About the project
Throughout our Shifting the Child Protection System project, West Coast LEAF heard very clearly from parents, community members, front-line family support staff, and lawyers for the need to build communities that work to support one another when advocating for change.
The ability to come together, break down isolation, and learn from one another around child welfare advocacy is missing in the BC landscape.
Through a three year grant it is our intention to build out spaces for advocacy that includes:
- Sharing wise practices;
- Generating and supporting collaboration; and
- Supporting system-wide change.
This project is aimed at improving outcomes for families engaged in the child welfare system, as well as those who serve their interests.
Our intentions are to uplift and amplify the wisdom and expertise of Indigenous leaders, families, Elders, and child welfare advocates in order to transform, shift, revision, and reclaim the child welfare system from what’s currently an ongoing colonial intervention system to a system in which Indigenous children, families, and communities will thrive.
What we’re doing
The project will be structured around working groups and a steering committee with representatives from the Working Groups and may include other child welfare advocates beyond the Working Groups, including researchers, Elders, other advocacy groups, etc. The steering committee will provide important oversight through ongoing evaluation, troubleshooting, and ensuring transparency, accountability, and alignment with the project goals.
There will be four Working Groups:
- A legal advocates Working Group made of people practicing in the area of child welfare. The focus may include sharing wise practices for supporting families in the legal system; seeking opportunities for strategic litigation; and policy advocacy.
- A front-line advocates Working Group made of people working in the area of family support and development who work with families engaged with the child welfare system. The focus may include sharing wise practices for supporting families navigating child welfare (including post-removal of children from the home); and policy advocacy.
- There will be two Working Groups of parents and community members based in a geographic location with a host front-line agency. The focus will include capacity bridging activities on community-level advocacy. The focus and the strategy of the advocacy will be developed by the community and supported by West Coast LEAF, and may include storytelling activities; developing community response networks; know your rights, etc.
Building on our history
The vision for this project builds off our prior work. In the area of law reform we embarked on a year-long project, Shifting the Child Protection System. This was a law reform project to assess whether MCFD was meeting its obligations under section 2 of CFCSA to provide the necessary supports to families to ensure that parents are able to exercise their right to parent and that children’s best interests are met.
The result of this work was the report Pathways in a Forest: Indigenous guidance on prevention-based child welfare . It was created collaboratively by West Coast LEAF and the families, Elders, and staff at Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre, Lii Michif Otipemisiwak, and the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association.
Prior law reform work includes our 2016 report High Stakes: The impacts of child care on the human rights of women and children, which analyzed the human rights consequences of BC’s inadequate child care system, highlighting the increased likelihood of child apprehensions when high-quality, culturally appropriate, affordable child care is out of reach.
In the area of litigation, we are currently involved as intervenors in a complaint before the BC Human Rights Tribunal about discrimination in the child protection system. R.R., an Indigenous mother, brought a complaint against Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (“VACFSS”) under the Human Rights Code for discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ancestry, and mental disability.
Get in touch
Sharnelle Jenkins-Thompson (she/her), Manager of Community Outreach at West Coast LEAF, is the project lead.
Sharnelle can provide orientation to the Working Groups, meeting schedules, and Terms of Reference, and can answer your questions.
This project is made possible by generous funding from: