Increasing the chances that Indigenous and other families in crisis can stay together is a primary focus of a new service offered by the Legal Services Society of B.C.
If there’s a possibility your children may be removed from your home by the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), or they have already been placed in foster care, you may be eligible for help from the new Parents Legal Centre (PLC) in Smithers. The centre also services clients in Houston and Hazelton in child protection matters.
Nearly 60 per cent of children in foster care in B.C. are Indigenous. The PLC’s goal is to provide aboriginal parents with legal representation and other supports earlier in the child protection process.
Acknowledging your family’s challenges
Lawyer Katrina Harry, who opened the first PLC in Vancouver in 2015, says centre staff are there to help you tackle some of the issues that can lead to child safety concerns.
“The root of many such cases is poverty – not neglect,” says Harry, who is Indigenous. “Sometimes a family just needs a decent roof over their head, but because good low-cost housing is hard to find, parents may lose their children. If we can solve the housing issue for a client, then children can be at home.”
Here’s other examples how the PLC can help:
- Advocates play a major role A mother of two, struggling to comply with a Supervision Order, is overwhelmed in advance of a meeting with the social worker. A PLC advocate accompanies the mom to the meeting and explains that to keep the mom on track, she needs help with bus tickets to get her kids to and from appointments. The advocate also requests a food voucher, which allows the mom to buy a birthday cake for her child. The emotional support of the advocate helps parents meet the requirements of Supervision Orders and keep the children at home.
- Teaming up to help An addicted mother expecting her first child draws concern from MCFD. Despite maintaining her sobriety plans for two months, she has no fixed address, no partner and no local family. A PLC lawyer advises about her rights and obligations, while a PLC advocate attends her meetings with the social worker, helping the mother address protection concerns and securing assistance with housing, income and parenting. A Safety Plan is created post-birth that allows the mother to keep her child and receive needed supports to follow through on that plan.
Service available to all families that qualify
While the focus has been on helping address the child protection crisis in over-represented Indigenous communities, PLC services are available to any parents at risk of having children removed from their home, as long as you meet the eligibility guidelines.
To get more details and speak to someone about your case or someone else who needs assistance, call 250-847-9088 or drop by their office at 1242 Main St. in Smithers. You can also follow Legal Services Society on Facebook.