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Failing to protect and provide in the "best place on earth": Can Indigenous children in Canada be safe if their mothers aren't?

By Shelly Johnson


This article privileges Indigenous voices, experiences and stories as one way to challenge the Canadian child welfare concept and worldview that is imbedded in “failure to protect” policies and practices”. The “failure to protect” concept is one in which assaulted mothers are held accountable by child protective authorities because their children are unintended victims or witnesses to their mother’s experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV). It is a relatively recent issue in the child welfare literature, despite the fact that research concludes that “failure to protect” is the largest and most often substantiated (78% of cases) child maltreatment category in Canada (Trocmé, Knoke, Fallon &MacLaurin: 2009). Typically, child protection responses to IPV concerns, where the child is in the home, are directed at the assaulted women, who are viewed as having failed to protect their children from witnessing IPV, while the typically male perpetrators of violence are essentially ignored (Strega, 2006). This article identifies Indigenous child welfare stories that subject a disproportionate number of Indigenous women to Canada’s “failure to protect” policies and practices as a result of their own IPV victimization, and contributes to the over-representation of Indigenous children in Canadian child protection systems

Year: 2012
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Provided by: LU|ZONE|UL
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