Two Winnipeg foster parents have won an emotional legal battle to keep the child they have been raising for nearly two years.

Two Filipino foster parents will be allowed to continue parenting a  2½-year-old boy they have been caring for since he was six months old, despite an attempt by a CFS agency in the province to place him in a new home.

The child's guardian, an agency under the Métis Child and Family Services Authority, tried to move the child earlier this year, telling the parents that because they are Filipino and the child is part Métis, his long-term interests would be better served by placing him with a "culturally appropriate" Métis family.

Billie Schibler

Billie Schibler, chief executive officer of the Métis Child and Family Services Authority, says many past adoptions of aboriginal children into non-aboriginal homes have broken down over the years, with the children seeking their cultural identities and communities when they are adults. (CBC)

The couple and the boy cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, who first came into the foster parents' care in October 2011.

The couple said they were hoping to adopt the boy and were devastated by news he might be taken away.

On Wednesday, an adjudicator ruled the family would be able to keep the child for time time being, and the authority would not be able to relocate him to an adoptive Métis family.

Lawyer Paul Walsh represents the foster parents.

“They were by a multiple more excited then I was, and I don't know how I could have been any more pleased. They were fearing the worst,” said Walsh. “It was just them fighting the powers that be, and they succeeded.”

Paul Walsh

Lawyer Paul Walsh, who represents the foster parents, said his clients were fearing the worst but are extremely happy with the decision. (CBC)

Adjudicator Jennifer Cooper wrote in her decision the boy "loves his foster parents and they love him. That love should be given an opportunity to continue and blossom."

She did acknowledge the parents speak Tagalog primarily at home and the child understands and speaks both English and Tagalog. She also said he has little knowledge of Metis culture, something she said she hopes will change.

She recommended the family embrace the child's Métis culture going forward. She also recommended the CFS agency consent to the couple adopting the boy after seeing "sincere efforts of the foster parents to assist [him] in understanding and honouring his cultural and racial heritage."

She also said it appeared the parents were "sincere, honest and hardworking individuals who were deeply in love with [the child.]"

She said a mutual cooperation was in the boy's best interest. 

Walsh said the family has now filed a petition for guardianship with the court, but the agency would still have to consent before the boy could be adopted by his foster parents ​.

Cultural concerns

During an arbitration hearings earlier this month, Walsh argued the boy came from a multicultural background. Although his birth mother is half Métis, the boy is also Dutch, Irish, Scottish and Ukrainian, he said.

Walsh said a bond has developed between the foster parents and the toddler over nearly two years, and that should be a bigger factor in his placement than one part of his cultural background. 

Billie Schibler, chief executive officer of the Métis Child and Family Services Authority had argued if a primary caregiver identifies as Métis, the mandate is to place the child in a Métis home long-term.

Cross-cultural adoptions of aboriginal children into non-aboriginal homes were common in the 1960s and 1980s during the "'60s scoop," which lead to numerous problems for the children. Schibler called the period a cultural genocide.