CUSTOMARY CARE, KINSHIP SERVICES & KINSHIP CARE
Customary care is an important option that we facilitate whenever possible for Aboriginal children who are not able to remain with their immediate family. It is a model of Aboriginal child welfare service that is based on the belief that a child is a sacred gift from the Creator. In 1984 the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) introduced Part X - Native and Indian rights. Customary Care is defined under CFSA as "The care and supervision of an Indian or Native child by a person who is not the child's parent, according to the custom of the child's Band or native community."
Generally, customary care is a family-based care model reflective of the culture, values and traditions of the child’s parents and community. It recognizes that members of the child’s immediate and extended family and community share responsibility in the provision of care to a child, who is or may be in need of protection.
There are two kinds of customary care:
Traditional Customary Care
For Indian and Native people, customary care refers to care throughout an individual’s lifespan and it is a way of life in which the community takes care of its own members according to its own customs, traditions and standards. Customary care is sanctioned by tribal laws that are indigenous to each Band or Native community. Tribal laws give Chief and Council the authority to act on behalf of the community in matters related to child and family services. For this reason the contents of a Customary Care Agreement may vary between each Band or each Native community. The mandated Children’s Aid Society may or may not be involved in traditional Customary Care Agreements. A traditional Customary Care Agreement may be entered into by a child, the child’s parents, the child’s Band, or the alternative caregivers who will be providing out-of-home care for the child, pursuant to the Band’s customary care declaration.
Formal Customary Care
Where a Children’s Aid Society determines that a Native child is in need of protection, removal of the child from the parents/caregiver is required and there is a customary care declaration by the Band, the Society may grant a subsidy to the person caring for the child. Formal customary care is recognized as a culturally appropriate placement option for Indian or Native children, but the child’s placement must be supervised by a Children’s Aid Society pursuant to the Band declaration and the terms of a signed Customary Care Agreement. Financial assistance will not exceed foster care rates. A customary care child file must be created and child in care standards and recording requirements apply; a customary care home file is created and licencing standards apply.
If a child is unable to remain in his or her immediate family’s care, outreach to extended family/kin is an option that must be considered and explored. These families are assessed in accordance with provincial foster care standards and regulations.
Although the child is not in the formal care of NCFST, we continue to work with the family. The child is placed with a member of his or her extended family or with a community member known to the child. The goal of kinship service arrangements may be reunific ation of the child with his or her family and/or a permanent home with an extended family member through legal custody.
While we don’t provide ongoing financial support in this situation, the extended family or community member may be eligible for Temporary Care Assistance through Ontario Works, which may include prescription drugs, dental and vision care, back-to-school and winter clothing allowance, and episodic financial support from the child welfare agency.
Another option for children who are not able to live with their immediate family is Kinship Care. Kinship families are assessed and supervised in accordance with provincial foster care standards and regulations. NCFST will assess available support from the community and other family members, and provide ongoing financial assistance to support the needs of the child in the extended family’s home until the child returns to the parent(s) or a plan for a long-term or permanent home for the child has been established.