"Jumping through Hoops": A Manitoba Study Examining the Experiences and Reflections of Aboriginal Mothers Involved with Child Welfare and Legal Systems Respecting Child Protection Matters
In recent years, courts have increasingly moved toward the implementation of alternative responses for non violent crimes such as mediation, diversion, restorative practices and sentencing circles before considering the justice system. Unfortunately, the child welfare system has not instituted these same types of approaches despite the fact that Aboriginal women and their children are overrepresented. Alternative, non-adversarial approaches (like Family Group Conferencing for example) have been promoted within the area of family law and child welfare in other provinces and countries(for instance, the Province of British Columbia has statutory family conferencing and mediations provisions, see Section 22 of its Child & Family Services Act). However, such alternative measures and procedures unfortunately are not mandated or enshrined in Manitoba's child welfare legislation. Moreover, very little research exists regarding the Aboriginal mothers' experiences with the child welfare and court systems in Manitoba. Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc., an urban Aboriginal organization in Winnipeg undertook a review of the experiences of Aboriginal mothers involved with child welfare in Manitoba with the intent of eventually implementing alternative dispute resolutions for Aboriginal mothers. This paper describes the experiences of Aboriginal mothers and grandmothers dealing with the Manitoba child welfare system and the family courts regarding child protection matters. Jumping through hoops is a prominent perspective that emerged from Aboriginal mothers' stories and reflections about their experiences with child welfare and legal systems. Specifically, the paper provides a demographic overview of the mothers and grandmothers involved in this study and ends with a number of solutions identified by the mothers and grandmothers about how the child welfare and family court systems can be improved to work better for Aboriginal women and children. The research method draws upon interviews and talking circles that were conducted with Aboriginal women, and interviews conducted with community advocates and lawyers during the months of March to June 2007.