Indigenous child welfare organization built on the backbone of culture


Nogdawindamin Child and Family Services began with Grandma’s desire to see their grandchildren and has grown to meet the needs of seven First Nations

There is an unexpected hope shared by Juanita Skruibis and Mary Elliot of Nogdawindamin Child and Family Services: They both hope to one day be unemployed.

If that were the case, Nogdawindamin Skruibis’ director of services told, it would mean there would be no more need for the services they provide: child protection and treatment services, treatment programs. family, behavior therapy, youth prevention services and children’s mental health services.

“I think our hope is that there is no need for child protection services in our communities, that the healing has started and will continue,” Skruibis said. “May families truly embrace their traditional understanding of what family is and what it means to protect children. So I think we’re all hoping to find a job.

Serving seven communities, Thessalon First Nation, Serpent River First Nation, Sagamok Anishinabek, Mississauga First Nation, Garden River First Nation, Batchewana and Atikameksheng Anishinabek First Nation, Children and Nogdawindamin’s family began with the love of grandmothers, said Residence Elder Mary Elliot

It tells the story of 1987 of a group of grandmothers from the Côte-Nord who wanted to see their grandchildren, but could not: the children had been taken into care by the child protection services and grandmothers could not visit them. The grandmothers went to see their chief and their council, then at the beginning of the North Shore Tribal Council. They fought for the right to visit their grandchildren and won.

Going forward, Elliot said, the North Shore Tribal Council (Mamaweswen) named the group Nogdawindamin, which means “to keep a good frame of mind, in the minds of our communities and our families.”

This good state of mind revolves around the seven teachings of the grandfather: respect, honesty, humility, bravery, wisdom, love, truth; it also recognizes the trauma many Aboriginal people face when they enter provincial or federal child welfare systems. There is a disproportionate number of Aboriginal children who are entangled in the network of foster families, often causing significant and long-term effects; According to the 2016 census, 52.2% of foster children are Indigenous, but represent only 7.7% of Canada’s infant population. This means that 14,970 of the 28,665 children under the age of 15 in private homes are indigenous.

These statistics do not include the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which likely exacerbated the problem due to pressures on jobs and housing.

This is why culture is at the heart of Nogdawindamin. Because its removal, the removal of children from their homes, often to foster homes or non-native groups, is what can cause trauma over generations. A trauma that can lead a parent who wants to be good with their children to make mistakes, to lack parental knowledge or to wish to live in an addiction. There is also what is considered a Western approach to parenting versus an Indigenous approach, and which is suitable for a child.

This is why cultural and traditional approaches are integrated into what is called “the circle of care” in Nogdawindamin. In addition to keeping treatment as close to home as possible – service providers are brought into their community, which means families do not have to leave their community to access specialist services – Nogdawindamin receives counseling and the support of their Council of Elders, and its administration encourages the importance of learning Anishinaabe history, language and culture, and its connection to building a strong sense of identity.

“Traditionally, there was no child protection system in our communities. Each had its rules, its understanding of clans, its understanding of family systems. And every time, even then, if someone was sick or sick, the family made the decisions about where the children should go and who should take on this traditional role, ”Skruibis said.

It is this family-centered approach that emphasizes reunification, taking a non-judgmental approach for all families that Nogdawindamin said, Skruibis said. “I think every time we work with families it’s always out of understanding and respect. And we always encourage culture, because I think culture is the backbone of healing, ”she said. “We also do a lot of training, discussion and reflection with our frontline staff, because they are the ones who go into the field. And they need to understand from all angles, especially if they’re not native, what the story is about and how we can work with families.

More often than not, it is not only the trauma suffered by the child to consider, but also the trauma suffered by the parents, and even the grandparents, of these children. “We saw that residential schools had a major impact in terms of parenting,” Elliot said. “We basically need to relearn that, about our role as parents and what is that responsibility? And what does this confirm?

The inability to parent a child can be attributed to everything from substance abuse to mental health issues and even lack of parenting skills, stress management and life skills training.

This is why Elliot said that Nogdawindamin’s goal is family; because when the family stays together they can heal together and when the parent is healed the child is spared from further trauma.

Skruibis said that Nogdawindamin is also relationship-based, ensuring that they are a part of every community they serve, that they are familiar faces, and that families know they are listening and willing to change. . “We want to make sure they know we are listening, for those grandmothers, so many years ago.”

“We are all brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and when we provide these services, it’s the same relationship,” Skruibis said. And if they are the aunts and uncles of the children they care for, “we can really change that way of thinking: would you make this decision for your child?” Would you make this decision for your sister? Would you make this decision for your grandparents? Really understand and respect what family is.

If you would like more information about Nogdawindamin Child and Family Services, you can visit their website by clicking here.


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