The following is a list of 26 recommendations that arose 2020 – 2021 State of Kinship Care Research Report
Recommendations (A): Provincial Policy Reform
- That all children being raised in kinship care, regardless of legal status and duration of care, should receive, minimally, the same services and benefits as those of children in foster care.
- That MCFD provide kinship caregivers of children with special needs services and financial supports to account for additional needs, similar to the financial supports received by levelled foster homes.
- That MCFD recognize that the SAFE home assessment may not be safe and/or culturally appropriate for all kinship care providers, specifically Indigenous families. Policy needs to allow for social work practice to employ alternative screening methods to meet permanency goals that are in children’s best interests.
- That all Out-of-Care families have access to federal child benefits, including the Canada Child Benefit and the Disability Child Benefit, as is the case for families with Extended Family Program agreements.
- The above reform is required to ensure all kinship care families can also access the BC Child Opportunity Benefit.
- That the Child in the Home of a Relative benefit be equal to the Extended Family Program maintenance rates.
- That MCFD revise Youth Agreement eligibility criteria to include family violence as a “significant adverse condition”. Additionally, that the policy be expanded to provide a pathway for youth to be supported by a Youth Agreement when they are in kinship care.
- Current Youth Agreement policy requires that there be “no family or adult to assist” the youth, which may make youth in kinship care ineligible for supports.
Recommendations (B): Federal Policy Reform
- That families receiving provincial maintenance payments under the CFCSA be able to claim kinship care children as dependents for tax purposes.
- That the Canada Pension Plan disability benefit recognize that disabled recipients over 65 may have dependents.
Recommendations (C): Social Work Practice Reform
- That MCFD end the use of ongoing safety plans when a family is eligible for an Extended Family Program agreement. Why? This will allow parents, children and kinship caregivers to receive supports and services as soon as possible.
- We have observed the use of multiple safety plans, which keeps families vulnerable for more intrusive measures because family preservation services and supports may not be provided.
- That MCFD staff practice in accordance with law (section 3 of the CFCSA and the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Families and Youth) and policy with regards to assessing past histories of Indigenous caregivers, taking into account how people have transformed their lives.
- Indigenous kinship caregivers’ ability to safely protect and care for Indigenous children should not be invalidated by past histories that are connected to the ongoing impacts of colonization and intergenerational trauma.
- That MCFD ensure that the best interests of Indigenous children are assessed taking into account long term well-being, not just short-term safety.
- MCFD must recognize that maintaining and fostering a child’s connection to their Indigenous culture and identity has a better chance of protecting a child in the long-term and ensuring a better life outcome, particularly in light of the negative impacts for Indigenous children when they are taken into government care, separated from their families and communities, and placed with non-Indigenous foster care providers.
- That MCFD provide administrative fairness when serving kinship care families including:
- that MCFD adequately explain services available to kinship care families (including the different legal pathways under the CFCSA and the FLA as well as the difference in supports and services available for each pathway), recognizing that this may need to occur carefully and over several meetings to account for the trauma experienced by parents, children and kinship caregivers when children are unable to live in parent care;
- that MCFD listen to and involve kinship caregivers in planning for children’s care, in accordance with law (the CFCSA and the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Families and Youth) and policy;
- that MCFD assist kinship care families in a reasonable amount of time;
- that MCFD make decisions based on law (the CFCSA and the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Families and Youth) and policy;
- that MCFD treat parents, kinship caregivers and children with respect and ensure services are provided in a trauma-informed way.
Recommendations (D): Visionary
- That MCFD commit to shifting institutional culture so that racism and classism do not factor into decision making with regards to which families are deemed “deserving” of supports.
- That MCFD employ a fluid approach to finding permanency for Indigenous children and that this approach incorporates relevant Indigenous law, custom and traditional ways of parenting (including extended family care, customary adoption and shared parenting amongst community and family).
- That MCFD apply section 8 of the CFCSA allowing kinship caregivers with guardianship under the FLA to access the Extended Family Program.
- Section 8 of the CFCSA:
- Agreements with child’s kin and others
- 8 (1) A director may make a written agreement with a person who
- has established a relationship with a child or has a cultural or traditional responsibility toward a child, and
- is given care of the child by the child’s parent.
- (2) The agreement may provide for the director to contribute to the child’s support while the child is in the care of the person referred to in subsection (1).
- Kinship caregivers with FLA orders are found ineligible for section 8 agreements (even if they meet the requirements set out in subsection (a) and (b) because, as legal parents under the FLA, they do not fall into the category of “child’s kin and others”. The only services provided for legal parents under the CFCSA are set out in section 5.
Recommendations (E): Specific Assorted Supports and Benefits Raised by Kinship Caregivers
- That every kinship child should automatically be offered counselling and mental health support.
- That all kinship children should have access to medical, dental and optical care.
- That there be subsidies available for all children and youth in kinship care to attend sports, cultural and educational programs.
- That there be special funds to support the child to visit siblings.
- That there be specialized social workers who just deal with kinship caregivers – especially during transition period.
- That all benefits be attached to the child.
- That all lawyers and social workers receive training, at university and as professional development, on issues that pertain to kinship care.
- That all kinship caregivers be given subsidies to receive training related to the specific needs of their child.
- That all kinship caregivers are asked what supports they need before and throughout the kinship care arrangement.
- That support for youth raised in kinship care remain in place till the age of 27, and that youth have access to services that could assist in that transition.
Recommendation (F): System overhaul
- That the entire system(s) be streamlined and simplified. Consider the discontinued Child in the Home of the Relative program as a model of what that could look like.