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 Year Type of Publication
Passion within the First Nations Social Work Profession

Kinequon, Dexter

2009 Book chapter
From Longing to Belonging: Attachment Theory, Connectedness, and Indigenous Children in Canada

Carriere, Jeannine
Richardson, Cathy

2009 Book chapter
Jumping through Hoops: A Manitoba Study Examining Experiences and Reflections of Aboriginal Mothers Involved with Child Welfare in Manitoba

Bennett, Marlyn

2009 Book chapter
Rehearsing with Reality: Exploring Health Issues with Aboriginal Youth through Drama

Goulet, Linda
Episkenew, Jo-Ann
Linds, Warren
Arnason, Karen

2009 Book chapter
Kids, Crime and Care – Health and Well-Being of Children in Care: Youth Justice Experiences and Outcomes

British Columbia Representative for Children and Youth

2009 Report
Child and Family Services Statistics December 2008

Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services

2008 Report
Management of Aboriginal Child Protection Services

Doyle, John

2008 Report
Recognition and Reconciliation Protocol on First Nations Children, Youth and Families

BC Ministry of Children and Family Development
First Nations Summit
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
BC Assembly of Fist Nations

2008 Report
Distinguishing Differences in Pathways to Resilience Among Canadian Youth

Ungar, Michael
Brown, Marion
Liebenberg, Linda
Cheung, Maria
Levine, Kathryn

2008 Journal article
The Yukon’s child welfare system

Gough, Pamela

2008 Information sheet

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 Namesort icon First Name Organization Keyword
Bastien Betty University of Calgary Aboriginal
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
Carriere Jeannine University of Victoria Aboriginal
De Finney Sandrina University of Victoria Aboriginal
Fast Elizabeth Concordia University Aboriginal
Kovach Margaret University of Saskatchewan Aboriginal
Kreitzer Linda University of Calgary Aboriginal
Lafrance Jean University of Calgary Aboriginal
MacDonald Nancy Dalhousie University Aboriginal
Macpherson Alison K. York University Aboriginal
Montgomery H. Monty University of Regina Aboriginal
Richardson Catherine Université de Montréal Aboriginal
Sinclair Raven University of Regina Aboriginal
Sinha Vandna McGill Unversity Aboriginal
Sookraj Dixon University of British Columbia – Okanagan Aboriginal
Wien Fred Dalhousie University Aboriginal
Wright Alexandra Canadian Association for Social Work Education Aboriginal