Metis child welfare agencies extend services to youth aging out, Manitoba won’t commit

Métis women donated these Red River carts to make the inquiry feel more inclusive.

The child welfare authority tasked with overseeing Metis families in Manitoba is putting a halt to youth who would age out of the child welfare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province’s Metis Child, Family and Community Services authority issued a directive to its agencies Friday afternoon to continue to support youth who are turning 18, or are turning 21 if they had previously had support extended.

“We have weighted our options very carefully, but when it comes down to it, our Metis CFS Authority and its agencies live and work by always asking ourselves, ‘is it good for the children?’ So, in the end the decision to extend services for youth over the age of 21 years was easy,” said Billie Schibler, chief executive officer for the authority, in a statement.

“We cannot send our young people out the door without supports during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Agencies are instructed to offer an agreement to youth who are aging out, which will see extensions granted for up to three months or until the pandemic has been resolved.

If the pandemic has not been resolved by the end of the three months case workers have to assess whether it will need to be renewed or terminated.

A youth can also choose not to extend services if they feel they no longer need financial support.

“This is a no brainer. It isn’t about what our funding will support or whether we have the legal ability,” said Schibler.

“This is a humanitarian issue requiring a moral response and doing what is right.”

Agencies are prevented from extending services past the age of 21 under Manitoba’s Child and Family Services Act. It is unclear whether the authority will face repercussions for going against the Act.

The province has yet to commit to issuing a moratorium on youth aging out of care.

APTN News has asked twice within the past week whether the province will commit and both times was told more information would come at a later date.

Ontario, Saskatchewan and British Columbia have all put a stop to youth aging out during the pandemic.

One Manitoba advocacy group for children and youth in care is calling on the provincial government to end the practice of transitioning youth out of care for the time being.

Voices: Manitoba’s Youth in Care Network sent a letter to Minister of Families Heather Stefanson and other child welfare leaders this week calling for the change.

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