Nunavik plans project to help keep kids at risk in their homes
"We want to try and help the parents understand the importance of bringing up their children"
KUUJJUAQ — It’s a concern that is voiced at nearly every Kativik Regional Government council meeting — Nunavik’s leaders say too many Inuit children are being taken from their homes by youth protection.
But now a regional project aims to mobilize community interventions before that happens, in a pilot project by Nunavik’s Regional Partnership Committee to move ahead with a plan to open community-based “family homes.”
As part of its mandate to restore social peace, keep adults out of jail and give Nunavimmiut children safer, healthier lives, the committee plans to launch its first home project in Kuujjuaraapik in the coming months.
“Children [at risk of being taken from their homes] haven’t committed any crime, and those that have done something wrong — the parents — aren’t being dealt with,” the regional partnership committee’s Minnie Grey told the KRG council Sept. 10.
“So before the child is going to be taken away, we want to try and help the parents understand the importance of bringing up their children.”
Family houses are a community-run home or centre where families in crisis could receive help instead of immediately seeing their children go into youth protection.
The home could be a place where extended family and other community members would intervene and help the family work through its issues, Grey said.
And as part of encouraging community mobilization, the houses will be run by the local municipality.
‘We want them to belong to the communities — they’ll have a bigger impact that way,” Grey said. “We’re trying to involve them as much as possible.”
Kuujjuaraapik has agreed to launch the region’s first family house as a pilot project, while both Kuujjuaq and Kangiqsualujjuaq have also expressed interest in starting their own.
That will be thanks to a grant through a partnership with the University of Montreal and the Quebec organization Avenir d’enfants, which will provide $1 million over the next five years.
Université de Montréal researcher Sarah Fraser will work with family house coordinators to document how they are used and the homes’ impacts on local families.
That will help the regional partnership committee evaluate the project, and present those findings to the province, Grey said.
And the committee has already submitted a proposal to the Quebec government for another of its projects – this one to help curb drug and alcohol use, and the extent that that abuse puts Nunavimmiut behind bars.
Saqijuaq, which means a change in the wind’s direction in Inuktitut, would also use community intervention as a way to prevent some Nunavimmiut struggling with addiction from going through the prison system.
Much like the concept of a family house, Grey suggested developing “sobering centres,” where community interventions teams could meet with offenders.
“Intervention teams in the community could meet with that person when they sober up and go over their options, offer them alternatives,” Grey said.
The regional partnership committee hopes to obtain funding to launch that project in two communities, which will be decided on at a later date.