Council of Yukon First Nations executive director Shadelle Chambers, right, and the Yukon government’s director of family and children services Geraldine MacDonald speak at the “Our Families, Our Ways — A Family Strengthening Gathering” at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 28. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

Yukon First Nations, YG working on plan to connect children in care to families, culture

The program, Honouring Connections, is currently in planning

Yukon First Nations and the territorial government’s family and children services branch are working on an initiative to reconnect First Nations children in care with their cultures and communities, and, if possible, reunify them with their families.

Known as “Honouring Connections,” the program will see the creation of individualized cultural plans for Yukon First Nations children and youth in care, and encourage and support the return of children to their birth parents or extended family members.

Shadelle Chambers, the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) executive director, and Geraldine MacDonald, the Yukon government’s director of family and children services, shared details of the plan on Oct. 28 during a presentation at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

Their presentation was part of CYFN’s two-day conference on Indigenous child welfare, called “Our Families, Our Ways — A Family Strengthening Gathering.”

“I think it’s really important to note that no other jurisdiction in Canada has done this or is doing this,” Chambers said of Honouring Connections, “so Yukon and Yukon First Nations really have an opportunity to be leaders across the country.”

As of Aug. 31, Chambers said, there were 83 children in the director’s care, meaning their biological parents have had their parental rights extinguished. Of those children, 67 of them, or approximately 81 per cent, are Yukon First Nations.

Of the 59 children living in foster care, 53 of them, or 90 per cent, are Yukon First Nations.

Yukon First Nations make up only approximately 23 per cent of the Yukon’s total population.

Meanwhile, of the 55 foster homes in the Yukon, only nine are Yukon First Nations.

The ultimate goal of Honouring Connections, Chambers and MacDonald explained, is to improve the outcome for Yukon First Nations children and youth currently in care, with a priority on reuniting children with their families.

Yukon First Nations will take the lead on how to best ensure children maintain ties with their cultures and communities and with crafting the cultural plans for each child.

“I think historically, that hasn’t been done,” Chambers said.

“There’s been a fundamental power imbalance … and so this is what why we’re committing to ensuring that a collaborative decision-making process is adhered to, which ensures everyone who is affected in these decisions, whether it’s the birth parents, extended family, Yukon First Nations, the child and/or youth, depending on the age, and that caregivers are going to collaboratively come together to make decisions for children.”

The program will also focus on reuniting children in foster care or group homes with their families, whether that be birth parents or extended family members, and providing supports to ensure that as many children as possible are not only reunified, but are done so successfully and for the long-term.

“We can’t just simply reunify a family and cross our fingers and hope that everything goes well,” Chambers explained. “We know that families need support with challenges around employment, addictions, housing, some of those things that many of us and our families have faced.”

One of the tools that can be used to reunify families are extended family care agreements, she said, in which children are placed in the care of a relative when returning to their parents isn’t an option.

According to the most recently-available data, there are currently 133 in extended family care agreements, 93 of which, or about 70 per cent, are Yukon First Nations.

To date, 10 Yukon First Nations have officially endorsed Honouring Connections, and family and children services is seeking a representative from each of the 14 Yukon First Nations for the program.

More details about Honouring Connections, as well as another announcement about the program, are expected at a later date.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read