Providing seven local First Nations with exceptional programs that address the needs of children requiring alternative care has been a guiding priority for Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services since receiving its license 17 years ago. Unlike other agencies providing similar services across Ontario, however, Nogdawindamin’s programs are uniquely tailored to reflect the unique needs of the community it’s serving.
“We do things a little bit differently,” said Sandra Southwind, the protection resource manager overseeing the organization’s alternative care programs. “We do a lot of recruitment strategies. Our agency has culture built into our services, as well we offer a multitude of support services for all programs within Nogdawindamin
One of the top priorities for Nogdawindamin is to recruit loving families to help deliver alternative care for children who, for a variety of reasons, may require short or long term care. While finding appropriate caregivers is always a challenge in the north shore community, the COVID-19 crisis has had an impact on recruitment.
“We’re always looking for good homes, but the need is currently extremely urgent,” said Holly Guppy, a Protection Resource Manager with Nogdawindamin. “We’ve seen more hesitancy in people wanting to open their homes to alternative care due to the COVID crisis, just not knowing where the kids are coming from and who they’ve been exposed to. People are being extra cautious.”
Of specific importance to Nogdawindamin’s program is the need to find homes that are grounded in the Anishnawbek culture. Nogdawindamin offers comprehensive training oppurtunities for all Alternative Care homes.
“The most important thing is that the caregivers know the culture,” said Grace Manitowabi, a member of Nogdawindamin’s Elder Council. “We have to be mindful where we place our children. Once the child is taken from their home, they start to lose their identity. Caregivers should be able to speak to them in their language, and honor the Seven Grandfather teachings to encourage self-love and self-respect.”
To assist those families interested becoming part of Nogdawindamin’s circle of alternative care providers, the AC department staff go above and beyond to provide the tools and support required to be successful.
“Our cultural services team is huge and always there to provide services for the children and alternative care parents,” said alternative care supervisor, Heather MacLary. “
“We have children’s mental health, and intervention programs that work with high risk youth. We also have an alternative care support group that runs monthly support sessions so parents aren’t feeling left alone. We want people to know that if you want to do something like this you can come to us and you’re going to be part of our family. We’re going to take care of each other and make sure everyone is feeling supported.
“With the history of Indigenous peoples in the child welfare system, we’re seeing an increase of people wanting to open their home to Indigenous children to ensure those children maintain a connection to their culture,” said Guppy. “We would prefer to match children with Indigenous families and people, but we certainly value all caregivers interested in participating.”
The process of becoming a full-fledged caregiver can be arduous, given the strict and ever-evolving provincial standards that a foster home must meet; these include interviews, background checks, and SAFE assessments designed to evaluate homes slated for adoption, foster care, and relative placement readiness. Given that reality, some foster parents opt to open their homes for Kin Care or Emergency Care, both of which require less overall commitment.
Regardless of which method of alternative care is chosen, the first step is calling the agency – and ensuring the proper motivation is behind the decision to foster.
“Don’t do it for the money,” said Manitowabi. “That’s not the reason to do it. Be prepared to take on a child with love and care. If parents are going to be parents through alternative care, they have to prepare themselves to love the child, to be honest with themselves, to respect the children and their family members.”
For more information, contact the head office at 1 (800) 465-0999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can expect to be contacted within 48 hours by our qualified Alternative Care home assessment team.
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