Priority Must Be Prevention and Family Preservation, Not Apprehension – Grand Chief Daniels
June 18, 2021
ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) continues to be disappointed by Manitoba’s child and family services policies and programs, including yesterday’s announcement of a supported guardianship program for children in care.
“The government is trying to make people believe they support keeping children within the family but in reality, this program is still based on taking children away from their parents, away from their family home,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “SCO wants to see the provincial government and the General Child and Family Services (CFS) Authority commit to a system based on prevention and family preservation, not apprehension.”
Manitoba’s families minister, Rochelle Squires, announced yesterday the new ‘Supported Guardianship Program’ for children in care of the General CFS Authority. The program can be offered to a child’s family member or “adults who are considered to be family” who have been caring for the child for a period of time. This is predicated on the idea that staying with parents is not in the best interest of the child.
The Supported Guardianship Program does not have any embedded policies that would prevent giving guardianship to strangers or prevent First Nation and other children from growing up in culturally uninformed homes. The program states that children should be with a guardian who has looked after them for at least six continuous months, however, there is no explicit policy to ensure the supported guardian is a family member in every case.
Pushing guardianship onto the child’s extended family is also a way for the provincial government to stop funding basic care remuneration for children in care, and it will increase pressure on families’ financial resources.
“Intergenerational poverty continues to be one of the main underlying factors in the apprehension of First Nation children,” stated Lake Manitoba First Nation Chief and Chair of the SCO Chiefs’ Committee on Child Welfare, Cornell McLean. “Many First Nation families who are dealing with the child and family services system are already dealing with limited finances and even poverty. This program would allow the provincial government to both continue its policy of apprehension and limit its funding of basic care for children in its custody.”
In 2019, the federal government passed Bill C-92, which affirms and recognizes Indigenous peoples’ jurisdiction over child and family services and confirms that Indigenous communities and groups are to be free to develop policies and laws based on their particular histories, cultures, and circumstances.
The Supported Guardianship program clearly undermines Bill C-92 when it comes to children in care of the General CFS Authority. First Nation communities should have jurisdiction over their child and family services. Over 90% of the 11,000 children in care in Manitoba are Indigenous, with more than half being from southern First Nations.
The Southern First Nation Network of Care has already been implementing kinship and customary care programs for years, to ensure children can stay with family members and in culturally appropriate homes. However, the General CFS Authority continues to undermine these programs by depriving southern agencies of the funds needed to support children that have been transferred to their care by the General CFS Authority. This has contributed to the chronic underfunding of First Nation CFS agencies.
“First Nations are best placed to transform child welfare services in Manitoba,” concluded Grand Chief Daniels. “Despite the chronic underfunding of our agenda, southern First Nation leadership has been able to guide our child welfare agencies to make essential and culturally appropriate changes to the ways in which our families and communities are served. This should be the goal, and we must ensure that First Nations’ rights and jurisdiction over child welfare are upheld to protect our children and our families.”
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations and more than 80,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.
For Media Inquiries:
Caitlin Reid, Manager of Communications, Southern Chiefs’ Organization
(204) 557-2399 | Email: Media@scoinc.mb.ca