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 Authorssort icon Year Type of Publication
Confidence to foster across cultures: Caregiver perspectives

Brown, Jason D.
Sintzel, Jennifer
St. Arnault, David
George, Natalie

2009 Journal article
The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2009: Growing Up Well - Priorities for a Healthy Future

Butler-Jones, David

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

Carriere, Jeannine
Richardson, Cathy

2009 Book chapter
Aboriginal Children: Maintaining Connections in Adoption

Carriere, Jeannine
Scarth, Sandra

2007 Book chapter
Walking this path together: Anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice in child welfare

Carriere, Jeannine
Strega, Susan

2015 Book
Exploring alternate specifications to explain agency-level effects in placement decisions regarding Aboriginal children: Further analysis of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect part B

Chabot, Martin
Fallon, Barbara
Tonmyr, Lil
MacLaurin, Bruce
Fluke, John
Blackstock, Cindy

2013 Journal article
Health and well-being of children in care in British Columbia: Report 1 on health services utilization and mortality

Child and Youth Officer for British Columbia

2006 Report
Aboriginal Cultural Connections: A Child Protection Resource Guide

Child Protection Services, Department of Community Services and Seniors

2015 Report
Parents with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in the child protection systems: Issues for parenting capacity assessments

Choate, Peter W.

2013 Journal article
Psychometrics In Parenting Capacity Assessments – A Problem For First Nations Parents

Choate, Peter W.
McKenzie, Amber

2015 Journal article

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