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January 21, 2010

Re: Child welfare for natives

Jean Crowder, MP

I read Reuel S. Amdur’s article “Child welfare for natives” with interest.

Although I agree that First Nation child welfare services need to be fully-funded to be effective and that education on reserves is also suffering from a lack of funding, I think Mr. Amdur missed an important critique on why so many First Nations children are in care.

Too often, children are removed from a family living in poverty for “neglect”. That doesn’t mean a child is facing abuse, it means that the parents do not provide a living situation deemed acceptable by child welfare agencies.

One example I know of is a child who was placed in foster care because his parents had to live with their parents, one of whom had a criminal record. That was unacceptable to the child welfare agency and they broke the family up by placing the child in an overcrowded foster home.

The solution to that situation was not to remove the child but to provide the parents with safe, secure housing. But child welfare agencies do not have that mandate.

We can reduce the number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children in care but only if we start to think of a range of solutions available to keep families together instead of depending on one strategy – removal – as the answer to all the problems families’ face.

Yours truly,

Jean Crowder, MP

NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic

Amdur’s reply

I agree with Jean Crowder’s observations.  They are related to the underfunding of child welfare services on reserves as well as the need for more and better housing and anti-poverty measures for natives more generally. 

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