Contemporary Issues in Indigenous Health
There has been a battling number of Indigenous children who are not being cared for properly in the homes of their biological parents and many of these children are being apprehended and cared for by non-Indigenous parents. This policy paper will discuss some policies that govern Indigenous child welfare, its strengths and weakness to the child and possible interventions to reduce the rate of child apprehension.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) allowed for over 6000 Indigenous voices and stories to be heard to promote change. However, an alarming report extensively on the child welfare system. The child welfare system in Canada has led to the removal of children from their communities through different systems which has resulted in indigenous children losing their languages, culture and community ties (NCCAH, 2017). This led to the TRC cited changes to child welfare as its top Calls to Action. These calls focus on increasing funding for Indigenous welfare, establishing national standards for the various agencies, keeping Indigenous children in culturally-relevant homes, and reducing the number of Indigenous children in the welfare system in comparison with non-Indigenous children (NCCAH, 2017). “Which to date has not been met? Indigenous children represent 52.2% of children in foster care in private homes in Canada. The over-representation of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation children in the child welfare system have become a humanitarian crisis. Indigenous children who have been in care face greater risks of adverse health outcomes, violence, and incarceration” (Metis Nation, 2018).
Child Welfare Systems and Policies
Manitoba has a total of 11,000 children in care and 10,000 are indigenous children. Statistic Canada data shows 4,300 Indigenous children under the age of four are currently in foster care (Statistic Canada, 2016). “In Manitoba, the child and Family Services have a division of the family services that oversees family supports, and protection services to children that are delivered under the mandate of the Child and Family Services Act 1985” (Milne, Kozlowski, and Sinha, 2014).
The Manitoba child and family services cover the child in need of protection, which is a service that is provided to children between the ages of 0-17years. According to section 17 of The Child and Family Services Act, a child is considered in need of protection if that child experiences physical and sexual abuse, emotional disability of a permanent nature or sexual exploitation due to an action (Milne, Kozlowski, and Sinha, 2014).
“Hence, a child is considered in need of protection if he/she is without adequate care, supervision and control, is beyond control of caregiver, might be engaged by caregivers conducts, if the child is being neglected by caregiver, if the child is likely to suffer harm or injury, if the child is left unattended at age 12 and lastly, if the child is about to become a subject of an unlawful adoption under The Adoption Act Section 84” (Milne, Kozlowski, and Sinha, 2014).
However, the adoption Act tends to affect indigenous families because, under the act, an adopted child will lose all intestate right with respect to the estate of their birth parents. This can lead to indigenous children losing their cultural value completely if they end up in non-indigenous families.
In addition, there is a spectrum of Services the Child and family services provides to children between the ages of 0- 17 years. Some of which include counseling services, guidance, educational support, investigations, emergency shelter services, and out-of-home placements. The CFS provides these services by themselves or by community/organisation partners. (Milne, Kozlowski, and Sinha, 2014). Most importantly, services that support Indigenous children and families. The Authority Determination Protocol helps determine the most culturally appropriate authority to provide services to the family, which makes decisions on whether or not the family is Indigenous and hold indigenous status in the community. The protocol states that “parents have the right to choose the Authority from which they wish to receive service. Children, however, over the range of 12 years must be consulted by the work to review documents. Moreover, the family or expectant minor parent may choose a culturally appropriate authority or any other authority. Once decisions are made by families it is then filed and transferred for on-going services” (Milne, Kozlowski, and Sinha, 2014).
Policy Analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses and Cultural Appropriateness
Policies and procedures help guide the actions of individuals involved in the service. It ensures and endorses the well-being of all families, children, workers who have connections with the service. Many of about 100,000 children and youth in Canada are under the protection of child and family services and comes to no surprise that many children in the system face emotional, physical, or behavioral problems that need to be addressed from a root cause (poverty).
Canada is one of the developed countries that can helps to avoid the crisis from parental abuse and or neglect and alienation from parents. Instead, the Government channels income to foster parents, adoptive parent or guardians, and are left to struggle with the consequences. For example; studies have shown that girls who abuse and show inappropriate behavior towards other children is a result of them being previously sexually abused. Another study in Washington State showed that 72% of foster children have emotional disturbances that were indistinguishable from children that are being cared for in intensive mental health programs (Hébert and MacDonald, 2009).
The multigenerational Adverse Childhood Experiences Study showed that between child and youth in the system have drug use problem. “Furthermore, recent research in neurobiology has found that child abuse leads to epigenetic changes that can be passed from generation to generation” (Hébert and MacDonald, 2009).
The child welfare system is known to place children to different child and youth agencies multiple times. In most cases, children and youth in care are moved 3 to 7 times due to the lack of stability and permanency in the government. This continuous transfer has a profoundly negative impact on them by setting the stage for depression, behavioral and relationship difficulties, academic failure and many more. Hence, children in the system need long-term, consistent medical and mental health care to mitigate the consequences of abuse and neglect. Because the constant move of foster children from foster home to foster home may reduce health care efforts or progress on the child (Hébert and MacDonald, 2009). Treatment programs are interrupted, and long-term professional follow-ups are usually difficult. In addition, privacy and confidentiality issues of child welfare systems make it difficult for foster parents to be updated on the child’s medical history and biological history. Some records are even misplaced when the child goes through the multiple transfers in the system. This leads to low continuity of physical and mental health care of the child (Hébert and MacDonald, 2009).
There is no doubt policies and practice are intended to protect children living in “unsafe” environments and to facilitate their proper development. The system also may intend to reduce future neglects and abuse by other parents. It gives a form of awareness to parents to they play their parental role to avoid their child being apprehended (Adams et al, 2007).
Indigenous children in the system are more likely to lose their cultural value completely if they end up in non-indigenous family systems.
Based on Hébert and McDonald “Canada can improve child welfare for the long-term benefit of the future generation by creating integrated approaches to the delivery of programs and services that encompasses all of the needs of children in care. Hence, a better collaboration, such as structured meetings that include representatives of foster care and other social services, the criminal justice system, health care, and education, with maximal efforts to optimize foster placements and minimize moves. In addition, introducing a universal or portable health record, accessible by all providers of health, social and educational services. This record would help ensure that, if a child is moved, his or her records would remain accessible and the chain of treatment would not be interrupted. Lastly, a system to monitor supportive care of foster children and its outcomes in an open and transparent way to ensure we can measure results and create the most effective programs”
In addition, the Government of Canada, with First Nation, Inuit, and Métis Nation leaders announced legislation to be introduced on Indigenous child and family services this year which will focus on identifying ways to reduce the numbers of Indigenous children in care. The legislation aims to support Indigenous families to raise their children within their homelands and also increase efforts to prevent child apprehension where possible and safe to do so (Indigenous Services Canada, 2018).
The health outcomes for children and youth in the child welfare system are often alarming. We end up channeling a huge amount of money in the welfare system that barely brings positive health results when there is the need to channel money into root causes (poverty) of the problem in the first place. The child welfare system to some extent may lead to the loss of productive young life’s, most of whom end up in the criminal justice system which ruins the bright future they could have had not been in the welfare system.
- Adams, G. R., Cameron, G., & Coady, N. (2007). Moving toward positive systems of child and family welfare: Current issues and future directions. Waterloo, Ont: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
- Canada, I. S. (2018, November 30). The government of Canada, with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders, announce co-developed legislation will be introduced on Indigenous child and family services in early 2019 Français. Retrieved February 6, 2019, from canada-with-first-nations-inuit-and-metis-nation-leaders-announce-co-developed-legislation-will-be-introduced-on-indigenous-child-and-family-services-in-early-2019-701636712.html">https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/government-of-canada-with-first-nations-inuit-and-metis-nation-leaders-announce-co-developed-legislation-will-be-introduced-on-indigenous-child-and-family-services-in-early-2019-701636712.html
- Hébert, P. C., & MacDonald, N. (2009). Health care for foster kids: Fix the system, save a child. Canadian Medical Association. Journal, 181(8), 453.
- NCCA. (2017). [ebook] Canada: Indigenous Children and the Child Welfare system in Canada, pp.1-12. Available at: https://www.ccnsa-nccah.ca/docs/health/FS-ChildWelfareCanada-EN.pdf [Accessed 3 Feb. 2019].
- Milne, L., Kozlowski, A., and Sinha, V. (2014). Manitoba’s Child Welfare System. [online] Cwrp.ca. Available at: http://cwrp.ca/sites/default/files/publications/en/MB_final_infosheet.pdf [Accessed 1 Feb. 2019].
- Statistic Canada. (2016). Census in Brief: Portrait of children’s family life in Canada in 2016. [online] Available at: https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/as-sa/98-200-x/2016006/98-200-x2016006-eng.cfm [Accessed 2 Feb. 2019].
- Metis Nation. (20, December 1). Government of Canada, with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation leaders, announce co-developed legislation will be introduced on Indigenous child and family services in early 2019. Retrieved February 24, 2019, from canada-with-first-nations-inuit-and-metis-nation-leaders-announce-co-developed-legislation-will-be-introduced-on-indigenous-child-and-family-services-in-early-2019">http://www.metisnation.ca/index.php/news/government-of-canada-with-first-nations-inuit-and-metis-nation-leaders-announce-co-developed-legislation-will-be-introduced-on-indigenous-child-and-family-services-in-early-2019