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Manitoba Ombudsman reports on the progress of implementing child welfare recommendations

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Jul 24, 2008

Today, Ombudsman Irene Hamilton, released a progress report on the implementation by the child welfare system of recommendations contained in the September 2006 report, Strengthen the Commitment: An External Review of the Child Welfare System. The report concerns the period November 2006 to March 31, 2008.

In October 2006, the Manitoba government announced it would work with the child welfare authorities towards the implementation of all recommendations in Strengthen the Commitment and two concurrent reports related to child welfare. At that time, the government committed $5 million for immediate action and $37 million over three years for longer-term initiatives.

“I intend to report annually on the progress made towards the implementation of the recommendations,” said Hamilton. “Such monitoring and public reporting serves to enhance the accountability of the child welfare system, especially where many of the recommendations called for system-wide changes and significant expenditures.”

The follow-up conducted by Hamilton’s office is categorized in the progress report into 18 main subject areas and sets out for each:

  • an overview of the issues identified in the 2006 report, including a summary of recommendations and findings;
  • the progress that the child welfare system has made towards implementation of the recommendations, including the child welfare system’s response to the Ombudsman’s follow-up;
  • the Ombudsman’s comments about the progress to date; and
  • status designation (including, for example, “in progress”, “completed”, “dependent on other action”, “no change”).

The Ombudsman found that implementation of the over 100 recommendations has been proceeding throughout the reporting period, however many of the changes have not been in place for a sufficient time to determine if they have had a measurable impact at the front lines of service. When implementation has been completed, the system will be positioned for positive change as long as the funding and increased staff resources are available. There are, however, basic issues identified in the 2006 report that have not been resolved and implemented throughout the system.

Said Hamilton, “We had expected that the recommendations related to the foundational work required in the system would be implemented early in the process. There are some areas that appear to be moving more slowly than we had anticipated.” Six of these areas are set out in pages 4 and 5 of the Executive Summary to the 84-page report and are discussed in more detail in the body of the report.

Hamilton identified the need to stabilize the child welfare system. “The administrative structure for Standing Committee needs to be established and operational.” The Standing Committee serves as a governance body for the child welfare system and is responsible for facilitating the provision of services under The Child and Family Services Authorities Act. “Staff vacancies thoughout the system need to be filled as soon as possible with permanent staff. This stability is required to ensure that all the foundational work, critical to the system, will occur without further delay.”

Hamilton warned, “Without a strong foundation, improvements and enhancements to child welfare service delivery will be stalled.”

The Ombudsman’s ongoing review of the progress of the child welfare system’s implementation of the recommendations will include talking to those who are working in the system, as well as to children and families receiving service, to determine the impact of the changes.