For Immediate Release: January 22, 2014 from Office of the 1st Vice Chief, Kimberly Jonathan
First Nations child and family service agencies in Saskatchewan continue to provide unsurpassed services based on proven best practice in child welfare. First Nations provide child welfare services funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada at a fraction of what the province allocates for child welfare provincially.
FSIN 1st Vice Chief Kimberly Jonathan is extremely concerned with the January 20th news article entitled “Hundreds of children with social services ties died in Sask.” The article states that First Nations reported only one child death between the years 1999-2007. Vice Chief Jonathan states The FSIN is committed to ensuring the integrity and safety of child welfare services. This type of inaccuracy is disturbing as it creates numerous unnecessary questions of the efficiency of the various departments and programs involved. Had First Nations been engaged we could have provided the accurate information to the CBC and the public.
The fact is First Nations were reporting child deaths directly to the Children’s Advocate during that time frame. Saskatchewan families and communities should be gravely concerned that the Ministry of Social Services and the Advocate for Children and Youth are unable to align their numbers to accurately reflect the instances of child deaths in Saskatchewan. ‘’Child death reviews offer a voice to children who no longer have a voice and I am confident that the two offices will work together to provide an accurate account regarding the number and nature of child deaths in the province’’ said Vice Chief Jonathan.
Because First Nations recognize the inaccuracy in reporting child deaths, First Nations have undertaken the responsibility of dually reporting to both the Ministry and Advocate. In addition First Nations internally report to their own agencies and leadership. First Nations have been providing culturally competent and prevention based child welfare services on-reserve for 20 years and are working diligently with the Ministry as they pilot their prevention based Flexible Response Model in Saskatoon. In addition, First Nations child and family service agencies are moving towards accreditation; two agencies have received accreditation and several others are in the process of completing the accreditation process. The FSIN is not aware if any other child serving agency within Saskatchewan has received this internationally recognized level of accreditation.
First Nations are involved in one of the greatest human rights challenges in Canadian history in the Human Rights Commission`s Tribunal on First Nations Child Welfare in which Canada is racially discriminating against First Nations children by providing flawed and inequitable funding and policies for First Nations child and family services on reserves (More information on the tribunal can be found at www.fnwitness.ca).
The Chiefs of Saskatchewan have long been concerned with the overrepresentation of children and families receiving child welfare services by the province. Given our extensive experience and expertise in delivering child welfare, First Nations are well positioned to implement recommendation #2 of the Child Welfare Review Panel Report regarding the transitioning of control of off-reserve child welfare to First Nations by the province. Nearly four years after the report, the Chiefs of Saskatchewan are still waiting to engage the province on transitioning control.
Over 80% of the children and families served by the Ministry of Social Services are First Nations and this number rises to 100% of the children and families served by First Nations child and family service agencies. For First Nations “working differently” means not repeating past mistakes but embarking on transformation of Child Welfare that involves a planned and deliberate system change where First Nations are regarded as true partners. The FSIN remains committed to working differently with the Ministry of Social Services as we jointly transform child welfare for the benefit of all children and families in Saskatchewan.
The FSIN represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of Treaty, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.
For more information:
Allen Gabriel, Executive Director of Communications
Direct: 306 956 1016
Email BlackBerry: allen.gabriel @fsin.com