Partnering with Indigenous Communities to Keep Indigenous Children Out of Care

Concrete steps that catapult truth-telling about Canada’s history into action is what is needed to improve outcomes for Indigenous children, families and communities.

Partnering with Indigenous Communities to Keep Indigenous Children Out of Care

With the recent amendments to the Child, Family and Services Community Act (“CFCSA”) that came into force on April 1, 2019, Indigenous communities and designated Indigenous organizations (set out in the Child, Family, and Community Service Regulation1) have been given the ability to play a significant role in decision-making affecting Indigenous children involved with the Director. Parent’s counsel and Director’s counsel acting for parties in CFCSA proceedings have an invaluable partner in their corner when advocating for outcomes that keep Indigenous children safely in their families and communities. As Indigenous communities develop greater capacity to participate in child-protection decision-making, it is essential that counsel assist in bridging the connection between the community and decision-making forums (not limited to mediation, alternative dispute resolution, and court) by contacting the community with an invitation to participate from the outset and then at every stage of involvement.

Indigenous communities have the ability to enter agreements with the Director, including information sharing agreements that will enable early access to information pertaining to alleged child protection concerns. With access to information early on and prior to removal, Indigenous communities will be able to meaningfully participate in planning that will keep their children out of foster care. In keeping with the amended guiding principles, “Indigenous children are entitled: to learn about and practise their Indigenous traditions, customs and languages, and belong to their Indigenous communities.” Further and importantly, “Indigenous families and Indigenous communities share responsibility for the upbringing and well-being of Indigenous children.” The amendments make clear that Indigenous perspectives on how to keep children safe and connected to their culture and communities should factor significantly into child protection planning.

Indigenous lawyer, Ardith Walkem, QC, authored an incredible tool that every judge, lawyer, advocate and frontline worker should be familiar with: Wrapping our Ways Around Them: Aboriginal Communities and the CFCSA Guidebook2(“Guidebook”). While the 2015 publication of the Guidebook predates the recent CFCSA amendments, it sets out in detail the legal landscape, colonial impacts on children and families and how to protect the identity, culture and heritage of children. The Guidebook provides practical tools that can be readily implemented into daily practice and planning for children and it makes several recommendations on how to transform the broken child protection system. The overarching theme in the Guidebook is how greater involvement of Indigenous communities at every level will lead to better outcomes for Indigenous children.

Involving Indigenous communities is as simple as placing a phone call to the community or organization and requesting to speak to the person responsible for supporting children and families involved in child protection. Once the connection is made, collaborative decision-making can begin. The importance of bridging that connection cannot be understated as collaboration with Indigenous communities will be central to the transformation that needs to occur in the child protection system. Further, partnering with Indigenous communities and carving out space that places the community on equal footing in the decision-making process puts reconciliation into action. Concrete steps that catapult truth-telling about Canada’s history into action is what is needed to improve outcomes for Indigenous children, families and communities.


  1. Child, Family and Community Service Regulation, BC Reg. 149/2019. |
  2. wrappingourways.ca/guidebook |

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