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Dead Children in Manitoba

March 21, 2006 permalink

The disclosure of a large number of children dying in foster care has provoked a scandal in Manitoba. The article below shows efforts to contain the scandal without any real disclosure. A group composed entirely of functionaries of the child protection system will investigate and prepare a report which will of suggest more money and power for child protectors. Only full public disclosure of the facts has any hope of contributing to a solution of the problems.



Probes launched
Gov't to review foster care deaths


Christene Melnick
Family Services and Housing Minister Christene Melnick addressed an external review of cases of children in care at a news conference at The Legislative Building today.

After facing public outrage over the deaths of numerous children killed in foster care, the province announced yesterday it will commission two reviews.

Nine foster children were murdered in Manitoba last year and a total of 31 children in care have been killed since 2000.

"The death of one child is too many. It's important to review concerns raised over recent developments and to work together to make the necessary changes we believe will improve services to children in care," said NDP Family Services Minister Christine Melnick.

An external review will focus on the opening and closing of cases of children in care, how files are transferred and the caseload of front-line social workers.


The external probe will be led by Manitoba ombudsman Irene Hamilton, Children's Advocate Director Billie Schibler and an Ontario child and family services director.

It will also involve the CEOs of the four aboriginal child and family service authorities in Manitoba.

An interim report will be provided in June and a final report in September.

An internal probe will also be conducted and led by Hamilton, Schibler and Jim Newton, director of psychology at the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre.

The aim of that review is to look at how cases are managed and the administrative and financial areas of CFS. Interviews will be conducted with CFS staff.

"This is not a witch hunt," said Melnick. "These reviews will help guide improvements so we can continue to build a strong and high-quality care system for children in the care of CFS."

Schibler said her office has received many calls since the deaths of little Phoenix Sinclair and Heaven Traverse came to light.

Sinclair was murdered three months after her case was closed with CFS and Traverse died while in foster care.

"The general public is wanting to know, and I feel very confident in the people who will be working with our office and myself as we go into examining these matters," said Schibler.

Meanwhile, opposition Tories and Liberals continue to press the premier to remove Melnick from her cabinet post.

"This minister of family services has failed Phoenix Sinclair and she's failed all Manitobans," said Opposition Leader Stuart Murray in the house yesterday.


Vince Surbey, whose adopted son Chris, 17, was murdered last summer while in the care of CFS, said yesterday he's pleased the reviews have been called, but isn't sure they will have the desired effect.

"Whether it goes far enough remains to be seen," he said. "I think the reviews can be useful in helping point out where there are problems but it won't get to the root causes.

"Some procedures might be changed, but they basically have to do an overhaul of the whole system of returning children (to parents)."

Chris Surbey, who lived with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, was placed in CFS care by his parents at age 12 because he needed constant supervision to contain fits of irrational behaviour.

At the time he was killed, Chris had been left alone in his apartment after his youth worker left for the day, despite his parents' warnings that he needed 24-hour supervision.

Source: Winnipeg Sun