Thursday, December 23, 2010

Native Leaders Reject New Child Welfare Agency

Child Welfare has become my nemesis. I am disgusted by the entire “policy” that directs services on reserve and by the Child Welfare Act in general. I think the system is broken for ALL children but we see the worst of it more often in First Nation communities because (for the most part) we are clustered on reserves.

It's my most cynical belief that the current issue has nothing to with the wellness of children but with money. Or in the words of a current Human Rights complaint the absence of “equitable funds” for “equitable services”.

The problem is more complex that adjusting a budget-line but hey when you're the head of an advocacy organization for First Nation Child Welfare Agencies and receive a mandate and a salary to do these things for your Board of Directors then hey any action is an action; right?.................Unfortunately my concern is that more funds will mean more children in the care of a Child Welfare Agency......Aboriginal or not.

I agree with the Chiefs quoted in the Globe and Mail story. I wouldn’t have attended any “signing” event of the transfer of the responsibilities of a policy either. It really doesn’t matter anymore who administers the policy because whomever delivers will inherit the same conditions. In my humble view First Nation families should advocate that ALL authorities be transferred to a Provincial Agency.

Part of the story reads:

"His brother’s grandchildren had been taken and placed with a foster family in a different town. He tried to advocate on behalf of his family, proposing to authorities that they put the children in the home of a relative or at least keep the children in the same town where they could have contact with family members. His suggestions were ignored.

His experience was not unusual, he said. Several other Sto:lo families have told him of similar problems. That was one of the main reasons why he stayed away from the official ceremony last Friday. “To me, nothing has changed,” he said. “Why should we support it if nothing has changed?”

Tribal chief Tyrone McNeil of the Sto:lo Tribal Council said he is looking for more accountability in the new agency. Although the agency operates under authority delegated by the government allowing it to apprehend children, it still operates under the government’s rules, he said.

“It’s fine if an aboriginal person is there, but if all they are doing is following the ministry guidelines, it does not really matter if they are aboriginal or not,” he said."

All the Nations as a collective need to create and build a webbed system that can provide an array services to address the many complex issues that come into play when a child needs protection. It’s possible to do but it might mean a huge change in how things are done and nobody likes change.

There are a heck of a lot of people out there that would agree that the current system fails nearly ALL children. And that children from a First Nation family living on some reserves stand a greater chance of being taken into care than non-Aboriginal children.

In fact a truth often quoted by Cindy Blackstock, Director of the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society,(FNCFCS) is that there are more children in institutional care now than at the height of the Residential Schools. And this is evidenced from the numbers in from Aboriginal child welfare agencies themselves. The FNCFCS advocates for those Aboriginal Child Welfare Agencies. The board members are all Directors of various agencies.

Cindy's organization launched a Human Rights complaint that argued the rights of children on reserve are not being protected because of a funding inequity. It’s true there should not be a 22% funding gap and the gap should be closed. But I argue it won’t reduce the number of children in care in fact I’d be prepared to state that the numbers will increase. And frankly 22% is actually nothing in a Federal Budget to fix. One day a government will adjust the budget – and whatever government that does it will want a big signing ceremony to show off at a photo op. The big laugh will be on the children. More money, more access to children, more need to return for “equitable funding” for training, administration blah blah .

It’s also a truth Aboriginal children are more highly represented in Child Welfare services in some clustered areas than others in Canada. So to just blanket a 22% increase across the board might not be the solution AND because some conditions are not the same then to compare a budget from one service to another is inequity at it’s finest. It reminds me of this quote by an American lawyer I don’t recall his name but I never forgot the quote “There is no greater injustice than to treat unequal’s as equals”. The same should be said about funding the delivering or administering a “policy” for children on reserve vs the administration of an Act everywhere else.


Personal Business Directory - BTS Local