Serious Systemic Change to Child and Youth Family Services

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Thunder Bay, ON – On April 12, 2018, A shared priority for Canada, Ontario, and Chiefs of Ontario is to improve outcomes and opportunities for all First Nations children, youth, and families in Ontario, and to reduce the number of children and youth in care.

Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, Michael Coteau, Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, Minister of Community and Social Services, and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, and the Chiefs of Ontario leadership signed a joint commitment on policy and funding reform for First Nations Services in Ontario.

On January 26, 2018, a two-day emergency meeting in Ottawa brought all partners together in order to address this crisis head-on. Leaders from the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Metis Nation Council, regional Indigenous leadership, and youth delegates, who had been in foster care system, were also present to share their lived experiences and contribute to recommendations on the way forward, including all federal, provincial and territorial governments gathered to discuss the causes that lead to the high rate of children in care and work together towards reform. Among issues discussed were: data collection, youth perspectives, community wellbeing, innovative jurisdictional approaches, and First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nation Child and Family Service programs.

The federal government has committed to six points of action:

• Continuing the work to fully implement all orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, and reforming child and family services including moving to a flexible funding model;
• Shifting the programming focus to prevention and early intervention;
• Supporting communities to draw down jurisdiction and explore the potential for co-developed federal child welfare legislation;
• Accelerating the work of trilateral and technical tables that are in place across the country;
• Supporting Inuit and Metis Nation leadership to advance culturally-appropriate reform; and
• Developing a data and reporting strategy with provinces, territories and Indigenous partners.

Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs stated, “Youth in care, youth aging out of care and the grandmothers have been very clear – the current system is not working for indigenous children. First Nations, Inuit and Metis children have the right to grow up proud of their history, language and culture. Outcomes will only improve when communities regain control over the decisions affecting their children and families. Communities want to focus on healing, caring for their children, and bringing their children home.”

Minister Philpott says, “The focus must shift to prevention and family reconciliation, and away from apprehension. “

All of the partners met Thursday, April 12th, 2018 in Toronto as a follow-up to the Emergency Meeting Minister Philpott hosted in Ottawa in January 2018 on Indigenous Child and Family Services.

Mental Wellness Initiative signed in Toronto
Mental Wellness Initiative signed in Toronto

The document signed by Canada, Ontario and Chiefs of Ontario leadership commits partners to work together in developing new policy and funding models to support reform of First Nations child and family services in Ontario. This recognizes, in particular, the need to shift focus to more comprehensive approaches that support better outcomes by focusing on an expanded range of prevention services.

As part of this work, Canada, Ontario, and First Nations are also completing an Ontario Special Study, which will provide options for new First Nations child and family well-being policy and funding approaches that are child-centered, community-directed, and support better outcomes by focusing on prevention.

$1.4 billion in new funding over six years, starting in 2017-18, to address funding pressures facing First nations child and family service agencies, while also increasing prevention resources for communities so that children are safe and families can stay together.

In a media statement the Ministry says, the goal is “Moving beyond the 1965 Agreement to Improve Support to children and Families in Ontario First Nations”.

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