Repatriation of West Coast First Nations child care centers one of the first successes – Smithers Interior News

Members of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation burn a copy of the Indian Act in a ceremony in which they held the first sitting of their legislature and signed a constitution after the implementation of the ‘Maa-nulth Final Agreement in Anacla, British Columbia, early morning Friday April 1, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Darryl Dyck

The Huu-ay-aht First Nation has released an independent evaluation of its social services project that finds the number of children in care is declining.

Launched in 2017, the goal of the project was to ensure that all Huu-ay-aht children grow up in safe and healthy homes, linked to culture.

When 21% of the country’s children were placed in foster care in 2018, Huu-ay-aht declared a public health emergency.

The nation subsequently got $ 4.2 million over five years from the federal government and $ 300,000 from the province to work to bring their children home.

To determine the effectiveness of the project, independent consultant Dr Suzanne Von Der Porten compiled feedback from 169 Huu-ay-aht citizens, executive board members, child and family welfare team members. , as well as the National Social Services Working Group. Overall, she said data for 2020 indicated “a lot of success.”

“This mid-term assessment is an important step in implementing the Huu-ay-aht vision to bring and keep children in the love, care and culture of family and community,” said Maegen Giltrow , member of the Social Services Committee and legal advisor. “It is very gratifying to see that 64 percent of Huu-ay-aht citizens who responded said they thought their family’s safety had improved some or a lot as a result of Huu’s social service project. -ay-aht in the past year. But the assessment is also an important guide for the substantial work that lies ahead. “

Among the data collected, 32 percent of those interviewed in Huu-ay-aht said the social services project had “significantly improved” their family’s safety. A further 32% said the project had created “some improvement” and 36% said there was “no improvement”.

When asked if they felt more supported in terms of connection to community, culture and cultural identity, 59% answered “yes”.

As of November 2016, there were a total of 220 Huu-ay-aht children under the age of 17. Of these, nine were cared for by extended family and 25 were placed in external foster care. This number increased to 48 children in care in 2018. Comparatively, there were a total of 271 Huu-ay-aht children in January 2021. While 16 remained in extended family care, only seven were in family. external hospitality – a number that varies from month to month and has dropped to one in 2020.

The success of the project was also measured by the number of Huu-ay-aht members seeking support, which over the past three months has averaged between 79 and 94 people each month. This has reduced the number of children in temporary care to one, according to the nation.

These supports are available to all citizens of Huu-ay-aht, regardless of where they live and the staff strive to ensure that all children in care have contact with family, culture and nation.

While the mid-term evaluation of the project indicated that progress has been made, 26 priority areas have been identified. At the top of the list was securing operational funding for the Oomiiqsu (Mother’s Center) in Port Alberni.

“The Oomiiqsu Mother Center is our number one priority,” said Edward R. Johnson, Huu-ay-aht advisor. “And to continue to promote our culture to our fellow citizens. It was a huge request.

Oomiiqsu, which means “mother” in Nuu-chah-nulth, arose from one of the 30 recommendations outlined in the 2017 Social Service Project Report. Inspired by the Vancouver Aboriginal Mother Center, it will host a 12-unit residential program for mothers and their children aged 12 and under.

Access to cultural support staff and elders will allow families to practice their traditions and learn more about their cultural values ​​in an environment where they are supported. With a focus on early intervention, the center will provide tips and tools to keep families together and prevent children from being taken into care, Huu-ay-aht First Nation said in a statement.

There is an over-representation of Indigenous children in care across the country. Although Indigenous children make up only 7.7 percent of all youth aged 14 and under in Canada, they represent 52 percent of those living in foster homes, according to the 2016 census.

The impacts of generational trauma and the aftermath of the residential school system are some of the contributing factors that led to this overrepresentation, Johnson said.

“It is important that we hear what is important to our people and those who help raise our children,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are delighted to have heard from so many people and it will help us shape the program to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the community so that we can achieve our goal of bringing our people home and keeping our children safe. secure and connected to their nation.

The results of the evaluation will help steer the program into the future and serve as a benchmark for future evaluations.

“It is encouraging to see the results of this evaluation because it shows that we are on the right track,” said Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin, Chief Hereditary Chief Derek Peters. “We must continue to move forward with our ancient spirit and modern mind, while honoring our sacred tenets of ʔiisaak (the utmost respect), ʔuuʔałuk (caring for) and Hišuk ma c̕awak (all is one). “

Child protection Indigenous

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