Child-Welfare Reforms Now Probe's Focus

Article excerpt

Dean outlines lessons learned

Eight years after Phoenix Sinclair was murdered by her caregivers, the inquiry into her death is hearing what's been done to try to mend the child-welfare safety net she fell through.

The lessons learned after her 2005 death went undiscovered for nine months have not been lost on social work students at the University of Manitoba, said its dean. "I can imagine that it's really a connection of the inquiry to what students are learning in their courses," Harvey Frankel told the inquiry that entered its second phase Wednesday.

The province needs to treat social work like nursing and figure out how many workers are needed then help fund the spaces to train them, said Frankel, who heads the only accredited social work program in Manitoba.

"We don't know what the labour force needs are." What they do know is that Manitoba faces "unique challenges," he said.

"It is aboriginal child welfare, by and large," he said. "The majority of families involved in the child-welfare system are indigenous families," said Frankel.

"Most of the families involved are families living in poverty," he said. "That's a special challenge. The work is really difficult and requires a person who really wants to do it."

Burnout is a danger in the high-stress job that requires workers to make decisions that can result in life-and-death situations for kids, some of the 81 witnesses testified in phase one of the inquiry during 54 days of testimony.

"It would be important to know what social workers wished they knew before they went out to work. …