Kahkiyaw is a major step forward in the evolution of children’s services in Alberta. Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society, Boyle Street Community Services, and the Edmonton Region Children Intervention have partnered to create and implement Kahkiyaw, a comprehensive Collaborative Service Delivery (CSD) model described as a “shared responsibility” for service delivery. This places the parent at the centre of their plan and works alongside them in partnership. Kahkiyaw is the first collaborative service delivery for urban Indigenous children, youth and families in Alberta.
The following is a story that shows the strength of the Kahkiyaw program as it helped reunite a mother with her children. One of Bent Arrow’s Family Wellness Workers retells the story:
We often come in at the darkest point of a family’s life, when they may be at risk of having to navigate a multifaceted system that can be stressful. These families need to be heard and to know they are being listened to. A family whose story will always stay with me was bordering on losing their children to a Private Guardianship Order (PGO), when the government becomes the guardian of the children. One thing that stood out to me was the mother was a strong, proud, traditional Indigenous woman. The mother laid out the events leading up to her children being apprehended during our first meeting, expressing her strong distrust of the system. This was partially due to the system as a whole not understanding her culture, and its’ importance in her life. She did not feel her culture or values were being heard or taken into consideration.
I was able to see and feel the hurt as she told me her story. I immediately got to work connecting this mother to an Elder and other cultural supports to help her heal from her own past traumas. The team was able to see that this mother was willing to do anything she could to have her children returned to her care. She took every conceivable piece of advice I offered, engaged in the interventions agreed upon and went on to become the expert in her children’s lives and needs.
The team was able to go before the courts and change the PGO application to a 6-month supervision order. The children went home in stages. The baby was returned first to build the attachment and bond that was missed during the baby’s time in care. The two older children returned home a couple of weeks later. It was not an easy adjustment for the mother or the children initially, but they were able to come together as a family unit, accessing support from our team along the way. By the end of my involvement, the mother was guiding me through the techniques she had learned. Additionally, she taught me so much. I was brought to tears when writing my goodbye letter to this family. The family had a supportive group of professionals that surrounded them, but ultimately their greatest resource was themselves. This is why it is so important to have the family or parents at the forefront when it comes to creating a comprehensive plan to support them.