Insights on Canadian Society
Living arrangements of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under

by Annie Turner

Release date: April 13, 2016 Correction date: (if required)

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Overview of the study

This study uses data from the National Household Survey (NHS) to examine the living arrangements of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under, and includes results about Aboriginal children who lived with a lone parent, with their grandparents, or in a stepfamily. The study also provides key statistics about Aboriginal foster children.

  • In 2011, there were 392,100 Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in Canada, representing 28% of the total Aboriginal population. By comparison, non-Aboriginal children in the same age group represented 17% of the total non-Aboriginal population.

  • Aboriginal children aged 14 and under were less likely than non-Aboriginal children to live with married parents, twice as likely to live with a lone parent and twice as likely to live with their grandparents. They were also more likely to live in a stepfamily.

  • In 2011, there were more than 14,000 Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in foster care. Aboriginal children accounted for 7% of all children in Canada but for almost one-half (48%) of all foster children.

  • Three-quarters (76%) of Aboriginal foster children lived in the four Western provinces, compared with 62% of Aboriginal children who were not in foster care. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 85% or more of foster children were Aboriginal children.

  • In 2011, 44% of Aboriginal foster children lived with at least one Aboriginal foster parent. This percentage varied across provinces, from 29% in Alberta to 70% in New Brunswick and in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the territories, this percentage was 13% in Yukon, 45% in the Northwest Territories and 88% in Nunavut.

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Introduction

Over the past century, Canadian families have been increasingly characterized by more diverse living arrangements. Up until the 1960s, families mainly included a married couple and their biological children. Over the past 50 years, however, the proportion of married-couple families has been declining, while the proportion of common-law couples, lone-parent families and stepfamilies has been on the rise.Note 1 Although children living with a married couple remains the predominant family structure, the number of children living with parents in a common-law relationship has been increasing over the past few decades.Note 2 The 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) showed that Aboriginal children (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) in Canada are also growing up in diverse living arrangements. Similar to non-Aboriginal children, the majority of Aboriginal children lived with both of their parents or with a lone parent. However, Aboriginal children were more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be stepchildren, grandchildren living with grandparents (with and without their parents present), foster children or children living with other relatives.

Family structure and the circumstances in which children grow up can have a significant influence on children’s development and well-being. There is, however, very limited research on the specific living arrangements of Aboriginal children. 

This study uses data from the 2011 NHS (see Data sources, methods and definitions) to provide an in-depth portrait of the living arrangements of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in Canada.Note 3 More specifically, the living arrangements of Aboriginal children in each of the Aboriginal groups (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) will be presented.Note 4 In some cases, differences between age groups (0 to 4, 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 years) and differences between geographic regions will also be discussed. Furthermore, some results for First Nations children with registered Indian status living on and off reserve and for Inuit children living inside and outside Inuit Nunangat will be shown.Note 5 This study will also focus on the Aboriginal identity of the adult(s) living with Aboriginal children, which is especially important for Aboriginal foster children.

Past research on Aboriginal families has highlighted the importance of extended families in raising Aboriginal children.Note 6 For example, the 2006 Aboriginal Children’s Survey (ACS) illustrated that there are many people involved in raising Aboriginal children, including extended family, community members and Elders.Note 7 The 2011 NHS provides a rich data set for analyzing the living arrangements of Aboriginal children. The NHS, however, only collects data about the relationship between people living in the same household—it therefore does not provide information about other family members and other people living outside the home who may play a role in raising children.

Overview of living arrangements of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in Canada

The Aboriginal population in Canada is younger than the non-Aboriginal population. According to the 2011 NHS, there were 392,100 Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in Canada, representing 28% of the total Aboriginal population. In comparison, non-Aboriginal children in the same age group represented 17% of the total non-Aboriginal population. The Inuit population was youngest, with children aged 14 and under representing one-third (34%) of that population, compared with 30% for First Nations people and 23% for Métis. Among Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in Canada, two-thirds (66%) identified as First Nations, 27% as Métis and 5% as Inuit.Note 8

One-half of Aboriginal children (50%) aged 14 and under lived in a familyNote 9 with both parents (biological or adoptive), compared with three-quarters (76%) of their non-Aboriginal counterparts (Table 1). The vast majority (97%) of Aboriginal children living with both parents lived with at least one parent who had an Aboriginal identity. However, Inuit and First Nations children were the most likely to live with two parents who both had the same Aboriginal identity as them.Note 10

Table 1
Children aged 14 and under in private households by living arrangement and by Aboriginal identity, 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Children aged 14 and under in private households by living arrangement and by Aboriginal identity. The information is grouped by Living arrangements (appearing as row headers), Aboriginal identity, Total Aboriginal children, First Nations children, Inuit children, Métis children and Total non-Aboriginal children, calculated using thousand and percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Living arrangements Aboriginal identity
Total Aboriginal children First Nations children Inuit children Métis children Total non-Aboriginal children
thousand percent thousand percent thousand percent thousand percent thousand percent
Total population aged 14 and under in private households 392.1 100.0 258.8 100.0 20.2 100.0 104.4 100.0 5,200.7 100.0
Children of both parentsNote 1 194.6 49.6 116.4 45.0 12.4 61.6 60.6 58.0 3,953.9 76.0
Stepchildren 33.4 8.5 22.4 8.7 1.3 6.3 8.9 8.6 299.4 5.8
Children of lone parents 134.9 34.4 96.0 37.1 5.2 25.8 31.1 29.8 902.4 17.4
Grandchildren in skip-generation family 10.5 2.7 8.5 3.3 0.5 2.3 1.5 1.4 18.7 0.4
Foster children 14.2 3.6 11.7 4.5 0.6 2.8 1.8 1.7 15.3 0.3
Children living with other relatives
Note 2Note 3
4.5 1.2 3.7 1.4 0.2 1.1 0.5 0.5 11.1 0.2

The proportion of Aboriginal children living with a lone parent (34%) was higher than for non-Aboriginal children (17%). Aboriginal children were also more likely than their non-Aboriginal counterparts to be stepchildren (9% versus 6%), foster children (3.6% versus 0.3%), and to live with grandparents in a skip-generation household (2.7% versus 0.4%). Finally, a little over 1% of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under lived with other relatives in arrangements that did not include at least one parent or grandparent. These relatives could be extended family such as aunts, uncles or cousins. This was the case for 0.2% of non-Aboriginal children of the same age group.

Aboriginal children more likely than non-Aboriginal children to live with parents who are in a common-law relationship

There is diversity between the types of unions that exist among two-parent families. Among Aboriginal children living with both of their biological or adoptive parents, almost two-thirds (65%) lived with married parents. Just over one-third (35%) of Aboriginal children living with two parents lived with common-law parents, which was more than double the proportion among non-Aboriginal children (16%). Among the Aboriginal groups, common-law unions were most common among the parents of Inuit (47%) and First Nations children (41%). For Métis children, 23% were living with parents in a common-law union.

Irrespective of the province or territory where they live, Aboriginal children were more likely than non-Aboriginal children to live with parents in a common-law union (Chart 1). Among those living in two-parent families, Aboriginal children in Quebec (52%), Saskatchewan (39%) and the territories (55% in the Northwest Territories, 50% in Nunavut and 43% in Yukon) were the most likely to live with parents in a common-law union. The difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living with common-law parents was smaller between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in Quebec, where 44% of non-Aboriginal children in two-parent families were living with common-law parents.

Chart 1 Proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children with common-law parents among those living in two parent families, province and territory, 2011

Description for Chart 1
Data table for chart 1
  Aboriginal children Non-Aboriginal children
Canada 35.4 16.4
N.L. 25.2 15.7
P.E.I. 36.6 9.8
N.S. 25.2 13.2
N.B. 27.4 18.3
Que. 51.6 44.3
Ont. 28.6 7.7
Man. 31.9 6.6
Sask. 39.3 8.1
Alta. 35.5 7.6
B.C. 32.4 8.0
Y.T. 42.7 20.7
N.W.T. 54.8 13.4
Nvt. 50.0 13.8
Source:
Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

The proportion of children living with parents in a common-law union was higher among First Nations children with registered Indian status living on reserve (50%) than those living off reserve (40%). The proportion of Inuit children living with common-law parents was 51% within Inuit Nunangat. Outside Inuit Nunangat, a lower proportion of Inuit children lived with common-law parents (28%).

Aboriginal children more likely than non-Aboriginal children to live with a lone parent

Lone-parent families have been on the rise in Canada since the 1960s.Note 11 As indicated above, Aboriginal children are more likely than non-Aboriginal children to live with a lone parent. In 2011, 34% of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under were living with a lone parent compared with 17% of non-Aboriginal children.Note 12 The proportion was 37% for First Nations children, 30% for Métis children and 26% for Inuit children (Table 1). For First Nations children with registered Indian status, the proportion was 41% for those living off reserve and 36% for those living on reserve.Note 13

Among the age groups of children living with a lone parent, there were differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children. More than one-third (35%) of Aboriginal children aged 0 to 4 lived in a lone-parent family (Chart 2), and this proportion was similar across age groups (34% for 5-to-9 year-olds and for 10-to-14 year-olds). Among non-Aboriginal children, the proportions were 13% for 0-to-4 year-olds, 18% for 5-to-9 year-olds and 21% for 10-to-14 year-olds.

Chart 2 Proportion of Aboriginal children living with lone-parents, by age group and Aboriginal identity, 2011

Description for Chart 2
Data table for chart 2
  0 to 4 years old 5 to 9 years old 10 to 14 years old
Total Aboriginal children 34.6 34.3 34.3
First Nations children 38.0 37.1 36.2
Métis children 28.2 29.5 31.5
Inuit children 25.8 24.8 27.1
Non-Aboriginal children 12.9 17.7 21.4
Source:
Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Furthermore, just over one-third (36%) of Aboriginal children under the age of 1 were living in a lone-parent family—the proportion was 10% for non-Aboriginal children. This shows that more Aboriginal children are living in a lone-parent family at a younger age (0-to-4 years-olds), whereas non-Aboriginal children are more likely to live in a lone-parent family when they are in the older age group (10-to-14 years-old). For both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children under the age of 1, the majority of those who were living with a lone parent lived with a female parent (88% in both cases).

Aboriginal children are twice as likely as non-Aboriginal children to live with a grandparent

Along with other changes in the structure of Canadian families over the past few decades, there has also been a rise in the number of Canadian children who are living with their grandparentsNote 14—in either a “skip-generation” household (children living with grandparent(s) only) or in a “multigenerational” household (children living with at least one parent and at least one grandparent). Irrespective of the Aboriginal group (First Nations, Métis or Inuit), Elders and grandparents have always been held in high regard for their wisdom and as advisors and keepers of cultural knowledge.Note 15 Grandparents often play an important role in raising children in First Nations, Métis and Inuit families.

In 2011, 2.7% of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under were living with at least one grandparent in a skip-generation household (without their parents present), compared with 0.4% of non-Aboriginal children (Table 2). This was the case for 3.3% of First Nations children, 2.3% of Inuit children and 1.4% of Métis children.

Table 2
Proportion of children living with grandparents in skip-generation and multi-generation households, by Aboriginal identity, 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Proportion of children living with grandparents in skip-generation and multi-generation households Aboriginal identity, Total Aboriginal children, First Nations children, Métis children , Inuit children and Non-Aboriginal children, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Aboriginal identity
Total Aboriginal children First Nations children Métis children Inuit children Non-Aboriginal children
percent
Total - Child in Census families 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Child living with grandparents 13.3 15.3 8.4 15.1 7.9
Child in skip-generation household 2.7 3.3 1.4 2.3 0.4
Child in multigeneration household 10.6 12.0 7.0 12.8 7.6
Child with couple parents and grandparent(s) 3.4 3.7 2.5 4.9 5.3
Child with lone parent and grandparent(s) 7.2 8.3 4.6 7.9 2.2

At the same time, roughly 11% of Aboriginal children were living in a multigenerational household with at least one of their parents present.Note 16 This was the case for 8% of non-Aboriginal children.Note 17 The proportions were 13% for Inuit children, 12% for First Nations children and 7% for Métis children.

Among First Nations children with registered Indian status living on reserve, 19% were living in a multigenerational household. The proportion was 7% for First Nations children with registered Indian status living off reserve, and 8% for First Nations children without registered Indian status living off reserve. Among Inuit children, 14% of those living in Inuit Nunangat were living in a multigenerational household, compared with 9% of those living outside Inuit Nunangat.

More than two-thirds (68%) of Aboriginal children living in a multigenerational household—with grandparent(s) and at least one parent present—lived with a lone parent and grandparents, compared with 30% of non-Aboriginal children who were in the same situation.Note 18 Multigenerational families among the Aboriginal population are thus more likely to be formed with single parents and grandparents, while for the non-Aboriginal population, it is more common to see two parent-grandparent households.

Aboriginal stepchildren more likely to live in a complex stepfamily

For the first time in 2011, the NHS collected data on stepfamilies. Stepfamilies can be classified as either simple or complex. In a simple stepfamily, all children are biological or adopted children of one and only one married spouse or common-law partner. A complex stepfamily consists of any of one the following:

About 9% (33,400) of all Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in 2011 were stepchildren, while the share for non-Aboriginal children was lower at 6%. More than one-half (55%) of Aboriginal stepchildren lived in a complex stepfamily, compared with 47% of non-Aboriginal stepchildren (Table 3). More precisely, 39% of Aboriginal stepchildren were living in a family with a child or children of each parent and no children of both parents—also the most common scenario among non-Aboriginal stepchildren. A little over 10% of Aboriginal stepchildren were living in a family with a child or children of both parents and a child or children of one parent only. Finally, 6% of Aboriginal stepchildren were living in a family with a child or children of both parents and a child or children of each parent.

Table 3
Percentage distribution of stepchildren across stepfamily status, by Aboriginal identity, 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Percentage distribution of stepchildren across stepfamily status Aboriginal identity, Total - Aboriginal children, First Nations children, Métis children, Inuit children(1) and Non-Aboriginal children, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Aboriginal identity
Total - Aboriginal children First Nations children Métis children Inuit childrenNote 1 Non-Aboriginal children
percent
Total stepchildren 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Children living in simple stepfamilies 44.7 43.6 47.8 42.7 53.2
Children living in complex stepfamilies 55.3 56.5 52.2 57.3 46.8
Children living in families with child(ren) of both parents and child(ren) of one parent only 10.3 9.1 12.8 11.8 14.0
Children living in families with child(ren) of each parent and no children of both parents 38.7 40.3 34.6 40.8 29.7
Children living in families with child(ren) of both parents and child(ren) of each parent 6.3 7.0 4.7 5.5 3.2

Aboriginal children live in larger families than non-Aboriginal children

Fertility among the Aboriginal population is higher than among the non-Aboriginal population,Note 19 translating into larger families. In 2011, about 17% of Aboriginal children aged 14 and under lived in a family with four or more children in the same age group compared with 7% of non-Aboriginal children (Table 4). This varied by Aboriginal group with 20% of both First Nations and Inuit children, and 8% of Métis children living in a family with four or more children.

Table 4
Number of children aged 14 and under in census family, by Aboriginal identity, 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Number of children aged 14 and under in census family Aboriginal identity, Total Aboriginal children, First Nations children, Métis children, Inuit children and Non-Aboriginal children, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Aboriginal identity
Total Aboriginal children First Nations children Métis children Inuit children Non-Aboriginal children
percent
Total children in census families 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
1 child 25.9 24.5 29.3 23.9 28.6
2 children 36.3 33.4 43.0 33.9 46.6
3 children 21.2 21.8 19.7 22.4 18.1
4 or more children 16.6 20.3 8.0 19.8 6.7

In all types of families, Aboriginal children were more likely than non-Aboriginal children to live in a larger family. For example, 15% of Aboriginal children who lived in a lone-parent family lived in a family with four or more children, compared with 4% of non-Aboriginal children in the same living arrangement (Chart 3). There were also differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children living in a skip-generation family—with grandparent(s) and no parents present—where 13% of Aboriginal children lived in a family with four or more children, compared with 2% of non-Aboriginal children.

Chart 3 Proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children aged 14 and under in families with four or more children in the same age group, by selected living arrangements, 2011

Description for Chart 3
Data table for chart 3
  Aboriginal children Non-Aboriginal children
Children living with both parents 17.1 7.0
Children living with lone parents 14.5 4.3
Grandchildren in skip-generation family 12.5 1.9
Source:
Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Almost one-half of all foster children aged 14 and under are Aboriginal

In Canada, there is no centralized child welfare system. There are over 300 provincial and territorial child welfare agencies that operate under the jurisdiction of the 13 provinces and territories. Furthermore, over 100 agencies deliver services specifically to First Nations, Métis and urban Aboriginal children.Note 20 The importance of placing Aboriginal children with families who identify culturally with the child has been identified as a consideration in placement decision making.Note 21 In addition to this, a key recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was that adequate resources be made available to Aboriginal communities and child-welfare organizations to keep Aboriginal families together when safe to do so, and to keep children in culturally appropriate environments.Note 22

For the first time, in 2011, Statistics Canada collected information about whether or not a child in a household was a foster child. The data show that, in 2011, there were 14,200 Aboriginal childrenNote 23 aged 14 and under who were foster childrenNote 24 in Canada (for more information about older children in foster care, see Aboriginal teenagers in foster care). Aboriginal children were overrepresented among foster children—they accounted for 48% of all foster children in Canada even though they made up 7% of the overall population aged 14 and under. The majority of Aboriginal foster children were First Nations (82%), while about 13% were Métis and 4% were Inuit.Note 25

There is variation between age groups among foster children. Aboriginal children accounted for one-half (49%) of all foster children aged 0 to 4, more than one-half (56%) of all foster children aged 5 to 9, and 41% of all foster children aged 10 to 14—yet Aboriginal children represent about 7% of all children in each of those age groups in Canada.

Three-quarters of Aboriginal foster children live in the western provinces

Three-quarters (76%) of Aboriginal foster children lived in the western provinces, compared with 62% of Aboriginal children who were not foster children. In 2011, 25% of Aboriginal foster children lived in Manitoba, 22% in Alberta, 17% in British Columbia, and 12% in Saskatchewan.

The proportion of foster children who were Aboriginal varied by province and territory (Table 5). In Saskatchewan, 87% of all foster children aged 14 and under were Aboriginal children. This was the case for 85% of foster children in Manitoba, 73% in Alberta and 56% in British Columbia. Nearly all children in foster care in Nunavut, Yukon Territory and in the Northwest Territories were Aboriginal children, according to NHS data. However, there is a higher proportion of Aboriginal children in those provinces (of all children aged 14 and under, the proportion of Aboriginal children was 96% in Nunavut, 67% in the Northwest Territories, and 33% in Yukon).

Table 5
Proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children among all children and among children in foster care, provinces and territories, 2011
Table summary
This table displays the results of Proportion of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children among all children and among children in foster care Total children , Total children in foster care, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
  Total children Total children in foster care
Aboriginal Non-Aboriginal Aboriginal Non-Aboriginal
percent
Canada 7.0 93.0 48.1 51.9
Newfoundland and Labrador 10.7 89.3 28.0 72.0
Prince Edward Island 2.7 97.3 0.0 100.0
Nova Scotia 5.9 94.1 23.9 76.1
New Brunswick 5.0 95.0 28.8 71.2
Quebec 2.7 97.3 15.4 84.6
Ontario 3.4 96.6 25.5 74.5
Manitoba 27.6 72.4 84.6 15.4
Saskatchewan 27.4 72.6 87.0 13.0
Alberta 9.8 90.2 73.4 26.6
British Columbia 9.0 91.0 56.0 44.0
Yukon 33.0 67.0 100.0 0.0
Northwest Territories 66.8 33.2 93.8 6.3
Nunavut 95.5 4.5 100.0 0.0

Less than one-half of Aboriginal children in foster care live with at least one adult with an Aboriginal identity

Among the 11,700 First Nations foster children,Note 26 37% were living with at least one foster parent who also identified as First Nations, 9% were living with at least one foster parent who had a different Aboriginal identityNote 27, and 54% lived with non-Aboriginal foster parents (Chart 4).

Chart 4 Aboriginal identity of foster parents, by Aboriginal identity of foster children, 2011

Description for Chart 4
Data table for chart 4
  Living with at least 1 foster parent with the same Aboriginal identity Living with at least 1 foster parent with a different Aboriginal identity, but no foster parent with the same Aboriginal identity Living with only non-Aboriginal foster parent(s)
First Nations children 37.2 9.3 53.5
Inuit children 43.0 6.1 50.9
Métis children 21.2 6.4 72.4
Source:
Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

Of the 600 Inuit foster children in Canada, 43% were living with at least one Inuit foster parent, 6% lived with at least one foster parent of another Aboriginal identity, and 51% were living with non-Aboriginal foster parents.

Of the 1,800 Métis foster children in Canada, a little over 20% were living with at least one Métis foster parent, while 6% lived with at least one foster parent of another Aboriginal identity and 72% lived with non-Aboriginal foster parents.

In 2011, there were 9,900 First Nations children with registered Indian status who were foster children; one-quarter of them lived on reserve. Of those who lived on reserve, almost all (99%) lived with at least one foster parent who was First Nations. Among First Nations foster children with registered Indian status living off reserve, 21% were living with at least one foster parent who also reported being First Nations.

The overall proportion of Aboriginal children in foster care who lived with at least one Aboriginal foster parent, regardless of whether or not they had the same Aboriginal identity, was 44%. This percentage, however, varied by province and territory, from 88% in Nunavut to 13% in Yukon (Chart 5).

Chart 5 Proportion of Aboriginal foster children living with at least one Aboriginal foster parent, province and territory, 2011

Description for Chart 5
Data table for chart 5
  percent
Canada 44.2
N.L. 70.0
N.S. 60.6
N.B. 70.0
Que. 57.5
Ont. 41.5
Man. 48.9
Sask. 60.2
Alta. 28.6
B.C. 37.3
Y.T. 12.5
N.W.T. 45.2
Nvt 88.0
Note:
Prince Edward Island data was suppressed to meet confidentiality requirements.
Source:
Statistics Canada, National Household Survey, 2011.

In all provinces located to the east of Ontario, the proportions of Aboriginal foster children living with at least one Aboriginal foster parent were above the national average, with percentages varying between 58% in Quebec to 70% in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. In Ontario, 42% of Aboriginal foster children were living with at least one Aboriginal foster parent. This was the case for 49% of Aboriginal foster children in Manitoba, 60% in Saskatchewan, 29% in Alberta (the lowest proportion of all provinces), and 37% in British Columbia.

In the territories, the percentage of Aboriginal children with an Aboriginal foster parent also varied, as the percentages were 13% in Yukon, 45% in the Northwest Territories, and 88% in Nunavut.

Finally, Aboriginal foster children were also more likely to live in a household with three or more foster children—52% of Aboriginal foster children lived in a household with three or more foster children compared with 40% of non-Aboriginal foster children.

Conclusion

Similar to other children in Canada, Aboriginal children across the country have diverse and varied living arrangements. Aboriginal children, however, are more likely than non-Aboriginal children to live in a large family, with two parents who are in a common-law relationship, with a lone parent, or with grandparents. Note that the NHS results provide a snapshot of living arrangements at one point in time and therefore do not provide information about the stability of such arrangements over time. In order to obtain such details, additional research would be needed to study the stability of living arrangements within the Aboriginal population and their possible association with some of the health, education and social outcomes observed within this population.

For Aboriginal people, the conceptualization of family often involves definitions of family that extend beyond the household.Note 28 In fact, results from the Aboriginal Children’s Survey (ACS) have shown that Aboriginal children have extended family, community members and Elders who spend time with them and who are involved in their lives. As the NHS cannot capture these complexities, the results of this study should be interpreted with an understanding of the importance of people living outside the home in raising Aboriginal children. Future studies that examine the role of the family on children’s outcomes should consider aspects of family that may be particularly relevant to Aboriginal people, outside of household composition, including family ties, mobility and kinship.

This study also presented statistics showing the higher proportion of Aboriginal foster children in Canada—an issue that warrants further research and exploration. Furthermore, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, recommended that annual reports on the number of Aboriginal children who are in foster care compared to the number of non-Aboriginal children are publishedNote 29. Less than one-half of Aboriginal foster children are living with foster parents who identify with the same Aboriginal group as theirs. It has been suggested that Aboriginal foster children living with a family that shares similar cultural beliefs and practices can help their foster children adjust to living with a new family.Note 30 The proportion of Aboriginal foster children living with at least one Aboriginal foster parent, however, vary considerably across provinces and territories.

Annie Turner is an analyst with the Social and Aboriginal Statistics Division at Statistics Canada.

Data sources, methods and definitions

Data sources

Data for this paper are from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). Data are analyzed for children aged 14 and under living in a private household, and for some analyses, for children aged 15 to 18.

Methods

The Aboriginal identity concept was used in all analyses. “Aboriginal identity” refers to whether the person reported being an Aboriginal person—First Nation (North American Indian), Métis or Inuk (Inuit)—and/or being a Registered or Treaty Indian (registered under the Indian Act of Canada) and/or being a member of a First Nations or Indian band. Although single and multiple responses to the Aboriginal identity question are possible, the data in this document for each of the three Aboriginal groups are based on the population reporting a single identity of First Nations, Métis or Inuit. Less than 1% of Aboriginal children were reported as having multiple identities. All analyses are descriptive.

To ensure the confidentiality of responses collected for the 2011 National Household Survey while maintaining the quality of the results, a random rounding process is used to alter the values reported in individual cells. As a result, when these data are summed or grouped, the total value may not match the sum of the individual values since the total and subtotals are independently rounded. Similarly, percentage distributions, which are calculated on rounded data, may not necessarily add up to 100%.

Definitions

Children: In the first part of this article on living arrangements, the children population refers to children aged 14 and under in census families. Children in census families refer to blood, step- or adopted sons and daughters (regardless of age) who are living in the same dwelling as their parent(s), as well as grandchildren in households where there are no parents present. See the Families Reference Guide, 2011 CensusNote 31 for more information on the definition and concept of children.

Foster children: In the second part of the article, the concept of “foster children” is used. This population includes children in private households who have been reported as foster children on the NHS questionnaire. Foster children are considered as “other relatives” outside of a census family. Because the direct relationship between the adults in the household and the foster children is unknown, the adults chosen are the reference person and spouse of the reference person in the same economic family as the foster child(ren).

Multigenerational household: A household containing three or more generations of grandparents, parents and children. The middle generation may be comprised of two parents who are part of a couple, a lone parent, or a more complex situation such as both a couple and a lone parent.

Skip-generation household: A household containing one or more grandparents and grandchildren, and no parents.

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Aboriginal teenagers in foster care

In Canada, legislative standards of child welfare vary across the country. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) defines a child as under 18 years of age, however the age that a person ceases to be a child for the purpose of receiving protective services in Canada varies by province and territory.Note 32 This means that, at or before the age of 18, children may lose access to their foster homes, financial support and social workers. While the focus of the current study is on children aged 14 and under, in terms of foster children, it is also important to look at teenagers aged 15 to 18.

In 2011, there were 113,350 Aboriginal teenagers aged 15 to 18, representing 7% of all Canadians in that age group. About 3,200 of those were in foster care, representing 30% of all teenagers in foster care in that age group. The majority (80%) lived in the western provinces, 26% in Manitoba, 22% in British Columbia, 16% in Alberta and 15% in Saskatchewan.

The majority of Aboriginal teenagers in foster care were First Nations (77%) or Métis (19%). Among First Nations teenagers in foster care, 85% were Registered Indians.

Among Aboriginal teenagers in foster care, 44% were living with a foster parent who was Aboriginal. This was the case for 79% of Inuit, 50% of First Nations and 18% of Métis teenagers in foster care.

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