The child welfare system fails to understand the context of First Nations communities, report Barbara Fallon and Cindy Blackstock at inquestCategories: Barbara Fallon, Leadership
Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work Professor Barbara Fallon and alumna Cindy Blackstock provided expert testimony at an inquest into the death of Devon Freemen. The First Nations teenager, who lived in a group home in Hamilton, took his own life in 2017. Devon’s Grandmother, Pam Freeman, was also a featured witness.
Writes Nicole O’Reilly for the Toronto Star:
The inquest heard from an esteemed panel of doctors who have led research into the rights of Indigenous children and the child welfare system: Cindy Blackstock, a child protection and Indigenous children’s rights advocate and executive director of First Nation Child and Family Caring Society of Canada; and Barbara Fallon, a social work professor at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in child welfare.
With encyclopedic memory, Blackstock walked the jury through the history of residential schools, which were created to remove Indigenous children from their families and separate them from their culture, and how that system directly led into ongoing child welfare practices.
The same language used to remove children and send them to residential schools — that they were “not properly cared for” — continues now as a reason First Nations children are sometimes taken into the care of children’s aid societies.
There are more children in care now than were ever in residential schools. Fallon noted that the First Nations families are also more likely to be over-surveilled and face increased interventions.
First Nations children are three times more likely to have their care investigated by child welfare agencies, six times more likely to have ongoing services and seven to eight times more likely to be placed in care, she said.
The inquest heard that the child welfare system fails to understand the context of First Nations communities, including the impacts of colonialism and the specific cultures of specific communities.
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