Customary care is an important care option for First Nations children who are not able to remain with their immediate family. It 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 First Nations communities, 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 First Nations 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 First Nations community. The mandated child protection agency 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
Formal customary care is recognized as a culturally appropriate placement option for First Nations children, but the child’s placement must be supervised by a child protection agency pursuant to the Band declaration and the terms of a signed Customary Care Agreement. Where a child protection agency determines that a First Nations 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 agency may grant a subsidy to the person caring for the child. This service is provided by the SMFC FNMI protection team and resource team.