If a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (or a delegated agency) takes your child from your home because you're temporarily unable to take care of them, you can ask to have family or friends care for them. This means that instead of going into foster care, your children will stay with someone they know.
You can arrange for this through an Extended Family Program agreement. (These are sometimes called EFP agreements.)
Remember: If you're being investigated for a child protection matter, you have rights.
About the Extended Family Program
The Extended Family Program is a government program. The Ministry of Children and Family Development runs the program.
The program allows your children to be placed with someone they know if you're temporarily unable to take care of them. This means that if a social worker takes your children from your home (or is going to take them), you can ask the social worker to place them in the care of:
- a family member,
- a friend who has an important relationship with them, or
- someone who has a cultural or traditional connection to them.
For example, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or a family friend could take care of your children.
The program's goal is to return your children to you whenever possible.
How can the Extended Family Program help my family?
The Extended Family Program:
- gives your children a living arrangement that's less upsetting for them while you're unable to take care of them,
- is an alternative to foster care,
- builds on the strengths of your family and community, and
- can give your children's care providers financial help and other support services.
The person looking after your children is called their care provider.
Your children are placed with their care provider through an Extended Family Program agreement (sometimes called an EFP agreement). This program gives your children's care provider financial support and other support services.
Not everyone is eligible for the program:
- If your children are already with a care provider who has court-ordered custody or guardianship of them, they're not eligible.
- If your children are already with a care provider who's still enrolled in the Child in the Home of a Relative program (sometimes called CIHR), they may not be eligible. The Child in the Home of a Relative program had different requirements. (The Child in the Home of a Relative Program stopped taking new applications in April 2010.)
Extended Family Program agreements
An Extended Family Program agreement:
- sets out the best way to meet your children's needs, and
- how long your children will stay with their care provider.
Extended Family Program agreements replaced kith and kin agreements in April 2010.
An Extended Family Program agreement requires the following:
- The social worker will assess your child's needs. They will help you decide if the Extended Family Program is the best fit for you and your family.
- The social worker, your children's care provider, and you will work as a team to come up with a plan for your children's care. The plan will include the services and supports your children need.
- You must deal with the issues that led to your being unable to take care of your children. This is so that the ministry can return your children to you when the agreement ends.
- The social worker must screen the care provider you suggest. They will:
- review the care provider's Child, Family and Community Service Act records (sometimes called CFCSA records);
- do a criminal record check;
- check personal references;
- check their home; and
- assess how committed, ready, and able the care provider is to care for your child.
How long does the agreement last?
The length of the agreement depends on:
your circumstances, and
- how old your children are.
Under five: Agreement length - No longer than three months
Five to 11: Agreement length - No longer than six months
12 and older: Agreement length - No longer than 12 months
Renewing an agreement
If a longer placement would be better for your children, you may be able to renew the agreement. The total length of the agreement, including all renewals depends on:
- your circumstances, and
- how old your children are.
Under five: Agreement length - No longer than 12 months
Five to 11: Agreement length - No longer than 18 months
12 and older: Agreement length - No longer than 24 months
The social worker reviews your Extended Family Program agreement every three or six months.
What can I do if I'm being investigated for a child protection matter?
You have the right to get legal advice if a social worker from the ministry or a delegated agency:
- contacts you or visits your home to ask questions about your family,
- threatens to take your children away, or
- takes your children away.
Call Legal Aid
Child protection matters are covered by Legal Aid.Call Legal Aid immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer. If you don't qualify for a lawyer, there are other free legal aid resources available to you.
Ask for support
You can ask for support from your Aboriginal community throughout the child protection process:
- If you're being investigated by the ministry and your band or Aboriginal community is represented by a delegated agency, you can ask the ministry to inform the delegated agency of the investigation.
- Whether you're being investigated by the ministry or a delegated agency, you can ask for a representative from your band or friendship centre who will support you during the investigation. This representative can help your child stay connected to their Aboriginal family and community.
Ask for a mediator
A mediator can help you work with the ministry. A mediator is a professional who's specially trained to:
- not take sides,
- help people reach an agreement, and
- help people work out conflicts.
You can ask for a mediator as soon as the social worker has contacted you. You can also ask at any time during the child protection process.
Mediation is free for families who are involved with the ministry. Mediators can travel to remote communities.
Parents Legal Centre — Provides a free lawyer and an advocate to help parents in select locations address the social worker's concerns about their children's safety (child protection) early on.
Legal Aid Family Duty Counsel — Lawyers paid by Legal Aid who can help people with low incomes with their family law issues. Duty counsel can give free legal advice, but can’t take on your whole case or represent you at trial.
Access Pro Bono — Free legal help for people facing limitations in the justice system.
BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area
BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — See their Guide to Indigenous Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help
PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help
Department of Justice Community-based Justice Programs — Alternatives to mainstream justice processes
First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help — Victoria
Native Courtworkers and Counselling Association of BC— Culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people involved in the criminal justice system — Call 604-985-5355 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-877-811-1190 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)
Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Free legal help — Bella Coola
UBC Indigenous Community Legal Clinic — Free legal help on various legal matters — 604-684-7334 (Greater Vancouver) or 1-888-684-7334 (call no charge)
Upper Skeena Counselling & Legal Assistance Society — Free legal help — Hazelton
Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic — Call 250-412-7794