The final report
The recommendations of the province’s Child and Youth Advocate.
Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh released a report Wednesday in Nain, Labrador, following a nearly year and half comprehensive review of the treatment and experiences of Inuit children and youth in the Newfoundland and Labrador child protection system.
The report contains 33 recommendations that identify immediate changes needed to boost children’s rights. The report states the recommendations also offer a path to long-term change that, if implemented, can help support and build capacity for a transition to Inuit-directed child welfare services.
“When we began this independent review there were 1,005 children in care in Newfoundland and Labrador. There were 345 Indigenous children, and 150 of these children were Inuit. Many Indigenous children have been removed from their families, communities and culture,” Lake Kavanagh said. “This information is neither new nor unique to this province. Indigenous children are critically over-represented throughout Canadian child welfare systems. Bold systemic change is required where young people are heard, relationships are reset, power is shared, communities are engaged, resources are enhanced, and Inuit knowledge and beliefs are validated and incorporated into new ways of keeping children safe and supported.”
The report notes the recommendations came after community sessions and other interviews, and a review of 213 case files, and from experiences advocating for vulnerable Indigenous children and youth over the years.
Participation in the review was broad, and included Inuit communities, other Labrador and island communities, and people from other parts of Canada who have strong ties to Inuit communities in Labrador.
Lake Kavanagh said the review shows there is an urgent need to begin to work in a different way with Inuit children and youth.
“While there are specific actions that can occur to make immediate improvements in their situation and experiences, there is also a requirement to create a new vision and relationship with Inuit, and may involve Nunatsiavut government assuming responsibility for these services in the future,” she said. “Reconciliation is a much-used word, but it must be recognized as a fundamental cornerstone in any plan to move forward. And this reconciliation must happen at all levels, including Inuit children and youth. If there had been any doubt, this review has shown that the current relationship with Inuit requires healing.”
The recommendations include that the provincial government ensure Inuit values, knowledge and cultural practices are integrated in all policies, planning and services for Inuit children and youth, and that the input and perspectives of Inuit children and youth are included in all plans that affect them.
Inuit children and youth must be provided the means to maintain relationships with important individuals in their lives, with special consideration for siblings whenever possible, the report states.
Other recommendations suggest the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development complete an audit on all out-of-community placements, and engage the Nunatsiavut Government to ensure all placement options have been considered first within the child’s family and/or community, and secondly within Nunatsiavut territory.
The report also recommends the department broaden its mandate and range of responses to focus more on prevention and early intervention for children and families in the child protection system, and support Inuit community services and programs that contribute to prevention and early intervention.
It also suggests a review and update of the current level of financial supports to Inuit children, families and caregivers in the child protection system to reflect the northern Labrador reality, and that this must include addressing prices of goods and services, as well as transportation and delivery costs.
“Reconciliation is a much-used word, but it must be recognized as a fundamental cornerstone in any plan to move forward. And this reconciliation must happen at all levels, including Inuit children and youth. If there had been any doubt, this review has shown that the current relationship with Inuit requires healing.” Jackie Lake Kavanagh Child and Youth Advocate
Lisa Dempster, minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development, responded to the report by saying her department will work with the Nunatsiavut Government, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, other provincial and federal government departments, and partners to complete a thorough analysis of the recommendations and develop an implementation plan.
“We appreciate the Inuit community sharing their collective experience and wisdom through participating in this review, recognizing that, in many cases, sharing their experiences is painful,” Dempster said. “Our commitment to the children and families is unwavering. We share the goal of improving the experience and outcomes of Inuit children, youth and families.”
Dempster also noted that the new Children, Youth and Families Act — which came into effect in June — contains provisions that directly address many of the recommendations in the report and provide the means to implement others.
“In collaboration with our Indigenous partners, we are developing training for social workers on Indigenous cultures and history,” she said. “We also worked with the Nunatsiavut government to address recruitment and retention issues and, as a result, we are pleased to report that we currently have a full complement of social work staff in Inuit communities.”
Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh.
Child and Youth Advocate Jackie Lake Kavanagh released a report Wednesday called “A Long Wait For Change: Independent Review of Child Protection Services to Inuit Children in Newfoundland and Labrador.” The report’s cover photo is of a mural in Jens Haven Memorial School in Nain painted by Lucas Angnatok and Edward Barbour.