If a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated Aboriginal agency contacts you or visits your home, this means that they think your child might be at risk and are looking into it. This is part of the child protection process. (This is also called an investigation.) An investigation is very serious. It may result in the social worker taking your child from your home.
You, your family, and your community have rights. The law says the ministry should respect your child's family ties and Aboriginal identity.
To find services that can help you, see Who can help.
BC law says that if the ministry gets a report about your child, the ministry (or a delegated Aboriginal agency) must look into it. If the ministry believes your child is at risk, they must:
This process is called child protection.
BC law also says that:
The ShchEma-mee.tkt Project, a project of the Nlaka’pamus Nation Tribal Council, has produced a guidebook called Wrapping Our Ways Around Them. The plain language guide explains that Aboriginal communities and parents can be involved in child welfare decisions outside of court and at court. They can do things such as:
If a social worker from the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency contacts you or visits your home to ask you questions about your family, this means they think your child might be at risk and are looking into it. You have the right to free legal advice. Call Legal Aid BC immediately to find out if you qualify for a free lawyer:
604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (elsewhere in BC)
You can ask for a lawyer as soon as the social worker has contacted you, or at any time during the child protection process.
When you call Legal Aid BC, ask if you qualify for a free lawyer and advocate/Aboriginal Community Legal Worker (ACLW) through a Parents Legal Centre (PLC). The PLC can help you address the social worker's concerns about your children's safety (child protection) early on. This service is available anytime after you're first contacted by the ministry or a delegated Aboriginal agency.The lawyer can:
A mediator can help you work with the ministry. A mediator is a professional who's specially trained to:
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.
If the ministry takes your child from your home, you can:
If the ministry takes your child from your home, it must:
If the ministry takes your child from your home, your Aboriginal representative can:
If the ministry takes your child from your home, and a family member or family friend would like to care for your child, they can speak to the social worker.
They should also speak to a lawyer to get legal advice about different agreements to care for your child, even after your child has been placed in a ministry foster care home.
Your family member or friend may be able to care for your child under an out-of-care order. This means the social worker places your child with them instead of in foster care. This is called out-of-care placement. The social worker does their own assessment of your family member or friend.
The assessment will likely include:
If they’re approved for out-of-care placement, they care for your child for a fixed period of time. They also receive financial support to care for your child.
If your family member or friend are approved for out-of-care placement of your child, they can also speak to family duty counsel at their local courthouse.
Attorney General — Child Protection Mediation Program
KUU-US Crisis Line Society — Crisis line dedicated to the Aboriginal community — Call 1-800-588-8717 (no charge; available 24/7)
BC211 — Free confidential referrals to help and information — Call 211
PovNet — Information about poverty issues and links to organizations that can help
BC Association of Friendship Centres — Find a friendship centre in your area
Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — See their Guide to Indigenous Organizations and Services in British Columbia for organizations that can help
Aboriginal community legal workers — Give legal information and limited advice services
Legal information outreach workers — Give legal information and provide referrals
Access Pro Bono Law Clinics — Free legal help
Carole James, MLA, Community Office — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794
Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on family matters — Kwadacha and Tsay Key Dene — Call 1-877-601-6066 (no charge)
Family duty counsel — Free legal advice on child protection matters — Williams Lake, call 778-395-6200
First Nations and Métis Outreach Program (The Law Centre) — Free legal help, including family matters — Victoria
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. Together they can help find solutions that work for the family.
Bella Coola Legal Advocacy Program — Legal advocacy on Aboriginal issues, including child protection — 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 — Help with family matters —Hazelton
Victoria Native Friendship Centre — Free legal clinic, including family matters — Call 250-412-7794