Many thanks for inviting me to appear before this committee today.
As indicated, I am Carolyn Loeppky, with the Department of Family Services and Consumer Affairs in Manitoba. I have served the people of Manitoba in that capacity for the last four years and I have over 35 years of experience in the public sector.
I have witnessed much change in the various sectors of government in Manitoba, and none more so than in the area of child welfare in our province. Historically, Manitoba child and family services were provided either by non-profit private agencies, or in some of the rural and northern areas by regional offices of the department.
Prior to the mandating of individual first nations agencies under the Child and Family Services Act, on-reserve services were provided by regional office staff and the province was reimbursed for these services and costs by the federal government.
In the 1980s first nations agencies began to receive provincial mandates to provide on-reserve services. As these agencies received their mandates under our province's Child and Family Services Act, they began to receive some provincial funding for services to children in care under provincial jurisdiction.
With Manitoba's proclamation of the Child and Family Services Authority Act in November 2003, a unique model of governance was formed within Canada as four child and family service authorities were established. These are the First Nations of Northern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority, the First Nations of Southern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority, the Métis Child and Family Services Authority, and the General Child and Family Services Authority. These authorities are mandated the responsibility of overseeing the operations of their agencies.
This process of devolving child welfare responsibilities to first nations and Métis peoples came as a result of the aboriginal justice inquiry child welfare initiative. As a result of this, in Manitoba the province funds the authorities, who in turn fund their agencies.
Cooperation and communication between the Province of Manitoba and the federal Department of Indian Affairs has led to a new funding model for Manitoba. It's a funding model that recognizes Manitoba's unique and historical approach to child welfare and engages and acknowledges the unique authority, rights, and responsibilities of first nations and Métis peoples to honour and care for children.
The model differs from other provinces because Manitoba is the only province where first nations agencies provide mandated services both on and off reserve. We refer to this as “concurrent jurisdiction”, which means that first nations agencies serve those populations who are members of their communities and of their bands both on and off reserve.
The province, the Department of Indian Affairs, the authorities, and the agencies in our province have worked in partnership to develop the Manitoba model. Although not all requests that were identified for inclusion in the model could be accommodated at this time, the model provides significant increases to first nations child and family service agencies.
The highlights of our model include the following:
The province and INAC share funding for core positions within first nations agencies at a ratio of 60% for the provincial share and 40% for the federal contribution. The Manitoba model uses for the federal component an assumption that 7% of children are in care, rather than the 6% used in other provinces. For the provincial component we use actual numbers.
Prevention services in our model will be staged over three years, beginning in 2010-11, to accommodate for the capacity-building necessary to deliver prevention services. It will be a three-year phased-in approach.
The extensive resource development will be required on reserve to provide some comparable services for accessibility for prevention services. Over probably two and a half years, the agencies, authorities, province, and INAC have been working together to develop the terms of the funding model.
We are currently just at the stage of starting to implement. The federal government has made a commitment, over five years, to begin this first stage of implementation.
The funding model will have to be looked at closely, reviewed, and monitored to determine how this new approach for Manitoba first nations will be implemented and to determine whether adjustments and/or changes will have to be made over time.
Thank you very much.
In Nova Scotia, the Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services agency has recently been audited by the Department of Community Services to ensure that we are meeting the mandated responsibilities of a child welfare agency. The department identified several areas in which we have not met standards. We are working with the department to identify the resources needed to correct the issues.
We are funded under the enhanced funding approach. INAC advances the position that the enhanced approach is the solution, but this is not our experience. We are expected to provide the same services as the province with approximately 75% of the funding. This approach continues to place our vulnerable children at risk of harm.
Until 2006, Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia was funded under Directive 20-1. Directive 20-1 has been reviewed by the Auditor General of Canada and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, and both found that Directive 20-1 was inequitable and not based on the needs of first nations children and families.
INAC's fact sheet dated 2007 links the directive to growing numbers of first nations children in care and the inability of first nations child and family service agencies to meet mandated responsibilities.
INAC's Directive 20-1 also has an impact on our agency operations. Even though our agency and staff had won numerous national awards, we were working out of an office that was condemned by INAC's own building inspectors. Wiring was a hazard, sewage pipes regularly leaked into the building, mould was a constant problem, and staff were overcrowded. These are not the conditions that any federal government employee would be asked to endure.
In 2005 we were approved for a flexible funding approach, but still within the structure of Directive 20-1, which allowed our agency a set amount of maintenance expenses, which we were allowed to divert to a more proactive approach to child protection that was more consistent with the direction of the Department of Community Services in Nova Scotia.
This allowed us to provide services intended to keep children at home with their families. The average increased cost per year under Directive 20-1 and their reimbursement for actual expenses for children outside the family home from 1996 to 2004 was 25.3%. When we were able to divert funds to the more proactive model, the average rate of increase per annum from 2005 to 2010 was 4.3%. From 1996 to 2004, our cases increased from 81 to 279, an increase of 244%. From 2005 to 2010, our cases increased from 279 to 323, an increase of 12%. This is at least an indication that a more proactive approach is also more cost-effective.
The new flexible funding model addressed part of the need to work more proactively but did nothing to correct the lack of funding for operations. Directive 20-1 provides no funding for capital expenditures on premises, computer equipment, or any other fiscal plant needs. Funds for administration and staff were still inadequate. No agency can operative effectively without space, proper administrative support, or sufficient staff. How can INAC expect agencies to function efficiently without the resources to do so?
INAC seems to prioritize actions related to reducing federal cost and thus the well-being of children, even when multiple expert reports and its departmental records indicate that more investment is needed to ensure child safety and well-being in these regions.
As can be seen from the experience in Nova Scotia, actions to prioritize the safety and well-being of children actually appear to also have the effect of reducing cost.
We were funded under Directive 20-1 until 2009, and our previous executive director, Joan Glode, was very involved in the three INAC-sponsored reviews of the directive in the 1990's through to 2007. Mi'kmaw was pleased to work with our first nations colleagues across Canada and with INAC to document the inequities and to develop solutions to the problems that would ensure culturally based and comparable services to our families.
We experienced first-hand how the lack of family services was undermining the success of families and driving Mi'kmaq children into foster care.
We also experienced some success when we were able to take a more proactive preventive approach. We were in a very difficult situation of delivering services to our peoples knowing we could not do so at the same level as our provincial counterparts because of INAC's restrictive policy regimes. As noted in this INAC document obtained under access to information, INAC agrees that its programs are causing harm to children and undermining INAC's own requirement that agents meet provincially mandated responsibilities. Instead of relying on the evidence-based approach of Wen:de, INAC staff developed the enhanced model unilaterally and presented the enhanced funding model to us as the exclusive option to Directive 20-1, even though the Auditor General had found it to be inequitable in 2008.
INAC's own records indicate they have an inflexible national template to guide implementation in the regions, and their documents emphasize that INAC is only mandated to discuss the enhanced approach with provinces and first nations, not negotiate. Although the Auditor General of Canada found enhanced funding to be an improvement over Directive 20-1, it continues to be inequitable and incorporates some of the flaws of Directive 20-1, such as not basing funding on the actual needs of first nations children and families. This is consistent with our experience in Nova Scotia.
In 2009, the agency went to the enhanced funding approach based on the Alberta agreement. This increased our funding by $10 million, approximately $2 million per annum over a five-year period, and was badly needed in order for us to avoid significant deficits. This new funding merely brought the agency closer to the funding available to a provincial agency in the 2007 year but does not address the current inequities of funding. This increase does not represent the actual real needs of the agency but was simply an amount decided upon by INAC. Enhanced funding is public policy somewhat akin to funding the building of a bridge over three-quarters of a river. INAC can say it has done something, but it is not enough for children to cross over safely. The vulnerability of our families cannot be underestimated, and shortchanging the children will lead, in our view, to a much higher cost to government later on.
INAC undertook an internal evaluation of the implementation of the enhanced funding formula in Alberta and summarizes the findings in a presentation deck entitled “Implementation Evaluation of the Enhanced Prevention Focused Approach (EPFA) in Alberta: preliminary findings, May 14, 2010”. This evaluation demonstrates some significant shortcomings in the enhanced prevention-based approach. INAC, however, continues to offer the enhanced approach with all of its flaws as the exclusive funding alternative. It does not appear that INAC has taken any meaningful steps to redress the flaws of the enhanced approach identified by the Auditor General in 2008.
Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia is in the third year of the five-year business plan. As we predicted at the outset, we are again experiencing difficulties meeting our mandates due to inadequate resources, particularly staffing. The 2010-2011 fiscal year will almost certainly end in deficit. During the year, the province increased the board rate for children by 5%. Staff salaries have increased by 6.8% since the inception of the EPFA model. We are experiencing an unusual increase in children with exceptionally high special needs. All of these factors have heavily impacted costs, and yet there is no provision for additional funding to cover the increased costs.
We have recommendations that we have included:
One, INAC must take immediate steps, in full partnership with first nations, to fully redress the inequities and structural problems with Directive 20-1 and the enhanced funding approach as identified by the Auditor General of Canada in their own evaluation of the Alberta model. There is no acceptable rationalization for ongoing inequities affecting first nations children given the range of solutions available to the department to redress the problems and the wealth of the country.
Two, INAC must support other funding and policy options proposed by first nations for first nations child and family services, other than the enhanced approach, Directive 20-1 and the 1965 Indian welfare agreement, which the Auditor General has found to be inequitable.
Three, INAC needs to plan on changes to funding levels necessitated by McIvor, as the increased numbers of children and families served will strain even further the existing funds of the first nations child welfare agencies.
Four, INAC must fully and immediately implement Jordan's Principle across all government services to ensure that no first nations child is denied access to government services available to all other children. It must avoid the inefficient and ineffective case-by-case approach currently being advanced by INAC and other federal departments.
And the last one, five, INAC must immediately provide training to INAC staff, so they are fully briefed on all reports, including the reports of the Auditor General of Canada on INAC's first nations child and family service program, so they are in a better position to implement outstanding recommendations.
Thank you very much.
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee this morning.
In Manitoba there are 14 first nations child and family services agencies operating throughout the province providing CFS services on reserve. Eight of those 14 fall under the umbrella of the Southern First Nation Network of Care, or what I'll refer to as the Southern Authority. The two other agencies provide services only off reserve.
In Manitoba, the first nations CFS agencies were established in the early 1980s. Many of us have recently been celebrating 25- or 30-year anniversaries, so they're agencies with considerable experience. However, until late 2003 the agencies were limited to providing mandated services on reserve. In Manitoba, with the restructuring of CFS under the aboriginal justice inquiry child welfare initiative, those mandates were extended, so all of our agencies now provide services on and off reserve. They are funded both provincially and federally, so they have lots of experience in dealing with two different funders and sometimes inequity in that funding.
The Southern Authority was established in 2003 through the CFS Authorities Act. It's one of four authorities. As an authority, in addition to being responsible for regulating and monitoring the services that agencies provide, we also have the authority to mandate them or limit their mandates or in fact remove their mandates. We are also responsible for funding them for their provincial services. So we are well aware of the funding they receive from the province, and through our monitoring role we are very well aware of what they are receiving from the federal government.
Also, with the Southern Authority we, along with our agencies, were quite involved in working with both the province and INAC on the working group to establish the new funding model under the enhanced prevention approach.
In addition, up until 2003 I was the executive director of West Region Child and Family Services, which is a first nations agency that has been involved with INAC on unique around-the-block funding of maintenance. So we have some experience with a funding model that takes a proactive approach and tries to reinvest savings on the maintenance funds.
Given that Manitoba is moving towards the prevention-focused funding model, I'm not going to dwell too much on Directive 20-1. I'm told the committee is already fairly well informed about that directive. But I do believe there are some experiences we have had concerning the directive we should pay attention to, because there are lessons that should be learned from that. As we move together with the province and INAC into a new funding regime, some of those experiences and those lessons will in fact be learning opportunities so that we don't repeat the same mistakes and end up in the same situation that agencies have found themselves in.
I personally was very involved when Directive 20-1 was first implemented. At that time, the agencies rejected the directive. INAC went ahead with it anyway and implemented it. It was clear to us at the time that INAC had established a bottom line and then developed a formula that would kind of fit into that bottom line. It's one of the concerns we have again as we move into the enhanced prevention funding.
There are a number of concerns with how the funding formula in that directive was arrived at, and we see some similar concerns arising with the new prevention-focused funding. For example, the long-term effects of the model are essentially driven on child population. Child welfare is not a universal program; it is specific for children at risk and their families. So a model that is weighted heavily on child population does not really always address need. Large communities don't necessarily have more child welfare needs. In fact, we have a number of examples of smaller communities that have much higher caseloads. In the larger communities you often have more resources, such as day care, schools, and so on, that help families that are struggling or that support families in raising their children, and those resources may not be there in smaller communities.
Other concerns include the lack of prevention funding that existed in the directive and the base amounts that were used in the formula. I think the lack of articulated methods to review that funding in an ongoing way has been one of our biggest issues with the directive. It's been in place for over 20 years, and up until recently we were still working with 1992-1993 dollar values, and there had been no formal review of the directive.
Although INAC and the federal government's policy is that the agencies have to be mandated under provincial law, there is often no connection between what we get in funds and the standards and the requirements of the provincial legislation.
A number of issues played out with the formula. For example, it did provide agencies with cost-of-living increases. But after the first two or three years, we saw the federal public service implement a freeze on all salaries and we were not exempt from that freeze. But we were exempt when the freeze was lifted, and we continued to not get cost-of-living increases. They were not done until very recently. So agencies cumulatively lost a lot of resources that way.
The funding model also did not deal with the realities of what you pay in salaries. We have to remain competitive. We struggle to build an aboriginal work force. Qualified aboriginal social workers are in high demand in the province, and our agencies have to remain competitive, at least with the provincial pay scale. Directive 20-1 did not pay any attention to that.
The other problem we had with the directive is it didn't clearly define what was included and what wasn't. It had an operations line, and in general it said this is there, this is there, this is there.... What we saw play out over the years were things that INAC had funded on reimbursables, under maintenance. All of a sudden INAC took the position that it was included in our formula, and they were no longer going to pay it.
A good example of that was the services to families money was 100% eliminated within three or four years of the directive coming in. Those were dollars that were given to agencies to provide services to children while still in their own home, to reduce or mitigate the risk for those children. INAC's own documents indicate they have seen the result of that: increased children in care. Certainly in Manitoba, when you look at our statistics from the time that cut happened, the increase in maintenance costs and the increase of children in care are very apparent.
Another example of that was legal costs for children in care. Prior to the directive, agencies were able to build those costs against that child's maintenance. Those are costs agencies have no control over. They have to go to court, they have to have a lawyer in court, and those costs can be very substantial. We had one agency this year that had $250,000 in legal bills, just on one case alone. INAC now expects agencies to take those out of operations, although there was no adjustment to operations to factor that in. There is a need to be clear about what is covered in the new enhanced formula and what isn't, so those surprises don't happen.
Manitoba is just moving now into the prevention enhanced model. We are just in the process of our agencies completing their business plan. We are in year one of that model, and our funding is effective back to October. No one has yet seen any of that money flow because it is conditional on those business plans being done. The model's being phased in and is expected to be 100% funded by year three.
In Manitoba, we are expecting a $144 million increase over the three years: $36.9 million for operations, $91.5 million for prevention, $46 million for maintenance growth, and $2.5 million for capacity building. As Carolyn Loeppky has already indicated, the new funding model has the following elements: it establishes core funding, which is shared with the province--60% is the provincial contribution, 40% the federal. It includes key positions like the executive director, finance director, child abuse coordinator, human resources manager, and quality assurance coordinator; and factors in some variances for large, medium, and small agencies.
There are two categories under the service delivery: protection and prevention. Those are case-sensitive. The province will be adjusting on an annual basis, based on cases. As with the directive, the federal model is once again heavily weighted on child population and they are making assumptions that 7% of your child population will be in care--note, that number reflects your cases--and 20% of your families will require service. That's how they factor in the cases.
We have agencies right now who are already beyond those percentages, both on the family line and on the children in care line, and they will very quickly be in some difficulty in having adequate resources.
Going into the model, all of the agencies will see increases. In Manitoba, in year one when the model is funded, it will be around $6 million for the southern agencies—the eight agencies.
All right, maybe some of the other issues will come up when you ask the questions.
Maybe I'll go to the recommendations then.
We are recommending that INAC establish an understood process for reviewing the funding model. At the present time INAC is not prepared to review it for five years. They have told us very clearly that they are not going back to Treasury Board for five years. We see some of the same difficulties that we had with the directive surfacing in those five years. In particular, because this is a new model, we believe it's very important that we stay on top of what is happening with that model and make those adjustments.
We also believe that INAC, together with first nations agencies and child welfare experts, should rework the proposed method of funding maintenance and they should come up with a method that has a reinvestment strategy. As agencies are hopefully able to reduce the numbers of kids in care, those dollars will not be lost, they will be reinvested into preventive programs.
We also believe that INAC and the province should take the lead on operationalizing Jordan's Principle; that plays out in child welfare with high-needs children, who cause a funding pressure for the agencies.
We also ask that INAC, together with the agencies and child welfare experts, determine appropriate outcomes for first nations CFS, including how to measure those outcomes that cannot be unilaterally done by INAC; and that INAC itself, within the department, also seek to have qualified staff who understand child welfare so we have subject-matter experts who take our case forward to Treasury Board and to governing bodies.
And good morning to each of you. Thank you for being with us.
Your presentations, Ms. Johnson and Ms. Flette, in particular, were quite illuminating when it comes to the whole situation of child and family services.
When INAC testifies before our committee, they never make a public admission that services are not comparable or are not being funded at an appropriate level. Even under Directive 20-1, there's never been that public acknowledgement that this situation exists. Now we're being told in their testimony that the new way forward, and the only way forward, is the enhanced prevention model. They use Alberta, because that was the first province where it was instituted, as the frame in which they assess it. They continue to say that it works in Alberta, even though preliminary evidence says it's problematic.
I want to go back to the analogy used by Ms. Johnson about a bridge going across a river. If it was two-thirds of the way across with Directive 20-1, and now it's a little further along under the enhanced prevention model, it's still not across the river, still not providing comparable services, still not delivering what's required for children and their families in first nations either on or off reserve.
I know your recommendations. I would love to hear from the Province of Manitoba as well, Ms. Loeppky. Are we going down a wrong road? Are we not shortchanging first nations children and their families if we put all our eggs in this enhanced prevention basket? Can each of you tell me that there will be services comparable with those of provincial agencies? Will you be able to meet the standards as prescribed by the provincial legislation in each of your provinces?
Second, I'm not getting a clear picture of where Jordan's Principle is under this enhanced prevention model. Is it being fully implemented, or are there excuses being made? Are there still internal squabbles over who will pay in particular circumstances?
The three of you can respond.
I think, for us, it's the same with Jordan's Principle. None of our agencies has received any instructions or protocols as to how it will in fact be operationalized. We've heard from both the province and the federal government that they've adopted it and it's great, but there's been no direction as to exactly how it will work. What we see at the agency level, and the way it's always worked, is that our agencies spend an inordinate amount of time, on a case-by-case basis, trying to figure out how they will get their money back.
You're right. The agencies, as the delivery agents, implement it, because we have the children. If a child needs a feeding tube, you have to buy it. You can't sit and wait for someone to figure out who's going to pay for it. The agencies are left with that cost, and until they sort out who pays, they don't get their money back. So it comes out of operations and creates funding pressures. Some of these children--medical, but not limiting the scope of Jordan's Principle to medical-needs children--are very high-needs kids, and their cost of care is very expensive. In some cases, we're talking $300, $400, or $500 a day. For an agency to have to put that kind of money out and wait months and months and months before someone figures out who's going to pay for what portion is very difficult for them.
On the comparable services front, I think the enhanced prevention approach holds some promise. I agree with what Mi'kmaw Children's Services says. To some extent, it just brings us up to comparable levels. I think it's critical that we implement it and do very close monitoring of how it's playing out. I'm reminded of Dr. Trocmé, who raises the comparison. If you have a clinic that treats children with colds and a clinic that treats children with cardiac arrest, are you going to fund them the same way? Certainly we know that the service needs, the complexities, and the issues facing our first nations children and the over-representation of those children in the child welfare system require a resourcing level that differs from what is provided to the non-aboriginal agencies if you are going to have service equity.
[Witness speaks in his native language
My name is Howard Cameron, Senior, of the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation, Saskatchewan. I am the ceremonial keeper for my community. As I hold this title, the role of the elder is inclusive. I am a father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
I am honoured and humbled to have this opportunity to address the hearing. I bring to you a unified message on behalf of the first nations of Saskatchewan.
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here today. I believe the committee's decision to convene on this topic is a positive step in moving toward reconciliation by beginning to address the real needs of first nations children.
While I appreciate all of the witnesses' testimony that has occurred, Canada is not a uniform country. All first peoples vary greatly from region to region. I feel that I must address the unique challenges and needs of Saskatchewan first nations.
While there are numerous studies relating to the health and well-being of first nations children and youth in Canada—“UNICEF Aboriginal children's Health: Leaving no child behind” and “Best Interests of the Child”—there has not been much research specifically relating to Saskatchewan first nations children and youth. In February 2009, the Saskatchewan Children's Advocate Office released “A Breach of Trust: An Investigation into Foster Home Overcrowding in the Saskatoon Service Centre”. The Saskatchewan Children's Advocate Office illustrated the startling and often shocking realities of Saskatchewan children and youth.
I recently participated in the Saskatchewan child welfare review as a panel member. Over an eight-month period, we heard from over 1,200 participants—many first nations chiefs, first nations child and family service agencies, and many first nations people. What the panel heard is that there must be fundamental change in the provincial child welfare system and that the Saskatchewan government must do better to address the over-representation of first nations children entering and remaining in the child welfare system.
First nations children and youth in Saskatchewan face complex issues that adversely affect health conditions, nutrition, and their mental health. These issues, coupled with jurisdictional funding and challenges between the federal government and the Province of Saskatchewan, often make access to services extremely problematic. In some cases, the complexities of jurisdictional disputes prevent the development and implementation of needed programming and services.
We know from the 2005 “Wen:de: We are Coming to the Light of Day” report that there are three times as many indigenous children in care today as there were at the height of the operation of residential schools in the 1940s.
In Saskatchewan, as of June 2009, there were 3,519 children currently in care of the Province of Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services. As of March of 2009, 1,209 first nations children have been placed in the care of first nations child welfare agencies on reserve, according to “Child and Family Services Statistical Report”, 2009. The Saskatchewan Children's Advocate has identified that within the Saskatoon Service Centre alone, 63% of children in care of the province of Saskatchewan are first nations children—“A Breach of Trust: An Investigation into Foster Home Overcrowding in the Saskatoon Service Centre”, 2009. In December of 2010, the Children's Advocate's final report, “For the Good of Our Children and Youth”, states: “While Aboriginal people in the province account for roughly 15 percent of the population, nearly 80 percent of children and youth in out-of-home care in the province at the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year were Aboriginal”.
The eighteen Saskatchewan first nations child and family agencies located on reserve in Saskatchewan operate under a delegated model of child welfare, under agreements from both provincial and federal governments. First nations children and family service agencies in Saskatchewan are funded by the federal government through Directive 20-1 and receive a small portion of funding from the Province of Saskatchewan. However, not only must the first nations child and family agencies comply to reporting mechanisms provincially and federally; they are also held accountable to their boards, individual first nations, and to regional standards outlined in the 1994 Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Indian Child Welfare and Family Support Act.
A joint national policy review on Directive 20-9 completed in 2000 found that the funding provided to first nations child and family services agencies was inadequate and outdated. The funding formula for child and family services has not been reviewed since 1988. The last inflation-related adjustment occurred in 1995. Funding provided by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to the first nations child and family services agencies remains capped at an annual growth of 2%, while actual costs of operation for first nations child and family services agencies increase by 11% annually. Many of the recommendations of the national policy review have yet to be addressed.
In 2008 Saskatchewan first nations child and family services agencies received $104.8 million to implement the Saskatchewan prevention framework. There has been no investment in Saskatchewan by INAC since that initial investment. Many, but not all, of the 18 Saskatchewan first nations child and family services agencies have moved forward with prevention as part of their front-line work. A focus of the prevention framework is to reduce the number of first nations children in care on reserve. The first nations agencies are block-funded. Many are in the third year of this agreement and the increased number of cases, especially high-needs cases, causes a financial burden that impacts the ability to manage operational and maintenance budgets.
Increased transfers of cases from off reserve to on reserve increase the caseloads on reserve in moving them to INAC jurisdiction when placement breakdowns occur. The significant increase of cases on reserve is currently viewed by INAC as a contradiction of the Saskatchewan prevention framework. Increased numbers of high-needs cases overburden already challenged budgets to first nations child and family services agencies and severely impact maintenance and operational budgets further.
Saskatchewan first nations child and family services agencies have been funded for prevention but the funding set out by INAC has primarily been targeted to operations and salaries. The first nations child and family services agencies have very little flexible funding to purchase services. The resource for purchase of services for prevention in the formula is derived by calculating 6% of the population of first nations children on reserve in the catchment area that the first nations child and family services agency services. The other funding that is included in the prevention stream is for family enhancement workers, and it is not flexible funding but set funding for the agency.
An additional impact is that INAC does evaluate and make a budget adjustment to re-profile funds; however, these re-profiled funds are not provided back to the first nations child and family services agency. Re-profiling funds decreases the amount that the first nations child and family services agency would receive and is itemized as a budget adjustment by INAC. The funding formula disclosed during the development of the Saskatchewan first nations prevention services model and accountability framework agreement and the costing model did not outline the process of re-profiling funds, nor were agencies aware that they would lose access to these portions of funds. It is unclear at this time what has happened to the re-profiled funds, and in light of the re-profiling of funds by INAC, the first nations of Saskatchewan have requested a mid-term evaluation of prevention funding. First nations share a need to remain in their communities, where their ties to their culture, language, and value systems have the most impact and provide the greatest chance of success, by nurturing healthy adults and ultimately creating healthy parents, to disrupt the cycle of despair created by intergenerational effects of the residential schools.
If underfunding is not addressed as a priority matter, we will continue to see first nations children removed from their homes, families, and communities because of the lack of funding. Services cost money. Many first nations communities are not able to provide programs or services, not because of the lack of desire or expertise but because of the lack of funding.
We have seen the results from the residential schools. Let us learn from our mistakes and let us do better.
I'll try to be delicate.
When this matter of Jordan's Principle and so on was put on the table, I admit that, at first, I wondered whether it was worth the trouble.
I believe that my colleagues who raised this matter may have suspected the problem that was going on, but they didn't suspect that we were going to open such a Pandora's box. I'm impressed and at the same time outraged, and I feel powerless in the face of what you've just told us.
I'm going to say what I think. I've taken notes, and we're going to prepare a report. I'll let you respond. It seems to me that there are far too many officials who operate by operating this operation which doesn't operate, and no one is attending to it... The priority isn't the children. You'd think we'd lost sight of them.
The point is to determine who will pay for the pair of crutches. I know what I'm talking about because I've had a cane and crutches for a few months now. And I'm not criticizing you; one would say you're being told to deal with the problem and that perhaps someone will send you a cheque.
I think we should recommend eliminating this Directive 20.1. Something will have to happen. I agree with Mr. Cameron. This makes no sense. Things will get serious in the next few months. We haven't heard any witnesses from Quebec, but I'm very sensitive to that because the situation is the same in Quebec.
Should the federal government withdraw? Should it lower its expectations about being one of the funding parties? When I'm told that there are agreements spread over five years, I think that raises a problem: you have to go to Treasury Board every year, and that's year after year.
I want to hear what you have to say on that question. I'm going to leave you the rest of my time to answer—three or four minutes. What can we members do here to help you, to prevent what Chief Cameron said? I sense that this is coming on like a tidal wave and that's it's going to hurt us. Would a commission of inquiry be necessary? There have already been some.
What can we do in concrete terms to help you, and what we can include in the report that we are going to draft over the next week? That's quick.
In Manitoba we had a slightly different process. We had a working group that involved the province, because we were at the same time working on a provincial funding model, because our agency is unique: we do on- and off-reserve service there.
We did have limitations from INAC. First of all, they told us we had a choice about going in there, but if we didn't go into this process and chose the standard Directive 20-1, there would be absolutely no further increases coming to any agency under Directive 20-1. It was a choice, but a gun-to-your-head kind of choice.
The working group sent up its recommendations; not all of them were accepted. We don't know who made the decision about what should go in and what shouldn't; it always comes back to us as “Treasury Board decided”. We don't have the privilege of seeing documents that go to Treasury Board, so we don't know what was cut where.
That wasn't unique to INAC. There were things in the model that the provincial treasury board also did not approve.
I think we can live with this, to some extent, if we have some comfort that there will be some close monitoring and some adjustments made to this model as we move forward.
No. In Saskatchewan we have 18 agencies, and I think 17 agencies have bought into it. It's to enhance what we already have through the operations, but it more or less caps our maintenance. If we as an agency happen to apprehend more than 50 children, we don't have the maintenance to cover that. But we have a lot of prevention money.
So we have to balance all these things out, and it goes year by year. If we have an influx one year, we get less the following year. Again, it's capped; it's blocked.
As to enhanced prevention, the original letter I got from INAC stated that it was $250,000, and when I wrote the business plan and sent it in with all the information, we only got $148,000, because we had fewer than 1,000 children. Basically, INAC is putting a price tag in. If I had 999 children and if I had 1,000, there's an $80,000 difference. It's not needs-based; it's a formula. It's a hard decision to make.
I have to bring this forward. As the young lady earlier was saying, if we didn't enter into it, we wouldn't get anything extra. We would still have to fight from top to bottom with the province and INAC.
My colleague Mr. Dreeshen is going to ask you some questions, Elsie, so I'll go to Arlene Johnson.
First of all, I appreciate the limitations of the 20-1 directive with respect to its limited prevention services. But I also appreciate, with the greatest of respect, that over the past ten years, which takes us out of political partisan lines here, the federal government has doubled its funding nationally to child and family services.
The concern, as I mentioned earlier, is that.... The only thing, specifically with on-reserve children in care, is that we've stabilized the rate at 5.3% nationally on reserve. I'm not completely persuaded that this is an increased funding mechanism. I think we're prepared intellectually to go to that next step, if we were to break down things just a little bit more.
What I want to ask you is your department did open a prevention services unit--is that true?
Excuse me, I wasn't expecting to speak, so I'm totally unprepared.
I think what you find, when you look across the province at culturally appropriate services, is that it's going to vary greatly from region to region within the province you move to. There are about four different dialects within Saskatchewan, such as Saulteux, Sioux, Cree, Dene, and they all have their own cultural base. Some of these cultural bases, even within the Cree community, communities that are close to each other, will vary.
I think it almost has to be done by community. There has to be consensus within the community in relation to what kinds of services are going to get provided and how it's going to occur. That may be quite different from one reserve, for example, to another reserve.
I think cultural appropriateness really needs to be determined at the local level.
I hope that makes sense to you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen.
I quite often see colleagues left speechless by the evidence that's presented here when it concerns the first nations. I stopped being left speechless a long time ago. Every time, in a number of fields, including education, health and, today, child services, this confirms the poor understanding of a department that may be too big, one that I consider a government within the government.
I heard my colleague the parliamentary secretary play with words earlier. It made me smile, for one rare instance in this case. He mentioned "Mantario"; he could have said "Hommanitoba", and that would have been more meaningful, I believe.
Ms. Leoppky, you said you had to work with a number of departments. Do you mean federal or provincial departments or a combination of the two? Can you state all the departments you have to operate with?
We work with departments, both at the provincial level and at the federal level.
At the provincial level, we work collaboratively with the health, justice, and education departments, primarily, and with an area we call healthy living. In those different sectors there are different programs that affect child welfare and children in families.
At the federal level, we work cooperatively with the Department of Health, FNIHB, and INAC. Primarily those would be the three we would tend to work with. At some points, too, we work with the area that deals with child care, because we also have in our portfolio the area of early learning and child care. So there are probably about eight different departments overall we tend to work with.
In Manitoba we work with some formalized structures inside our own provincial government in terms of looking at the overlapping and/or supporting and complementing jurisdictions. We have Healthy Child Manitoba. It has a very formalized structure and legislation in place to look at cooperation and collaboration between and within our own government.
With the federal government we have a couple of things we work on. We have a Manitoba children's agenda that has been in place probably for about seven or eight years. We work collaboratively with the federal government to identify children's issues that cross over multiple departments. Then we have, at the working level, as I indicated earlier, a working group with INAC that looks at the variety of different issues related to child welfare. In addition to that, we also are working with the audit and evaluation sector in INAC in a collaborative effort to look at quality assurance reviews, in terms of financial areas, of all the first nations agencies we have.
So when we begin to look at the variety of intersects and the people who have responsibility or the mandate to serve children and families, it is an array. It does require a lot of cooperation, collaboration, and at times negotiation to try to reach an end result that we believe will help children and families.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for being here today.
My mother worked in the adoption field in British Columbia. Like her, I am sure that, even though we talk about policies, as we have just done, we are all dedicated to the welfare of children.
I like Howard's description of children as the shining ones.
I think that's beautiful.
What if we asked ourselves, “What if you're a shining one to be born in the year 2050?” How will we have gotten beyond some of these frustrating things that my colleague Marc described? I think we all share that sense. You can think of children. You can probably put names to the kids you're talking about as we talk about these policies.
Anyway, to bring it down to something concrete.... I only have three minutes, so with forgiveness from the others, I'm just going to ask you, Elsie. You talked about best practices. Maybe that's the most optimistic theme that we could pull out of all the discussion this morning. What are some of the best practices you could elaborate on that could get us to the year 2050, where we're talking about not 7% of kids being in care and not 20% of families needing care, but 1% or less?
Maybe you can talk about some of those best practices.
Well, if I used the words “best practice”, I apologize, because I don't like that term. It seems to imply that there are some practices that are better than others, and when we're looking at culturally appropriate services, we want good practice. There can be many different practices that are good, and for their communities those are the best practices.
I think fundamentally what's important is that we quit seeing the child as somehow standing alone. I know the child welfare system talks a lot about the best interests of the child and really focuses on that idea. I personally think that's a mistake. Children don't live in a vacuum; they're part of a family and part of a community, and especially for the first nations that is critical. We often hear it asked, as long as the child has a loving home, why are you so worried about the children being in their culture? It is because a child grows up; the child is not a child forever. It is wrong to think of them as somehow isolated.
I think that what we often see with child welfare in the mainstream becomes bogged down around that piece. We will do all kinds of things and spend all kinds of money to support a child, for example, in care. We'll put the child in a foster home, and without question there's daycare, there's respite, there are camps, there's hockey—there are all kinds of things that are paid for. But when we lobby to have even an hour's worth of respite put into the family, everybody says you can't be paying people to look after their own children.
Fundamentally we have to get away from the notion that the child is isolated. If we're going to help the child, it means helping the family and helping the community. “Good practice” is a model that really gets this, that really works with families and communities to build a circle of care around the kids.
I appreciate the opportunity to ask a couple of questions. I'm getting a bit of a different impression from the Government of Manitoba from what I'm hearing from the agency, in terms of collaboration, in terms of whether there's adequate funding, whether there is flexibility, and those types of things.
I hear people saying that the enhanced model was imposed, that it doesn't meet the needs rather than meet some formulas that were introduced and some ratios and percentages that were introduced.
That being said, I'm going to make a request of our analysts. One is that we need to get a comparison between what happened in Manitoba in terms of negotiations between INAC and Manitoba and what happened in Alberta. Is there that much of a difference? Is there that much more flexibility in Manitoba? And we could probably even include Nova Scotia in this, to see. This seems to be the impression that we're getting.
But there are problems. I think all of our committee members would say there are problems with the enhanced prevention approach. What are the consequences to the children and families if we do not fix it? I think that's what we're ultimately trying to get at. What happens to the children and what happens to the families if we do not fix this enhanced prevention approach, which is now the direction the federal government wants to go in?
Turning to the Government of Manitoba—everybody else made a recommendation or two—I'm just wondering, Ms. Loeppky, whether you could make a recommendation to us as a committee. What would you like to see us as a committee recommend to the federal government?
This is to each of you.