Customary care is an important option that we facilitate whenever possible for Aboriginal children who are not able to remain with their immediate family. It is a model of Aboriginal child welfare service that is based on the belief that a child is a sacred gift from the Creator. In 1984 the Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) introduced Part X – Native and Indian rights. Customary Care is defined under CFSA as “The care and supervision of an Indian or Native child by a person who is not the child’s parent, according to the custom of the child’s Band or native community.”
Generally, customary care is a family-based care model reflective of the culture, values and traditions of the child’s parents and community. It recognizes that members of the child’s immediate and extended family and community share responsibility in the provision of care to a child, who is or may be in need of protection.
There are two kinds of customary care:
Traditional Customary Care
For Indian and Native people, customary care refers to care throughout an individual’s lifespan and it is a way of life in which the community takes care of its own members according to its own customs, traditions and standards. Customary care is sanctioned by tribal laws that are indigenous to each Band or Native community. Tribal laws give Chief and Council the authority to act on behalf of the community in matters related to child and family services. For this reason the contents of a Customary Care Agreement may vary between each Band or each Native community. The mandated Children’s Aid Society may or may not be involved in traditional Customary Care Agreements. A traditional Customary Care Agreement may be entered into by a child, the child’s parents, the child’s Band, or the alternative caregivers who will be providing out-of-home care for the child, pursuant to the Band’s customary care declaration.
Formal Customary Care
Where a Children’s Aid Society determines that a Native child is in need of protection, removal of the child from the parents/caregiver is required and there is a customary care declaration by the Band, the Society may grant a subsidy to the person caring for the child. Formal customary care is recognized as a culturally appropriate placement option for Indian or Native children, but the child’s placement must be supervised by a Children’s Aid Society pursuant to the Band declaration and the terms of a signed Customary Care Agreement. Financial assistance will not exceed foster care rates. A customary care child file must be created and child in care standards and recording requirements apply; a customary care home file is created and licencing standards apply.