October 26, 2022 – For Immediate Release
Vancouver, unceded Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) homelands – Family advocates are calling on the BC government and Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) to dismantle the framework for policing and surveilling families in BC. MCFD’s current framework for investigation, intervention, and child removal in what’s typically referred to as the “child welfare system,” causes lasting harm to families.
An open letter signed by West Coast LEAF, Keeping Families Together, PACK BC, YWCA Metro Vancouver, BC Association of Social Workers, and Raincity Housing urges Premier John Horgan and members of the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth to root out the culture of risk and surveillance at MCFD. The letter calls on the BC government to take up transformative and accountable work with Indigenous Nations, communities, and impacted families to develop and affirm collective understandings of safety and well-being that uplift and support families in BC.
“Every day spent ignoring the root cause of MCFD’s culture of risk and surveillance is another day where families are torn apart,” says Sharnelle Jenkins-Thompson, manager of community outreach at West Coast LEAF. “We need the province to take urgent and decisive action to address the culture of fear that families are surviving under. Nations, communities, and families know what they need to be well, but they experience barrier after barrier from a system set up to police them over support their well-being.”
MCFD has recently promised reforms, but advocacy groups say these reforms are insufficient and do not get to the root of the issues. The current culture, tools, policies, and training that guide child protection work in BC are rooted in colonial, ableist, misogynistic, and classist biases. This has created a culture of risk and surveillance that upholds ongoing colonization in the lives of Indigenous children, youth, families, communities, and Nations.
Without rooting out the culture of risk and surveillance at MCFD and investing in desperately needed structural supports for families, any proposed changes will continue the legacy of tearing families apart and causing profound harm.
“We have a system that sees families as broken and does not acknowledge how families are broken down by the system,” says Robin Raweater, founder and member of Keeping Families Together. “We must stop policing families and begin to truly support them.”
Currently, child protection workers assess families for “risk” using their clinical judgment, and tools like checklists and questionnaires. The risk assessment process unjustly blames families, and lacks accountability and transparency. It views family struggles as individual failings, instead of reflections of systemic failures arising from a chronic lack of housing, income and disability rates beneath the poverty line, and lack of mental health supports. Sometimes families do not even know they are being assessed. The result has been intergenerational cycles of intervention and intrusion by MCFD in the lives of families across the province.
The groups have launched an online petition encouraging individuals to join the call for MCFD to stop tearing families apart.
Read the open letter signed by West Coast LEAF, Keeping Families Together, PACK BC, YWCA Metro Vancouver, BC Association of Social Workers, and Raincity Housing.
Sharnelle Jenkins-Thompson, manager of community outreach
West Coast LEAF
Robin Raweater, founder and member
Keeping Families Together