Tikinagan Child and Family Services continuing to protect children, support families amid COVID-1 pandemic
Tim Brody - Editor
“Protecting children and supporting families during a global pandemic and the challenges of social isolation takes a community effort, and that continues to be Tikinagan Child & Family Services’ approach,” the child welfare agency shared in an April 22 media release.
“Our primary responsibility is the well-being of children and their families, and this is always at the forefront of our minds,” shared Tikinagan Child & Family Services Executive Director Thelma Morris. “This pandemic has changed the way we deliver services, so we need to work together in new ways to keep kids safe.”
“Their well-being guides the work that we do while working together with our 30 First Nations communities. We rely on adults in the lives of children and youth to report their concerns,” she said.
Morris noted the importance of supporting, “Children and youth who have lost nearly all in-person contact with teachers, Elders, youth programs, and other community members.”
“Everyone is staying at home, so children, youth, and families may be under increased stress and need support. And the problem is there is no one there to see it, hear it, or report it. We encourage adults to make telephone or virtual check-ins. Reporting child abuse or neglect is still a priority.”
Tikinagan is asking anyone suspecting child abuse or neglect to report it to them at 1-800-465-3624,
The agency can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Tikinagan has had to adapt to government health regulations and First Nations’ requests on social distancing and limiting travel to essential. In order to still provide services, the agency continues to:
Provide services through telephone and limiting in-person contact with clients to situations where absolutely necessary.
Make frequent calls to foster parents; families with open files; and children in care, with particular attention being paid to high-risk youth.
Follow each community’s pandemic plans/measures. Tikinagan also participates in pandemic response teleconferences/planning at the NAN level, child welfare sector (Native Association and OACAS), and municipalities we serve.
Support foster parents with additional financial support and communication equipment (tablets/cellphones) for as many children in care and families as possible for communication/coping with physical distancing and isolation.”
The agency recently received 40 cellphones from Telus, “Who are providing 40 devices and $0 prepaid wireless plans to enable isolated, low-income, and at-risk individuals a much needed lifeline to vital social support services during this complex time, and the ability to virtually connect with loved ones. This is part of Telus’ Mobility for Good COVID-19 Emergency Response program, which will see them donate over 10,000 mobile devices and $0 prepaid wireless plans, valued at more than $5 million,” Tikinagan explained.
“We are very grateful to Telus for this generous contribution that will help keep our families connected in a time of social distancing. As we know, staying at home and away from friends and family is the new norm, and it’s something we are learning how to cope with. As with serving economically challenged populations, having access to what is considered practically essential elsewhere is an exception and not the rule for the families we serve. As a result, the need currently exceeds what we have available. We are exploring other ways of getting essential communication equipment like cell phones to our families and youth in care so we can stay connected to them and they can stay connected with family, friends and supports,” Morris commented.
Tikinagan Child and Family Services also noted, “Cyber experts warn children are at increased risk of being exposed to online predators, as time spent on the internet is soaring as schools close and kids are at home due to isolation.”
“It is important to be a part of your children’s media lives,” said Morris. “What your kids are watching, playing, reading and listening to is a big part of the person they're turning into, and their online lives can be just as important to them as the ‘real world.’”
The agency is encouraging children, youth, and adults to consider ways communities can keep kids safe online while they’re at home:
“Lock apps during school hours, allowing use which are age appropriate and not allowing them to take devices to their bedrooms.
Talk to children and youth about cyber safety. It’s okay to ask what they are accessing online.
Be clear with setting rules and expectations when it comes to internet usage, and ensuring they follow through with those restrictions.
Check your children’s profiles and what they post online. Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the Internet.
Make sure children know that anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult and law enforcement.
Engage in fun, offline and screen-free activities as a family.
Watch for signs of cyberbullying. Learn more at cyberbullying.org.”
Despite their offices being closed to the public since mid-March, Tikinagan Child and Family Services has continued providing essential services.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken the world by storm, our methods of service delivery have had to change and we have taken unique measures to still be able to provide services. No matter what, 24-hours a day, seven days a week: we are here for children, youth and families. If you have a well-being concern about a child or youth, call us. We’re here to help. We’re here to work together with our First Nation communities to raise our children and keep them safe.
“It’s been very busy and challenging times, however, we turn to Mamow Obiki-ahwahsoowin model and the values and principles to guide our work even during a pandemic – everyone working together to raise our children,” Morris concluded.
The agency is asking people to visit Tikinagan.org to learn more about its response to COVID-19 or for more information on reporting a child well-being concern.