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BCGEU: Workers at Aboriginal child protection agency seek contract to improve child safety
BURNABY – Workers at the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society (also known as Xyolhemeylh) are seeking a union contract in line with best practices for Aboriginal child welfare services in B.C.
Xyolhemeylh workers want their employer to agree to reducing their caseloads and provide resources that will allow them to provide services in a culturally appropriate way. Doing so would begin to address the crisis of capacity they currently face, as well as bring them into full compliance with the Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standards and Indicators (AOPSI). A long line of reports on Aboriginal child welfare stretching back a decade have recommended these changes, including the recently published findings of the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) in the report “Broken Promises: Alex’s Story.”
The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) is responsible for providing funding for a significant portion of the services that delegated Aboriginal agencies like Xyolhemeylh provide. A recent agreement between MCFD and the agency has brought caseload funding on par with levels within the MCFD, providing some relief from a dire recruitment and retention crisis at Xyolhemeylh.
However, because MCFD has itself been drastically under-resourced for decades, the increase still isn’t enough to provide care that is appropriate to Aboriginal children and youth. “Unfortunately, staffing resources equal to MCFD is no answer for Xyolhemeylh workers who are desperately trying to provide services in culturally appropriate ways to children whose families are scarred with multigenerational trauma, and the dire poverty that so often accompanies it” said BCGEU President Stephanie Smith.
The Xyolhemeylh member negotiating team hopes that the employer will take this opportunity to formalize standards of practice in their contract, and therefore recognize the consensus of recommendations that have been issued for decades, and repeated every time another Aboriginal child in care dies.
The 135 workers at Xyolhemeylh joined the BCGEU in October 2016 and this is the first round of negotiations with their employer.
- FVACFSS is also known by the society’s Sto:lo name, Xyolhemeylh (pronounced “HEE – yock – MEE – th ”)
- Xyolhemeylh is the delegated aboriginal agency (DAA) that was responsible for caring for Alex Gervais, the youth who died in care and the subject of a February 2017 report by the RCY on the dysfunction of B.C.’s Aboriginal child welfare system.
- More than half of the approximately 8,000 children in care in B.C. are Aboriginal. Of the approximately 4,000 Aboriginal children in care, Xyolhemeylh provides services to over 400.
For interview requests, please call Bronwen Barnett, BCGEU Communications (604) 719-4713.
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