‘Staggering’ rate of First Nations newborns involved in Manitoba child welfare system: study

A new study says child welfare has had “an increasingly widespread presence” in the lives of First Nations newborns in Manitoba over the last couple decades, and its lead author says urgent change is needed. Published Wednesday, the study looking into the rate First Nations infants involved in Manitoba’s child welfare system was jointly led by researchers from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the First Nations Family Advocate Office and the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy at the University of Manitoba.

The study analyzed anonymized population-based data housed at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, linking it to individual information from Child and Family Services, hospital birth records, employment and income assistance case reports and the Canadian census. It tracked data for more than 47,000 First Nations infants and nearly 170,000 infants in Manitoba, who were born between 1998 and 2013 and lived in the province until age five, from 1998 to 2019. The study defines infants as newborn children up until the age of one.

Of the First Nations infants identified, the study found about one in three had an open file with CFS, about one in 12 were removed from their homes before the age of one, and one in 20 became permanent wards of the state by age five. Comparatively, the non-Indigenous infants identified in the study included one in 20 who experienced an open CFS file, one in 100 removed from their homes before the age of one, and one in 150 that became permanent CFS wards by age five.

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