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Infant rates of child protective services contact and termination of parental rights by first nations status from 1998 to 2019: An example of intergenerational transmission of colonial harm.

BACKGROUND: Rates of child removal by child protective services (CPS) in Manitoba are the highest in Canada with a profoundly disproportionate impact on First Nations families. Despite infants constituting the highest proportion of children affected, no research has examined population-level rates of infant contact with CPS.

OBJECTIVE: We examined the incidence of infant contact with different levels of CPS, including termination of parental rights (TPR), according to First Nations status.

PARTICIPANTS: We identified 217,261 infants (47,416 First Nations; 169,845 non-First Nations) born between 1998 and 2014 in Manitoba, Canada and residing in the province until at least age 5.

METHODS: We used linked administrative data to calculate population-level rates of contact with different levels of CPS by First Nations status, including an open file before age 1, out-of-home placement before age 1, and TPR before age 5.

RESULTS: Overall 35.8 % of First Nations infants had an open file, 8.5 % experienced out-of-home placement, and 5.4 % experienced TPR. Among other infants, 8.5 % had an open file, 1.3 % experienced out-of-home placement and 0.7 % experienced TPR. The rate of early-stage contact increased the fastest among First Nations infants, with a rise of 22.4 % in our study period, compared to a rise of 1.7 % among all other infants.

CONCLUSIONS: CPS contact was exceptionally high among First Nations infants compared to other infants, with early-stage contact accelerating most dramatically over time. Findings support calls to greatly reduce the disruption of system contact in the lives of First Nations families.

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