Pauquachin First Nation, B.C. government sign deal on children in care
- Pauquachin First Nation, B.C. government sign deal on children in care
JUDITH LAVOIE / TIMES COLONIST
MAY 1, 2013
Social workers will no longer be able to remove children in need of care from Pauquachin First Nation families without first consulting the band and looking for alternatives within the community.
A unique three-party agreement between the Ministry for Children and Family Development, NIL/TU,O Child and Family Services and Pauquachin was signed Wednesday at a ceremony at the Saanich Peninsula reserve.
It will see Pauquachin become a full partner in decisions about children, provide for supports for family members who want to care for children and ensures that, if children are taken into care outside the community, they are kept in touch with their culture.
The agreement, the first of its kind in B.C., is likely to be a template for eight other southern Vancouver Island First Nations.
Dan Ludeman, a contractor who helped facilitate the agreement - which took two years to complete - said Pauquachin will appoint members to help support those having difficulties.
If parents are not able to care for a child or if the child is not in a safe situation, there will be help for family members who might come forward and offer to help, he said.
"The ministry is still the one that makes decisions around safety and, if the child does come into care and is not going to be going back to his biological parents, NIL/TU,O becomes the guardian, so there are links back to the community," he said.
The new protocol helps return the inherent right of First Nations to protect their children, said Chief Bruce Underwood, noting that the community is struggling to recover from the effects of residential schools and the "'60s scoop," when many First Nations children were removed.
"This is bridging the cultural gap between First Nations and non-First Nations communities," he said. "We can hold each other accountable for what we need to do, not forgetting our language, culture and the role our elders play."
The need for change became urgent for Underwood when he realized he did not know where seven children from the community were being fostered.
"Today, we have got five of those children back as part of an agreement with [the ministry]," he said.
The child welfare protocol gives equal strength to all three parties, said Lise Erikson of the Ministry for Children and Family Development.
"Everyone has rights and everyone has responsibilities," she said.
For some community members, the agreement was emotional.
"I have been waiting for this day for a long time," said band councillor Allan Tom. "Those days of the ministry coming in and taking our children with the stroke of a pen are behind us."
Danny Henry, Pauquachin administrator, agreed.
"There has been so much hurt over the years," Henry said.
"Think of all the times over the years that our children were picked up and taken away. Think of the hurt and the crying when babies are taken away," he said.
"That's not going to happen anymore. We are reclaiming our culture. . As parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews, we are going to stand together. Our children are not going to go anywhere anymore."
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