The purpose of the study was to describe the challenges of working in the community from the perspective of staff hired locally by culturally-based Aboriginal organizations in high-poverty urban neighborhoods. Locally staffed and culturally based Aboriginal family service agencies operating communities with high levels of poverty have emerged in large cities. Efforts of these agencies are consistent with community economic development practice aiming to improve local quality of life and skill development and promote economic capacity. There has been little research to date exploring the challenges faced by staff working in these organizations. Participants were residents of the local geographic community and staff of one of three Aboriginal family services agencies in a large Canadian city. They were asked “What are the challenges of working in your own community?” and their responses were analyzed using concept mapping methodology. Twelve concepts emerged from the analysis including: lack of privacy, being personally affected outside of work, keeping healthy boundaries, and knowing how to help. In addition participants described the high local need and meeting the range of needs given limited funding and influence of government on operations. As well, participants identified dealing with broader structural issues, such as substance abuse and gang problems. The results indicate that staff in Aboriginal family services agencies in high poverty communities experience living in the same community as service recipients, management of personal relationships with them, diversity of need within their service area, as well as potential for traumatic experiences as particularly challenging. Staff preparation, training and support for these issues are important for funders and administrators to attend to.
An innovative approach to providing “care” to Aboriginal child who are making a transition into adulthood embodies the concept of culturally restorative practice. This paper is a literature review on Aboriginal child development for children and youth transitioning from a youth to an adult. This paper contains excerpts from “Developing a Culturally Restorative Approach to Aboriginal Child and Youth Development: Transitions to Adulthood” published as a social policy paper for Ontario’s Ministry of Child and Youth Services. The paper was a review of the literature of the following: culturally restorative practices, best practices for successful engagement with Aboriginal populations, thematic of Aboriginal development, as well as implications for child and youth services.
Many Aboriginal peoples in Canada have experienced, directly or indirectly, the effects of residential schools. Some Aboriginal people have also experienced the phenomenon known as institutionalization, as a result of residential school experiences, experiences over which they had no control and that were demanded by law. Some Aboriginal people in Canada have moved from the residential school institutions to similar newly developed institutions such as shelters and to established institutions such as the correctional system, or both. Indeed, Aboriginal peoples are overrepresented in all such institutions. In this paper, I seek to demonstrate the association between Aboriginal peoples’ experiences in and of residential schools and subsequent adult institutionalization. Attempts to ‘civilize’ Aboriginal peoples through cultural assimilation may have instead resulted in intergenerational institutionalization among many Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Based on qualitative research that explored the experiences of social workers in Nunavut’s child welfare system, this paper examines the current approach to child welfare in light of a critical report issued by Canada’s Auditor General in March 2011. Through a discussion of meritocracy, this study highlights the problematic approach to child welfare used by the Government of Nunavut, particularly in their reliance on Qallunaat or nonInuit social workers. The territory’s current child welfare system, modeled on child welfare systems operating throughout southern Canada, does little to change the status quo and instead serves to maintain the colonial power structure in place for the last 50 years. This study determined that a unique and culturally relevant approach to child welfare is needed in Nunavut and Inuit traditional knowledge is essential is the move towards this important goal2.
This paper explores and summarizes a three year research program into contextualizing bullying in an Aboriginal cultural environment for youth and children. Bullying is not a new concept; it has been passed down from one generation to the next for many years. Effects of bullying can be long term and often manifest as being the causal pathway to other undesirable behaviours. Among children and youth effects of bullying are seen in many forms, for Aboriginal children and youth these effects are magnified. Aboriginal children and youth are already over represented in truancy, juvenile detention and anti social behaviours, bullying is in the mix and it is preventable. Intra racial bullying and turning inward on one’s own cultural group is surely a cry for help with these complex and intricate relationship issues. This paper concludes by considering some of the implications of these findings for future research and conceptualization and has practical solutions for those who are in the care and position to influence the outcomes for Aboriginal communities.
The practice of and procedures for obtaining child assent in research involving children are based in Western conceptions of individual decision-making rights, free from any form of coercion including that of parents. In the context of obtaining assent for children involved in research in an Alberta First Nation, the issue can become more complex given respect for ethical frameworks based in collective decision-making and the responsibility of Elders and families to protect children in interactions with Western institutions. This article explores the results of a focus group held to discuss our experience with child assent in research taking place with a community-initiated and culturally-adapted substance abuse prevention program being taught in the community school. In this case the process of being asked to sign written individual assent in the classroom was perceived as bearing extrinsic risk. Given collective cultural norms, the communities past experiences with the safety of signatures, and the proper roles of Elders and family, the children asked “Why do I have to sign it” when asked to sign their assent for participation in the project. A process that involved gathering child assent with children surrounded by family and community was recommended. Greater researcher and REB responsiveness to the issue of non-malfeasance is needed, in this case, by not asking researchers and community members to act in ways that violate culturally-based ethical norms and protocol all of which are important to community continuity, self-determination, and well-being.
The social, cultural and political contexts of vulnerability need to be considered in defining, understanding, and reducing substance abuse among maltreated youth with an Aboriginal background (MacNeil, 2008; Tatz, 1999). Aboriginal cultures tend to incorporate an ideology of collectivism that manifests in shared childrearing responsibilities within aboriginal families and communities (e.g., Dilworth-Anderson & Marshall, 1996). As such, Aboriginal children may identify with multiple and equally important attachment figures, and be more accepting of multiple caring adult guardians who can direct them away from risky behaviour (Christensen & Manson, 2001). We examined the relationship between cannabis use and reported identification with a caseworker among youth-identified Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adolescents randomly drawn from the active caseload of a large urban non-Aboriginal Child Protection Services (CPS) system. While an Aboriginal-specific child welfare agency exists in this catchment area, youth need to be identified as Aboriginal to be involved in that system and some youth with Aboriginal heritage inevitably end up in non-Aboriginal CPS agencies. There were no significant differences in rates of maltreatment, trauma symptomatology, or overall cannabis use between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth in this study. However, Aboriginal youth who reported a more negative (i.e., low) identification with their caseworker were five times more likely to use cannabis in the past 12 months compared to Aboriginal youth who reported a more positive (i.e., medium-high) identification with their caseworker. These results suggest that having a moderate-to-high positive identification with caseworker may be a protective factor in regard to abstinence from cannabis use among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth in the non-Aboriginal CPS system.