British Columbia

B.C.'s aboriginal child welfare system filled with 'systemic failures', says BCGEU

BCGEU report says B.C.'s aboriginal child welfare system is under-financed, has culturally inappropriate services and is drowning in administrative complexity.

BCGEU report says system is under-resourced and struggling in its own complexity

The BCGEU has released a report entitled "Closing the Circle" which calls for reforms to B.C.'s Aboriginal child welfare system. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

One of B.C.'s largest unions is calling on government to invest more resources into serving the province's aboriginal child welfare system.

The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union released a report entitled "Closing the Circle" on Thursday that says the current system is fraught with "failures" and "not structured in the best interests of at-risk children, youth and families."

The report says the current system suffers from being under-financed, has culturally inappropriate services and is drowning in administrative complexity.

BCGEU members which include frontline workers were surveyed along with aboriginal leaders and youth who were previously in the care of the system.

Stephanie Smith, the president of the BCGEU, was interviewed about the report on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

She said her team heard stories from workers who were desperately trying to support families and children in crisis but were operating in a system that made it very challenging.

"It's about a lack of resources, a lack of training ... absolutely unmanageable caseloads, workload issues. What we want to see is a systemic fix to these issues," said Smith.

Among the report's recommendations is for the government to bring together stakeholders to develop a policy framework that would more clearly define roles and responsibilities. 

Smith called this a "good first step" she believes should be achievable.

The president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip endorsed the report and called for the government to embrace and act on its recommendations.

"As Aboriginal people, we absolutely need and deserve culturally appropriate and adequately funded aboriginal child, youth and family services," he said in a release.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled BCGEU says B.C.'s Aboriginal child welfare system needs reforms with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.


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