Well-Trained, Well-Resourced Workers a Must for At-Risk Youth
Oct 10, 2014
Several major news stories have surfaced over the past week revealing
problems within Manitoba’s child protection system.
Various media outlets ran stories about a private company that was contracted by the Province of Manitoba to care for at-risk youth in local hotel rooms. It was revealed that a worker who had been contracted by Child and Family Services was found sleeping while in the care of an at-risk youth in a downtown hotel.
Sadly, many of the workers provided by such companies have little or no training and, in some cases, the communication skills to speak with at-risk youth. They are paid little more than minimum wage and some welcome this hotel work because their meals are provided. Workers are given little or no information (including their medical history) about the children they are supervising and often, no logs are kept.
Experienced youth workers have gone on record to say that private care staff have to be shown how to perform relatively basic tasks such as buckling a baby into a car seat, heating up formula or ensuring that kids are wearing appropriate clothing for the weather.
In 2012-2013, private care contractors like Complete Care received in excess of $13 million from the provincial government, leading one to question what value these for-profit companies might be adding to the child welfare system. Manitoba Family Services Minister Kerry Irvin-Ross has since ordered a review into the services provided by private companies that are tasked with looking after at-risk kids in hotels and other placements.
But the story keeps unfolding. Now the provincial government, no doubt spurred on by all of the recent media attention, has announced it will offer more support services for vulnerable families by trying to reduce the number of children coming into care of child and family service agencies. This initiative will see the opening of a six-bed facility for sexually exploited girls. The reality is that this is not a “new” facility, but a repurposed crisis unit that was being used for boys experiencing mental health concerns or other safety risks. The unit for these boys has now been moved to another location, details which are unknown.
The biggest concern with this “new” placement is not the idea of it, but the process, which has the appearance of being rushed into place. Once again, the staff that will be providing care and support to the children will not have adequate training. The quick shift in placements further disrupts the system and causes confusion for employees and partnering agencies. A more measured and deliberate approach to planning would provide the stability that children in crisis require.
Any MGEU member working with youth in care will tell you it’s not an easy job – they do it because they are passionate about the difference they make in someone’s life.
But for such a vulnerable sector of our community, it’s incredibly important that at-risk youth receive care from well-trained workers who have access to all of the necessary tools and resources available.
The recent media coverage has illustrated the complexity of the child welfare system, brought to light the numerous agencies that are involved, and shown why temporary band-aid solutions only lead to another crisis and yet another bad news story.
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