Aboriginal Child Welfare

This section contains material related to Aboriginal child welfare. Canada has a decentralized child welfare system that consists of 13 Canadian provincial and territorial child welfare systems. In addition, there exist Métis, First Nations and urban Aboriginal child and family service agencies that are to varying degrees affected by federal policies and funding models. Most commonly, Aboriginal child welfare agencies have signed agreements with either the federal or both the federal and provincial governments that authorizes them to provide the full range of child protection services and receive federal funding to do so. For more information about First Nations child welfare, see Kiskisik Awasisak: Remember the Children. Understanding the Overrepresentation of First Nations Children in the Child Welfare System.

For information on the First Nations human rights complaint case against the federal government for under-funding child welfare services on-reserve: www.fnwitness.ca

Aboriginal Child Welfare - Statistics

Child Maltreatment Investigations, First Nations and Non-Aboriginal Children^*

  First Nations Children Non-Aboriginal Children
Number of child maltreatment investigations 14,114 83,650
Incidence of child maltreatment investigations per 1,000 children 140.6 33.5


Type of Child Maltreatment Investigations in 2008 for First Nations and Non-Aboriginal Children^*

  First Nations Number First Nations Rate per 1,000 Children FIrst Nations Percent
Maltreatment incident Investigation 10,324 102.8 73%
Risk Investigation 3,790 37.8 27%
  Non-Aboriginal Number Non-Aboriginal Rate per 1,000 Children Non-Aboriginal Percent
Maltreatment incident Investigation 62,512 25.1 75%
Risk Investigation 21,138 8.5 25%


Primary Categories of Substantiated Child Maltreatment Investigations in in 2008 for First Nations and Non-Aboriginal Children^*

First Nations Children      
Category of Maltreatment Number Rate per 1,000 First Nation children Percent
Physical Abuse 560 5.58 9%
Sexual Abuse 103 1.03 2%
Neglect 2,781 27.70 46%
Emotional Maltreatment 559 5.57 9%
Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence 2,000 19.92 33%
Non-Aboriginal Children      
Category of Maltreatment Number Rate per 1,000 Non-Aboriginal children Percent
Physical Abuse 6,788 2.72 23%
Sexual Abuse 939 0.38 3%
Neglect 8,675 3.48 29%
Emotional Maltreatment 2,589 1.04 9%
Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence 10,489 4.20 36%


Placement in Child Maltreatment Investigations in 2008 for First Nations and Non-Aboriginal Children^*

  First Nations Number First Nations Rate Non-Aboriginal Number Non-Aboriginal Rate
Informal Kinship Care 1,032 10.3 2,218 0.9
Formal Kinship Care 298 3.0 497 0.2
Family Foster Care  893 8.9 1,872 0.8
Group home/residential secure facility 172 1.7 322 0.1
Total 2,395 23.9 4,909 2.0


* Source: Sinha, V., Trocmé, N., MacLaurin, B., Fast, E., Thomas Prokop, S., Petti, T., … Richard, K. (2011). Kiskisik Awasisak: Remember the Children. Understanding the Overrepresentation of First Nations Children in the Child Welfare System. Ontario: Assembly of First Nations. Retrieved from http://cwrp.ca/publications/2280.

^ Note: The estimates presented here are from the first national study that collected investigation data from a large number of First Nations and urban Aboriginal agencies. Because the First Nations and urban Aboriginal agencies were purposely, rather than randomly selected, these are not national estimates, and are not comparable to CIS-2003 or CIS-1998. All results must be interpreted with the caution necessitated by a pilot study

Data presented here are weighted estimates; for information regarding the FNCIS weighting procedure, see the executive summary and appendices of Kiskisik Awasikak (Sinha et al., 2011).

Interpretations must take into account the context and structure of First Nations child welfare, see Sinha et al. (2011) for a contextualized summary of the findings. 

Title Authors Yearsort icon Type of Publication
First Canadian Roundtable on Child Welfare Outcomes: Roundtable proceedings

Thompson, Julie
Fallon, Barbara

1999 Presentation
It Takes a Community: A Report on Child Welfare Services in the Northwest Territories

Hansen, Gaye
Shangreaux, Corbin
Balla, Mike

2000 Report
Young Mothers In/From Care Project

Rutman, Deborah
Strega, Susan
Callahan, Marilyn
Dominelli, Lena

2001 Presentation
Perspective on the Fragmentation of Services to Aboriginal Youth

Leslie, Bruce
Storey, Fred

2002 Other
A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography Focusing on Aspects of Aboriginal Child Welfare in Canada

Bennett, Marlyn
Blackstock, Cindy

2002 Other
Aboriginal Peoples Survey 2001 - non-reserve Aboriginal Population initial findings: Well-being of the non-reserve Aboriginal Population

O'Donnell, Vivian
Tait, Heather

2003 Report
Children in Care in Canada: A summary of current issues and trends with recommendations for future research

Farris-Manning, Cheryl
Zandstra, Marietta

2003 Report
The Baby Andy Report: Examination of services provided to Baby Andy and his family

Montreal Lake Child & Family Agency inc.
Saskatchewan Community Resources and Employment

2003 Report
Extending Aboriginal control over child welfare services: The Manitoba Child Welfare Initiative

Hudson, Pete
McKenzie, Brad

2003 Journal article
Community Based Child Welfare for Aboriginal Children: Supporting Resilience through Structural Change

Blackstock, Cindy
Trocmé, Nico

2004 Book chapter

Aboriginal Child Welfare - Legislation

Aboriginal child welfare services are provided in accordance with provincial/territorial legislation, as allowed by Section 88 of the Indian Act (1985). Child welfare services fall under the jurisdiction of provincial and territorial authorities. As a result, each province and territory has different legislation pertaining to child protection interventions. For more information click here.

Child welfare services on-reserve are funded through Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and subject to the regulations within the First Nations Child and Family Services section of the National Social Program Manual (last updated 2012).

Last Name First Name Organization Keyword
Bennett Marlyn University of Manitoba Aboriginal
Blackstock Cindy First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada Aboriginal
Brown Jason University of Western Ontario Aboriginal
Brown Leslie University of Victoria Aboriginal
Kovach Margaret University of Saskatchewan Aboriginal
Lafrance Jean University of Calgary Aboriginal
Sookraj Dixon University of British Columbia – Okanagan Aboriginal
Wien Fred Dalhousie University Aboriginal
Wright Alexandra Canadian Association for Social Work Education Aboriginal
Macpherson Alison K. York University Aboriginal
MacDonald Nancy Dalhousie University Aboriginal
Carriere Jeannine University of Victoria Aboriginal
Bastien Betty University of Calgary Aboriginal
Sinclair Raven University of Regina Aboriginal
De Finney Sandrina University of Victoria Aboriginal
Montgomery H. Monty University of Regina Aboriginal
Sinha Vandna McGill Unversity Aboriginal
Kreitzer Linda University of Calgary Aboriginal
Fast Elizabeth Concordia University Aboriginal
Richardson Catherine Université de Montréal Aboriginal