There is an urgent need to shift the child welfare system from being apprehension-based to prevention-focused.
That’s the conclusion of a report released on Tuesday by West Coast LEAF, a British Columbia based organization.
Indigenous leaders, families, and activists have been advocating for transformative change for decades.
Those involved in the new report say it reveals the failures of the government of B.C. to meet it’s obligations to provide adequate, accessible, and culturally safe prevention based supports for Indigenous families.
‘Pathways in a forest: Indigenous guidance on prevention-based child welfare’ centres on the voices of 64 caregivers who share their stories of fighting to keep their children out of government care in BC, where Indigenous children are 15 times more likely to enter government care than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
As of 2018, there were 6,698 children and youth in care in BC, of whom 4,252 were Indigenous.
One in five Indigenous children in the province will come into contact with the child protection system as some stage in their childhood.
The 112 page report shares experiences of families disrupted and separated by the child welfare system.
Ongoing colonialism, pervasive and systemic racism, and gaps in supports and services that could keep families together are among the harms identified.
“Communities and nations must have full jurisdiction over child welfare for all their children, including those living off reserves, and they must be provided with resources to provide the same level of services to their children as are offered to non-Indigenous children,” Elba Bendo, project lead and West Coast LEAF’s Director of Law Reform says.
In a press release, Frances Rosner, a Métis lawyer and a member of the project’s advisory committee says “the current system is marked by fear, power imbalances, and arbitrary decision-making. Pointing the finger at an Indigenous parent who has survived colonial violence and expecting them to carry the burden of intergenerational trauma alone is cruel. BC clearly has a failed child welfare system in desperate need of a complete overhaul.”
The report includes more than 30 recommendations for improving systemic and legislative reforms, financial supports, prevention based efforts, and advocacy for parents and Indigenous communities