Child Welfare and the Effects of Apprehension

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Themes: Child Welfare Systems; Child and Family Services; Child Apprehension; Systemic Discrimination in Child Apprehension; Adverse Childhood Experiences; Trauma/System-Orientated Trauma; Sixties Scoop; Residential Schools

Acknowledgement: This research document was reviewed by Professor Jamesy Patrick, Professor at the College of Law, University of Saskatchewan. Professor Patrick’s research background and areas of expertise concern child protection law and evidence, Indigenous governance in relation to child protection, property law, and entertainment law. The research document was reviewed for comprehensiveness and accuracy to ensure quality and validity of the research. The information in this document is current as of September 2023. 

Executive Summary: Child welfare apprehensions, contact with Child and Family Services, and effects related to childhood apprehensions (historical and contemporary) are factors with complex links to the criminal justice system, the causation of crime, and the victimization of marginalized peoples. In Canada, Child Welfare Systems have continuously and unfairly targeted Indigenous children, families, and collectives. This targeted child apprehension crisis began with the Residential School system, was further entrenched during the Sixties Scoop era, and remains ongoing. The consequences of these systems are readily apparent within current child welfare statistics. Despite knowing the profoundly damaging and complex impacts of childhood apprehension, especially for Indigenous children adopted or fostered by non-Indigenous families, not much has changed.  Many incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals have ties back to Child and Family services, and are frequently victims of these systems. This research summary on Child Welfare Systems and the Effects of Child Apprehension explores the complex, interwoven variables that have historically and currently effect Indigenous peoples and their communities. It is through this research that scholars are able to draw connections between settler colonialism and the current situations that many incarcerated or formerly incarcerated persons experience day-to-day. 

Purpose of the document: What are "Systemic and Background Factors" and how are they relevant to the Gladue Principles? Systemic and background factors (also known as Gladue Factors) are the unique experiences, circumstances, and challenges that an Indigenous person, their family, community, or Nation has faced. They relate to the harmful effects of colonialism and discrimination, past and present. Systemic and Background factors must be considered in a Gladue analysis (e.g. the direct and intergenerational impacts of residential school and the Sixties Scoop, among others). These factors are broader circumstances known to contribute to the over-incarceration of Indigenous persons in particular, as well as those that figure prominently in the causation of crime more generally. The purpose of this Research Summary is to help provide social context and background information for judges, lawyers, and Gladue report writers to better unpack the complex ways systemic discrimination and settler colonialism can impact an Indigenous person’s life. As well, these summaries will provide evidence-based research that speak to alternatives to incarceration, restorative options, and ways to support an individual through healing, aftercare, and release planning. While these summaries cannot replace the need for case-specific information about Indigenous individuals or the contemporary dynamics within their families and Nations, they can be used to craft more effective submissions and reports that better tie those case-specific details to the broader social context surrounding Indigenous overincarceration.

Access a copy of the Child Welfare Systems and Effects of Child Apprehension Summary by downloading the PDF attached at the top of this entry