here is a new day in Alberta
where we see the dead children
who were hidden from us
because the Tories believed
and what are we to do about this matter?
are we to pretend that these deaths were all natural?
how can we believe them?
they hid the data and pretended that all was well
while the children died in various ways
my feeling is that of revulsion and disgust
my feeling is of that these lies must end in Alberta
my feeling is that the Tories are corrupted entirely
and my feeling is that there must be a public inquiry
so that we find the truth in the Synergy story
that Mr. Dave Hancock gives us of competence
we are tired of pretending that we believe them
we are tired of enduring their failures
that are given to us in our dead children
our dead children
are too high a price to pay for their presence
and we are tired of waiting
they have failed in every way
we turn away from the Synergy story
and ask for the truth instead
our First Nations peoples
are enduring a genocide
of their babies
and are we to stay silent?
Deaths of Alberta aboriginal children in care no ‘fluke of statistics’
More likely to die of accidents, suicide and homicide; children also more at risk if under care of federally funded on-reserve agencies
BY DARCY HENTON, CALGARY HERALD NOVEMBER 26, 2013
UBC professor Shelly Johnson says many First Nations foster parents do not have proper training and support to deal with high-needs children.
Only nine per cent of Alberta children are aboriginal, yet they account for a staggering 78 per cent of children who have died in foster care since 1999.
Aboriginal children are also more likely to die if they are put in foster care on reserve, a statistic that starkly highlights the federal/provincial funding disparity that gives off-reserve aboriginal children more services and more support.
According to an Edmonton Journal-Calgary Herald investigation, 145 children in Alberta have died in foster care since 1999. Of the 145, the provincial government lists ethnic information for 94 children, including 74 who were aboriginal.
Among the findings:
-31 of the 74 aboriginal children who died were in their teens; of those, 25 were aged 15 to 17.
-24 were infants; of those, 10 of them died from SIDS or from the consequences of prematurity.
-13 aboriginal children died in accidents; 12 committed suicide, 10 were the victims of homicide.
-45 aboriginal children died in the care of a provincially funded Children and Family Services Agency (CFSA) while 29 died in the care of an on-reserve Delegated First Nations Agencies (DFNA). However, DFNAs care for a fraction of the children that CFSAs do — in 2012-2013, 73 per cent of aboriginal children were in the care of a CFSA, 27 per cent in a DFNA. Therefore, since 1999, proportionately more children died in the care of a DFNA than a CFSA.
“There are an incredible number of kids dying in care each year,” said Raven Sinclair, an aboriginal professor who teaches in the faculty of social work at the University of Regina. “This isn’t just an accident. It is not a fluke of statistics. It is happening year after year.”
Photo: University of Regina professor Raven Sinclair laments that the number of aboriginal children dying in care ‘is not a fluke of statistics.’ Credit: Supplied.
Experts blame the disproportionate rate of aboriginal children dying in care on poverty, substance abuse, substandard housing, the legacy of residential schools and a lack of supports and services in aboriginal communities.
Critical to the argument is a funding disparity between on- and off-reserve agencies.
In the early 1970s, Alberta First Nations began establishing their own on-reserve child welfare agencies, with the first on the Siksika First Nation in southern Alberta in 1973. Since then, the province has signed 17 additional agreements with 40 of Alberta’s 47 First Nations. These Delegated First Nations Agencies are funded by Ottawa, but regulated by Alberta.
They take care of children on reserves; those who are off-reserve are taken care of by the provincially funded Children and Family Services Agencies.
According to Jean Lafrance, a former Alberta child advocate and children’s services assistant deputy minister, the government hoped delegating responsibility for First Nations children to aboriginal agencies on-reserve would result in more culturally appropriate programs, and reduce the apprehensions of children, but that hasn’t happened.
In many ways, the transition hasn’t been smooth. In 2002, a DFNA was temporarily suspended after a series of deaths; the province had to provide mentors for aboriginal caseworkers and help the understaffed agency with high caseloads. Band leaders have taken active roles in apprehensions and staffing decisions, and funds for child welfare services have been misspent.
And there have been repeated complaints about lack of funding.
Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Family and Child Caring Society and an associate professor at the University of Alberta, says aboriginal agencies receive about 22 per cent less in funding than provincial agencies. Her organization and the Assembly of First Nations took the matter to the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2007. That case is still ongoing.
Photo: Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Family and Child Caring Society. Credit: Supplied.
“It is shocking to many people that in this day and age on the heels of the residential school fiasco that we have the government of Canada on trial for racial discrimination, simply to get it to do what it should do as part of a moral course, which is to provide equitable funding for these children and their families and give them a fighting chance at growing up safely in their homes,” Blackstock said.
First Nations agencies argue the federal funding is flawed because it is based on the formula that six per cent of children on reserves will need child welfare services. In reality, the rate of children in care can be as high as 18 per cent.
The federal government has since boosted funding for preventive services with an enhanced funding formula, but First Nations and the federal auditor general have said it still doesn’t match the province’s level of agencies funding.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada spokeswoman Valérie Haché said the department has boosted funding for aboriginal child welfare agencies nationally from $193 million in 1996-1997 to approximately $618 million in 2011-2012, plus an additional $374 million in enhanced prevention focused funding.
Alberta DFNAs have received $98 million since 2007 and are slated to receive $20 million this year, she said.
“Improving the safety and well-being of First Nations children on reserve and child welfare services on reserve is a priority for our government,” she said in an email.
But a 2010 evaluation of the enhanced funding could not determine whether the program is delivering reasonably comparable services to those provided by provincial agencies, or whether the additional funding is reducing the apprehensions of aboriginal children.
Delegated First Nations Agencies simply haven’t been able to afford the same level of services of CFSAs, such as programs to keep kids at home with their parents.
“If you had a family facing very serious problems, problems that might be solved by providing parenting programs, maybe a homemaker, maybe a child-care worker — those kind of services which are available for all children across Alberta through regular child welfare authorities were not being funded by the federal government until fairly recently,” said Nico Trocme, a McGill University professor of social work. Statistics from the Ministry of Human Services seem to bear that out, showing far more non-aboriginal children receive home supports than aboriginal children.
According to 2012-13 figures, a total of 12,032 children in Alberta were receiving intervention services, either in the care of the government or in their family home. Aboriginal children made up 7,027 of that number; 82 per cent of them had been apprehended, while 18 per cent were receiving services at home.
In comparison, of the 5,005 non-aboriginal children in the system, only 54 per cent had been apprehended, while 46 per cent were receiving services at home.
The issue has been raised at two recent fatality inquiries in Alberta.
Carolyn Peacock, executive director of Kasohkowew Children’s Society on the Samson First Nation at Hobbema, told a September inquiry federal funding doesn’t cover programs for children with fetal alcohol syndrome or other disabilities on the reserve.
Alberta provincial court Judge Bart Rosborough raised similar concerns in a report into another death. “I recommend that Alberta investigate whether such a disparity exists and, if so, enter into consultations with Canada to eliminate that disparity.”
The funding issue also results in staffing and training issues on reserves, including high caseloads and lack of supervision, which can lead to deaths.
“Child protection is failing our kids because child protection doesn’t have the resources to effectively monitor what is going on in foster care and group care,” said University of Victoria associate professor Jeannine Carriere, who has been contracted by Alberta in the past to review aboriginal deaths in care.
University of British Columbia assistant professor Shelly Johnson concurs: “We have foster parents that are quite poorly supported and social workers are desperate to place very high needs children in homes where foster parents may not have adequate training support.”
Johnson, who headed a First Nations children’s services agency in Victoria, adds:
“I don’t think the answer is turning over a broken and flawed system and then paying aboriginal people 22 per cent less than everybody else to manage that misery.”
Photo: With a braid of sweetgrass on her table, an aboriginal foster parent grieves the death of a child in her care. Credit: Ryan Jackson, Edmonton Journal.
Indeed, First Nations agencies blame high staff turnover on the simple fact they can’t afford to match provincial caseworkers’ salaries.
Darrin Keewatin, a former director of Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society in Hobbema, told the human rights tribunal his caseworkers often handled up to 35 cases compared to 20 for their provincial counterparts.
He also noted that — using the new money from the federal government — he hired three workers to do prevention work with at-risk families on the Samson First Nation, but ended up retraining them as front-line caseworkers due to chronic staffing issues. This problem was exacerbated by the fact his DFNA has to place many children with high medical needs in private facilities and group homes off-reserve.
“First Nations children in Alberta are the walking barrels of oil to those group homes and institutions,” he said. “If all of my money is going to group care, how can I begin to develop a prevention program or do family counselling or any services?”
Human Services Minister Dave Hancock said his government is working with the chiefs from the province’s three regional treaty areas on the funding issue.
“All children in Alberta are Alberta children and jurisdiction should not get in the way of appropriate service delivery,” he said in a recent interview.
A move in 2004 to involve a person designated by the First Nation band council to help plan for a child’s services has made a difference, he said. But Hancock conceded the over-representation of aboriginal care won’t be resolved quickly.
Mark Hattori, assistant deputy minister of the child and family services division of Alberta Human Services, agreed that the province must work in partnership with aboriginal people to reduce the number of aboriginal children in care.
“Can we do a better job? Absolutely,” he said. “We don’t deny that there are things that need to be changed.”
With files from Karen Kleiss, Edmonton Journal
About this data analysis
Our analysis of the deaths of aboriginal children in care is restricted by the incomplete data released to us by the Ministry of Human Services.
Of the ministry’s death records for the 145 children who died in care between Jan. 1, 1999 and June 8, 2013, only 94 recorded ethnicity; 69 of which were aboriginal and five were recorded as Métis. Another 15 were Caucasian, and five were listed as “other,” but a total of 51 had no ethnicity listed.
Therefore, when we refer to the percentage of aboriginal deaths compared to the total deaths, we are using only those cases for which ethnicity is known.
To put the number of deaths into context, there are about 8,500 to 9,000 children in the care of the Alberta government at any one time, according to data from the past five years.
We also asked the province for data on the number of aboriginal children being cared for by a provincially operated Child and Family Services Authority (CFSA) or a Delegated First Nation Agency (DFNA).
The ministry reported that in 2012-13, 7,027 aboriginal children were receiving intervention services from the government — 5,769 were in care, while another 1,258 hadn’t been apprehended but were receiving help.
Of that total, 73 per cent of them, or 5,130, were in the care of a CFSA. The remaining 27 per cent, or 1,897, were in a DFNA.
Using the ethnic data that we know, we calculated that 74 aboriginal children died in care since Jan. 1, 1999, 45 in a CFSA and 29 in a DFNA. Applying the ratio of 73 per cent in a CFSA to 27 per cent in a DFNA, we calculated that on average, 3.4 aboriginal children died annually in a CFSA, and 2.4 aboriginal children died annually in a DFNA.
In applying those numbers to the 2013 figures, the result is a death rate of aboriginal children of 0.66/1,000 in the care of a CFSA, and a rate of 1.26/1,000 in the care of a DFNA.
Clearly, there are limitations to this data analysis. First, we do not have the ethnicities of all the deceased children. Second, we used 2012-13 figures to create an average rate, yet the percentage of children in a CFSA versus a DFNA could certainly have changed over the years. We did not have that information.
Finally, it’s difficult to compare the percentage of the deceased children in care who are aboriginal with the percentage of children in care who are aboriginal. That’s because the makeup of the in-care population has changed over the years.
For example, between 2008 and 2013, the percentage of children in care who were aboriginal rose from 60 per cent to 68 per cent. While the actual number has increased by only about 400 children, the percentage appears greater due to a drop in non-aboriginal children in care.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
Original source article: Deaths of Alberta aboriginal children in care no ‘fluke of statistics’
So reading this mess indicates to me the following problems:
1) There needs to be ramped up funding by the federal government to ensure that the kids who are in care on reserves aren't being ripped off versus the kids who are off reserve and in care.
2) There needs to be guaranteed staff for these reserve agencies that know what the heck they are doing and who are paid a living wage to handle appropriate --and not elevated case loads.
Why the hell would we expect case workers on reserves to handle more work than case workers off reserves with less money to do this work? In addition these case workers on reserves need to be monitored with reference to the foster parents who are given the fricking kids.
If the foster parents on reserves are trashed, I hazard a guess that this puts the kids in care--in danger and so what the heck is the government thinking of putting kids who were in danger--into a new situation of danger?
3) The federal government needs to have a national children in care program that tracks every single fricking kid. If Australia could do it then the Harper crew can jolly well do this work.
Why do we pay our government our tax dollars when all they do is go on vacations to China and Israel? Are we paying for non-stop corporate boosterism?
Why aren't our fricking hires doing the work of organizing the files, the history and the services for these children on reserves?
I imagine the government can jolly well do this work can't they?
They manage to do their dumb Action Plans for big oil on our tax dollars and so why not a national children in care program?
I would say they don't give a damn about families or kids and so this is the reason we have no sort of effort by my MP-Mr. James Rajotte to put the fire to the butt of the Harper guy to get the fricking program organized.
Maybe they can find the $3.1 billion dollars that they don't have receipts for and assign it to the problem of a national children in care program that will hold the provinces/territories fully accountable and require transparency.
What is a national children in care program?
Let us see what the Australians have done.
National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020
The National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children (2009-2020) is a collaboration between the Australian Government, State and Territory governments and non-government organisations.The National Framework promotes a public health approach to protecting children, focussing on strengthening families by providing supports and services to prevent harm, in addition to acknowledging the need for intervention where children are at risk or harm has occurred.
Under this model, priority is placed on having universal supports (for example, health and education) available for all families. More intensive (secondary) prevention interventions are provided to those families who need additional assistance, with a focus on early intervention. Tertiary child protection services are a last resort for families and governments.
The National Framework outlines six supporting outcomes that focus efforts towards achieving the high-level outcome: Australia’s children and young people are safe and well.
- Children live in safe and supportive families and communities
- Children and families access adequate support to promote safety and intervene early
- Risk factors for child abuse and neglect are addressed
- Children who have been abused or neglected receive the support and care they need for their safety and well being
- Indigenous children are supported and safe in their families and communities
- Child sexual abuse and exploitation is prevented and survivors receive adequate support.
South Australia’s involvement in the National Framework
South Australia has been extensively involved in the development and implementation of both the National Framework and the three year action plans. Government and non-government agencies in South Australia are committed to ensuring that there is broad engagement in achieving the outcomes set out in the National Framework.
South Australia has convened a Partnerships Group, comprising peak body representatives from the non-government sector. The Partnerships Group meet bi-monthly and play a pivotal role in the on-going development of the National Framework initiatives in South Australia. Non-government organisations wishing to contribute their views on the National Framework via the Partnerships Group are encouraged to contact their respective peak body.
Membership on the Partnerships Group currently includes:
- Deputy Chief Executive (Child Safety) Department for Education and Child Development
- Executive Officer, Child and Family Welfare Association
- Chair, South Australian Council of Social Services
- Chair, Association of Major Charitable Organisations
- Chair, Council for the Care of Children
- Guardian for Children and Young People
- Chair, National Disability Services, State Management Committee
- State Manager, Department for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
- Chair, Senior Officer’s Group, Early Childhood
- CEO, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia
- Director, Community Connect, Department for Communities and Social Inclusion
The Partnerships Group provides a forum for Families SA, non-government representatives and leading stakeholders to work together in planning and implementing the National Framework action plans.
The First Action Plan 2009–2012
The first three-year action plan (2009-12) included 12 national priorities to focus action by the Australian Government, State and Territory governments and the non-government sector. An additional national priority, ‘Working with Children Checks’, was identified by Community and Disability Services Ministers in 2010. The First Action Plan established a firm foundation for the National Framework.
Significant achievements delivered during the first action plan include:
- The development and implementation of National Standards for Out-of-Home Care, which seek to drive improvements in the quality of care so that children and young people in out-of-home care have the same opportunities as other children and young people to reach their potential.
- The development of ‘Transitioning from Out-of-Home Care to Independence: A Nationally Consistent Approach to Planning’, a practical resource outlining best practice in leaving-care planning.
- The successful implementation of an information sharing protocol between state and territory child protection agencies and the Commonwealth Department of Human Services (encompassing Medicare Australia, the Child Support Agency and Centrelink).
- The development of a National Research Agenda, to identify research priorities and opportunities that will inform future policy and service delivery.
- The establishment of the first National Children’s Commissioner, to promote the rights, well being and development of children and young people in Australia.
- The development and trial of Common Approach to Assessment, Referral and Support (CAARS) tools to help service providers to better identify children at risk and take appropriate action.
- The development and implementation of an online resource to improve carers access to information about services and payments available to them.
- Progress towards implementing the First Action Plan 2009-12 is detailed in the National Framework Annual Reports. These reports also contain information on key projects undertaken in South Australia that align with actions under the National Framework.
The Second Action Plan 2012-2015
The second three-year action plan (2012-15) of the National Framework was endorsed by Community and Disability Services Ministers on 17 August 2012. The focus of the Second Action Plan is working together with other areas of government and the community sector to improve the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children.
Twenty priorities have been identified for joint action under the Second Action Plan. The priorities fall into three groupings:
- Embed National Priorities from the First Action Plan
- The Second Action Plan embeds achievements from the First Action Plan such as continuing to improve the effectiveness of Working with Children Checks, improving the evidence base and exploring the expansion of information sharing protocols between child protection agencies and Commonwealth agencies.
- Deliver on National Priorities in the Second Action Plan
- The Second Action Plan builds on and strengthens delivery of six significant National Priorities from the First Action Plan including Closing the Gap, National Standards for Out-of-Home Care, joining up service delivery and responding to sexual abuse.
- Explore new priorities for the Second Action Plan
- The Second Action Plan explores opportunities for joint work in new areas (including early childhood, education, domestic and family violence, disability, health and mental health) and strengthens the focus of national agendas in these areas to keep Australia’s children safe and well.
For further information or if you have a question about the National Framework, email Charlie Murray, Senior Policy and Program Officer, Families SA.
If you have information about a child at risk, contact the Child Abuse Report Line by telephoning 13 14 78.
You can see what an organized approach to the care of children could be like if we had the political will to do this work in Canada.
But of course this will not happen under Tory rule.
They only care about their corporate donors.
We have to boot them out to ensure our babies in foster care are safe.
It's a shame and a disgrace that we have no sort of interest in a national program to ensure that universal, common and standardized intake, monitoring, transparency and accountability is in place in Canada.
But maybe this is the way that government wants it to be.
If it is all secretive, we will never find out how badly they are doing in taking care of our babies will we?
4) The government at all levels and the First Nations group have to come together and work for the children. Can the baloney. Stop the stonewalling and lies. It doesn't work anymore.
Do your jobs.