The Manitoba government is ending its relationship with a controversial for-profit foster care agency once at the centre of a CBC investigation.
B & L Resources for Children and Youth was given a 120-day notice on Thursday that the province will no longer be paying for its services, which include recruiting and supervising foster parents. The 120-day notice period begins on Sept. 1.
The agency came under fire in 2018 after a CBC investigation found children were left in the same home as a minor who was sexually abusing them.
CBC has obtained a letter sent by the province’s Families Department detailing the planned transition, which will see licensed foster homes move from the administrative umbrella of B & L to an appropriate Child and Family Service agency.
Each affected CFS authority will get an extra $100,000 to cover the added costs. The province paid about $10 million to B & L annually, according government documents.
Agency reviewed after CBC investigation
Following CBC’s investigation, a review was ordered by Families Minister Heather Stefanson and the government temporarily banned all new placements of children.
The review was released late last year and found issues including breakdowns in communication, the use of non-standard methods in determining foster parent suitability and the need for increased oversight.
It identified areas where improvement was needed, including standardized filing systems for children in care and foster parent training.
Officials at B & L did not return a request for comment on the province’s decision.
Natasha Reimer-Okemow, a former foster child turned advocate who spent decades in the system, says it is a positive change for a system that is broken in many ways.
“This is what needs to happen,” she said. “It shows that there is a level of accountability in the system.”
In 2018, there were 409 children in B & L foster homes. Officials with the Families Department said as of Friday, there were over 100 foster care providers operating through B & L, and just over 260 children in care placed with those providers.
The children will remain in the same homes, with the same providers under the province’s transition plan.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for the Families Department said it will reach out to foster care providers soon to answer any questions they have about the transition.
“This approach will create a more direct connection between the authority, the foster care provider and the children,” she said in an email statement.
“It also helps ensure culturally appropriate oversight of children in care, which supports the province’s plan for overall transformation of the CFS system.”
Children’s advocate says needs of children come first
Daphne Penrose, Manitoba’s advocate for children and youth, says she was contacted by the Families Department this week to inform her of the upcoming changes.
She says so far the transition seems well planned out, with good communication, but she is watching to make sure it is done properly and safely for the children involved.
“[The province has] also assured us that … if we have any concerns with the transition process, that they are definitely open to hearing about those and resolving those,” she said.
“But we’re monitoring it and we want to make sure that the children, through this process … are going to benefit. And so that’s the utmost important thing.”
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