VICTORIA, B.C. – A report from the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s special advisor has provided 85 recommendations to British Columbia’s Indigenous child welfare system.
The report by Grand Chief Edward John, titled “Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification – From Root Causes to Root Solutions,” contains 85 recommendations that focus on areas such as:
- reducing the need for Indigenous children and youth to come into care;
- increasing support services that help keep families together;
- enabling greater access to judicial services;
- creating a more equitable funding formula between the Province and the federal government;
- increasing early intervention services; and,
- specifically targeting more Ministry of Children and Family Development staff within First Nations communities.
The report also aims to “improve outcomes for Indigenous children and youth by changing focus from intervention and separation to strengthening families. Though the number Indigenous children and youth in government care has declined by 21 percent since 2007, the trend for non-Indigenous children in care saw a 45 percent decline over the same time frame. Consequently, Indigenous children and youth represent 61.2 percent of all children and youth in government care in British Columbia.
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According to evidence provided by the Ministry, keeping families together rather than placing a child into care where it is safe to do so results in better outcomes overall for these children. The Ministry says that its practices has increasingly emphasized family preservation, keeping Aboriginal children and youth from coming into government care.
Grand Chief John was appointed as special advisor in September 2015 with a mandate to engage with Aboriginal, First Nation and Métis communities on permanency discussions. Grand Chief John also reviewed policy and legislation within the ministry to find ways to improve the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care, and provided Early Years advice to Children and Families Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux.
Grand Chief John’s initial term was set to end on March 31st, but was extended to allow for a more thorough consultation process. In his role as senior advisor, Grand Chief John met with 86 First Nations, 10 Delegated Aboriginal Agencies and 12 organizations or interest groups over a 14-month span.
The government says that addressing the recommendations from Grand Chief John’s report will require a significant injection of funding. Alterations will also need to be made to existing legislation. Ultimately, this report demands a shift in practice and a broader reassessment of how the Children’s Ministry and Delegated Aboriginal Agencies engage with the federal government and with Indigenous communities to address Indigenous child welfare concerns.
“I want to thank Grand Chief Ed John for his thoughtful, heartfelt, and comprehensive report,” said Premier Clark. “Right now, Indigenous children are 15 times more likely than others to be in foster care – that must change, and it will. Chief John’s recommendations mean systemic, wide-scale change, and a shift in thinking from intervention to protecting families. We can’t do it alone, and it can’t happen overnight, but it must happen. We are committed to working with our federal, provincial and First Nations partners to do what is necessary to give Indigenous families better supports and help create a brighter future for their kids.”