SOURCE: Huu-ay-aht First Nations Social Services Independent Panel

June 01, 2017 14:04 ET

Independent Panel Delivers Recommendations to Huu-ay-aht First Nations on Children in Foster Care

PORT ALBERNI, BC--(Marketwired - June 01, 2017) - Today, an independent panel, appointed by Huu-ay-aht First Nations' Executive Council, presented recommendations to improve its child protection and family welfare services.

Huu-ay-aht children today are, like other indigenous children in B.C., many times more likely to be taken away from their families and placed into the foster care system than are non-indigenous children. Huu-ay-aht children are vulnerable under the legacies of the colonial and illegal taking of the Huu-ay-aht people's lands and resources, Canada's residential school system, the Sixties Scoop and the continued systematic removal of children from their families into foster care by the provincial government.

As a self-governing nation, the Huu-ay-aht First Nations have determined it is a priority to take focused and concerted action to "bring our children home" and to keep Huu-ay-aht children safe, healthy and connected to their families, culture and community. As part of this work, Huu-ay-aht Executive Council appointed an independent panel to hear from the Huu-ay-aht community, research promising practices and interview external agencies. The panel was given a mandate to provide Huu-ay-aht government with recommendations for concrete steps to be taken to improve outcomes for Huu-ay-aht children and families who are in, or at risk of being taken into, the foster care system.

The independent panel's research and interview process began in November 2016 and concluded May 2017.

The panel's 30 recommendations build upon the important work and recommendations made previously to the British Columbia provincial government and federal government by the B.C. Representative for Children and Youth and by Special Advisor Grand Chief Ed John, but they are focused on a 'made in Huu-ay-aht' path forward.

"Throughout our interview process, we heard from Huu-ay-aht people who have come through great adversity -- their own confrontations with addictions, violence and poverty -- who, from the depths of their spirits, want to help other Huu-ay-aht people away from that pain, and to support today's Huu-ay-aht children to be happy and safe," the panel said in a statement. "One cannot help children without supporting what is most important to children: their families."

The panel recommends the following actions to Huu-ay-aht Executive Council:

  • Focus on building front line, wrap-around supports for Huu-ay-aht people throughout their lifetimes. This means ensuring their parents (including grandparents, family or community members who assist in care) receive the services and supports needed. That support will take many forms, and means that no one will "age out" of care in the Huu-ay-aht community.
  • Build structured and resourced circles of protection around its children and families so that decision making happens with and by children and families first, supported by extended families, House Groups and the Nation. Youth should also be involved in planning and decision-making, ensuring they are not left lost and powerless. Through these circles of protection, decision making shifts away from court-sanctioned removal decisions by external agencies and comes back to Huu-ay-aht.
  • Provide strong transitional supports to families. The most vulnerable points identified for families were in the times of transition, such as when children have been temporarily taken into care, when they have returned home, or after a parent has undertaken addiction treatment. Transitional supports such as counselling, co-parenting and household support, anti-violence education, safe houses and transitional housing are all necessary.
  • Legislate a long-term commitment to dedicated funding for broad front-line services to support children and families. Huu-ay-aht would be a leader in this area.
  • Continue to engage with external agencies and other First Nations who are working to improve outcomes for their own children and families.
  • Renegotiate properly resourced and structured relationships with provincial and federal agencies. This would see all three governments work in partnership for the well-being of Huu-ay-aht children and families.

"We were deeply moved by the brave determination so many Huu-ay-aht adults and youth showed by speaking to us, and to each other, about the pain, fear and powerlessness they have experienced in being separated from their families, both through residential school and the foster care system -- but also about their ideas on how things can improve," said the panel.

As a self-governing treaty nation, the Huu-ay-aht government is well positioned to act upon the recommendations. Huu-ay-aht is also well poised to work with other levels of government to overcome the systemic biases that remove children from their home and community.

The Independent Panel members are:

Kim Baird, former elected Chief of Tsawwassen First Nation, Order of Canada;
Lydia Hwitsum, former elected Chief of Cowichan Tribes, Chair of First Nations Health Authority Board of Directors;
Dr. Myles Blank, Psychiatrist working with indigenous children, adults and families;
and Maegen Giltrow, Legal counsel with experience in Huu-ay-aht laws and Treaty implementation.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Maegen Giltrow