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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Aboriginal Experience in child welfare is still lacking

In Canada, there is a long and sordid history in the relationship between the child protection system and aboriginal peoples. The most famous historical examples are the Residential School system which I have written about before and the 60s scoop which saw a large number of aboriginal children apprehended and placed in non-aboriginal homes. There have been inquiries in Canada in the last few years that have shown aboriginal children are substantially over represented in the child protection systems of this country.

It is with this backdrop that two stories - one from Canada and one from the USA have particular relevance.

In the first, CTV news is reporting that advocates are attempting to bring to the United Nations a report "which argues that government funding for aboriginal health, education, housing and child welfare is not only inadequate, but is also lower than for non-aboriginal children."  The report was prepared by The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the ecumenical group KAIROS also points out that aboriginal child welfare is underfunded 22% compared to non-aboriginal child welfare. This suggests that systemic problems remain in Canada.

In the USA NPR is reporting that there is evidence that aboriginal children are also over represented in child welfare systems in that country. They also speak about the extensive practice of placing these children in non-native homes which creates cultural issues.

Some critics might argue that aboriginal children are so over represented in child protection systems because of the large scale social problems that arose from generations of oppression that has left many families dysfunctional with wide spread social problems. They might argue that, therefore, reservations, for example, lack a competent parenting cohort. This may have some merits as generations of children were taken away from families and placed in residential schools cut off from family and traditions while being abused in these schools.

There is no doubt a legacy from those years that is still rebounding throughout the aboriginal communities across North America. One suspects that we have yet to find good solutions and, as a result, we stumble around with seeing the need for strong systemic changes in how we deal with child protection issues in the aboriginal communities. What we are doing now seems not to be working well.

1 comment:

  1. One of the many challenges that aboriginal children face once they are out of foster care at the age of 18 is not having Indian status and being registered with a band. If you do not have Indian status you are not eligible for welfare, health care, education, etc through INAC.

    In order to get Indian Status, you need ID and you need to know which tribe/band you were born into. The band keeps these records confidential and are not easy to access. If an 18 yr old aboriginal youth has no where to go after foster care, no permanent address they won't be able to get ID. Therefore they won't be able to attain Indian Status to qualify for welfare, health, education, etc. I sound like I'm repeating myself but this issue is of dire concern.

    Does it not make sense that while aboriginal youth are in foster care that every effort is made to obtain their background information and help them apply for Indian Status?