Child protection and the Aboriginal community
If the Ministry of Children and Family Development (or a delegated Aboriginal agency) is concerned about your child's safety and well-being, it must investigate. If they have serious concerns, the ministry may take your child from your home. This is called child protection.
Important: If a social worker from the ministry (or a delegated Aboriginal agency) contacts you or visits your home, you have the right to get legal advice. The social worker may take your child from your home. Call Legal Aid immediately to find out of you qualify for a free lawyer.
604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)
Ask your lawyer or social worker about getting an Aboriginal child protection mediator to help with your case.
BC law has special terms regarding the care of Aboriginal children in child protection situations. The law recognizes:
- Preserving (protecting and keeping) their cultural identity is essential to the safety and well-being of Aboriginal children.
- Preserving their cultural identity is necessary when planning for an Aboriginal child's care.
- Aboriginal people and the Aboriginal community should be involved in the planning and delivery of services to Aboriginal families and their children.
- Appropriate Aboriginal organizations must be notified of child protection proceedings that involve Aboriginal children.
- If appropriate, designated representatives of bands, Aboriginal communities, treaty First Nations, and the Nisga'a Lisims government have the right to become a party to a child protection hearing for a child from their community. A designated representative is someone who is chosen to speak for others.
- If the ministry takes your child from your home, it will first try to place your child with your family or another Aboriginal family.
The ministry must notify your child's Aboriginal organization. For some hearings, the ministry must also notify a representative of your child's Aboriginal organization. Your child's Aboriginal organization may be:
- a band,
- a friendship centre,
- a treaty First Nation, or
- a Nisga'a Lisims government.
The Aboriginal representative has the right to:
- receive all records and information related to your case,
- speak at the child protection hearing,
- call witnesses and question other witnesses (witnesses are people who know about your situation and will talk about what they know),
- take part in any mediation,
- suggest supports that might help you,
- suggest another culturally appropriate plan for your child's care, and
- ask about ways to get you help.
To find your designated representative, look through the list of Aboriginal organizations and designated representatives in the Child, Family and Community Service Regulation.
Important: If you don't want the ministry to involve your child's Aboriginal community, you must let the social worker know as soon as possible.
In some communities, an Aboriginal child and family service agency (also known as a delegated Aboriginal agency), not the ministry, will investigate child abuse complaints.
Several Aboriginal bands and communities have delegated Aboriginal agencies. Ask whether your band or community is affected.
Not all delegated Aboriginal agencies have the same amount of responsibilities to manage their community's child and family services.
For more information, see our fact sheet Understanding delegated Aboriginal agencies. Or see the Ministry of Children and Family Development website.
There are agencies and resources in many communities that offer services specifically for Aboriginal families. The ministry has working relationships with many of these agencies. The ministry can refer you to them to help you with any child protection concerns.
Important: The ministry must refer you to these services if doing so will help to avoid removing your child from your home.
Ask the social worker about these services.
For help with child protection issues from an Aboriginal perspective:
- ask an advocate or social worker in your community, or
- find Aboriginal family services listed in A Guide to Aboriginal Organizations and Services in British Columbia on the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation website.
The following resources may be of help to you and your family:
- Our Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website:
- The Aboriginal Child Protection Wallet Card
- Our poster outlining the Aboriginal Child Protection Process
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