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Indians Fire Child Protectors

November 11, 2007 permalink

The Bloodvein First Nation in Manitoba has expelled child-welfare workers from its reserve, to protect their families from heavy-handed tactics. What is the chance white men will follow the lead of the Indians?



Manitoba reserve fires child-welfare workers

Band councillors take over social work duties

Last Updated: Friday, November 9, 2007 | 5:53 PM CT, CBC News

A Manitoba First Nation has kicked child-welfare workers off the reserve, saying its members are tired of their heavy-handed efforts.

Two hundred members of the Bloodvein First Nation handed a petition to their band council in late October, demanding Southeast Child and Family Services workers be ordered off the reserve.

On Oct. 31, the reserve issued a memo to families and foster parents saying the "Bloodvein supervisor and CFS band workers have been relieved of their duties and responsibilities as per band council resolution."

Coun. Stella Keller told CBC News that too many children were being taken into care and shipped off the reserve.

"They approach families and they tell them, 'Well, you know, we can just take your kids, just like that,' and to me that's a threat," she said.

"CFS is not only there to apprehend kids. CFS should work together with the health programs to have intervention, prevention, and this wasn't really happening."

Chief Craig Cook said he opposed firing the workers, but he was outnumbered and had to carry out the wishes of council.

"The CFS staff were doing all they can to confront the issues that plague our children," he said.

"A lot of times our young parents will utilize the funds like the child tax benefit, the welfare payments, to support some of their habits — binge drinking, alcoholism — negative habits that go on in our community."

The band's four councillors have taken over child-welfare duties — including family visits, foster-care payments, local business payments, children in care and all court proceedings — for now.

Keller acknowledged that the replacement workers, herself included, are not qualified social workers and have little information about children in care or at risk in the community.

However, she said, "I've lived here all my life. I know the families."

Parenting skills lost, says father

John Cook, a father of five on the First Nation, had mixed feelings about the firing of the CFS workers. "A few" children on the reserve could be at risk, he said.

"The majority of the problem is alcohol, I believe, and neglect," he said. "Parenting skills, I think, were lost a long time ago during the residential [school] programs, where our kids were taken from our homes and never learned to parent."

Keller said she hoped the reserve will remain peaceful over the upcoming long weekend, since none of the councillors handling child-welfare cases will be in the community for the weekend.

If trouble erupts, she said, the community will have to handle it.

Officials with the Southeast Child and Family Services authority did not return calls from CBC on Friday.

Southeast CFS is run by aboriginal people under a provincial policy launched five years ago in the hopes of increasing social workers' sensitivity to the needs of aboriginal families.

About 600 people live in Bloodvein, an isolated reserve located 200 kilometres north of the province's capital on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

Source: CBC