The overrepresentation of First Nations children in the Ontario child welfare system: A call for systemic change

download file

Quinn, A., Fallon, B., Joh-Carnella, N., & Saint-Girons, M. (2022). The overrepresentation of First Nations children in the Ontario child welfare system: A call for systemic change. Children and Youth Services Review, 139. 

Quinn, A.

Fallon, B.

Joh-Carnella, N.

Saint-Girons, M.

Journal article
Canadian CW research


First Nations children are overrepresented in the Canadian child welfare system as a result of generations of colonial practices that have systematically separated First Nations children from their families. In recent years in Ontario and Canada, changes to policies and practice guidelines have been aimed at ameliorating outcomes for First Nations children and families involved with the child welfare system. Given the significant changes made to policy and practice between the 2013 and 2018 cycles of the Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS), this paper examines if the disparities in child welfare service dispositions persisted for First Nations children between study cycles. Secondary analyses of the OIS-2013 and OIS-2018 were conducted. Descriptive information on investigations involving First Nations children in Ontario in 2018 is presented along with two logistic regressions predicting placement in 2013 and 2018. When controlling for child, caregiver, household, and investigation characteristics, investigations involving First Nations children were approximately two times as likely to result in an out-of-home placement compared to investigations involving white children in both 2013 and 2018. Despite significant policy and practice changes that were implemented in the intervening five years between study cycles, the disparity in placement rates documented in Ontario in 2013 remained in 2018. Systemic re-structuring of Ontario child welfare is required to address this overrepresentation, and the existing forensic investigation model needs to be replaced with a more supportive, community-based, and prevention-focused model.