Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Parents involved in CFS system need more support: study

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Aboriginal mothers who have lost custody of their kids say the child welfare system is often unfair, overly-complex and alienates them from their kids.

Those are the findings of a study released this morning based on interviews with 32 mothers who navigated the province's troubled child welfare system -- the social workers, the lawyers and court processes, the counseling programs, the visitation rules.

Many of the women were middle-aged and may have come into contact with child welfare before devolution -- the process when child welfare cases were handed over to aboriginal agencies and social workers better able to respect First Nations' culture. But they told researchers they experienced overt racism from social workers and foster homes often broke vital cultural bonds.

The study recommends the creation of support groups, plain-language guides and an advocates office to help aboriginal women trying to win back custody of their kids. The study's authors say more needs to be done to help parents do a better job before their kids are placed in foster homes.

"It has to be a kinder process," said researcher Marlyn Bennett, herself a product of the CFS system. "We need more supports for parents to be good parents."

The study was done for the Family Court Diversion Project and Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc., an aboriginal social services organization.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2008

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