Metis children who are in families in trouble should be dealt with by an agency that understands their cultural needs.
That’s why the Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services is joining up with the Ministry of Children and Family Development to provide services for those families and their children.
Colleen Lucier, executive director of LMO, said Wednesday the joint offices are celebrating with a grand opening on Friday.
The 2006 census showed at least 3,000 people in Kamloops are Metis. Lucier believes that number is higher.
Her agency has already been providing support services to Metis in Kamloops. Being linked with the ministry means Metis children will automatically be streamed to LMO, where options other than non-Metis foster care will be sought.
Decisions involving children and struggling families will be made in partnership.
“We work with the most vulnerable of the population. We try to emphasize the importance of cultural identity,” said Lucier.
“We’re not a cultural centre, but we really believe in order to address the issues a family might be struggling with, they need to get grounded and re-engage with who they are.”
Lucier said instead of a child being put into foster care while the parents pull their lives together, all sides will meet to address the main issues going on and determine what’s best for the child.
Alternatives to apprehension, such as a relative caring for the child or at least a Metis family, will be given priority, she said.
“It’s important to keep children within their family, connected to their culture and identity,” she said.
“Foster care hasn’t been successful for the aboriginal population. We’re trying to change that.”
First Nations children in Kamloops who need support or protection are dealt with through Secwepemc Child and Family Services.
Lucier would like to see that happen for the Metis, too. Kamloops and Kelowna are just opening partnership offices, which is a step forward from the current system. There is an autonomous Metis agency in Surrey.
“It’s proven there’s better outcomes for children if they can be within their family,” she said. And if not, then a Metis household.
“There still has to be due diligence to make sure it’s a safe family member.”