By Charlotte Tarver–There’s a revolution underway in the way child and family support services are being delivered to islanders.
It started last June with the signing of an historic agreement between the provincial and federal governments and the Haida Child and Family Support Services Society. Today, that society is quickly moving forward getting organized; this spring, it will take responsibility for foster care, and in five years it will be responsible for all services now provided by the province’s Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Talking with Beryl Parke, the Executive Director of the Haida Child and Family Support Society gives an in-depth understanding of the energy and dedication being put forth to bring this new organization up to speed.
“We are still hiring staff and setting up the offices, the furniture is coming, the security systems are in, and we are seeing people,” she told the Observer. The organization’s main office is in Old Massett with another in Skidegate.
Last year, the agreement with Victoria and Ottawa gave the society authority to deliver some child and family services on the islands. The society has a budget and is building its infrastructure and developing protocols. A major step will be to assume responsibily when the province transfers responsibility for children in foster care in April.
By 2010, The Ministry of Children and Family Development will phase out its services on the islands, turning over all family services-Haida and non-Haida- to the HCFSS.
The society is now operational, as the Family Outreach Programs in Old Massett and Skidegate fell under its mandate last summer. A team of eight staff are working with island families and more staff will be hired soon.
“We are looking for people who are most qualified and who are Haida or have experience working with native communities,” Mrs. Parke said.
Mrs. Parke has attended many meetings throughout the province with other executive directors of aboriginal agencies responsible for child and family services. Recently, the society signed an agreement with the Vancouver Aboriginal Child and Family Services that outlines how the two will work together to deliver support to twelve Haida children in Vancouver. The society is planning to meet with the RCMP, health centres and schools to gain a clear understanding on how to work cooperatively.
“It is always in the best interest of the child that family services uses the least intrusive measures with the family,” she says. “Having a community aboriginal agency managing child and family services, there will not be the historical baggage that is attached to government agencies.”
During the last few months, the staff has undergone intensive training in team building and maintaining confidentiality. “Our main focus is a healthy team that can work together. If we work together we will provide better service to our communities, Mrs. Parke said. “Respecting confidentiality is important so people can feel safe and secure when they come in and reveal their intimate family details to us.”
Right now, the society is making itself known to the community by holding and funding family events. The Family Outreach Program helped fund Christmas pageants in Old Massett and Skidegate in December. Each family received gift certificates and food. On New Year’s Eve, the society held a successful dry dance in Old Massett. They also organized a polar bear swim in Old Massett and will have an open house in their offices later this month.
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