A group of First Nation communities in northeastern Ontario wants to make sure Indigenous families have access to culturally appropriate services.
The Waabnoong Bemjiwang Association of First Nations is developing a child well-being agency, that would serve seven communities in the Sudbury, Nipissing and Parry Sound areas.
The agency would replace the current Children's Aid Society for band members of the Wasauksing, Shawanaga, Magnetawan, Henvey Inlet, Dokis, Nipissing and Wahnapitae First Nations.
An information session for band members is scheduled for Dec. 8 at the Parry Sound Friendship Centre.
Keeping First Nation children in their homes
Mainstream child welfare agencies don't serve the unique needs of Indigenous families says project manager Joanne Koehler.
"Unless you're First Nation, you really don't understand the complexities, and the values and the belief systems of those of First Nation's people," Koeler says.
"So if you don't understand those things, how can you deliver services in a meaningful way?"
According to the 2013 Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect — a University of Toronto study funded by the provincial government — Indigenous children are 168 per cent more likely to be placed in care.
Koehler says their agency would do things differently, giving children the opportunity to stay in their homes, and connected to their communities.
"There's different ways to deliver those services where children don't need to come in care, but right now that's not what's happening," she says.
Members of the community will also play an important role in developing the agency.
"It'll be delivered from First Nation people, with First Nation input. When we do develop our service model, it will be developed based on what the communities need and what the communities want," Koehler says.
Agency to be based on community needs
There are currently ten First Nation child and family services agencies that are designated by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
In April, Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services took over child welfare responsibilities for First Nations along the north shore.
In an email to CBC News, the Ministry says four agencies, including Waabnoong Bemjiwang Child Well Being Agency, are currently working to receive designation.
"We know that the best place for a young person is as close to home as possible, and we must continue to build strong communities that allow young people to excel and reach their full potential," Minister Michael Coteau said in the email statement.
"Together with Indigenous communities across Ontario, I am encouraged by these ongoing designations, and I am committed to transforming services so that Indigenous youth across Ontario have the tools they need to succeed."