With First Nations parents in mind, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) has issued a directive that will see social workers verbally inform parents of their rights when child protection matters are carried out.
"Many southern First Nation parents do not know their rights when dealing with Child and Family Services," Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a news release.
"With today’s directive, we are confident that fewer children will be apprehended and that family placements will be prioritized so that children will remain closer to their cultural and community ties. This will ensure that southern First Nation children will have better outcomes."
The goal is to empower parents to assert their rights when working with an agency.
Chief Deborah Smith of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, and chairperson of the SCO chiefs committee on child welfare, called the directive a positive step forward.
"Making it mandatory for social workers to read the Bill of Rights to parents is akin to police reading rights to an individual upon arrest," she said. "I believe that we will see positive impacts from this directive for years to come. Everyone must be made aware of their rights for positive change to occur."
Of the more than 11,000 children in care in Manitoba, 90 per cent are Indigenous. More than half of those are members of southern First Nations. Parents in many cases are unaware of their rights when dealing with Child and Family Service, which the SCO called "intimidating."
"Many parents are overwhelmed with fear when approached by child welfare workers," Dakota Plains Vice-Chief Donny Smoke said. "They do not realize that they have choices and can provide input into the care of their children. This directive will ensure that families stay connected whenever possible."
The organization has also recently issued directives to the Southern First Nations Network of Care related to culturally appropriate and safe alternatives to the practice of birth alerts and the requirement for a culturally appropriate alternative to foster parent appeals with timelines attached.
Southern First Nation parents can contact the SCO’s Child and Family Service system navigator for guidance and assistance if they find themselves in need of help.
» The Brandon Sun