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StatsCan Counts Foster Children
May 8, 2013 permalink
According to the latest StatsCan report, Canada has 57,380 foster children, half of them aboriginals. The original table is at StatsCan. Analysis of the tables shows figures even more biased than the news report. Among aboriginals 4.6% of the children are in foster care, 28,515 in all. Among the rest of the population 0.3% are in foster care, 28,865 children. Put another way, aboriginal kids are fifteen times as likely to get snatched. StatsCan cautions that the results are unreliable because the surveys were voluntary. Last year the reported foster total was 47,885.
‘Tragic’ number of aboriginal children in foster care stuns even the experts
OTTAWA – Nearly half of children under 14 in foster care in Canada are aboriginal children — a number that exceeds even the grimmest estimates of a leading First Nations’ child welfare advocate.
Newly released data from the National Household Survey suggest that, of the approximately 30,000 children in care in Canada in 2011, 14,225 were aboriginal.
Overall, four per cent of aboriginal children were in care, compared to a scant 0.3 per cent of non-aboriginal children, or 15,345 children.
“It’s tragic, because these numbers far outstrip even our projections,” said Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. Her figures had suggested aboriginals made up “30 to 40 per cent of the kids” in foster care.
“What people need to know is that the factors driving these children into foster care are not abuse-related,” she said. “That doesn’t mean that sexual and physical abuse does not happen in our communities. It does, and we need to courageously deal with it.”
But neglect, fuelled by poverty, poor housing and substance misuse, is the main factor behind the over-representation of aboriginal children in care, she said. “Those are all things that child welfare can do something about,” Blackstock said.
“What we have here is a very dire statistic for children who, just like their parents in many cases, are being removed from their families because of state neglect,” Blackstock said. “The government is simply not giving these children the same opportunity to grow up with their families that all other Canadian children enjoy.”
A spokesperson for federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said Aboriginal children in care “is a responsibility shared between the federal government, the provinces and territories and Aboriginal communities.
“We are moving forward with partners to implement an enhanced prevention approach to better ensure that children get the services they need,” said spokesperson Andrea Richer.
Children raised in foster care tend to do more poorly in school and are more likely to experience depression and substance abuse, Blackstock said.
“We should spend all the energy we can to keep kids safely in their families,” she said. “I’m not a utopian thinker. I think some kids do need to be in foster care. But not at the rates that we’re seeing.”
Less than half of aboriginal children lived in homes with both of their parents, compared to more than three-quarters of non-aboriginal children, according to the survey. And 34 per cent of aboriginal children – about 135,000 – lived in a lone-parent family, twice the ratio of non-aboriginal children. Most of those single parents are women.
More than one-quarter of Canada’s aboriginal population were 14 and under, and nearly one-fifth were ages 15 to 24, according to the voluntary survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census the Conservative government scrapped in 2010.
Statisticians caution there is no way of knowing how good or bad the information is from the National Household Survey. The voluntary nature of the survey leaves gaps in the data from groups that tend not to respond to voluntary surveys, including aboriginals, new immigrants and low-income families. Experts believe the data should provide a fairly accurate broad scale picture of Canada, but that the smaller the group surveyed, the less reliable the information.
The rising numbers of aboriginal youths accompany the overall steady growth in First Nations, Metis and Inuit populations, which now number more than 1.4 million combined. That means aboriginals are 4.3 per cent of Canada’s overall population, compared to 3.8 per cent in 2006 and 2.8 per cent in 1996.
Between 2006 and 2011, the aboriginal population increased at a rate of 20 per cent, compared to the five-per-cent increase in the non-aboriginal population. The median age of the aboriginal population in 2011 was 28, compared to 41 for non-aboriginals.
The growing younger population is due to higher fertility rates and shorter life expectancy among aboriginals, the survey says.
But experts have also noted that legislative changes, court rulings and the combination of an increase in indigenous pride and decreased discrimination have prompted many people to report their aboriginal ancestry.
The data regarding family circumstances of aboriginal children also underscore the importance, highlighted by recent studies, that the circumstances of early childhood can have on later educational performance.
Aboriginal children ages four and under were somewhat less likely to be in foster care than those who were older (3.1% versus 3.9% of those aged five to 14).
Even then, “it’s a devastating number. It makes your stomach boil,” said Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in regional innovation and an expert on aboriginal issues at the University of Saskatchewan.
The numbers underscore “a tragic legacy that we don’t talk about as openly as we should in Canada,” Coates said. “What you’re seeing is the impact on children on family breakdown, alcohol or drug abuse and cultural loss in aboriginal communities.”
Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy, whose organization represents Ontario’s 133 First Nations, said the household survey numbers reflect the intergenerational fallout of the residential schools system. “A large number of our First Nation elders — grandparents, parents — spent years in residential schools, from the time they were five or six years old, until their mid-teens,” he said.
“You don’t learn healthy parenting skills when you grow up in an institution.”
Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta, said more resources are needed to help parents “provide adequate living conditions for their loved ones” and reduce the number of children in state care.