Project to provide mental health, addictions help to Manitoba Métis families at risk of child apprehension

October 17, 2019

Source: CBC

$1.9M partnership between province, Metis CFS will run for 3 years in Winnipeg, Dauphin

Métis elder Barbara Bruce speaks at the announcement of a $1.9 million pilot project that will connect families with children at risk of being apprehended with addictions and mental health services and cultural programming. (CBC)

A pilot project between the Manitoba government and the Metis Child and Family Services Authority will provide mental health and addictions services, as well as connections to cultural programming, for families at risk of having a child taken into care, Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced Thursday.

The province has invested $1.9 million in the three-year project, which will provide support for families where a parent has substance abuse issues, or where there has been child abuse or neglect.

A team - including a case worker, a family mentor, and addictions and mental health workers - will give families quick access to support services, referrals to community resources and cultural programming.

"We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent that apprehension from taking place," said Stefanson.

"By providing supports to families when they need it most, we are taking steps to support good mental health and address addictions to reduce the number of children who are taken into care."

The pilot program, dubbed Community Healing and Recovering Together, or CHART, is based on successful models that have been used in other areas, Stefanson said.

In Manitoba, these approaches will be adapted to develop a new model specific to the communities where they'll be implemented, she said.

Project will 'build hope'

In cases where apprehension is still required, families will be included in the decision-making process, said Greg Besant, executive director of the Metis Child and Family Services Authority.

"We will have rapid-response family conferencing available to create safety plans with the family, by the family and for the family," he said.

"They will be determining who best is able to help care for their child if the child can't stay with their parent."

The program will also include what Besant calls experiential mentors - people who have personal experience with addictions issues or the child welfare system - to provide guidance to families.

"These people will provide intensive support to these families on a daily basis, [for families] to be able then to feel supported, and to build hope and belief that they can conquer their addiction issue," he said.

Greg Besant, executive director of the Metis Child and Family Services Authority, said families with children under six years old will be prioritized to participate in the pilot project. (CBC)

Besant said the program is still developing screening criteria for how families will be selected to participate, and that families with children under six years old will likely be prioritized.

After the three-year pilot period is over, the program will be evaluated to see how successful it was in keeping kids safe and with their families, Stefanson said.

"This has a proven track record in other jurisdictions," she said. "If it's working, we're going to want to expand it, [and] if it's not working, we're going to want to tweak it and find ways that we're going to get better outcomes for families in Manitoba."

The project will serve 60 families at a time in Winnipeg and Dauphin, and is expected to be in place by February 2020, following recruitment and training for mentors, and connections being made with mental health and addictions workers, Stefanson said.


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