First Nations child advocate says child welfare system ‘eats up’ Indigenous kids

Cora Morgan, First Nations Family Advocate at The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) in Winnipeg, Monday, February 22, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG — A Manitoba First Nations children’s advocate says the child welfare system “eats up” Indigenous children and is designed to keep their families at a disadvantage.

Cora Morgan, with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, told the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women that the system is set up to apprehend children, not to support families.

“Any challenges that our families are faced with, it’s used against them instead of them being offered support. It victimizes our families,” she said Monday.

“A lot of these things are just perpetual. You can find five or six generations of a family where their children have been taken.”

The inquiry is holding hearings in Winnipeg this week and is expected to focus on child welfare.

Morgan said violence against Indigenous women and girls can be linked to child welfare because it not only removes them from their families, but also takes away their identity and self-worth.

“The system just eats up our children to the point where they lose value for life,” she said.

Manitoba has the highest per-capita rate of children in care and almost 90 per cent are Indigenous. The province said last week that the number of kids in government care dropped for the first time in 15 years to 10,328.

Morgan told the inquiry about a mother who had four children, all of whom were seized at birth primarily because of poverty.

Too much money is being spent on taking kids away from their families and not enough is invested in finding ways to keep them together, Morgan said.

“You keep hearing our government say apprehension is the last resort but it’s the first resort,” she said. “It’s always the first resort.”

Inquiry commissioners said they have heard about the effects of child welfare at every hearing. Qajaq Robinson said many people testified they were survivors of the system and that is “indicative of a huge problem.”

“Whether it’s children, who as a result of their mothers being murdered, ended up in care or women who, as a result of their children being apprehended, lost financial support or lost housing and then ended up in precarious situations having to resort to survival sex work,” she said, adding people are being failed in numerous ways.

“Every jurisdiction we have been to, I have heard it personally from witnesses,” Robinson said.

Morgan gave the inquiry a list of recommendations including supporting First Nations-led initiatives to bring children home and to stop penalizing victims of domestic violence by taking their children away.

The Canadian Press

Source: CTVNews.ca

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Manitoba Children In Care Not Treated As ‘Human’: First Nations Advocate

Cora Morgan, was appointed, First Nations family advocate by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs last week.

Cora Morgan, appointed First Nations family advocate by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Photo: APTN

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s new First Nations family advocate says Manitoba doesn’t treat children in care and their families as “human.”

Cora Morgan, who was appointed by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs last week, said the province’s child welfare system is broken. Child and Family Services are taking children into care too quickly and it’s virtually impossible for parents to regain custody.

Children in care are being put up in hotels and languishing in jail without a proper support system for families in crisis that would prevent kids from being apprehended in the first place, she said.

“There is a lack of humanity in the way that CFS operates,” Morgan told The Canadian Press. “These children in care and these families, I don’t see that they’re being recognized as human.

“Every single individual needs to feel loved. Where do you find that growing up in a hotel room?”

Manitoba has more than 10,000 children in care and the vast majority are aboriginal. The system has been under scrutiny for years following several high profile deaths and assaults of children in care.

Manitoba Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross speaks regarding the province's pledge to ensure no children in CFS care are housed in hotels on May 28, 2015.

Manitoba Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross speaks regarding the province’s pledge to ensure no children in CFS care are housed in hotels on May 28, 2015.

Most recently, Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross tearfully promised to stop using hotels to house kids in care after a young girl was seriously assaulted in March. Both the victim and the youth charged in the assault were in the care of Child and Family Services at a downtown Winnipeg hotel.

The child welfare system came under fire last August when 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was killed after running away from a hotel where she was in government care. Her great-aunt had contacted child welfare when she had difficulty managing the teen. The teen’s body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River.

Many guardians reach out to family services for help, only to have their child taken, Morgan said. Some parents are prepared to do what it takes to get their children back but, they aren’t supported by addiction and parenting programs, she added.

Morgan said she has encountered up to six generations of a family who have grown up in care. That cycle must be stopped. The province must involve aboriginal people and support community-based alternatives to apprehension, she said.

“When newcomers first came to this land, they didn’t understand us then and they started imposing the creation of reserves and residential schools,” Morgan said. “After all these decades, they’ve created people that they still don’t understand because there is so much damage to our identity and our ability to care for our children.”

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said the provincial child welfare system is carrying on the legacy of residential schools. Chiefs created the office of the First Nation family advocate to give aboriginal families a voice in a system that threatens their children and perpetuates the cycle of inter-generational trauma, he said.

“We have to meet the system head on. It’s escalating and it’s out of control.”

Irvin-Ross was unavailable for an interview. Her spokeswoman, Rachel Morgan, said in an emailed statement that the province agrees children belong in loving families in their own communities.

“We have begun moving toward a system of supporting families and supporting communities so that children don’t have to be taken into care,” she wrote.

“We know there’s more to do and we’re committed to working with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, First Nations leaders and communities to reduce the number of children in care.”

By Chinta Puxley / The Canadian Press, June 9, 2015

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2015/06/09/manitoba-children-in-care_n_7544930.html