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Aboriginal social workers still committed to working towards sustainable workloads

The newly unionized staff at Fraser Valley Aboriginal (Xyolhemeylh) Children and Family Services Society (FVACFSS) are continuing the fight against heavy caseloads that hurt children and families in the communities they serve.

FVACFSS staff met with their new union, the BCGEU, in early November to discuss how time constraints and extremely high caseloads in the current system often prevent effective child welfare practice.

“Sadly, these issues are faced in every Aboriginal child welfare agency in the province, as identified in the BCGEU report Closing the Circle: a case for reinvesting in Aboriginal child, youth and family services in British Columbia” says Stephanie Smith, BCGEU president.

“Our members at Xyolhemeylh want the best for children in care in B.C. and they have taken the first step in helping to achieve this. These dedicated workers want improved working conditions to help them better advocate for children and families.”

At the meeting, the husband and son of the hereditary chief of the Kwantlen First Nation, Kevin Kelly and Michael Gabriel respectively, spoke passionately about the importance of Aboriginal child welfare work and the need for government to begin addressing the issues that continue to put Aboriginal children at risk.  

The FVACFSS bargaining committee will be elected next month and will then meet with BCGEU negotiators to develop proposals. The biggest issue for not only FVACFSS workers, but for all workers in Aboriginal agencies is workload. Addressing sustainable caseloads will be the key issue at the bargaining table.

BCGEU represents over 2000 social workers in the Ministry of Children and Family Development and at several other delegated aboriginal agencies including the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services Society and Métis Family Services.