Safe, Healthy and Connected, Bringing Huu-ay-aht Children Home
Huu-ay-aht First Nations’ goal is to bring our people home – with a strong focus on our children.
Since the fall of 2016, work has been underway within the Nation to build a future where Huu-ay-aht children are safe, happy, healthy, and connected with their families. An independent, four-member panel was appointed by Executive Council to explore and recommend changes and improvements that can be made under the Maa-nulth Treaty to child and family services for Huu-ay-aht families.
Huu-ay-aht children today are, like other indigenous children in B.C., many times more likely to be taken away from their families and placed into the foster care system than are non-indigenous children. Huu-ay-aht children are vulnerable under the legacies of the colonial and illegal taking of the Huu-ay-aht people’s lands and resources, Canada’s residential school system, the Sixties Scoop and the continued systematic removal of children from their families into foster care by the provincial government.
This week Huu-ay-aht’s Executive Council is proud to announce it is acting on the recommendations made by this panel. After hearing a presentation from the panel members, council voted in favour of allocating $400,000 to act on some of the 30 recommendations made in the panel’s report (2017 Report of the HFN Social Services Panel).
These funds have been directed toward hiring two family support liaison workers and two protection support social workers. It would also help establish Quality Assurance and Implementation and Oversight Committees. The remaining funds would offer support to the staff and committees and help ensure citizens have access to legal advocates and addictions and mental health counselling.
Moving this project forward is about standing up for our children and doing what is necessary to significantly decrease the number of youth who are in care. Like many First Nations communities, Huu-ay-aht has watched helplessly in the past as children are taken from their homes and placed in care. Although we acknowledge that this is sometime necessary for safety reasons, we also believe there is a better way.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations currently has 34 children in care. The 30 recommendations are made in the spirit of support, prevention, and healing. Huu-ay-aht recognizes that apprehension is not the way to go even when a child is not being cared for in a good way because the act of removing a child causes harm and inflicts further trauma on all family members. We want to be proactive and preventative; providing support to parents on their healing path while aiming for least disruptive measures for the children.
Our priority is to protect the children while ensuring they are still connected with and cared for by family. The panel’s recommendations take into consideration the healing needed to overcome the inter-generational issues that reside from colonization – it is designed to support not only the children, but also the parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles that make up their family.
“It’s time this Nation stood up and said we are going to take care of our children,” explains Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “Today we can focus on an approach that prevents Huu-ay-aht children to be taken away from their families. We were very vulnerable under federal and provincial family services regimes who systematically removed Huu-ay-aht children from their families and homes. Today, we begin our journey to keep our families intact and provide support and services to ensure Huu-ay-aht children are not removed from their families.”
Council’s decision will provide interim funding for the Social Service Project in support of the immediate implementation of portion of the recommendations. This enables our Nation to get a jump start on the recommendations while we are in consultation with our citizens.
Huu-ay-aht Councillor Sheila Charles was instrumental in starting this project, and she is pleased with the outcome so far.
“I am very, very pleased with how the panel listened to me and each and every person that they talked to through this process. They kept their focus on keeping families together, not tearing them apart,” she said. “My vision is to prevent children from being taken in the first place, and the 30 recommendations will help make that a reality.”
These recommendations are made in the spirit of support, prevention, and healing. We recognize that apprehension is not the way to go even when a child is not being cared for in a good way because the act of removing a child causes harm and inflicts further trauma on all family members. We want to be proactive and preventative; providing support to parents on their healing path while aiming for least disruptive measures for the children. Our priority to protect the children while ensuring they are still connected with and cared for by family.
Although pleased that Executive Council has committed to interim funding, she vows to keep pressing hard until all 30 recommendations are supported.
“It’s vital that we support citizens and, by following through on these recommendations, we can build a healthy and happy future for all Huu-ay-aht,” she says. “These recommendations take into consideration the healing needed to overcome the intergenerational issues that reside from colonization – it is designed to support not only the children, but also the parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles that make up their family.”
Charles says the challenge now is to determine where to start. She sees staffing as a priority and is eager to get started on building a team to advocate for citizens in need.
The Chief Councillor acknowledges they have a lot of work ahead of them.
“We have a big job ahead of us to ensure that the 34 Huu-ay-aht children currently in care are returned to their families,” he says. “We want to see Huu-ay-aht families kept intact, supported, and nurtured in the strong tradition of the Huu-ay-aht family.”
For a copy of the full report, follow this link: 2017 Report of the HFN Social Services Panel
This page will be a resource for Huu-ay-aht families to learn more about supports available from HFN, and in their communities.
Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Family & Child Services Protocol Agreement
On April 8, 2014, at the HFN Government Offices in Port Alberni, a Service Delivery Protocol Agreement was signed between Huu-ay-aht First Nations and Usma Nuu-chah-culth Family & Child Services.
There has been a need and a desire from both parties to strengthen the relationship between HFN and Usma regarding actions required to ensure the protection of children in both the Anacla and Port Alberni communities.
As a delegated authority, Usma must adhere to specific child protection laws, regulations, policies and standards as outlined in the Child and Family Community Service Act and uphold the Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standard and Indicators (AOPSI).
This protocol represents an agreement between the Huu-ay-aht First Nations (HFN) and Usma to work together with the common objective to keep the Nations’ children, youth, and families safe, supported, and healthy.
The full agreement can be read here: Usma protocol agreement