FREDERICTON (CNB) – The Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate today released a follow-up to its 2010 report, Hand-in-Hand: A Review of First Nations Child Welfare in New Brunswick.

The follow-up report summarizes the work that has been done in response to the 93 recommendations contained in Hand-in-Hand, which were aimed at addressing the over-representation of First Nations children in New Brunswick's child welfare system.

"It is wonderful to see how various parties have stepped up to address the issues we identified in Hand-in-Hand," said Bernard Richard on his last day as ombudsman and child and youth advocate. "The departments of Public Safety and Education and Early Childhood Development have been particularly successful in implementing programs that will result in positive change for the First Nations children in our province. It is disappointing, however, that there has been no progress on restructuring of the 11 First Nations child welfare agencies."

One of the central recommendations in Hand-in-Hand iis that the 11 First Nations child welfare agencies be blended into three agencies to reduce administrative duplication and maximize frontline social work services. The follow-up report notes that no progress has been made on a plan to address the poor housing stock in First Nations communities.

"While I am encouraged by the progress I have seen over the past year, there is still a long road ahead in addressing the issues that adversely affect First Nations children in our province," said Richard.

Copies of the follow-up report are online.

Highlights:

●    A First Nations children's futures fund has been created to develop and support opportunities for recreation, culture and language among First Nations children in New Brunswick.
●    A pilot case management system is being tested at St. Mary's First Nation to determine what changes are required before it is implemented more broadly.
●    The Department of Social Development has issued letters of offer for two of the three First Nations consultant positions it committed to hiring to form a new First Nations unit.
●    The Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick, in partnership with Gignoo House, has launched several new resources aimed at preventing family violence in Aboriginal communities.
●    The Department of Justice and Consumer Affairs and Elsipogtog First Nation collaborated in the establishment of a health-to-wellness court.
●    The Department of Public Safety, Community and Correctional Services Division, engaged with First Nations to develop and implement an internal training session that focused on Aboriginal awareness.
●    The Department of Public Safety, Community and Correctional Services Division, has created two committees, one for community services and one for institutional services, to seek input and collaboration from First Nations people on the various issues that affect Aboriginals within the correctional system.
●    The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and First Nations education organizations are collaborating on a project to acculturate the curricula from kindergarten to Grade 12 to achieve three objectives: to identify where elements of First Nations culture and history exist; to examine identified content for accuracy and relevancy; and to make recommendations for the infusion of additional First Nations references.
●    The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Office of First Nations Perspectives, recently launched a First Nations Learning Resources website for New Brunswick educators.
●    The New Brunswick Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Authority, supported by the Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport, succeeded in reviving the Indian Summer Games in 2010.
●    The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development contracted with SayITFirst Inc. in 2009 to implement the Modernize, Expand, Revitalize and Localize project to support the revitalization of Aboriginal languages in the province.

LINK:

●    Office of the Ombudsman: www.gnb.ca/ombudsman