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LLRIB to deliver child welfare services off-reserve
By Dec. 1, Lac La Ronge’s Indian Child and Family Services will be assuming responsibility for welfare services for First Nation families living off-reserve in the surrounding area.
“This is probably one of the most historically significant developments in child welfare in Saskatchewan,” said Dexter Kinequon, executive director with ICFS.
Under a new agreement being negotiated, ICFS would assume child protection services; children’s services, including foster care, extended family care and other out-of-home care for children; recruitment, retention and support of foster parents and other family caregivers; and services to 16 and 17 year-olds.
Kinequon views the agreement as the first step by the Ministry of Social Services to move from being a regulatory agency that provides direct services in the Lac La Ronge Indian Band area to being an agency that will focus on oversight duties.
The move to hand off-reserve responsibility over to the Lac La Ronge Indian Band is in part due to a child welfare review that was conducted by the Children’s Advocate Office. The final report presented in December 2010 and which included recommendations, found that a significant number of children receiving child welfare services from the province were First Nations, particularly in the Lac La Ronge Indian Band area.
It also meant a duplication of services, said Kinequon, with the band having a social services department and then provincial social services offices out in the communities.
“We’re already working with a lot of the extended families of these clients. It’s seen as an opportunity to work jointly, to be able to bring the resources that the agency has to the clients that are being served by the ministry,” he said.
ICFS will be receiving funding from the province to undertake work off-reserve. Federal dollars will continue to be used for child welfare work carried out on the reserve. These are two separate funding arrangements, noted Kinequon, and neither pot can be dipped into to supplement the other.
Kinequon says ICFS has already been doing off-reserve work for the ministry, holding contracts to provide emergency duty services and to deliver prevention services.
The nine staff that provides support for the ministry will be added to the 35 staff that presently works in ICFS’s child welfare division. ICFS will take on both new clientele and the province’s existing clientele off-reserve. Kinequon is not certain how many that means.
“I think (the agreement) is based on a spirit of openness with the Ministry of Social Services and the spirit of cooperation. I think that they look toward this agency with confidence to be able to move forward,” said Kinequon.
He notes that ICFS is probably the only First Nations child welfare agency in the province to be accredited by the Canadian Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. The three-year certification was received in 2010.
“What it means, ultimately, is that we’re providing the best possible care that we can,” said Kinequon.
In a news release issued by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, the organization said the move by the Ministry of Social Services was a step towards the realization of First Nations Inherent and Treaty Right to Child Welfare.
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