Broken Promises

British Columbia is in the midst of a child welfare crisis. One out of every five children in the province lives below the poverty line. Over 9,271 children are living in foster care, more than half of whom are Aboriginal.2 For generations the system has consistently failed children and their families in spite of legislative reform, internal reorganization and changing governments.

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Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.

In 1996 the Child Family and Community Services Act (“CFCSA”) came into force, promising a new direction for child welfare in British Columbia. This forward thinking legislation promised a different style of service provision dedicated to supporting families to care for children in the home, improving services for Aboriginal families, using apprehension only as a last resort, and reunifying children as quickly as possible when temporary placement is necessary.This report examines whether child protection practices are living up to the principles set out in the CFCSA – the foundation of B.C.’s child protection system. Our conclusion is thatcurrent child protection practices in B.C. violate the guiding and service delivery principles that are set out in law. We find that the system, despite legislative reform, internal reorganization and changing governments, is failing to follow its own mandate and keep its promise to keep B.C.’s children safe.

This report looks at the child welfare system from a number of perspectives, including those of service providers,social workers, and lawyers representing parents in child protectioncases. However, the major focus of this report is the experiences of parents whose children are or have been involved with the child protection system. These voices have often beensilenced in the debate surrounding child welfare reform. This report highlights the important and unique insights that these parents have into the strengths and weaknesses of B.C.’s current system. Their participation in this project is a testament to their commitment to helping improve the system for families.

As a whole, this report argues that the system continues to fail to address the systemic factors impacting children’s well being, such as poverty, the legacy of colonialism and the lack of social supports for single mothers. We conclude that as long as those systemic factors are ignored, B.C.’s government is not in a position to claim that it is genuinely acting in the best interest of children.