Nunavik prepares to open doors to family-safe havens
“The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of children going into foster care"
The Nunavik community of Kuujjuaraapik has helped to breathe new life into its old municipal office over the last few months.
That building, which has undergone a remake, will re-open its doors later this month as a “family house” — a community-run centre where families in crisis can receive support.
And it will be the first family house to open under a Nunavik project aimed at restoring social peace in the region.
The project’s goal: to keep adults out of jail and provide Nunavimmiut children with healthier lives.
“In the coming weeks, we’ll be putting up the sign and buying the furniture ahead of our grand opening on Jan. 31,” said Raymond Mickpegak, who works as an agent for Nunavik’s regional partnership committee, which oversees a number of social regulation projects in the region.
The house’s sign, which will read Tasiurvik — that is, a place to hold hands — will welcome families to use the space for their own self-improvement.
‘We’re learning as we go,” Mickpegak said. “This is a new project in Nunavik, and there are no guidelines — this is community-based and responds to what the community wants.”
There are other similar projects in the region. Family houses have operated in Puvirnituq and Inukjuak, while Quaqtaq is home to a healing centre.
But Kuujjuaraapik’s future Tasiurvik will become the first to open under the Regional Partnership Committee and $1 million in funding from a Quebec organization called Avenir d’enfants.
A 2007 report by the Quebec government found serious gaps in youth protection in Nunavik and noted, among other shortfalls in services, an increase in the number of Inuit children put into foster care.
Even today, more than 1,000 Nunavimmiut children are reported to the provincial department of youth protection every year.
The report recommended making “children and families a key priority.”
“The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of children going into foster care,” Mickpegak said.
“If there’s a situation in the community, this place could be used by the police and the Department of Youth Protection as a place to meet with family members,” he gave as an example. “There’s no other place to do that in the community.”
Tasiurvik will host regular programming, from beading nights, parenting workshops such asthe baby book project, and an upcoming community kitchen class.
A social worker will work from the family house one day a week, Mickpegak said.
And the services offered at the facility will respond to needs identified by organizations and people in Kuujjuaraapik.
“It’s what we want as a people,” he said.
At meetings last November, the Kativik Regional Government councillors expressed their support for the family house project.
The hope, they said, is that the centre will be successful enough in Kuujjuaraapik to expand the idea to communities across the region.
And in fact, under the Regional Partnership Committee, another family house project is already underway in Kangiqsualujjuaq, which has recently secured a space and a board of directors.
At that recent meeting of the KRG in Kuujjuaq, KRG chair Maggie Emudluk emphasized that Nunavik needs to look at what it can do before children are taken in by youth protection.
“There are many children being taken by youth protection. And sometimes they can be taken by the extended families, but, most times, they’re sent to other communities,” Emudluk said.
“So these family houses that we’re planning are to prevent children from being taken through the system,” she said. “In a community, when there’s a family problem, the family house would be assisting the family to help them through the rearing of the children.”
Once the family houses are up and running throughout Nunavik, Université de Montréal researcher Sarah Fraser will work with their co-ordinators to document how the houses are used and look at their impacts on local families.
You can watch a short video produced about Kuujjuaraapik’s Tasiurvik family house here.