Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Filipino foster parents best to raise Métis boy: ruling

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THE foster parents of a 21/2-year-old Métis boy are one very important step closer to becoming his full-time guardians.

An independent adjudicator ruled in their favour Wednesday, saying it's in the boy's best interests to stay with them and they can now proceed to officially adopt him.

The boy first came into their care in October 2011. Last spring, the Metis Child & Family Services Authority informed the foster parents, who are Filipino, that it had found a Métis family to adopt the boy and he would be placed with them soon after. The agency said the foster parents weren't "culturally appropriate."

The foster parents, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the boy, appealed the decision to an independent adjudicator.

"By all accounts, he is a happy, engaged and loving little boy," Jennifer Cooper wrote in her decision. "(The boy) loves his foster parents and they love him. That love should be given an opportunity to continue and blossom."

Cooper said while the foster parents lack the ability to provide the boy with an important part of his heritage -- a Métis home -- she expressed hope they would welcome and embrace his background and help him learn about and participate in his Métis culture.

The foster parents are 44 and 55 years old and have been together for 16 years. They tried to have children of their own but couldn't due to infertility.

"We are very glad and thankful about the decision. It was a long and difficult journey for us and our families," the foster mother said.

"I hope that other families will not go through what we went through. We will continue to do our best to care for and love this boy."

She said she's looking forward to the day when they no longer have to worry about legal paperwork and can instead focus on being the best parents they can be.

Their lawyer, Paul Walsh, said they will now apply for guardianship and the Métis agency can't remove them as the boy's caregivers.

"There's a stalemate but that's to the advantage of the foster parents. The tie goes to the runner," Walsh said.

The application for guardianship is "virtually certain" to be successful, he said.

"Why would you turn them down? They're healthy and even the agency said they were as good adopting parents as you could get. They were just culturally inappropriate," he said.

"Hopefully the agency will realize all they can do is hold the present situation, which isn't in the child's best interest, and ultimately consent to an adoption. It's really a matter of doing the right thing (for the child)."

The child's birth father is Ukrainian while his birth mother is Métis. His maternal grandparents are of European heritage and Métis. He also has Dutch, Irish and Scottish blood.

The boy's skin is light, his facial features are Caucasian, his hair is light brown and his eyes are blue.

The foster parents often speak Tagalog, the official language of the Philippines, in the home and the boy understands both it and English.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 8:39 AM CDT: Adds document of decision

10:23 AM: Fixes decision document.

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