Education session focuses on child and family services

Madeline Joe and Jenny George will host a panel discussion

On Aug. 28, two Cowichan Tribes women are inviting the community to attend an educational session on local advocacy for families who are working with child and family service providers.

Madeline Joe and Jenny George, supported by B. McKenzie, constituency assistant for Sonia Furstenau, MLA, will host a panel discussion on the benefits of advocacy when navigating services provided by Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem and Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Panelists include:

• Lydia Hwitsum, lawyer, Cowichan Tribes member presenting on inherent rights;

• Blair Mitchell, executive director, Advocacy, Representative of Children & Youth (RCY) presenting on the rights of the child;

• Sonia Furstenau, MLA, presenting on community-based advocacy, and

• Philomena Williams, Cowichan elder presenting on community support and the need for advocacy.

“This project is one of hope. These two women are using their experience and expertise to help

their community move to a place of healing. I believe their work will be the foundation that will

support families in keeping children with their parents,” said Furstenau.

Joe and George are leading the Q’unshin’tul project. The project is a four-month research initiative focused on gathering input from community members on their experiences with child welfare. The project is an outcome of meetings held by the Cowichan Community of Caring, a local group of service providers and advocates who gathered in response to the humanitarian crisis of the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in government care.

“We will no longer accept families being torn apart by a colonial system that doesn’t recognize

or support the unique services required for Indigenous families. We believe there is a better way

to keep our families together and connected to culture,” said Joe.

Joe and George have consulted with elders, youth, recipients of service, community stakeholders, partners, and professionals who are directly and indirectly connected with child welfare. They will prepare a final report with recommendations to enhance child welfare programs, services, practice, and delivery. The next step is to secure funding to follow through with their recommendations, and to achieve their goal of keeping families together, connected with culture.

“We are so grateful to the families we have spoken with on this journey of discovery. Their

courage makes us realize we are going in the right direction,” said George.

The project is endorsed by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. As part of working

collaboratively, project leaders have presented and solicited input on the issue from Cowichan

Tribes council and administration.

The event is being held at the youth centre, Hiiye Yu Lelum House of Friendship Society, 5462 Trans-Canada Hwy. In Duncan, from 1 to 4 p.m.

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