The numbers tell a sobering story about Labrador's uprooted foster children

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The numbers tell a sobering story about Labrador's uprooted foster children

Aboriginal communities in Labrador are small in population, which makes the large number of children in some type of foster care arrangement all the more troubling.

In the Innu community of Sheshatshiu, for example, there are 90 children in care, while in the Inuit community of Nain, the number is 55.

That's according to figures released by the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development (CSSD).

Some say a surge in the number of Aboriginal children from Labrador being placed into care is evidence of a change in approach by those in child protection services.

Michelle Kinney, deputy minister of health and social development with Nunatsiavut, the regional Inuit government in Labrador, said a change in the legislation relating to child protection ushered in a new approach she believes is not working.

"I think the whole child welfare system has gone in the wrong direction and we're hoping that with a legislative review it will come back," Kinney told CBC Radio on Wednesday.

Parents left on their own

She said the system is now more reactive, with a focus purely on child safety, as opposed to family preservation.

"They're looking at children at risk. They're looking at what's wrong in families," she said. "It's very immediate and based on short-term outcomes."

"Once the children are removed, parents are left to fix and find the supports that they need," she added.

The province introduced new child protection legislation in 2010 after a review of the death of Zachary Turner, a 13-month-old boy who was drowned by his mother, Shirley Turner, while she awaited trial on charges of killing her estranged lover.

The changes gave government more power to intervene when authorities believed a child was at risk.

In the past, Kinney said family services were emphasized more.

"I think we need to get back to a model of more comprehensive planning, longer term outcomes ... that empowers and is strength based," she explained.

In a report released in November 2016, Auditor General Terry Paddon said 6,252 children — eight per cent of the children in Newfoundland and Labrador were being served by CSSD programs.