Advancing child and family well-being
All children, youth, families, communities, and Indigenous Peoples are entitled to live and thrive according to their own wholistic understanding of well-being.
At West Coast LEAF, we aim to uplift and amplify the wisdom and expertise of Indigenous leaders, families, Elders, and child and family well-being advocates to reclaim and transform the family policing system.
Naming the family policing system
We are working to shift this system of colonial intervention to one of child and family well-being, where all children, families and communities can thrive.
In taking up work in the area of law known as “child welfare” or “child protection” we have been privileged to learn from families, Nations, and advocates in BC and beyond who have generously shared their wisdom with us. As part of our learning journey, we reflected on the power of language to name and describe the laws, policies, and actions that together regulate and impact family relationships.
Scholar and advocate Dorothy Roberts challenges us to question whether our framing and use of language accurately reflects the impacts of these systems on the well-being of children and their families. Through this learning and reflection, we have adopted Roberts’ more appropriate term to describe this system: family policing.
The family policing system maintains power and control over the lives of families and children—most often Indigenous families and children—through surveillance, regulation, and punishment. Families who are struggling under the weight of systemic injustices like racism and poverty need supports, such as adequate housing, livable income and disability rates, and mental health services. Instead of recognizing these injustices as the systemic barriers they are, the system sees family struggles as individual failings.
Supporting children and families to thrive
We strive for a child and family well-being system in place of the family policing system. A child and family well-being system involves resourcing and supporting children, youth, families, communities, and First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Peoples to thrive according to their own wholistic understanding of well-being, without interference from the family policing system. This encompasses different frameworks, such as social determinants of health and Indigenous determinants of health.
Our advocacy for child and family well-being spans several projects including:
- Child Welfare Advocacy Communities of Practice project, which creates spaces to come together to learn from one another about family policing advocacy and to challenge the system.
- Pathways in a Forest: Indigenous guidance on prevention-based child welfare (2019), was developed out of the Shifting the Child Protection System, a project that assessed whether the Ministry of Children and Family Development was meeting its obligations to provide the necessary supports to families. This report was developed in collaboration with families, Elders, and staff at Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre, Lii Michif Otipemisiwak, and the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association.
- Intervening at the BC Human Rights Tribunal in a complaint about discrimination in the family policing system.
- Development of the 2016 report High Stakes: The impacts of child care on the human rights of women and children.
- Shifting language as a way of shifting thinking, as detailed by this 2022 resource: The Power of Language: What do “Family Policing” and “Child and Family Well-Being” Mean?