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Funding First Nations child and family services (FNCFS): A performance budget approach to well-being

There is context for change in FNCFS with the commitments to substantive equality, the best interests of the child, and a culturally informed approach, in An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. In its rulings, the CHRT has found the current protection-focused system to be discriminatory and underfunded. 

The long-term negative consequences of contact with the protection system increase the likelihood of interactions with social services in the welfare system, the criminal justice system, etc. later in life. These corrective systems have downstream social and fiscal costs. 

This work seeks to reset the structure, funding and governance of the current FNCFS system to mitigate and address the causes of contact with the protection system. Developed from the ground-up, this work is built on collaboration and insight from FNCFS agencies, First Nations, and experts, twelve in-depth case studies, a survey on FNCFS expenditures, three expert roundtables, and supplementary research and analysis from Canada and the United States. 

Pursuant to the findings in this report, the following four recommendations are made: 

1. Adopt a results framework for the well-being of children, families, and communities, such as the Measuring to Thrive framework. 
2. Budget for results with a block funding approach that addresses gaps and is linked to the results framework. 
     a. Undertake a full assessment of current capital stock. 
3. Establish a non-political First Nations policy and practice secretariat to support First Nations and FNCFS agencies to transition to First Nations governance. 
4. Establish a group FNCFS agencies and First Nations willing to be early adopters of the new performance and funding approach to model implementation.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy (IFSD) at the University of Ottawa is pleased to continue its collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Caring Society on First Nations child welfare. 

Following the acceptance of IFSD’s report, Enabling First Nations Children to Thrive by the National Advisory Committee (NAC), IFSD was asked to undertake a follow-on study to identify options and plans for a change in structure and resources in First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) to transition agencies to an outcome-based approach based on well-being for thriving First Nations children. 

For more detail on Phase 1, see the final report and related interim updates.

Cindy Blackstock is Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.