Carcross/Tagish First Nation has launched an initiative to provide any citizen welcoming a baby, no matter where they live, with a care package.
On top of standard basics like diapers, a container of formula, a bottle, a teething toy and blankets, the packages will also contain information and application forms for things like C/TFN citizenship, status and social insurance.
The packages, or “baby baskets,” are meant to help out parents, get potential new citizens off to a good start and keep C/TFN in touch with its people, Karyn Atlin, the First Nation’s registry and citizenship coordinator, said in an interview Nov. 5.
She credited the idea to Haa Shaa du Hen (Chief) Lynda Dickson.
“It’s just something Lynda wanted to do,” Atlin said. “She thinks we needed to, you know, make that connection when somebody’s new, to welcome them.”
There’s also a practical side to reaching out early, too — it means that new parents and children can be made aware of and connected with C/TFN’s health and wellness department so they can take advantage of the services and programs available to them.
The first basket was recently mailed out to Whitehorse to C/TFN’s first baby of the year; a second is expected to go out in December.
Atlin said she drove into Whitehorse to pick up the supplies for the first basket, but is looking into ordering things in bulk for future ones so it’s more cost-effective and so that everything’s at-hand even on short notice.
“We’re going to stick to it and keep doing it,” she said of the initiative. “We used to send out flowers a lot to people who were in the hospital but they don’t really like flowers anymore in the hospitals so we’re trying to rethink some of those things.”
She also emphasized that, as long as she knew a citizen was expecting a baby, she would send the basket anywhere.
“We’ll do it for wherever you live, it doesn’t matter,” Atlin said. “We have, oh, probably 45 or 50 people that are living in the United States for example, we do have people in a couple of different countries, I think we’ve got Germany, Turkey, a couple other places, so wherever they are, if they’re on my list and they let me know they’re having a child, we can get the basket coordinated and get it out to them.”
The baskets, Atlin said, are one of the latest ways that C/TFN is trying to keep citizens — and in particular, the ones living outside of the Carcross and Tagish areas — engaged and supported. Other programs include an elders benefit, where citizens over the age of 60 receive two $1,200 payments every year and funding to help cover the cost of citizens’ funerals. C/TFN also provided citizens with $300 gift cards at the start of the pandemic, and Atlin said, based on the positive reaction to the baby baskets, is now considering creating bereavement baskets for citizens mourning the loss of a loved one.
“We’d just like to connect with people and make sure they know they’re part of Carcross/Tagish First Nation and they’re entitled to, you know, benefits and things that we do here,” she said.
She described the baby baskets as a “really good thing,” but said she was wondering about one thing — typically, C/TFN sees about 15 babies a year, but this year, she’s only heard of two.
Whether that’s because citizens are actually have fewer babies this year or just that she hasn’t heard about more, Atlin’s not sure.
“Maybe they haven’t applied for citizenship yet or some people sometimes get confused with the status-beneficiary issues and don’t always know that they can apply,” she said. “You don’t have to be status to apply to be a citizen, so I’m hoping it will spark up more people connecting with us that might not normally know that they connect or have any reason to connect.”
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