Indigenous Treatment Program
It is our goal to promote cultural competency during the process of treatment. In understanding the importance of family and community when caring for Indigenous youth - the involvement of these members is highly encouraged in this programming and the direction of elders is greatly respected.
Our programming includes:
Psychotherapy and Traditional Counseling
Our coordinator is a proud member of Moose Cree First Nation and has a Masters of Social Work degree. As a previous psychotherapist she has clinical expertise in the historical and present day issues effecting Indigenous youth and their families, such as residential schooling and intergenerational trauma. She provides annual training to our foster parents and child and youth workers, and is available to the psychotherapists working with Indigenous youth for consultation. Elders are available for one-to-one traditional counselling and also facilitate talking circles among our youth. Elders also provide opportunities for traditional forms of healing such as smudging ceremonies.
- Our coordinator provides annual training for Connor Homes foster parents and child and youth worker's on the historical and present day issues affecting our Indigenous youth and their families such as residential schools and intergenerational trauma. During this day long training she also covers clinical issues such as attachment disorders, and topics such as cultural sensitivity and appropriation.
- Our coordinator also provides our foster parents with a manual that they and the support workers in their homes can refer to as a resource to providing culturally competent treatment. Not only does it provide workers with a resource of the historical and current issues affecting their Indigenous youth, but it will provide information needed to ensure a culturally sensitive home such as that relating to Indigenous traditions, customs and ceremonies.
- We are in the process of integrating our elders more into the treatment plan of our youth. In some situations, where a youth is very engaged with their psychotherapist this means the elder is available for sharing circles and ceremony. For other children, the elder is the main counselor. We are quite pleased to embark on this journey as we believe our traditional healers need more recognition in the process of treatment for our youth and their identity-based healing.
In recognizing the importance of artisans in the Indigenous culture, youth are given opportunities to participate in traditional arts and crafts workshops, such as medicine bags and drum making, and have access to resources should they wish to pursue these customs in their homes. This programming promotes that youth of all ages should have access to storybooks and educational resources on their history and culture, such as those on residential schooling. In addition, the program aims to ensure all homes are provided with language workbooks for the youth to practice their traditional tongue.
- For our coordinator, the joy of these workshops is that in many cases she discovers artisans and offers them contracts with providing workshops to our youth. Thus we have watched both the artisan and the youth flourish in these opportunities - an artist hired to teach about their craft and a youth getting the opportunity to learn how to make that craft themselves. The artisans are in their own way healers by providing a safe space for youth to learn teachings and develop coping skills such as craft work that is culturally relevant to Indigenous youth.
- From children's books to workbooks, we provide a library of resources for children and youth of all ages to learn about issues such as residential schooling. Storybooks are a great way in assisting children and youth with understanding their past and some of the thoughts and feelings surrounding this history.
- One of the detrimental losses for the Indigenous people has been language. When a Native youth comes into our care, they receive language books. We have acquired many wonderful language books such as "Moose Factory Cree" by Daisy Turner and "Talking Gookom's Language: Learning Ojibwe" by Patricia M. Ningewance. It is our hope that they are interested in practising their traditional tongue, and we encourage foster parents and child and youth workers to assist them in this learning.
With the incentive to connect youth to the land we have begun offering seasonal medicine walks with elder Tim Yearington at Turtle Hill and Spirit Mountain in Huntsville, and Eagle's Nest and Manitou Mountain in Calabogie. We are in the process of establishing other walks in the province. Time on Mother Earth is sacred and it is in these moments where healing occurs simply by being on the land. Guided by an elder, these walks also provide traditional teachings and ceremony.
- Youth and staff are very much enjoying this time on the land. The younger youth appear to especially enjoy learning about their animal guides. The older group were both amazed that they could climb such a high mountain and at the teachings providing by Tim while sitting in a medicine wheel formation at the mountain's peak. Youth engaged in a fire ceremony where each offered their "old" bark (some emotional issue) to the fire. The importance of fire and tending to their own "inner fire" and spirit became very clear to them.
- It is also an incentive of this program that youth will continue to want to spend time at these sacred sites. It is the hope that some may want to pursue further ceremonies such as the naming ceremony, which we believe is imperative for their identity-based healing.
The teachings of the Medicine Wheel and Grandfathers are highly encouraged within the homes. This program provides a medicine wheel workshop for staff and youth, and Wellness Wheel workbooks are given upon admission so youth are able to work on their overall wellbeing under the premise of the Medicine Wheel teachings. Youth are also given the sacred medicines should they wish to smudge. Talking circles are encouraged as the forum to discuss weekly issues in the homes and it is an expectation that foster families participate in the cultural opportunities provided by their surrounding communities, such as pow wows, should their youth wish to participate.
- The Wellness Wheel workbook was taken from the ideas of this great resource - The Wellness Wheel: An Aboriginal Contribution to Social Work by Margot & Lauretta, 2006. Our coordinator created a workbook that is kid user friendly and sends copies to each youth upon admission.
- Elder Tim Yearington www.timyearington.com has been hired to facilitate annual Medicine Wheel workshops and we have received great reviews from our foster parents and child and youth workers on this training. It is mandatory, and ensures that those that work with youth understand the wheel - the premise of our Indigenous identity, philosophy and spirituality.
- Connor Homes used to gather as a community at the Canadian Aboriginal Festival, which was organized and coordinated by Indian Art-I-Crafts of Ontario. This was the largest Aboriginal festival in North America and was a highlight for our families. Unfortunately, this event is no longer offered. Thus, we encourage youth to follow the pow wow trail, and we offer our own cultural events.
Cultural events bring together all of the Connor Homes youth and their families across the province to celebrate Indigenous culture and "Native Pride". Inspirational role models, entertainers, musicians, drummers, dancers and artisans take the stage after everyone enjoys a traditional potluck. It is a great time to come together as a community, Indigenous and allies, and learn from traditional teachings, listen to inspirational stories and engage in friendly bannock competitions.
- Every year Connor Homes welcomes back Shibastik and his Healing through Hip Hop workshop as our youth are huge fans. For other events, our coordinator enjoys looking for the next event's Indigenous guest of honour. These events are a highlight for youth at Connor Homes as they enjoy coming together and participating in the workshops. We aim to find role models that the youth are excited to meet, and who offer teachings that will boost the youth's self-esteem and build confidence in their identities.
- Our coordinator provides a craft table (i.e. talking sticks, medicine wheel stones), a table with photos from past events for them to take home, and a table for door prizes and bannock competition prizes - all in the theme of Native pride! It should also be noted that these events, as are the program's cultural workshops, are open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth and their families.
- We are currently in the process of developing a certification process for homes who would like to care for Native youth. Two issues have brought this idea forward. One, when customary care is not a possibility ... where do Native youth go? They are most often spread throughout the province in Eurocentric homes ... far from home, community and culture. Due to the high demand of caring for high risk youth and the lack of services and resources on reserves this very often means Indigenous children have to leave their communities. Two, cultural differences and worldviews means most non-Indigenous foster parents believe their way of caring for the foster youth in their homes is enough - providing basic needs of food and shelter, educational and medical opportunities, a caring and therapeutic environment and a safe place for youth to live. But we recognize it is not enough and that cultural competency extremely important. Connor Homes is accredited through CARF international so we expect the standards be continuously raised for Indigenous children and youth.
- Over the past five years this program has provided many cultural opportunities for youth to participate in, and training for foster parents and child and youth workers so they are best able to provide culturally competent treatment for the Indigenous youth they work with. We are raising the bar: ensuring that the homes wanting to care for Indigenous youth are certified to provide the best culturally competent care. Thus, this certification ensures that not only are homes truly culturally sensitive, but that these homes see themselves as the youth's extended community members. This also means that foster parents understand the reasons as to why some youth push away from cultural opportunities, and can understand and support them. These homes must complete mandatory training to be best educated on Indigenous issues and aware of Indigenous heritage and culture; and have the appropriate resources available to the Indigenous youth in their homes. Certified foster parents and staff are also expected to participate in cultural outings with their youth, offer a home environment that provides Medicine Wheel and Grandfather Teachings, and create a safe space for traditional ceremonies and language lessons. We want to facilitate an environment that encourages youth to continually learn and develop as a member of their tribe.
We currently have 37 Indigenous youth in our care: Ojibway, Oji-Cree, Cree, Mohawk, Chippewa and Oneida. We aim to provide treatment that is culturally relevant to specific tribes in understanding cultural differences. With that said, we also believe strongly in that all Nations can come together in the principle that certain teachings whether from an Ojibway or Mohawk elder are a strong foundation for all. We honour and celebrate both our differences and our common ground. This program has an elder's board that provides wisdom and guidance on how to best understand these teachings and how to best provide them to the children and youth in which we serve.
If you have any questions or concerns about this programming, our Indigenous Treatment Program Coordinator is Jenny Sutherland and can be contacted at