Open Letter: The Number of Indigenous Children in Care is a Humanitarian Crisis

January 19, 2018


The Honourable Dr. Jane Philpott
Minister of Indigenous Services
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Philpott,   


On behalf of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), I am writing to thank you for calling an emergency meeting on Indigenous child welfare in Canada and to offer our association’s assistance in any way your government may require it.


We agree that the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system is a humanitarian crisis, and have long advocated for investments in the social determinants of health that would help keep families and communities intact. Overwhelmingly, child protection social workers report that poverty – the inability to meet a child’s basic needs – is the cause for intervention.


Canadian social workers have long known that our child welfare systems are broken. Often deeply embedded in the same colonial ideologies and policies that originally brought about the 60s scoop, many systems also suffer from an egregious lack of funding and resources. Social workers across Canada are not being given the tools they need to succeed, working with impossibly large caseloads and under policies with which the value of our profession often do not align.

While we have the quantitative data demonstrating the appalling overrepresentation of Indigenous children in care, we have only anecdotal evidence as to the scope of the problem from a systems perspective, especially around deprofessionalization of child protection services and the cause of high turnover in child protection positions. To address this, in early 2017 we launched a Child Welfare Project.


The Child Welfare Project has surveyed nearly 4,000 social workers in Canada, and undertook 20+ interviews with experts and leaders in the field from each region. The project identifies what social workers in child protection roles identify as problematic within child welfare systems, and also explores what each jurisdiction is undertaking to pursue reconciliation. The final draft of this project is underway and we will share the results with your office when in late spring 2018.

CASW has affirmed all of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, has continuously called for the full enactment of Jordan’s Principle, and will continue to unequivocally support the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society’s demand to immediately end unequal funding for First Nations children. In addition, in late 2017, our Board of Directors committed to making reconciliation central to our work as an association.


Affirmation of the Truth and Reconciliation’s Calls to Action, and deep regret for the profession’s role in inflicting harm on First Nation’s people and communities through colonizing narratives, policies, and practices, are just the beginning: action is required to transform our colonial reality for a better future, and the profession of social work is committed to being a part of the solution.


CASW will continue to support your government by bringing a lens of humility and accountability to social justice efforts; by committing to amplify and lift up Indigenous voices and causes; and by ensuring social workers have access to education and information to help advance reconciliation in their own practice. 




Jan Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW

President, CASW