Indigenous mother speaks out after newborn seized by CFS
Published Friday, January 11, 2019 2:08PM CST
Last Updated Friday, January 11, 2019 3:13PM CST
An Indigenous mother from Winnipeg is speaking out about the apprehension of her newborn baby by Child and Family Services.
The woman, 38, and her family members held a media conference Friday morning with First Nations leaders and advocates to address the situation.
“I was blindsided,” said the mother, who can’t be identified because the child remains in CFS care. “It’s very disappointing how things were handled.”
Family members say the child was seized from the woman on Thursday afternoon around four.
A video broadcast live on Facebook which has since been shared thousands of times on the social media site shows the situation unfolding in a Winnipeg hospital room.
A woman holding a child is surrounded by family with two police officers and a security guard in the room when the child was apprehended.
“It’s the system that we have a problem with – the way they went about it,” said one family member.
According to the woman’s family, she was living with an addiction and went to the agency for help prior to the child’s birth but now feels betrayed.
Manitoba’s First Nations Family Advocate Cora Morgan said family members were told by social workers the woman was intoxicated when she arrived at hospital to deliver the child but family members say that’s not the case.
Morgan said arrangements had been made to have the child live with a relative but Morgan said those plans were ignored by CFS.
“They came and took the baby,” said Morgan.
Morgan said with 400 newborn babies seized each year in Manitoba this is not an isolated situation.
“The reality is is that this happens every single day, just not every family’s able to capture video or feels the courage to be able to post it the way that this family has done,” said Morgan. “This is such a rampant situation.”
Child and Family Services is standing by the decision.
In an emailed statement General CFS Authority CEO Debbie Besant said, “I have personally review this file in detail and met with the agency staff involved. I am confident in the decisions made.
Apprehending a child is a very difficult decision, and is done only as a last resort and when required to ensure children are kept safe. When a child is brought into care, the agency’s first consideration is always to explore reunification with parents and to place the child with a family member while this is being done.”
Manitoba Families Minister Heather Stefanson said in an emailed statement, “I am saddened to see a family’s situation result in an apprehension, which is meant to be used as a last resort when there are serious concerns about a child’s safety.
Our government is focused on strengthening family bonds and reducing apprehensions through child welfare system reform, priorities reinforced by Monday’s announcement of a doula initiative.”
Winnipeg police said officers are mandated under the CFS Act to assist in child apprehensions if the agency requests their involvement.
The family said it’s working to get back custody of the child.