Manitoba pushes back deadline for rural CFS children in hotels
Published Thursday, May 28, 2015 12:39PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 28, 2015 10:08PM EDT
The Manitoba government is backpedalling on its vow to end the practice of housing foster children in hotels.
The province’s Child and Family Services Minister, Kelli Irvin-Ross, said Wednesday that while the government is working to eliminate hotel use in Winnipeg, the June 1 deadline can’t be met in time for rural children.
Rural areas will continue to use hotels as emergency shelters for children until the end of the year.
“As we were sort of working through our place, we identified that there are not the same depth of resources in the north, and that it’s going to take us time to meet that goal,” Irvin-Ross said.
Calls to end hotel placements became more urgent after the body of Tina Fontaine, a hotel foster, was discovered last summer.
But the June deadline was set in April, after a now 15-year-old girl under the care of child and family services was viciously attacked in a downtown Winnipeg parkade.
For the mother of the now-16-year-old girl, who cannot be identified, there is a daily struggle to cope with the aftermath.
The girl remains in hospital and her mother says she may never fully recover.
“It’s been heartbreaking,” the mother said. “She used to have tears, now I have all the tears for her.”
The girl was being housed at a hotel on the day of her attack. A 15-year-old boy who was later charged in the attack was also staying at the hotel, also as a foster child.
While touting the achievements made so far to end hotel placements for children, Irvin-Ross said Wednesday that there could be children in the rural and north part of the province that will continue to be housed in hotels for the time being.
“The ability to develop those resources is going to take us longer,” Irvin-Ross told reporters.
Last year, the provinces hired more workers and provided more safe shelters for kids. Still, in April and May, 36 children were housed in Winnipeg’s hotels.
Liberal legislature member Jon Gerrard said the minister had broken her promise to stop the use of hotels.
“Is the minister now saying that children in rural Manitoba are second-class citizens?” Gerrard said.
Child and Family Services critic Ian Wishart is skeptical about whether the government will be able to meet its end-of-the-year deadline.
“We will certainly look to making sure that they keep their promise but we really doubt that they’ll be able to do that,” Wishart told reporters.
In a statement, Manitoba’s children’s advocate said she was also concerned, citing an ongoing shortage of foster homes.
With 10,000 kids in an overloaded system, some argue the social problems pushing from their homes in the first place must become part of the solution.
With a report by CTV’s Manitoba Bureau Chief Jill Macyshon