MONTREAL -- Calling it a historic agreement, the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal has signed a new partnership to help bridge the cultural gap often felt by the city’s many aboriginal kids in foster care.

As many as a third of English-speaking children in foster care on the island of Montreal are from native communities.

The new agreement, made with the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, will ensure those children are referred to aboriginally-run local organizations and groups – be it daycares, youth groups or social services, to help them retain a sense of their culture.

“These children can grow up with a lack of sense of identity and that can lead to so many different issues,” said Native Women's Shelter executive director Nakuset, who has been pushing for this agreement for some time. “A sense of not knowing where they belong, a loss of language, a loss of culture. It's really compounded.”

This can in part lead to why so many aboriginal children end up foster care – because children of the system can become parents riddled with their own issues.

“They themselves were in foster care and now their children are in foster and the number is growing,” she said.

Part of the issue is many foster parents and social service do not understand the cultural heritage, making it that much tougher for the families to teach the children about their heritage.

Margaret Douek, executive director of Batshaw Youth and Family Services said out of the 300 English-speaking children in foster care on the island of Montreal, 100 of them are from aboriginal.
          
The key is understanding how best to help them by pairing up with an organization who understands their backgrounds and knows which resources would best serve them, she said.      

“Becoming aware of maintaining a heritage and ties with cultural communities and understanding the distinction in the different communities (is important). It's not one group. There are many different groups that we are serving,” she said.