What Is the Indigenous Child Welfare Crisis and How Do We Address It?
Residential Schools have closed; the 60s Scoop is in the past; and yet the colonial practice of removing Indigenous children from their families continues at an alarming rate.
Statistics from the Ministry of Children and Family Development show that in 2020/21, Indigenous children accounted for 68% of all children in foster care in British Columbia, despite only representing around 6% of the population (as of Census 2016).
The overrepresentation of Indigenous people in child welfare systems is not a parenting issue, it is a poverty issue.
The disproportionate removal of children is historically linked with communities living in poverty. According to the Canadian Poverty Institute, an alarming 1 in 4 Indigenous people live in poverty, compared to 1 in 7 non-Indigenous people.
This is not a coincidence, but the result of colonization, genocide and forced cultural assimilation. The result is a cycle in which children are removed from families for issues related to poverty, and funding to support those children is then largely directed to foster families instead of their own family.
Proper funding for housing, education and health care could eliminate many of the reasons governments cite for separating families to begin with.
We stand alongside the more than 15,000 Indigenous children in foster care, their parents and families, their communities, allies and advocates and call on you to use your position of power and privilege to be a champion for change.
The Call for Change
What we are asking for is not new or radical. We are calling on our Government officials to be champions for what the United Nations, the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia have already committed to.
>>Want to add your voice to help keep families together? You can email your Government officials through a one-click email (works only on mobile devices and or systems with default email servers set up - find the email text and addresses here.)
In 2019, the BC Government unveiled Bill 41: The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). At the beginning of 2022, DRIPA was followed by the Declaration Act Action Plan for 2022-2027 which aims to see-through the Declaration.
We are calling on our Government officials to honour the BC Government’s commitment in its Action Plan to create “a British Columbia where:
- Indigenous people care for their own children and youth in their communities, and exercise jurisdiction over their own child and family services through systems and practices they determine for themselves, with family preservation prioritized and children and youth kept within their families and communities.
- Indigenous children in need of protection are cared for by their community, and where they cannot be cared for by their community, they are connected to their communities and cultures.”
We are calling on our Government officials to listen to and honour the Calls for Justice in The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls ‘Reclaiming Power and Power and Place’, in particular:
- The calls addressed to “Social Workers and Those Implicated in Child Welfare”, outline strong recommendations for “a preventative approach to child and family welfare services, with an aim to preserve family unity and avoid recourse to foster care interventions insofar as possible”.
- Specifically, 12.4: “We call upon all governments to prohibit the apprehension of children on the basis of poverty and cultural bias. All governments must resolve issues of poverty, inadequate and substandard housing, and lack of financial support for families, and increase food security to ensure that Indigenous families can succeed”.
We are calling on our Government officials to fulfil the mandates given to you by the Premier, covering:
- Lasting and meaningful reconciliation – an ongoing commitment to work with Indigenous peoples as they move toward self-determination.
- Equity and anti-racism – addressing systemic discrimination in all its forms.