Manitoba

First Nations family advocate discouraged after 1st week working with CFS

Cora Morgan has been hired by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs to advocate for First Nations families dealing with CFS. She is devastated by the results of her first week in the position.

'I was devastated. And I wasn't anywhere near as devastated as the family,' Cora Morgan says

The family advocate for First Nations families dealing with Child and Family Services is devastated after her first week on the job, working for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. 

The assembly created the position of family advocate to respond to mounting concerns about children in the care of CFS in Manitoba. More than 10,000 children are in care and roughly 90 per cent of them are aboriginal. 

Cora Morgan, hired to fill the position, started last Monday. 

On day one, Morgan said a grandmother came in to see her. The woman was desperate to find a way to get her grandchild out of CFS care and bring them home. 

The next day, Morgan accompanied the same grandmother to her meeting with CFS. 

"We had a great meeting – or what I thought was a good meeting – that we were going to get some answers and the family was going to do what it needed to do. And the following morning the CFS agency took away their visitation rights because they engaged me. And so with my involvement on Tuesday, it looked like they were in a worse-off position than when we started," Morgan told CBC. 

"I was devastated. And I wasn't anywhere near as devastated as the family."

Complex problems 

"I think [the problem is] going to be a lot bigger and a lot more complicated than we anticipated," Morgan said. 

She said First Nations need to be involved in reforms to end the perpetual cycle of care.

"There needs to be supports to address issues or this will just be a contemporary version of residential schools, the Sixties Scoop and now we have CFS," Morgan said. 

While Morgan said she believes the solution to the child welfare system involves revamped legislation, she also sees that current legislation allows for some actions to be taken that aren't happening at the moment. For example, she said she is skeptical about whether full investigations are conducted before a child is removed from a home. She also has not seen evidence of preventative measures being pursued.  

"Prior to this role I worked in the area of restorative justice and I would see how many children would come through our doors as a result of being in CFS care, and knowing what I've learned over the years and all of these intricacies of residential school effects, I, as a First Nations person, didn't want to look back 30 years from now and be here in this place and time, knowing that this was going on and I didn't do anything about it," Morgan said.  

"I believe [the child welfare system is] in crisis. We have over 10,000 children in care who ultimately want to be back with their families and feel loved and supported and offered the same opportunities as other children."

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