By Herald on October 2, 2020.
More supports are now available for rural Indigenous families in the south region.
On April 1, BEW-FCSS received funding from Children’s Services to establish a Family Resource Network (FRN) within the region. Indigenous Family Liaison Workers are a key component of the FRN and as such, those staff members are tasked with assisting families with basic needs, helping them navigate the system and obtaining community supports.
“In our proposal for the funding, we identified Taber, Coaldale and surrounding communities as lacking in Indigenous supports,” said Petra DeBow, manager and intake co-ordinator for FCSS. “There are multiple Indigenous cultures in the area and they are not very well known, and there is also a lack of supports in that area for Indigenous families.”
For example, “There are several Indigenous foster children in Coaldale and Taber and the surrounding areas. Ensuring foster families have the appropriate cultural supports at their fingertips will be crucial,” according to DeBow.
Jessica Goodrider-Loewen is the new Indigenous Family Liaison Worker serving an area that encompasses the M.D. of Taber, Lethbridge County and the County of Warner. She explained that in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s several people from different tribal areas came to the area to work in the sugar beet fields.
“There were a lot of Cree and Metis that came. A lot of them have settled in the area and we have in some cases three generations that have lived in the area but they haven’t had the resources… a lot of the Indigenous supports in the area have been Blackfoot, and some Cree and Metis have felt that that didn’t include them.”
Dene and Ojibwe from the eastern part of Canada have also made their way to this area, said Goodrider-Loewen, who added the new Indigenous-support services will focus on these under-represented populations, along with young people.
A template for how some of these supports may be rolled out in the area can be found in Cardston Country, where that area’s Indigenous Family Liaison Worker, Tashina Calf Robe, has established a successful program.
As Indigenous services delivery begins in areas such as Coaldale and Taber, she added it will be key for Goodrider-Loewen to develop a comfort level with families, and helping them access community services.
“This position allowed me to work with families in a way that I could join them on some of their appointments or I could walk them through the process before they got there so they knew exactly what to expect,” said Calf Robe. “I could help them make phone calls to set up appointments and things like that. System navigation is a big part of what I have been doing.”
Calf Robe’s guidance will be a valuable for Goodrider-Loewen to lean on, as Indigenous support services begin to get rolled out here.
“Tashina has set the ground and I’ll be following her and asking her advice and following her lead,” said Goodrider-Loewen, who added she’s already been connecting with families in Milk River, Barons, Barnwell, Coutts, Taber and Coaldale.
Certainly, programming in those areas will differ from how it is rolled out in Cardston County.
“The needs are different and obviously the culture is a little bit different because of the Cree and the Metis,” said DeBow.
Working collaboratively organizations such as WWSD, Horizon, Palliser and Holy Spirt school divisions, along with and Children’s Services will also be key, in terms of developing a team to work together to support Indigenous families.
In the end, Calf Robe added one aspect of the new position will be of particular importance.
“I think it’s really a lot of information sharing — tons of information sharing, becoming a familiar face in the community so attending the events, making the phone calls being present in the community, getting good, working relationships with the other services in the community has been really helpful for me.”
As the program is still in its initial stages, Goodrider-Loewen is hopeful community members will reach out to her with any questions. For more information, contact Jessica Goodrider-Loewen at 403-915-7530 or Tashina Calf Robe at 403-332-1783.