In a perfect world, every child would have the benefit of a safe, happy, and healthy home environment. Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, the home a child was born into is not always the best place for their well-being, either in the short or long term. Any time a child is removed from their home, there are many important factors to consider in their placement, but this is especially true with respect to Canada’s Indigenous children. In this area, in particular, our country has an unfortunate history of not only removing children from their homes, but also their community, culture, and historical identity.
In the past, when a home was deemed unsafe for an Indigenous child, not only was that determination often made on improper and colonial beliefs, but the children were frequently placed with a family completely outside of the community and culture in which they were raised. This resulted in confusion, anger, and a loss of identity for the child, leading to lifelong challenges and hardships. The harm caused by these placements has been recognized not only in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports but also by the courts in the recent monetary awards to victims of the Sixties Scoop.
The families with whom Indigenous children are placed are typically inexperienced and lack the knowledge necessary to maintain a sense of cultural integrity and security for these children. The loss of contact with immediate family is an extremely traumatic event for a child and placing them in a wholly unfamiliar environment apart from their home communities intensifies this loss considerably. When an Indigenous child is removed from their home, oftentimes extended family members or others in the local community want to step up as a guardian or a temporary placement for the child while the matter goes through the courts, but it can be an uphill battle and it requires a skilled advocate with an understanding of the nuances of the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act, the Policies of the Director of Children’s Services, and developments in the area of Child Protection law and research.
Indigenous child welfare and guardianship cases are often handled by junior lawyers with little related experience. Indigenous kinship cases require a lawyer who can deftly navigate the intricacies of the law, and the various government agencies involved in Indigenous guardianship matters. At Mincher Koeman in Calgary, our family lawyers have extensive experience handling kinship matters and are better acquainted with these issues than many other family firms in the province. We have carved a niche in the Calgary family bar for this type of work and have in-depth knowledge of the Alberta foster care system and the Kinship Care program. We have been in court on a number of guardianship and kinship matters, both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, successfully helping to place children with families who share their cultural background, often in their same community or even their extended family. It is some of the most rewarding work that we have the privilege to be a part of in our roles as family advocates.
Mincher Koeman’s founding partner, Lynsey Mincher, has previously worked with Children’s Services in Alberta where she became exceedingly familiar with guardianship issues pertaining to all children including children raised in Indigenous communities. In her time with CS, she learned how to work within the complex Alberta foster care system to find the best path to a safe and healthy outcome for the children involved. Now, the lawyers at the firm apply those same skills in their practice as dedicated family lawyers. We have become a firm that other lawyers in the Calgary family bar regularly reach out to with referrals for work or for our respected opinions. Our compassion and dedication to this area of law is ongoing and deeply rooted.
A kinship caregiver provides comfort to a child who has been removed from their home. Even in instances of traumatic home life, the removal from one’s parents and familiar surroundings can be a scary and upsetting event. Finding a source of familiarity in a new placement can be invaluable for the mental and emotional wellbeing of any child. Kinship caregivers, in particular, can be a refuge in these cases, as they can provide a child with:
Once approved as a kinship caregiver, the responsibilities are numerous, but there is a support system in place, similar to the type of support a foster family would receive, including compensation, training, mentorship, and peer support. In turn, there are obligations that fall on the caregivers to ensure the best interests of the child are being adequately fulfilled. These responsibilities include:
Mincher Koeman’s lawyers are incredibly knowledgeable about the Alberta Kinship Caregiver process. We are very sensitive to the nuances involved in a situation involving the removal of a child from their home, and the need to provide as much comfort and familiarity as possible in order for them to thrive under these difficult conditions. Our firm is committed to providing assistance to families or community members seeking to be appointed as kinship caregivers and we regularly work with clients to help them achieve their goals in this regard. Please contact our office to make an appointment to discuss your matter with one of our lawyers today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or by contacting us online.
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