A BC First Nations service provider has won a prestigious US award for excellence in serving Indigenous children, families and communities.
Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS), which has offices in Prince George and Vancouver, is one of two recipients of the American National Indian Child Welfare Association’s 2022 Champions for Native Children Award.
The award honors an individual or group who demonstrates exceptional leadership and effectiveness in improving the well-being and health of children, youth justice, or the well-being of families and communities, or contributes to policies and programs that protect Indigenous children, strengthen Indigenous sovereignty, and more.
“I believe our research demonstrates that First Nations with good governance can achieve self-determination much more easily and have better outcomes,” CSFS CEO Warner Adam told Global News.
“First Nations can do and do this job much, much better than government, especially in the service sector.
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For more than three decades, the CSFS has provided a range of services to children and families of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, which represents seven First Nations on a territory of nearly seven million hectares in the northern interior of British Columbia. Its more than 180 programs cover employment, prenatal nutrition, therapeutic services, shelters, nursing, primary care, early childhood education, addiction recovery, legal services and 2SLGBTQ+ support, to name a few.
Adam said there are around 350 staff in child and family health services alone, which provide virtual services to people in remote communities to ensure no one is left behind. They helped pioneer telehealth in British Columbia and the rest of Canada, he said.
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“In the child and family services sector, we have been instrumental in advocating for federal law, Bill C-92, which allows First Nations to ‘develop laws to govern their own child and family services across the country,’ he added.
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Nations under the umbrella of the organization include Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Tl’zat’en Nation, Ts’il Kaz Koh/Burns Lake Band, Takla Lake First Nation, Nadleh Whut’ Band en, Saik’uz First Nation and Stellat’en First Nation.
CSFS’s goal is to provide holistic, wraparound, culturally grounded programs that deconstruct the harms of colonization and demonstrate excellence in Indigenous-led programs.
The award brings happiness and pride to the organization, Warner said.
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Sarah Kastelic, executive director of the American National Indian Child Welfare Association, said CSFS is the second Canadian winner of the Champions for Native Children award. The first was Cindy Blackstock in 2021.
“Since our inception nearly 40 years ago, we have worked with First Nations as well as Tribes here in the United States,” she told Global News.
“I think we learn a lot from each other because our countries have different political landscapes, even though our goals for our children are very similar.”
Kastelic said she was impressed with CSFS’s 30-year service history, “the vision they created with the community” and how it has been implemented over time in response to needs. expressed by member communities.
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The American National Indian Child Welfare Association, an Oregon-based nonprofit organization, works to support the health, safety, and spiritual strength of Native American and Alaska Native children. According to its website, it is the “most comprehensive” source of information about their well-being, and its members across the United States help support the ability of tribes to protect their children from abuse.
Warner will receive the Champions for Native Children award virtually at the organization’s annual Protecting Our Children conference in April, which is also Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Kastelic said up to 15 percent of the registrants for this annual conference are Canadian.
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