Gathering Our History
The Indigenous Perspectives Society, formerly Caring for First Nations Children Society, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. We chose to commemorate it by looking back at the history of our organization.
On July 15th, 2013, eight founding board members of the Caring for First Nations Children Society came together for a special forum in West Vancouver to share their collective story. Thirty-one years earlier, these eight individuals with synonymous concern, passion, and determination collaborated together and fought to give voice to the First Nations children and families in British Columbia. Their names are Warner Adams, Maurice Squires, Deanna George, Debbie Foxcroft, Gloria Wilson, Ken Clement, Steve Kosey, and Elsie Paul.
Historically, the Ministry of Children and Family Development were mainly in control of child and family welfare in First Nations communities. In addition to little support, the communities, who had already experienced the loss of their children to the residential schools and mass removals of their children, to be adopted out, were still losing their children to the ministry. The communities themselves were did not feel that they had a voice in the system. There was a clear lack of Indigenization in both policy and practice.
Elders within the First Nations communities grew concerned; there had been too many Aboriginal children being taken away from their own homes and communities. This concern was also shared by the community social workers. The community social workers, however, at the time did not have the proper qualifications or education, thus training with an Aboriginal approach was needed. In addition, a strong policy change would assure Aboriginal people in the province have a greater stake at planning for their own children and families. History has shown that cultural awareness to child welfare is the key component to insuring the success of Aboriginal people in care. There was not a cohesive organization, society, nor a non-profit in the province that had tried this approach before.
There was a group of social workers that would get together during conferences. These social workers would discuss their common concerns, issues, and practices at First Nations level. Finally, they determined “We really need to have an association that we can come together and work on these common issues. We need to have collaboration and support with each other”. That was the first step in the right direction to creating the Caring for First Nations Children Society.
Debbie Foxcroft, the past president of the Board of Directors set out on a journey of research and learning. She travelled across provinces to Manitoba and New Brunswick—provinces that had their own First Nations child welfare. She was on the journey equipped with questions such as how did they get to where they are and what would they do differently. The goal is to do something different than what the Province of British Columbia was offering. The goals at the time were to be recognized as equals: ministry social workers and First Nations social workers; to become a vehicle for training, policy and funding issues; and of course, to ensure that the children are not removed from their families, communities, and their cultures. The key was to involve the Aboriginal peoples. Rather than prescribing services, communities would build the services needed to keep the children at home; asking questions like “What kind of services will help you most?”
Starting with one Aboriginal agency in the 1980’s and growing to the current twenty-four delegated Aboriginal agencies, Caring for First Nations Children Society has been providing social work training that is uniquely rooted in Aboriginal cultures and communities.
Becoming the Indigenous Perspectives Society
After 20 years of providing support and professional development, the political climate changed while training needs grew. In response, Caring for First Nations Children Society decided to expand its mandate and develop a new complement of trainings for communities, as well as public and private sectors.
To correspond to a changing mandate, it was time to change the name as well. Caring for First Nations Children Society became Indigenous Perspectives Society: creating excellence through training and leadership.
The Indigenous Perspectives Society will continue to offer training programs that will help foster a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives and cultural differences, and to help build successful partnerships and relationship with Indigenous communities and government partners.
To hear our founding members reflect on their work, watch CFNCS to IPS: Gathering Our History