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Innu Shut Down Child Protection

February 27, 2015 permalink

The chief of an Innu band in Sheshatshiu Labrador forced the local child protection (CYFS) office to close over the placement of a foster child. The closure ended with an undisclosed agreement.



Band council forced closure of CYFS office in Sheshatshiu

Dispute stemmed from foster placement of an Innu child

The Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) office in Sheshatshiu was forced to close for several hours between Monday and Tuesday, according to a band council member there.

Sheshatshiu rally
During a protest in 2013, demonstrators in the Innu community of Sheshatshiu boarded up the local Child Youth and Family Services office protesting the number of Innu children sent outside the community for foster care and treatment.
Labradorian file Photo

Jack Penashue, Sheshatshiu’s social health director, told The Labradorian that band chief Andrew Penashue asked CYFS to leave the Innu community due to a dispute over the foster placement of an Innu child.

Jack Penashue said the rest of the band council supported the chief’s decision.

“It had to do with a child, an Innu child, relocated outside of the community,” he said.

“The chief has the ultimate decision in regards to what direction is taken. So he was supported by the council and then we had a meeting … Tuesday morning.”

According to Jack Penashue, the office was allowed to reopen Tuesday at noon after a meeting between band council members and representatives from CYFS.

“We had a conference call with (CYFS officials) and through that conference call we made a commitment to work on some of the confusion and also the disagreements.

“So we have a timeline to work (on) developing some capacity in regards to foster parents.”

The Innu First Nation reserve has been at odds with CYFS many times in the past. The main issue involves where Innu children are placed in foster care after they are put in government custody.

“The chief felt that, if it’s an Innu child, we should do every effort in the best of our abilities to have that child stay in the community,” said Jack Penashue.

“If Innu children are supposed to be taken out of the community, the community needs to know about it, or especially the leadership.”

Jack Penashue said better communication between the band council and CYFS could have prevented the office closure.

“We need to be working together collaboratively,” he said.

The Labradorian’s request for an interview with CYFS Minister Sandy Collins was met with an emailed statement from the department.

A spokeswoman wrote that, due to confidentiality laws, the department can’t comment on specific cases.

The statement did, however, note government policy on providing protective services in Sheshatshiu: “The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is committed to providing child protection services in the community of Sheshatshiu in a manner that ensures the safety and well-being of children and youth, while respecting the culture of Innu community members. Wherever possible, children and youth requiring out-of-home placement are matched with an appropriate foster family in their home community.”

It went on to say the department takes a collaborative approach with aboriginal leaders and communities to improve planning for the safety and well-being of children and youth.

The statement also pointed to financial expenditures made in child protection in Labrador, including “a new team for Sheshatshiu, which includes six new positions.”

The Labradorian was unable to reach Andrew Penashue for comment.

Source: St John's Telegram