The Sixties Scoop and the Child Welfare System
Histories and legacies of the residential school system in Canada are intricately tied to the history of the ‘Sixties Scoop’ and the Child Welfare system that we know today.
Cumulative failures of the residential school system influenced some changes in the late 1950s and 1960s. One major turning point occurred after changes to the Indian Act in 1951 when more power was transferred to the provinces to remove children from their families. Increasingly, children were still being taken from their homes, often without notice and apprehended by social workers inside the provincial child welfare systems. Thousands of Indigenous children were adopted out of their homes and ‘scooped’, in many cases without any prior notice to the parents or families. Children were often adopted out of the province and into the United States. There are continuing efforts today to reunite family members who were ‘scooped’ away into adoptive families. The ongoing impacts of forced separation from their parents and families are impacting individuals and extended families today.
Many adoptive families and parents loved and cared for the children ‘scooped’ from their homes in the 1960s, 70s and 80s ‘Scoop’. There are also countless cases of children who were abused, exploited and discriminated against in their adoptive homes. While the treatment of children varied from family to family, the children are united in the shared impacts on their connections to culture, identity and languages. In addition, the Sixties Scoop and the present-day Child Welfare system for First Nations and Aboriginal children is a story of a deeply broken system. A system that is quite like the residential schools, notoriously under funded and it has a dangerously low level of support for children, workers and families. Presently, the number of children currently in foster care far exceeds the number of children who attended the residential schools at the height of the schools’ operation.
In 2016, following a 10 year legal battle, the First Nations Caring Society won a case in front of Canada’s Human Rights tribunal. The tribunal found that the Child Welfare system for First Nations children living on Reserve is clearly discriminating against First Nations children in care and in its jurisdictional distribution of health care to First Nations communities. While the operation of the Child Welfare system has experienced changes since the 1960s, it remains a critical failure of upholding basic rights, support for health and for wellbeing of Indigenous children in Canada.
Please see the First Nations Caring Society for additional resources and information on their advocacy work, on behalf of First Nations and Indigenous children in care.
Blackstock, Cindy. 2007. ‘Residential schools: Did they really close or just morph into child welfare?’ Indigenous Law Journal, 6(1), 71-78.
Blackstock, Cindy. 2009. ‘Why Addressing the Over-Representation of First Nations Children in Care Requires New Theoretical Approaches Based on First Nations Ontology.’ Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, no. 3, vol. 6: 24-45.
Blackstock, Cindy, and Nico Trocmé. 2005. ‘Community based child welfare for Aboriginal children’. In Handbook for working with children and youth: Pathways to resilience across cultures and contexts, edited by Michael Ungar, 105-120. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Chartrand, Larry, Tricia Logan and Judy Daniels. 2006. Métis History and Experience and Residential Schools in Canada. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
Fournier, Suzanne and Ernie Crey. 1997. Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre.
Johnson, Patrick. 1983. Native Children and the Child Welfare System.Toronto: Lorimer.
Kimmelman, Edwin. 1985. No Quiet Place: Final Report to the Honourable Muriel Smith, Minister of Community Services/Review Committee on Indian and Métis Adoptions/Placements. Winnipeg: Manitoba Community Services.
Lavell-Harvard, D. M. and Lavell, J.C. (editors). 2006. Until Our Hearts Are On The Ground: Aboriginal Mothering, Oppression, Resistance and Rebirth. Toronto: Demeter Press.
Sinclair, Raven. 2007. ‘Identity Lost and Found: Lessons from the Sixties Scoop’. First Peoples Child & Family Review. 3.1, 65-82.
Timpson, J.B. 2010. Four Decades of Child Welfare Services to Native Indians in Ontario: A Contemporary Attempt to Understand the “Sixties Scoop” in Historical Socioeconomic and Political Perspectives, D.S.W. Dissertation. Wilfred Laurier University, Faculty of Social Work.
Trocmé, Nico, Knoke, Della and Blackstock, Cindy. 2004. ‘Pathways to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in Canada’s child welfare system’. Social Service Review, 78(4), 577-601.