Today we sent a briefing note to legislators that calls on BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development to eliminate policies and practices that require parents to have an open child protection file – despite the lack of risk concerns – in order to receive critical support services, including child care.

Under section 2(c) of the Child and Community Service Act, MCFD has a statutory obligation to provide support services that will help keep families together whenever possible and to support parents in creating a safe and nurturing environment. These services can include child care, access to which can be critical to family preservation and in meeting parents’ and children’s best interests.

The policy of providing support through temporary agreements through open child protection files creates barriers for families to access those much needed services — they also undermine MCFD’s legal obligations. Tragically, many parents forgo support services to avoid ongoing interaction and involvement with the child protection system; the risk of eventual intervention and apprehension is just too high.

The failures and risks inherent in the current system are more acute for Indigenous women and children. More than 62 percent of the approximately 7,000 BC children and youth in care are Indigenous, who are almost 17 times more likely than their non-Indigenous counterparts to end up in care. Further, Indigenous children are more likely to have files opened with MCFD due to poverty related issues rather than abuse.

The over-representation of Indigenous children in care is a direct legacy of the colonialist practices of the Residential Schools system and the 60’s scoop. These policies and practices impede implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action to government to provide adequate resources to enable Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together where it is safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments, regardless of where they reside.

The child welfare system can serve an important function in society by acting as a watchdog for children’s safety and by supporting families to stay together wherever possible to meet the best interests of all involved. However, these goals are seriously undermined by a system that is seen as an extension of colonial powers by Indigenous communities and that is engaged in separating families unnecessarily and to great harm.

We recognize that there must be a process through which support services are delivered by government. However, it is unacceptable that parents are forced to forego available support services that could prevent recurring incidents of child protection concerns simply because of administrative policies and practices. The current state of affairs is not in anyone’s interests: parents, children, or the Ministry. The status quo won’t do.