More emergency beds and website to speed access to foster homes
More emergency group-home beds and a new website to connect foster parents with children who need a temporary place to stay while waiting for a permanent placement will ensure children coming into care get faster access to safe, nurturing homes. This announcement was made by Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard.
“Over the last few months we’ve seen a growing demand for the services we provide to protect vulnerable children and an increase in the number of children staying in hotels temporarily when coming into care,” Howard said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in connecting vulnerable kids with caring families through record foster-parent recruitment over the last six years. Investing in new emergency group-home beds and launching a new website to recruit short-term foster care beds will help us place these children with nurturing families more quickly.”
Hotel beds may be used for temporary placement to keep sibling groups together, in the case of an emergency or natural disaster, or when a child’s needs cannot be met in another placement, the minister explained, adding the province has staff dedicated to working with child-welfare agencies to ensure children in care spend as little time as possible in hotels. She noted the average number of children placed in a hotel any given day during the month of September was 29.
Howard said the province will increase the number of emergency beds to more than 290 in the next month and will also launch a website to match licensed foster families who have available beds in their homes on a short-term basis with children who are waiting for long-term placements. Work with child-welfare agencies and authorities will continue to better co-ordinate foster care beds available for long-term placements, she said.
“I can’t overstate the exceptional role foster families in Manitoba help play in ensuring our province’s children are safe and empowered to live up to their potential,” the minister said. “And in cases of emergency apprehensions, I want to make sure we connect these families with vulnerable children as quickly as possible.”
The minister invited licensed foster families who have short-term beds available to register at www.gov.mb.ca/fs or by calling 204-945-4091 in Winnipeg.
The minister also announced that, for the first time, Manitoba Family Services and Labour annual report will include the number of children who stayed in hotels while waiting for placement. The number will be updated online quarterly. The annual report will also include the number of children in care in 2011-12. Last year there were 9,730 children in care, an increase of 3.2 per cent over 2010-11. This is the lowest increase in the number of children in care in the last five years, Howard said, adding this number also includes 434 young people who have had their care extended beyond age 18 in order to pursue education or employment-related goals.
The information is available at www.manitoba.ca/fs/childfam/investments.html.