Child & Family Services(CFS) in Manitoba and Canada in general does not have a good reputation. Without diving head first into the a rock hiding beneath the water surface, CFS has not been acting in a good way towards Indigenous families in Canada. A small but fierce Gitxan Warrior named Cindy Blackstock battled for fairness and really wounded the giant CFS-Canada. Canada did some bad stuff to Blackstock. She was speaking for the Indian kids across Canada and the government didn't like that, because they knew they were being cruel: ripping new born babies out of the arms of Moms at the hospital bed with the Cops as the big scary henchmen. Underfunding the services for Indigenous agencies. Quick to seize kids without benefit of doubt to parents and families. CFS follows provincial laws and each is different. The agencies follow the regulations which many see as a determent to the health of the family and child.
You will find the general feeling towards CFS is not a good one. It is like finding a wood tick on your baby. You are surprised, shocked, and even angry because your baby is only one and half years old and how in the heck did she get a bug that thrives mostly in the bush. I bet it was the neighbours dog who passed it on to her, that little annoying Pekingese pug faced noisy mongrel. So people feel like that towards CFS; an annoying yappy mongrel who has no business bothering their kids. Does CFS deserve such a reputation? In some cases, yes. The issues stem from strict adherence to the regulations. Many of the regulations are at odds with the reality of a home life. The single room guideline is one example. Many homes in the community, the reserve, and the poorer areas of a City do not have the room. The children share rooms in some cases. There are many situations and regulations where things just don't fit; legislative, structural and systemic. There is also the individual bias which occurs when people have no real clue as to the life style, the synergism in a family. The result is an industry which is bullish, heavy-handed and operating with blinders on, and of course hands-tied because of regulation and legislation, the law.
The Front-Line worker and management take the most criticism of CFS operations. There is no doubt there are issues within the Child Family industry, especially when it comes to Indigenous relationships. The CFS system is filled with Indigenous children. The Indigenous community suffers much and our kids need to be protected. Still the system needs to have more compassion and understanding of the family dynamics, the history context and the current family situation. Lot of factors to consider when you literally are dealing with lives. No one wants a child to die because of an ugly home situation or a monstrous foster parent situation. There are very kind, very conscientious, very thoughtful and accommodating workers in the system as well. I know some of them.
My Mom was not a fan of CFS getting involved in family affairs in the Reserve. But she was of the generation where families stepped up and looked after the children. Many a Kookum (Granny), an Auntie took on the role of raising a child which needed a home. There is still this practice but the CFS system didn't really work with the Indigenous community in this manner. There are some changes now to recognize the extended family connections in the Indigenous community. Still a lot of work has to be done; you know the legislation thing. Getting back to Mom, she was a Granny, a Kookum and she had no issue with looking after her Grandchildren, Noozhisag.
Child and Family did alright by me. Our oldest daughter had issues. The rotten monster addiction grabbed her and didn't let go. Lot of worry, lot of fear, lot of anxiety, lot of anger in our lives when the monster enters your home. No need to tell you how ugly drugs are, they spread harm, they steal happiness and joy, they ruin lives and they kill. My daughter got pregnant and was still using drugs. We hoped a child would bring joy, stability into her life. Wishful thinking on our part. It was difficult for our daughter trying to fight the addiction monster. Things came to a crisis after one month of the birth, we took the baby. We had no intention of being our Granbaby's parents. We thought our oldest girl would be able to combat the monster after realizing her loss. Didn't happen. Our daughter tried but the monster of addiction is a difficult beast to defeat. Addiction doesn't care if you are a good person or not.
In the past the Grandchild, the nephew, niece, cousin would just become part of the family. Today the laws make it more difficult. We went for a Traditional Anishinaabe adoption of our grandchild. We have witnesses and a group of Elders and relatives conduct the Adoption Ceremony. Our oldest girl was at the ceremony because it was not an adversarial process, but rather inclusive event. It was our intent and our hope this Indigenous adoption would be recognized by the community and the larger world. We found out there is no recognition of Ancestral Indigenous practices.
There has to be paper. Paper to prove you are the guardian, the parent of the child. Without paper you are not recognized as the parent. You cannot make medical decisions for the child without paper. You can not register for school. Can not put them on your health insurance and so on. Paper is the rule of the land. The thing is paper costs money. Many people just do not have money to buy paper. So in order to get paper, there is the choice of having CFS involved. This process to get paper by way of CFS is very intrusive. for us it has to be done. The financial burden of hiring a professional to complete a home assessment is costly. Even with CFS involvement it costs money to get paper, like guardian papers or adoption papers.
For us, CFS did us right. They recommended and provide the professional to do the background check, the assessment of us. I contacted the Adoption regulators and they recommended a lawyer needed for the court process in order to get our papers. With the good work of the CFS recommended assessment worker and the good work of the lawyer, we were successful in getting the Paper for our grandchild. The lawyer was reasonable priced and a very compassionate and kind. This makes the process less intimidating and scary. We didn't want to get CFS involved but we did not know the system. It was not a choice we wanted but we made it. Lucky for us, the Director of the agency in our Reserve is a great guy and my cousin. Although the Director took a hands-off approach with our CFS file, just knowing him made it easier for us to involve CFS and it turned out good for us.
Our grandchild should have been able to just become part of our family because that is how it has always been done in our community. Traditional Adoption Ceremony should be recognized, but the current law doesn't allow for this. In the community Children are family and family looks after them. This is what Child Family should really be, family looking after family.