Will removing parents, instead of the children, from homes work?

By Brandi Morin
APTN National News
It’s a scene that is all too familiar to many in the child welfare system.

Kids being taken away from their families and placed into foster care.

It is a traumatic thing for a child to go through. So, communities like Misipawistik Cree Nation in northern Manitoba are looking to turn the tables.

Earlier this month chief and council passed a resolution that will see the parent removed from the home. Instead of the child being apprehended, when an outside agency like Child and Family Services gets involved, the parent will be asked to leave.

A childcare worker would then be placed in the home to care for the children.

Alice McKay was taken from her mother at the age of three.

She passed through over a dozen foster homes until she turned 18. Despite having years of therapy, the night she was taken away is forever etched in her memory. 

“Cause the last thing I remember is you know, all these emergency personnel and police officers came like, barging up the stairs on the floor, like where we lived. They kicked in the door,” recalled McKay. “My brother and I were ushered out into a police car right away and so we were still sitting outside when they brought my mother down the stairs, strapped to a gurney and I just remember hearing her screaming, ‘Where are my kids? Where are my kids?’”

Now, a mother of four herself, McKay doesn’t see much benefit in removing the parent from the home. But she sees no difference in either of the scenarios.

“At the end of the day it’s not so much about where you’re living or what your home looks like it’s having your parents,” she said. “Being ripped away from your parents is ultimately what’s the most traumatic.”

Child welfare activist Cindy Blackstock says it may be a good thing.

“You know, child removal at the best of times is really disruptive so the more you can keep things normal for a child in their own family home with their brothers and sisters, access to extended family members, the same school and having even access to your pets, the better it is for the child,” said Blackstock.

Although it may add incentive for parents to seek support instead of leaving their home, there is little to no research to support that it works. In fact, there is currently no tracking system in Canada that monitors children’s progress from the time they enter the system to when they leave.

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