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Aboriginal children in care?

2015

I am a student at Mount Royal University in the CYCC program, and I was reading the Calgary Herald a little while back and noticed an article discussing the percentage of Aboriginal children in care.
 
I decided to do some research as the numbers I read were quite alarming. I researched news articles, journals, and other resources to get a better understanding of the statistics. According to Stats Canada in 2011, out of 30,000 kids in care, nearly 50% of them were of Aboriginal descent. I knew from class that this was common, but I never really understood why. Woods and Kirkey stated that the  biggest reason for the statistics, is "neglect, fueled by poverty" (Woods & Kirkey, 2013).
 
I know that there are specific programs and resources for Aboriginal and Metis families and children, but what I want to know is if there is anything more we can do as a profession to raise awareness on this issue. In Manitoba there are programs and models such as CLOUT (Community Led Organizations United Together) which are set to help re-parent parents, in hopes of reuniting them with their Children. It is a collaboration with CFS Workers, foster parents, and parents to reach their goals and decrease the statistics of Aboriginals in care (Wiart, 2015). I am Metis, and I want to be able to find ways to make a difference in Alberta, and to join forces with our Aboriginal leaders and the community to  help reduce the numbers in Alberta, and particularly in Calgary.
 
Thanks,
 
Jenessa
...

I was at a fantastic event a few weeks ago with former PM Paul Martin and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde who both spoke.  This event was also where 'Canadians for a New Partnership' was launched.  Part of this was discussing ways to teach a new generation of youth about treaties, residential schools, culture and more - all which has not been done to date.   I urge everyone to visit http://www.cfnp.ca/ and sign the declaration.
 
The Declaration of Canadians For a New Partnership
 
We the undersigned declare our resolve to build a new partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples of this country - a partnership based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful co-existence and equality; one that will be built by restoring trust and respecting Aboriginal and Treaty rights. Today we invite all Canadians to join us as we set out to write a new chapter in the evolution of our nation.
 
For over four centuries we have shared the same land, water and air that form one of the most bountiful and prosperous countries in the world. In this way Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are bound together in an inseparable bond. But not all have shared equally in the same rights, freedoms and benefits that should flow from inhabiting this magnificent land.
 
For too long our relations have been marked by misunderstanding, betrayal and neglect. While the sins of the past can never be erased, by acknowledging Aboriginal and Treaty rights and forging a new partnership we can stop the cycle of negativity that past wrongs have wrought on the generations that followed. We cannot allow future goodwill to be smothered by the exhaustion of historic failure. Therefore, by signing this Declaration, we pledge to build a future that is positive, healthy, productive and meaningful for the generations to come.
 
Our purpose is uncomplicated: it is to make things better; to bring a new energy and reconciliation to the project of building a better Canada; to solve, through a commitment of good will and widespread attestation, what has for decades eluded dealmakers, negotiators and people of earnest intent. We must embrace the notion of partnership fully and place it at the very heart of our endeavours. Then, and only then, will we enjoy a foundation of trust sturdy enough to overcome the shame of historic harm and contemporary injustices and realize future possibility.
 
To be equals in truth as well as intent we must reconcile historical wrongs by acknowledging the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Canada's First Peoples. Aboriginal communities also must have the tools to strengthen their institutions, culture and traditions in accordance with these rights and their aspirations and needs. This is the wellspring, which will empower Aboriginal communities to shape and govern the policies and practices that affect their people, land and resources.
 
This new partnership will be built on values that hold, as their basis, the equality and right to dignity for all. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people will come together in solidarity built on shared responsibility and co-operation. This we understand is central to Indigenous culture as much as it lies at the heart of the Canadian federation.
 
The New Partnership is neither deluded about past challenges nor deflated about present circumstances. We believe that hope must be created with the establishment of new trust and enthusiasm. This is the fundamental ambition of the New Partnership. By joining us – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike – together in this public Declaration we shall seek to create an atmosphere where paralysis becomes unacceptable and where a broad, engaged public insists upon progress.
 
That is why we, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, are coming together to hold a national dialogue and to reach out to all Canadians. We call on legislators, corporate leaders, labour and all civil society organizations to share in a new approach and our belief in a better Canada. We ask Canadians to join us in signing this Declaration and to go forward on a path that will rebuild trust, remedy a broken relationship and lead to a new partnership.
 
Andrew Middleton
...

I too thank you for bring this important - many of us think it’s the most important - issue in Canadian professional CYC practice. 
 
In an oped in the Dec. 2nd national news in the Globe & Mail (p. A-17) well-known child-rights advocate Dr. Cindy Blackstock clearly lays out the evidence why there are more First Nations, Aboriginal, Metis, and Inuit kids in care now than at the height of the residential schools era. Blackstock is without doubt the foremost critic of the professional service delivery systems here in Canada that continue to discriminate against minority children and young people from these communities.
 
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/a-mmiw-inquiry-must-examine-the-child-welfare-system/article27549551/
 
I too have watched the growing participation of young people in the Idle No More movement with real optimism for this shameful period in Canadian history to come to an end. There are also close to 400 million Indigenous peoples globally who have faced similar racist, colonial periods in past centuries that have left whatever populations remain facing similar discrimination against children based solely on poverty and racism. I would highly recommend accessing the Truth and Reconciliation website to read the sorrows of families being ripped apart for so many decades and you'll see the foundation of the current crisis.
 
Cindy's story has both compelling and tawdry chapters as she's attempted for years to bring our federal government to account through the Human Rights Tribunal - all the while facing her own lengthy period of harassment and discrimination while federal government lawyers have squandered $5 million fighting her claims on courtroom technicalities.  Another highly regarded Globe & Mail columnist in health, Andre Picard, dryly observed after she was awarded $20,000 in damages that our government would be further ahead acknowledging the past and spending those resources righting these wrongs in the present.
 
Until that occurs, however, the sad spectacle of caregivers across Canada being offered thousands per month to look after Indigenous children in their homes, care facilities or motel rooms will continue. Perhaps simply offering necessary CYC support by splitting those foster care stipends would be a step in the right direction…?
 
Kind regards,
Richard
 
Mitchell & Moore (2015) Planetary Praxis and Pedagogy: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Environmental Sustainability - http://tinyurl.com/qj8q8o2
 
Mitchell & Moore (2012) Politics, Participation and Power Relations: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Critical Citizenship - https://goo.gl/qZCv4w
...

Hi Jenessa,
 
You may want to read about the Isibindi program model provided in South Africa.  The program has a holistic approach and works in the communities/homes of individual families.  I believe the support of CYC-P in communities could benefit aboriginal communities in Canada to address the over representation of Aboriginal peoples in care.
 
Be well.
 
Charlene

 
You can read more about the Isibindi projects here  — Eds.

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