85 per cent of foster kids are Indigenous
When you are Indigenous, it only takes one mistake. When you are Indigenous, you are often not given a chance to prove yourself first. You have your rights and privileges taken away and then you must prove yourself before you get your children back.
I have a huge amount of support on my side, but I silently wonder if that would be enough. Would they listen? Or would they treat me like they do so many other Indigenous people, like a nobody, like someone who doesn’t matter. Take away the children and ask questions later!
On September 1, 2015 Cora Morgan, a First Nations family advocate, told the Canadian Press that she had been with a mother in hospital when Child and Family Services took the woman’s three-day-old son away. The only reason given was that the mother had been a ward of family services until she was 18.
Indigenous Services Minister, Jane Philpott, has called the disproportionate number of Indigenous children currently in the child welfare system a humanitarian crisis.
According to Statistics Canada, 85 per cent of Saskatchewan children in foster care are Indigenous. Raven Sinclair, a University of Regina social work professor based in Saskatoon, is quoted in the Regina Leader-Post saying that there is an ”uninterrogated belief on behalf of everyone involved in child welfare that indigenous people are not suitable to be parents.”
I am a child of the Sixties Scoop. I was taken away from my biological family and adopted into a non-Indigenous family. I was than taken from my adopted family and raised as a teenager in the foster care system and became a permanent ward of the courts. Now I am a single Indigenous mother who lives in and out of poverty. My home is well lived in and can sometimes be a disaster zone. My son struggles with behavioural difficulties. Every challenge we’ve had with daycares, other parents, neighbours, and in the schools leaves me waiting in fear that child protection will show up on my door. In fact, every one of the difficulties I face could be used against me if ever child protection were called.
I have taken numerous parenting courses. I have read countless parenting books. I am the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Disorder and a condition known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. On top off these trying conditions, my son struggles with grief over the loss of his father. Life is hard at our house. I am often in fear that someone may judge me and make that call. I have no control of this. All that I can do is hold on, knowing that when it comes to parenting I give it my all.
As parents, we often raise our children the way we were raised ourselves. We do what has been modeled to us. How many of us at one time or another have said “I will never raise my child the way I was raised by my parents”? Well I have yet to meet a parent who has not at some point said, “Oh my goodness I’ve turned into my mother/father!” And yet we all sit in disbelief when we watch our Indigenous parents struggling with parenting. Many Indigenous parents today were not able to learn parenting from their own parents, having been raised in residential schools or foster homes. It is no wonder that Indigenous parents sometimes struggle with parenting.
Furthermore, asking for help is hard, especially when that help is coming from the very systems that have taken so much away from you. I am not sure I could say with any certainty that I would have sought out as much help as I have if I had not been raised the way I was, by which I mean raised by non-Indigenous parents and taught a colonized view on life. For the average Indigenous person, colonized systems are not to be trusted. Government services have lied and misrepresented themselves to many Indigenous people too many times.
In order for us ever to reach a state of reconciliation with the foster care system, a lot of understanding and work is needed. Traditional ways of parenting must be taught by Indigenous members of our communities.
The Truth and Reconciliation Report call to action No. 5 is as follows: “We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to develop culturally appropriate parenting programs for Aboriginal families.”
If our foster care system doesn’t start listening, another era of trauma inflicted upon our Indigenous people will be upon us, and we will be no further along than we were 20 years ago.
Life is hard at our house. I am often in fear that someone may judge me and make that call. I have no control of this. All that I can do is hold on, knowing that when it comes to parenting I give it my all.