When an Indigenous parent(s) is unable to care for their child, a member of their family or First Nations community will assume care of the child (on a temporary basis). This is known as Customary Care. The child will remain with their Customary Caregivers until the parent is ready to have their child returned to them. Customary Care is intended to be a short-term situation, although, in some instances the child will remain with their Customary Caregivers on a long-term basis. Customary Caregivers work closely with the biological parents and the child’s First Nations to help the child preserve and honour their family and community relationships and connections.
Customary Care has historically been a common practice for Indigenous families for many years and continues to be implemented today. Children are viewed as sacred gifts from the creator, and it is the First Nations responsibility to ensure that the child/youth wellbeing is fulfilled physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This is achieved by ensuring that the child/youth remains the center of everything and understanding the importance of keeping the child/youth connected to their biological and extended family, community, nation and culture.
There are two types of Customary Care; Traditional Customary Care and Formal Customary Care. Each Customary Care agreement is unique to each First Nation according to its traditional customs, traditions and values. Therefore, it is defined by each First Nation.
Traditional Customary Care
Community care of children without child welfare intervention.
Formal Customary Care
Formal Customary Care is a legal agreement, between the First Nation (Band), Biological Parents, Customary Caregivers and the involved Child Welfare Agency.