Manitoba

Southern Chiefs' Organization signs 'groundbreaking' child welfare agreement with Macdonald Youth Services

A group that represents 34 First Nations in Manitoba has signed a new partnership with a child welfare agency that it hopes will lead to better treatment for Indigenous children in care.

'If 90% of kids in care in Manitoba are Indigenous, then Indigenous people have to have a say': SCO adviser

Diane Kelly is the senior adviser on child and family services for the Southern Chiefs' Organization. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A group that represents 34 First Nations in Manitoba has signed a new partnership with a child welfare agency that it hopes will lead to better treatment for Indigenous children in care.

The Southern Chiefs' Organization signed a memorandum of understanding with Macdonald Youth Services on Wednesday that will let the two work together on a path of reconciliation.

"Some people will say it's way overdue, but the fact is that it's groundbreaking. This hasn't been done before and it's exciting for that opportunity," said Jim Krovats, board chair of Macdonald Youth Services.

The memorandum of understanding will ensure the Southern Chiefs' Organization is more involved in how Macdonald creates programming, and potentially in how the youth service makes some decisions.

"It's significantly important, I think, for the entire country to see that First Nations are prepared to work with large organizations and to develop a structure that works for both of us," said Southern Chiefs' Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.

"I think that's the biggest thing."

SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said the agreement will create better outcomes for Indigenous children in care. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

He said the agreement is significant because a significant number of the children Macdonald Youth Services works with are from his region.

Macdonald Youth said 27 per cent of its clients are from the Southern First Nations Network of Care.

Manitoba has roughly 11,000 kids in government care, the highest per capita rate in Canada. About 90 per cent of the kids in care are Indigenous.

Wednesday's agreement will bring Indigenous voices to the table that have been missing for far too long, said Diane Kelly, senior adviser on child and family services for the Southern Chiefs' Organization.

"If 90 per cent of kids in care in Manitoba are Indigenous, then Indigenous people have to have a say," said Kelly, a former child and family services assistant deputy minister.

Macdonald Youth Services works with youth all over the province, running foster homes and healing homes, helping foster parents and offering a mobile crisis team for kids.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. This past summer, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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