Manitoba Government Press Release–The Manitoba government is making $525,000 in grant funding available to recruit, train and employ ‘community helpers’ to provide services that reduce the risk of Child and Family Services (CFS) apprehension or placement breakdown, Families Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.

“Our government is focused on protecting kids and ensuring they have the opportunity to grow up in safe, loving homes,” Stefanson said. “Community helpers will deliver culturally appropriate services tailored to the unique needs of young people, which will help prevent them from having to leave their families or CFS placement.”

The new primary prevention program will match community-based support workers with families and caregivers residing in Winnipeg’s inner city who are experiencing challenges that could lead to separation. The workers, known as community helpers, will support the stability and wellness of vulnerable families by establishing trusting relationships outside the formal system. Through these relationships, the caregivers will feel supported, valued and empowered to access additional available services when they are needed.

Through facilitated family-led planning, in-home crisis counselling and skill building exercises, the community helpers will provide children and caregivers with the tools to help manage challenges independently in the long-term, limiting CFS involvement – an approach supported by leading experts.

“Everything we know about investing in the well-being needs of families tells us that preventing unnecessary family separation prevents trauma that can dismember families, communities and cultures,” said Kevin Campbell, an international child protection expert. “Every step a system takes to implement primary prevention is step toward a truly just system of support for families, communities and culture. This project is clearly one of those steps.”

One anticipated benefit of the community helpers program is improved overall individual and family wellness, the minister said. Through the community helper relationship, families and caregivers will be supported to manage or overcome mental health or substance abuse challenges, which can otherwise contribute to children entering care or placement moves.

The methods and teachings employed by the community helpers will also integrate traditional knowledge and wisdom to ensure a cultural connection strengthens the relationships that provide a gateway to services.

The minister noted this new funding also fulfils recommendations of the VIRGO, MACY and other reports to prioritize funding for services for children and youth.

Since the beginning of October, the Manitoba government has committed $18 million toward nine initiatives that will improve mental health and addictions services throughout the province. Further investments will be announced in the coming weeks.

Manitoba Families is looking for community organizations who will partner to deliver the community helper programming. An information session outlining the grant competition process and timelines will be held next week. Proposals will be accepted until Dec. 13.