Extending Aboriginal Control Over Child Welfare Services
simply by the creation of community-based child and family services agencies.However, improved funding, legislation and inter-sectoral linkages can help toaddress some of these issues on reserves, and these issues are currently beingaddressed by a National Joint Policy Review that includes the Assembly of First Nations and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Thiscollaborative policy making process is encouraging; however, to date, it has notresulted in a major expansion in resources for First Nations agencies, and in anyevent, it will not address funding for off-reserve services.The welfare reform era of the ’90s has been marked by cutbacks in social servicefunding by both federal and provincial governments as manifested by changes tothe Canada Health and Social Transfer, Employment Insurance and cuts to welfarerates. Child welfare expenditures have been somewhat immune to these trends because of increased funding requirements for children in care. For example, between 1993 and 1999 there was a 49 per cent increase in the number of federallyfunded First Nations children in care and an increase of 31 per cent in the number of children in care within provincial and territorial child welfare agencies (exclud-ing Quebec) (McKenzie, 2002, p. 21).
As well, per diem costs for children haveincreased due to higher needs and related requirements for special services. This hasled to increased concerns about costs among both federal and provincial govern-ments and the inherent risks of expanding child welfare services in ways that mightexacerbate these trends (McKenzie, 2002). When assessed in relation to thesetrends, Manitoba’s new initiative to extend Aboriginal jurisdiction for child andfamily services to people living off-reserve appears quite innovative. After restruc-turing, new Aboriginal child and family service authorities could assume respon-sibility for approximately two-thirds of the approximately 3,500 children in provincial care, in addition to the 2000 children already in the care of existing First Nations agencies. Results from the Manitoba experiment are likely to be watchedclosely by other provinces, particularly those with a relatively high ratio of Aboriginal children in care.
Commitments were made by the NDP during the 1999 election campaign to acton recommendations from the
Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry
(Manitoba,1991), even though this was not a major election promise. The Aboriginal JusticeInquiry (AJI) led to a number of far reaching recommendations, particularly inrelation to the authority and provision of criminal justice services. Even thoughchild welfare had been accorded only one chapter in the AJI, the government feltit was of particular significance, partly because of the belief that it would allow for earlier intervention with individuals who might ultimately become involved withthe judicial system. Thus, it was identified as a place to begin and an
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