B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system is overly complex and under-resourced, new BCGEU report says

October 8, 2015

B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system is complex, culturally unsuitable, under-resourced, severely under-staffed and struggles under its own complexity, according to a BCGEU report titled Closing the circle: a case for reinvesting in Aboriginal child, youth and family services released today. 

“The political leadership of our province must take responsibility for properly prioritizing and resourcing B.C.’s Aboriginal child, youth and family welfare system to avoid further tragedies,” says BCGEU president Stephanie Smith. 

“As Aboriginal people, we absolutely need and deserve culturally appropriate and adequately funded Aboriginal child, youth and family services,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, who has endorsed the report.

B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system needs to be reformed to address cultural sensitivities and historical injustices, and define a new service delivery model. The current system is not structured in the best interests of Aboriginal children or families. It involves an overly complex patchwork of agencies, relationships and funding arrangements.

B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system also requires a major investment in resources, staffing, cultural training, and improved transparency and financial accountability, the report finds. 

Key report themes include: systemic administrative complexity; historical and cultural factors; the lack of trust between Aboriginal families and communities and the child and family welfare system; lack of funding for culturally-appropriate services; insufficient staffing levels and training.

“It's time for the provincial government to fully embrace and act on this report's findings, and ensure that Aboriginal children and families are receiving the supports they need and deserve,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

The Closing the circle report will be launched at a public event at 5:30pm today featuring Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, and Dr. Cindy Blackstock. BCGEU union members will be attending the event via video conference at area offices across the province. The event is at full capacity.

The BCGEU is one of the most diverse labour unions in the province, representing 65,000 workers at 550 different employers across British Columbia. 

The union represents over 400 Aboriginal children, youth and family workers at five delegated and partially delegated Aboriginal agencies out of a total of 23 across the province.

The Closing the circle report can be downloaded here.

Media: for interview requests, please call Oliver Rohlfs BCGEU Communications (778)318-9164

Download full report here.