Indigenous people represent 95 per cent of children and youth in out-of-home care in the Yukon while only making up less than 22 per cent of the territory’s population, according to a recently released report.
Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee tabled the family and children services’ report for 2020 to 2022 in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 11.
“While new issues emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued with our challenge of overrepresentation of Indigenous children and families in the Yukon’s child welfare system,” reads the report.
McPhee told reporters in the cabinet office April 12 the territory is making progress to address the overrepresentation.
“Having such a high percentage of Indigenous children in care is never acceptable,” she said.
“We’re looking for alternatives where we can support kids, so I think that’s a positive move.”
The report gets into the shift in placements as family and child services has reprioritized placing children and youth with their extended families instead of in foster care or group homes.
In the report, while the number of children in out-of-home care has gone up eight per cent from 2017 to 2022, there has been a 137 per cent increase in the number of children and youth being placed with extended family and decreases in foster care and group home placements.
In 2022, 61 per cent of children and youth in out-of-home care fell under extended family care agreements, compared to 28 per cent in 2017.
An April 11 release by the Yukon government suggests the change is the “result of reforms to child welfare practices that aim to improve emotional and social wellbeing while preserving connections to family, culture and community.”
“This new approach and effort to keep families together and respect individual needs are seeing positive results,” reads the release.
The number of children and youth in the care of the director has gone down by 40 per cent since 2017, the reports states.
The report notes a 24 per cent drop in the number of children and youth placed in foster homes, down from 70 in 2017 to 53 in 2022.
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White told reporters April 12 the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the system reflects the “real lived experiences” of intergenerational trauma and residential schools.
“We have entire generations of children that were taken away from the families and never had the opportunity to grow up in what a family looked like,” she said.
“As adults, sometimes people don’t know what their roles are as moms and dads or aunties and uncles and that, unfortunately, like bleeds down into to other generations, and so, what we’ve seen really in Yukon is a real big push back from First Nation governments and First Nation communities, and really working hard to deal with the past traumas to make sure that future generations have a better chance.”
White said families taking in children and youth need to be properly supported, whether that be mentorship with other families or financial or respite support.
“It is important, of course, that kids be able to be placed with families. But it’s also really important that families have the supports that they need to be able to support children,” White said.
“We can’t just drop kids into households and expect that they’ll thrive.”
McPhee told reporters the amount of money going to individuals who are taking in children and youth has gone up by $500 per month and every child had a cultural program developed specifically for them to stay connected to their home community.
Her department confirmed by email on April 13 the six-month extension of the additional $500 per month to caregivers of children in out-of-home care ended March 31.
“All caregivers, including extended family caregivers and community caregivers receive support and services based on the child’s assessed needs,” said department spokesperson Carlee Kerr.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org