CWRP Information Sheet #98E. (2012). Montreal, QC: McGill University, Centre for Research on Children and Families.
This information sheet presents an overview of the current structure of First Nations child welfare in British Columbia as it was in 2011. It builds on work done for the First Nations component of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (FNCIS-2008), a collaboration between university researchers and representatives of major Aboriginal child welfare organizations, to analyze, contextualize and disseminate research investigations involving First Nations children included in the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and neglect (Sinha, et al., 2011). Basic information about the structure of First Nations child welfare was compiled in order to contextualize FNCIS-2008 findings. FNCIS-2008 advisory committee members completed 2-page information sheets consisting of closed and open-ended questions about the historical trajectories, umbrella/support organizations, legislative/policy frameworks, funding models, and scope of First Nations child welfare agencies in their jurisdictions. Research team members followed up by collecting and reviewing government documents, child welfare legislation, court documents and research reports in order to verify, refine, and provide formal references for the information provided by committee members.
In 2006, there were 129,580 First Nations people in British Columbia; they represented 18.6% of the total First Nations population in Canada and 3.2 % of the British Columbia population (Statistics Canada, 2006). First Nations children (aged zero to nineteen) constituted 6% of the child population in British Columbia; an additional 2% of the child population was non-First Nations Aboriginal (Statistics Canada, 2006 Census).1
While 2006 census data indicated that Aboriginal children made up 8 % of the child population in British Columbia, the British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development (2009) reported that 52 % of all children in care in 2007/08 were Aboriginal.
First Nations communities in British Columbia have long worked to re-gain control over child welfare practices related to their children. The results of their efforts are demonstrated by the existence of 22 Aboriginal child welfare agencies which currently provide services and an additional eight agencies which are in start up or planning stages. The existing Aboriginal agencies include the only First Nations child welfare agency in Canada that is not tied to provincial child welfare laws, a second agency operated by a nation which has secured the right to make its own child welfare laws, a third agency which serves the entire Aboriginal child population of Vancouver (the third most populated city in Canada), and a fourth agency that is the sole First Nations child welfare agency in British Columbia (and one of two in Canada) which is delegated to provide adoption services (Carrière, 2007). In addition to the growing scope of First Nations agencies, the legislative and child welfare standards governing British Columbia’s provincially run child welfare agencies acknowledge the importance of community, heritage, and cultural ties for Aboriginal children.
The History of the First Nations Child Welfare System in British Columbia
British Columbia shares a common national history with other provinces in regards to the development of First Nations child welfare. Residential schools served as the primary mechanism of First Nations child welfare in Canada between 1879 and 1946 (Milloy, 1999). During this period, the Canadian government’s policy was to attempt to assimilate Aboriginal peoples into Anglo-European culture by separating Aboriginal children from their families and placing them in residential schools. Residential schools were also the institutions which provided state care for First Nations children who were found to be abused or neglected in their homes (Milloy, 1999). In 1920 an amendment to the Indian Act made attendance at designated state sponsored (day, residential, institutional) schools mandatory for all children “between the ages of seven and fifteen years” who were physically able to attend (An Act to amend the Indian Act, 1920, A10). It also allowed truant officers to enforce attendance, giving them the right to, “enter any place where he has reason to believe there are Indian children” of school age and to arrest and convey to school truant children. (An Act to amend the Indian Act, 1920, A10). In British Columbia there were 28 residential schools operating between the years of 1861 and 1984 (Assembly of First Nations, 2010).
In 1951, the introduction of Section 88 to the Indian Act made “all laws of general application from time to time in force in any province applicable to and in respect of Indians in the province” (Indian Act, s. 88, c. 9, s. 151, 1985). Section 88 made it possible to enforce provincial child welfare legislation on-reserve. For the first time, provincial child welfare authorities began to apprehend Aboriginal children living on-reserve; this resulted in a sharp increase of First Nations children placed in care (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). Before the introduction of Section 88 less than one percent of children in care in British Columbia were Aboriginal; by the early 1960s approximately 34% of children in care were Aboriginal (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996). The rate of child apprehension was even greater in some specific communities. For example, between 1951 and 1979 approximately 67% of the child population of the Spallumcheen First Nation was apprehended by the provincial child welfare authorities (Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, 2002).
Starting in the early 1980s, First Nations communities in British Columbia began to publicly express dissatisfactions with provincial child welfare services (Scarth and Sullivan, 2007). In 1981, the Spallumcheen Indian Band established the original First Nations child welfare agency in British Columbia; it remains the only First Nation in Canada to achieve a band-by-law model, which frees it from the constraints of provincial laws and standards (Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996; Union of BC Indian Chiefs, 2002). The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council established the second First Nations child welfare agency in British Columbia in 1985 (Foster and Wharf, 2007). By 1991, due to a national rise in the number of First Nations child welfare agencies and a perceived lack of funding for such services, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)2 implemented a national First Nations child welfare program (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). The program was comprised of a funding formula, Directive 20-1, and standards, documented in the First Nations Child and Family Services National Program Manual, which required First Nations child welfare agencies to conduct child welfare services based on provincial standards (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). The program placed greater constraints on First Nations child welfare agencies, binding them to provincial standards of practice and standardizing funding of services (Auditor General of Canada, 2008).
Between 1991 and 1999, fifteen additional First Nations child welfare agencies were established in British Columbia. Among these was an agency developed by the Nisga’a Lisims Nation which, in 1999, signed a treaty with the British Columbia government allowing the Nisga’a Lisims government to “make laws with respect to children and family service on Nisga’a lands,” so long as they are comparable to provincial standards (Foster, 2007, p.55). The number of First Nations agencies continued to increase in the first decade of the 21st century; the most recently delegated to conduct child welfare investigations is the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Service Society. The agency first started providing services in 2001; it now provides a full range of serves, other than adoption services, to Aboriginal children and families in Vancouver (Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Service Society, 2010).
In the last decade, several important attempts have been made to increase First Nations control over child welfare service delivery to First Nations children and families. In 2001, the provincial government officially proposed development of child welfare authorities, which would integrate Aboriginal and mainstream service delivery models within five regions of British Columbia (MacDonald, 2008). In 2002, the First Nations Summit, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, United Native Nations, Métis Provincial Council of BC, Bands, Tribal Councils and child welfare service delivery organizations along with the British Columbia government signed the Tsawwassen Accord (Foster and Wharf, 2007). This accord was a formal commitment made by the British Columbia government to establish improved collaboration between the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and Aboriginal communities in child welfare service provision.
Neither of these initiatives resulted in dramatic changes in the British Columbia child welfare system but, they have served as incremental steps towards First Nations self-governance in the area of child welfare service provision (Joint Aboriginal Management Committee, 2004). The Tsawwassen Accord expired in 2007, but led to the development of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Joint Aboriginal Management Committee (JAMC) meant to address issues related to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and families involved with the child welfare system (MacDonald, 2008). Included in the JAMC mandate was the task of overseeing discussions related to the movement of Aboriginal child welfare services to a regionalized model (MacDonald, 2008). Since 2001, only two of the five British Columbia child welfare regions, Vancouver Island and Fraser, have achieved Interim Aboriginal Authority status (MacDonald, 2008). Concerns related to the lack of MCFD consultation with Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal child welfare directors, inconsistencies between the MCFD’s vision of regionalization and that of Aboriginal communities, and the lack of clarity regarding the implementation and running of a regionalized model are among the issues preventing development of regional child welfare authorities (MacDonald, 2008). Wharf (2007) and MacDonald (2008) have noted that, while Aboriginal communities have expressed limited support for regional child welfare authorities.,he move towards regionalization, remains a priority for the British Columbia government.
In 2008 the First Nations Leadership Council along with the province of British Columbia signed the recognition and reconciliation protocol on First Nations Children, Youth and Families. The purpose of the protocol was to formalize a commitment by both parties to collaborate in decisions made regarding First Nations child welfare service delivery. The First Nations child wellness council was also established in 2008 mandated to assist in implementing the Indigenous Child at the Centre Action Plan; a plan centered on six goals including “to enable First Nations governance and Nation-building” and “to participate in the ongoing development of culturally-appropriate policy and legislation” (First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council, 2008).
The Current Structure of First Nations Child Welfare in British Columbia (2011)
In British Columbia, there are 22 Aboriginal child welfare agencies which currently provide child welfare services and an additional eight agencies which are in start up or planning stages. Of the total 30 Aboriginal child welfare agencies, 23 are First Nations agencies, four are Métis agencies, and three are urban Aboriginal agencies. The names of these agencies are listed in Table 1. First Nations child welfare agencies are supported by The Caring for First Nation’s Children Society (CFNCS), which works with the BC First Nations Directors Forum; a representative body of all on-reserve delegated child and family service agencies in British Columbia, the Métis Directors Forum, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), and the MCFD; the partnership operates as a tripartite arrangement and is meant to create a link between all delegated Aboriginal agencies and government officials (Caring for First Nation’s Children Society, 2010).
All Aboriginal child welfare agencies in British Columbia develop through a graduated delegation system in which agencies acquire increased responsibilities as they move through six stages: pre-planning, planning, start-up, voluntary child protection services, guardianship services and full delegation. Table 1 also indicates the delegation level of each agency, combining the pre-planning, planning and start-up stages into a single, pre-operational stage. As indicated in Table 1, three agencies are currently in planning or start-up stages. Those in the pre-planning phase are in the preliminary stages of development. Those in the planning stage must outline community needs, service deliver models, funding arrangements, agency organization and other details related to the execution of child welfare services (MCFD, 2011). Agencies in the start-up phase “begin to operationalize the readiness criteria established in the planning stage.” Two additional agencies currently provide voluntary child protection services only, agencies in this phase offer support services to families, handle voluntary care agreements including temporary out-of-home placements and special needs agreements (MCFD, 2011). The 11 agencies currently in guardianship stage offer all the services provided by agencies in the voluntary child protection stage; they also “develop, monitor and review comprehensive plans of care for children in care,” including permanency planning, transitional services for children moving out of the child protection system, and management of out-of-home care services (MCFD, 2011). Fully delegated child welfare agencies provide the full range of child protection services, excluding adoption services for the majority of agencies but including child welfare investigation, and have signed agreements with the provincial government that give them authority to enforce the Child, Family and Community Service Act (British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, 2011; Child, Family and Community Service Act, 1996). There are currently nine fully delegated Aboriginal child welfare agencies in British Columbia. The First Nations served by these nine agencies are listed in Table 2.
The 22 First Nations agencies in British Columbia serve children and families living on-reserve; collectively, they deliver services to roughly 120 of the approximately 200 First Nations bands in the province (Auditor General of Canada, 2008). There are also Aboriginal child welfare agencies that provide services off-reserve, including the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (VACFSS). VACFSS is among a group of three Aboriginal child welfare agencies in Canada to provide services to Aboriginal people in major urban areas (Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Service Society, 2010). The Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society also provides services to Aboriginal children and families off-reserve covering the Fraser region; consequently all Aboriginal children living in the greater Vancouver area fall under the jurisdiction of an Aboriginal child welfare agency.
Other than the Spallumcheen Indian Band and the Nisga’a Lisims Nation, all delegated First Nations child welfare agencies in British Columbia are bound by provincial child welfare legislation and standards. The Child, Family and Community Service Act includes statements related to child welfare service provision to Aboriginal children and families including that “Aboriginal people should be involved in the planning and delivery of services to aboriginal families and their children”; and that “child welfare decisions should preserve a child’s cultural identity if the child is an Aboriginal child and that kinship ties and attachment to extended family should be preserved when possible” (Child, Family and Community Service Act, 1996). As part of adherence to such principles, the British Columbian government has adopted Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standards to make statements related to culturally appropriate service provision to Aboriginal children and families. Expectations include: prioritizing child placement within Aboriginal communities, involving families and communities in intervention plans, promoting children’s access to information on their heritage, and ensuring a child has access to cultural ceremonies (British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development, 2005).
First Nations child welfare agencies in British Columbia receive funding under the terms of AANDC’s national formula, Directive 20-1, for child welfare service provision on-reserve and from the province of British Columbia for service provision off-reserve (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2007). Directive 20-1 provides operations funding based on the on-reserve child population size and covers maintenance costs for children placed in out of home care (MacDonald & Ladd, 2000). Directive 20-1 has also been criticized for under-funding administrative and child maintenance services for First Nations children, failing to fund preventative or support services for families of children who are not in-care, and contributing to jurisdictional disputes which compromise the quality and efficiency of services for First Nations children (Blackstock, Prakash, Loxley, & Wien, 2005; Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, 2007; MacDonald & Ladd, 2000). The funding arrangement for on-reserve maintenance costs in British Columbia was unique; it was based on an average costs for residential care, which were estimated annually, rather than the actual costs of such services (Loxley, DeRiviere, Prakash, Blackstock, Wien, Prokop, 2005). The Auditor General of Canada (2008) as well as the Auditor General of British Columbia (2008) found that this system of reimbursing Aboriginal agencies for out-of-home services provided to children on-reserve did not accurately represent the actual costs incurred by Aboriginal agencies. As a result, AANDC announced a shift to funding actual, rather than estimated costs, for out of home care services starting in April 2011 (INAC, 2010).
AANDC is in the process of shifting funding for First Nations child welfare services from Directive 20-1 to the “Enhanced prevention focused funding” formula in many Canadian provinces (INAC, 2010). The “enhanced prevention focused funding” model addresses some key criticisms of directive 20-1, providing increased funding (Auditor General of Canada 2008, INAC 2010), specifically targeting funds for prevention, and allowing agencies increased flexibility in using funds (Government of Canada 2009, Johnston 2009). In British Columbia, a tripartite agreement was developed between the British Columbia government, INAC and First Nations agencies, to shift child welfare funding from Directive 20-1 to “Enhanced Prevention Focused” funding, a shift that has not been realized due to lack of funds (Johnston, 2009, S.177).
Table 1: The Graduated Delegation Aboriginal Child Welfare System in British Columbia in 2011
|Fully Delegated||Guardianship Only||Voluntary Services Only||Start-up and Planning|
|Lalum'Utul'Smun'eem Child and Family Services||Aywas Men Men Child & Family Services (Squamish Nation)||Heiltsuk Kaxla Child and Family Service Program||Desniqui Services Soecity|
|Knucwentwecw Society||Carrier Sekani Family Services||K'wak'walat'si (Namgis) Child and Family Services||Nenan Dane Zaa Deh! Zona Family Services Society|
|Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Child and Family Services Society||Gitxsan Child & Family Services Society||Haida Family and Child Services Society||Okanagan Nation|
|Nlha'7Kapmx Child and Family Services Societ||Kwumut Lelum
Child & Family Services
|Wet'Suwet'en Nation Child and Family Services|
|Scw'exmx Child and Family Services Society||
Métis Family Services
|Interior Métis Child and Family Services|
|Secwepemc Child and Family Services Agency||Nezul Be Hunuyeh Child and Family Services Society||Laichwiltach Family Life Society*|
|Nuu-Chan-Nulth Tribal Counsel Usma Family and Child Services||Nil/Tu,O Child and Family Services Society||Métis Community Services Society of BC|
|Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society||Nisga'a Child and Family Services||Island Métis Family and Community Services|
|Vancouver Aboriginal* Child and Family Services Society||Northwest Inter-Nation Family and Community Services Society|
|Surrounded by Cedar Child and Family Services*|
* Urban Aboriginal agencies
Table 2: Fully Delegated Aboriginal Child Welfare Agencies in British Columbia in 2011
|Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society||Aitchelitz, Chawathil, Cheam, Kwantlen, Kwaw Kwaw Apilt ,Lakahahmen, Matsqui, Peters, Popkum, Scowlitz, Seabird Island, Shxw’ow’hamel, Skawahlook, Skwah, Skway, Soowahlie, Squiala, Sumas, Tzeachten, Union Bar, Yakweakwioose, Yalet|
|Knucwentwecw Society||Williams Lake, Soda Creek, Canoe Creek, Canim Lake|
|Ktunaxa-Kinbasket Family & Child Services||Columbia Lake, Lower Kootenay, Shuswap, St. Mary's, Tobacco Plains|
|Lalum'utul'smun'een Child and Family Services||Cowichan Tribes|
|Nlha'7kapmx Child & Family Services||Cook's Ferry,Kanaka Bar, Lytton, Nicomen, Siska, Skuppah|
|Scw'exmx Child and Family Services Society||Coldwater, Lower Nicola, Nooaitch, Shackan, Upper Nicola|
|Secwepemc Child and Family Services||Adams Lake, Bonaparte, Kamloops, Neskonlith, North Thompson, Skeetchestn, Whispering Pines|
|Usma Nuu Chah Nulth Community & Human Services||Ahousat, Ditidaht, Ehattesaht, Hesquiaht, Huu-ay-aht, Ka:’yu:k’t’h’/Che:K:tles7et’h, Mowachat/Muchalaht, Hupacasath, Nuchatlaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Toquaht, Tseshaht, Uchucklesaht, Ucluelet|
|Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society||Vancouver Urban (Vancouver/Richmond)|
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