The welfare of the Indigenous community is a topic of importance within Thunder Bay. Tikinagan Child and Family Services has created an environment where the welfare of Indigenous children are handled in a culturally appropriate way compared to mainstream child welfare.
Executive director Thelma Morris says the ultimate goal of Tikinagan is the recognition and development of Indigenous child welfare law through a unique approach.
This method honors the Indigenous community and the families that make up this community.
“We listen to the wisdom of our Elders, the needs of our communities, and the voices of all stakeholders. Our work with families is non-intrusive, working to keep our children and youth connected to their families, culture, and community.”
Caring for children through tradition
Morris says every child under Tikinagan’s care is consulted through Indigenous practice.
“Every decision we make to give the best possible outcome for the child and their family is done in consultation with the First Nation.”
They do this with the intention of keeping every child connected to their culture and family. With this philosophy, Tikinagan preferences foster parents in Thunder Bay who are connected to the 30 First Nations.
“[We have] a dual mandate. We are mandated by our Chiefs to provide services that are culturally sensitive to the needs of First Nation children, families and the 30 First Nation communities we serve.”
Tikinagan is one of 53 Children's Aid Societies in Ontario mandated under the Child and Family Services Act to protect children from harm and in early 2020 they were designated by the Ministry, to provide services for Indigenous families residing in the Thunder Bay.
Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin is the philosophy behind Tikinagan’s child welfare through culture and tradition. They believe the priority of caring for a child resides within the community of their own.
“It is important for our First Nations that we keep our children and youth connected to their communities, culture, and families.”
Because of this care system, the First Nation Chief and Council have authority to declare children to be placed in Tikinagan care when removal from their home is required.
“In establishing Tikinagan as a First Nations child wellbeing agency, the Chiefs were committed to providing services to children and families in whatever manner necessary to prevent them from becoming ‘at risk’.”
What Thunder Bay holds for Tikinagan
Since its formation in 1984, Tikinagan is moving into its 37th year of experience caring for the welfare of children within the Indigenous community and now this care is being brought to Thunder Bay.
As one of the first Indigenous controlled agencies in Canada, they have their community at the forefront of everything they do.
“At Tikinagan, we know our children thrive when they remain connected to their families and we honour that connection through the entire process.”
Tikinagan was formed for the welfare of children, but also as a means of support for family and to assist with resources for families undergoing difficulties and with these philosophies, Tikinagan has broadened the social services network for the Indigenous community and is now present in our community of Thunder Bay.