B.C. introduces new position to expedite progress on Indigenous child welfare

B.C. introduces new position to expedite progress on Indigenous child welfare

B.C. has created a new position aimed at furthering progress on Indigenous child welfare in the province.

The new Indigenous child welfare director (ICWD) role aims to help better ensure the safety, wellness, and access to community and culture for Indigenous children.

The director will provide advice, guidance and oversight on key Indigenous child and family services and supports, as well as focus on prevention services aimed at keeping young Indigenous people in their homes and connected to their communities, cultures and languages.

“We know Indigenous children are best cared for by Indigenous communities and when connected to community, family and culture,” said Grace Lore, minister of children and family development.

“This position has been long advocated for by First Nations leadership and Indigenous partners, and continues our work to reform the child welfare system and reduce the over-representation of Indigenous children and youth in care.”

Bill 38, the Indigenous Self-Government in Child and Family Services Amendment Act, was passed into law in November 2022.

Since then, the ministry has worked to co-develop the role with First Nations leadership and Indigenous partners, bringing the role into effect on Thursday.

Chief Don Tom, vice-president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, said there continues to be a crisis in First Nations child welfare across the province rooted in the intersecting and devastating impacts of colonialism.

“We are hopeful that the position of Indigenous child welfare director is one step toward increased accountability and support for First Nations kids. We look forward to the role being filled and for the new director to create a strong relationship with title holders,” Tom explained.

According to the province, the new director position will also ensure seamless delivery of services between Indigenous and provincial laws, as more First Nations exercise their inherent jurisdiction over their children and families.

First Nations Summit said this position is long overdue and will be a significant benefit for all First Nations to have an Indigenous child welfare director who is familiar with First Nations’ histories, contexts, and the range of complex issues and policies relating to First Nations child welfare

“It is our expectation that the new director will have tremendous influence in changing the colonial policies and practices of the current child welfare system, and that they will advocate for new policies, practices and approaches that respect and support the exercise of jurisdiction by First Nations,” Cheryl Casimer, political executive with First Nations Summit, said.

The ICWD will hold powers equal to the provincial director of child welfare, with both roles designated at the assistant deputy minister level.

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