The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is looking to make legislative changes to improve how Indigenous children are cared for in the province’s child welfare program.
Currently, Indigenous children remain overrepresented in the province’s child welfare program. According to the government, they account for 63 per cent of children in B.C. care but only represent 10 per cent of the province’s total child population.
If approved by the legislature, the proposed changes to the Child, Family and Community Service Act will allow Indigenous communities to have more involvement in the decisions to keep children out of care, in their home communities and more connected to their cultures.
“Keeping Indigenous children connected to their family and communities is a key priority of our government and these legislative changes are the first steps towards this goal,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Katrine Conroy in a release.
Under current legislation, the MCFD can only reach out to a child’s Indigenous community with the parent’s consent or to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.
The ministry says that policy is restrictive and makes it challenging for social workers and Indigenous communities to find viable alternatives to removing children from their home. It also puts up a roadblock for access. Communities currently aren’t able to have a say in children’s ongoing care and to keep the connection to their culture and community, alive.
“Our government believes that Indigenous children should have every opportunity to live and thrive and grow in their home community, surrounded by their language and culture,” said Scott Fraser, minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a release.
Fraser says the modifications are part of continuing reconciliation and overall child-welfare system reform.
“These amendments allow us to proceed with a fulsome, operational, on-the-ground agreement for Splatsin’s children right now, as we move towards establishing a jurisdictional process for the Secwepemc Nation and all our communities,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Wayne Christian, Tribal Chief, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council.
If the legislation is passed, the amendments would be brought into action at a later date.