process of removal. It is an unfortunate reality that we do, indeed need a program to protect the children of this society, but in many instances removal from parents should be a last resort, not the first move.
    The blog also touched on initiatives in place around the globe to try and reform and refresh their childcare systems. One of the most recent initiatives I have heard about is taking place in Australia, where reports are suggesting leaving children in their homes with their parents and working together with the family unit as a whole leads to greater results in the immediate and distant future. This is along the lines of the grandmother program, which is presented in the blog. Families need to learn how to be families within their families. This may seem like a strange sentence but I believe it is true. Working together to keep family units together will be difficult right away but will lead to far greater success in the future.
    I have thought it would be interesting for entire families to “adopt” other entire families and work together as groups for the success of both families. This would take a decision within society and individually about what we hold most valuable, however if we are concerned about the welfare of children in this country drastic measures may be in order. Measure that could change they way many live their own family lives.

  18. I am looking forward to having former Manitoba liberal leader Jon Gerrard speak to our class. I am largely unfamiliar with Child and Family Services (CFS) expect for the highly publicized case regarding Phoenix Sinclair. Manitoba child welfare failed Phoenix Sinclair and the inquiry that followed after her death has hopefully helped ensure this cannot happen again. It is crucial that CFS has the power to ensure the safety of all children. There was undoubtedly a break down as social workers failed to see with their own eyes that Phoenix Sinclair was being looked after.

    I do not think that the state should be in the business of parenting but I do think that in severe cases there is no other choice. Clearly Phoenix Sinclair would have been better off if she had not remained in her family’s custody. And I have heard from teachers in the school where I am currently taking my first practicum block that CFS is too slow to act. The school was aware of a couple of students who had an awful home environment and the administration had contacted CFS several times without any action resulting. When the CFS finally did intervene the school received blame for not bringing the issue to authorities sooner. I think that given these two incidents the CFS needs reforming not to make it weaker or give it less power to take children away, but to ensure that they have the power to act more quickly to ensure the safety of children.

    I think it is obvious that moving a child around to several different foster homes is both disruptive to their life but also detrimental to their health. Children need a secure and stable environment to ensure proper development. I find the English case study interesting. The idea of having government workers go into family homes to instruct parents on how to parent better is puzzling to me. I support the government having to remove children from certain environments but I do not know if I support the government trying to teach parents how to parent. It is not the business of government to instruct people on how to live their lives. Every person in this country will have a different view as to what the purpose of government is but in my opinion the government should focus mainly on economic and security matters. Social matters such as health care and education are of course also of high importance. The English model for child welfare would also increase both the size and cost of government as it would require a much larger bureaucracy. I think the government needs to ensure that children being removed from their homes are more easily placed with foster homes that will not require the children to be moved several times, or better yet the children could be adopted into stable permanent homes.

    It is mentioned in this blog entry that an enormous sum of money is being spent by CFS and that perhaps it would be better to write a “check to each parent in order to vanquish the poverty of the family.” Although this might seem like a solution I do not think this would guarantee that children would be any better off. There is no way of overseeing if the money would be used for the benefit of the child, and it wouldn’t cause parents to change their parenting styles and involvement in their child’s life. Clearly CFS is another branch of government that is in need of much reform. It would be interesting to hear about more child welfare programs offered throughout the world and I hope that John Gerrard will be able to enlighten our class on this matter.

  19. This topic is of interest to me, as it is easy to see both the positives and negatives behind Child and Family Services. When I look at the CFS system, I see that the purpose is to protect children, and to continually have their best interest in mind. When children are removed from a situation, there has to be good reasons to do so. I personally don’t believe that CFS takes children away for no apparent reason. With that being said, I also think that the CFS workers chose this job because they are caring individuals that want to help children feel safe. It would not be an easy job, with a lot of hard ships connected to dealing with such fragile circumstances. On the other side of this argument, there are defiantly flaws in the system. Many of the workers are over worked, have more caseloads then they are able to handle. When this happens, the best interest of the child would be compromised. It also seems that when children are taken away from their parents, there is a lack of consideration for the long term interest of the child. Although it is a temporary solution to problems in the home, the system fails to think about a long term solution.

    In this post, a grandmother program was suggested, so parents can work on issues within the home. I think this is a great idea, as most parents would do anything to get their children back. This program would be a long term solution for both the system and for the children. It would have the ability to reduce the number of children in foster care, and in turn reduce the work load of CFS workers. It could also be in the best interest of the child to return to their biological parents. The connections and bonds you make as children are extremely important, and reflect a child’s confidence in themselves and in the world.

  20. As of late, CFS has been pushed further into the spotlight. With the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry coming to a close by putting forth recommendations in order to start a reform in the Manitoba CFS system (Kusch, 2014). These recommendations included improved accountability by the social workers involved, improving education and support programs for families, and raising awareness of aboriginal children being taken into authorities (Kusch, 2014). I am hopeful that these recommendations are implemented by the system, but this reform within the system will take time.
    The blog discusses the grandmother approach that is used in England with their child and family workers (Ouellette, 2013). I agree that this type of program should be implemented here in Manitoba. Having smaller workloads for workers (a huge problem within the Phoenix Sinclair case) and getting those workers to work with the family to create a better home life for all involved. Creating those relationships with families is a way better solution to this problem. I think depending on the situation, taking children away from their families does not fix the problem. If children are being taken away and then potentially being move 15 times in a 7 year period, how is that helping those children (Ouellette, 2013). They do not know what family is supposed to look and feel like because they are being moved around so much. It does not help those children deal with the issues they have had to face. I do believe that this grandmother approach would be something CFS should consider. It will provide families with the education that they need in order to succeed as parents for their children.
    In my practicum experience last year, there were instances where CFS was involved in removing students from their families. It was heartbreaking to hear cases where students were removed from their families, which intern removed them from the school community. Many of these students were separated not only from parents, but siblings. They were taken into different environments, with no familiar surroundings to help them through that devastating experience. On the other hand, I do recognize that there are circumstances where the removal of children is necessary. With that removal, they are placed in homes with loving caregivers to help provide them with a successful future.
    Finding the correct answer to the problems occurring within the CFS system is a difficult one. Each case that goes through the system is different and requires actions that meet each specific situation. I do agree that incorporating the grandmother approach is a great way to prevent the increase of children in the system. The CFS system is in dire need of a change to provide Manitoba children with the chance to lead a happy life with their families.

    Kusch, L. (2014, January 31). Sinclair inquiry report: more focus needed on long-term risks to
    children. Winnipeg Free Press, (online edition).

    R Ouellette. (2013, October 21). Investigating the Child and Family Services of Manitoba: A
    History of State Parenting. Retrieved from

  21. The blog entry that I have decided to comment on is entitled, “Investigating the Child and Family Services of Manitoba: A History of State Parenting,” which focuses on the effectiveness of the current child welfare system in Manitoba (Ouellette, 2013). According to Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard, there is an aim to improve the current welfare system to better provide stable and positive support to children in need (Ouellette, 2013). There is an argument that Child and Family Services in the province do not adequately assess the whole picture of the families in question and remove children from the situation before weighing the consequences of losing close connection to their biological family. Further, the foster families that some children are going to are not appropriate role models and providers for children. The consistency and stability of the foster program is negated by the fact that, “when a child is taken into custody they could be moved 15 times in a 7 year period” (Ouellette, p.1, 2013). This has potentially adverse effects on the child’s understanding of their self-worth and sense of belonging, as well as their connection to their culture.

    While I do agree that province’s welfare system and CFS are flawed in the ways mentioned above, there are instances where it is effective. It is important for a child to remain closely connected to their biological family, school, friends, and individual culture, however if their relationship to any or all of these parts is unhealthy then removing that child from the adverse environment could benefit their overall well-being. If this does occur, there must be strong evidence that the biological family in question is actually inhibiting the child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Further, the foster family should be fully capable of providing an environment that is conducive to the child’s success and positive self-efficacy. Clearly the current system is not effectively achieving this all the time and there are social issues within the province that are fostering the growth of children eligible for being removed from their home situation.

    What is the deep root of this issue? There are a plethora of potential factors that include low socioeconomic status, abuse, low educational attainment, lack of positive role models, or a detachment from cultural values. Any one of these could lead to a toxic environment within the home. So how does the province and educational systems address these issues in such a way that supports healthy family relationships? Welfare and CFS should not be the only answer for these families and children. There should be accessible, straightforward, and appropriate resources available to potentially mitigate these problems that are widely used across the province. For example, Big Brothers and Big Sisters is a non-profit organization that promotes mentorships between role models and underprivileged children (BBBS, 2014). Programs like these that start from the roots up and attempt to eradicate social issues and low self-esteem early on, help to prevent children from continuing to life in an unhealthy way and pass that on in the future. Unfortunately, in some cases there is a cyclic effect of unloved and emotionally disconnected children that do not have the means to escape this mentality, which does not have to continue to happen if we address the root cause of the issues that require welfare and CFS in the first place.


    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg. (2014). Mentoring programs. Retrieved from

    Ouellette, R. (2013). Investigating the child and family services of Manitoba: A history of state parenting. Retrieved from hild-and-family-services.html

  22. This blog post discusses the issues behind the current Child and Family Services (CFS) system in Manitoba and compares our system to that of a system being used in England. In Manitoba, children in the care of CFS can be moved frequently through different homes throughout their lives (Ouellette, 2013). This is because the system allows for children to be removed from homes, placed in foster care, put back into their original home, and then taken away again. When Manitoba Liberal Leader, Jon Gerrad, came to the University of Manitoba in October 2013, he described a CFS system in England that is providing different services to families and children (Ouellette, 2013). He summarized English CFS workers as being assigned a few cases, where they participate in assisting the parents in the welfare of the child or children (Ouellette, 2013). The worker will video tape the ongoing affairs in the household and show the parents in order to help them figure out a better way to provide a safe environment for their children (Ouellette, 2013).
    I think that the English CFS system is beneficial in that it allows the CFS worker to become involved in creating a better environment for the children. However, if that is not possible, the child may need to be removed from the home and placed in foster care. In my opinion, it is important to try and keep a child with their parents if possible. Although, some parents and households may be extremely dangerous to a child’s welfare, and in this case being with a foster family would be much more beneficial. The problem with the current Manitoba CFS system is that children who are removed from their parents are often put in a short term foster family placement. Children learn how to form secure attachments to the people around them at an early age and if the child is constantly moving around, they may not have the chance to form these attachments that are crucial to their development. Once again however, I think children are better off in a short term foster family that is caring and safe, rather than with their parents who may be incapable of providing them with what they need to live a healthy and safe childhood.
    In Manitoba, we have many programs available for children that offer adult role models for children to create secure attachments with and look up to. Programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters “believe in the value and values of mentoring” and offer mentorship programs where you can “teach by example the importance of giving back, of staying in school, and for having respect for family, peers and community” (Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg, 2011). The Mini U Programs run out of the University of Manitoba offers children with “inclusive recreation/sport and educational experiences” (Mini U Programs, 2014). I have worked with Mini U programs for two summers and have personally seen the benefits that come as a result of children having a positive adult role model to spend their time with. There is also a program called the Peaceful Village Program that offers a way for “youth and families [to be] actively engaged in community renewal efforts” (MSIP, 2012). This program is beneficial because it involves the parents and the children together in creating a connection with the community. Even if their home environment is not providing them with the loving attachment and safe environment that they require, hopefully children are able to develop these essential life skills through programs such as Big Brother Big Sisters, Mini U Programs, and the Peaceful Village Program.


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