In Canada, as in most countries, incidents of child neglect are more common in areas of extreme poverty (Public Health Agency of Canada ⌠PHAC⌡, 2009). This does not necessarily mean that the parents of these children directly neglect them, but instead, as their guardians, however loving, they lack the resources required to offer proper care (PHAC, 2009). Most literature (Blackstock, 2005: Trocme', Knoke, & Blackstock, 2004: Pelton, 1997) explains that the overrepresentation of First Nations children in the welfare system is as a result of neglect. In 2009, 8,960 children were in agency care in BC; 4,713 of these were First Nations children as opposed to 4,247 non-First Nations children (Advocacy BC, 2009). "Generally, child neglect means the failure of a parent or a caretaker responsible for the child's care to provide minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, and/or medical care for the child" (PHAC, 2009, p. 8). A person is considered poor if the means are small compared to others in their population and if the person lacks the means to buy specified goods and services designated as essential (Statistics Canada, 1997). .
Most First Nations peoples have low economic status (Blackstock, 2005) which impacts their ability to care for their children. Poverty becomes an issue and has been a leading cause of the overrepresentation of First Nations children in the welfare system. The government continues to emphasize neglect rather than poverty as a growing cause of the overrepresentation of First Nations children in the welfare system. Also, some social workers have preconceptions about First Nations people being poor, which affects their ability to make proper assessment to identify poverty indicators when called to make child abuse investigations. This paper argues that poverty and not necessarily neglect is a leading cause of the overrepresentation of First Nations children in the welfare system.