3 Indigenous-Led FASD and Women’s Health Initiatives in Canada

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In honour National Indigenous History Month we wanted to highlight some of the many incredible Indigenous initiatives working in the areas of FASD and women’s health.

Xyólhmettsel Syémyem (Family Empowerment Team) in British Columbia connects women and families with substance use services, child welfare services and care committees, food banks, housing services, crisis support, income support, and other community-based programs and services. The Family Empowerment Team also holds acknowledgement ceremonies for the women where the community, friends, family, and service providers gather in the Longhouse to celebrate women’s accomplishments and honour their spirit and becoming who they are meant to be. The Family Empowerment Team continues to provide wraparound support through mentorship and systems navigation. All of the mentors work in a trauma-informed, non-judgemental, and harm reduction-oriented manner. This approach allows mentors to build compassionate connections with women and help women understand their own histories, why they make the choices that they do, and how they can make healthier choices for themselves and their children. The results have been very positive as the mentors have seen that the healthier women get, the more empowered they are and the healthier they want to be.

Excerpt written by Catherine Finney in Revitalizing Culture and Healing, Indigenous Approaches to FASD Prevention.

The New Brunswick FASD Dream Catcher Service Delivery Model was developed and designed with the knowledge and wisdom of Elders and community partners from all 15 First Nation communities in New Brunswick. The model is a self-determining healing centred model created to help decolonize healthcare service delivery and build respectful relationships with the Mi’gmaq and Maliseet peoples. Guided by the Apigsigtoagen document, a peace-making process for deep-rooted conflict resolution through forgiveness, the model fosters collaboration and builds respectful working relationships between mothers, individuals with FASD, families, communities, and healthcare professionals by placing them at the centre of the healing journey and addressing deep-rooted conflicts. The ‘Dream Catcher’ is a living document that needs to be continually adapted to the changing needs of individuals and their families across the lifespan. The model reinforces the importance of supporting individuals on their healing journeys, fosters genuine and compassionate relationships, and ensures that mothers, individuals, and their families have the foundations for success, however that may look for them.

Excerpt written by Annette Cormier in Revitalizing Culture and Healing, Indigenous Approaches to FASD Prevention.

Eastern Door Clinic in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick is a multidisciplinary FASD diagnostic and support clinic. The Eastern Door Clinic in Elsipogtog First Nation developed Medicine Wheel Tools, which use a two-eyed seeing approach to draw upon the Medicine Wheel framework and Western scientific measures and indicators to develop a multi-staged screening and assessment in the school. Children who screen positive in these tools proceed to diagnosis and treatment. These tools have been successful as a result of incorporating a First Nations’ worldview and engaging parents in the screening process. Other communities have begun to adopt the Medicine Wheel Tools, this has helped communities reframe FASD to be culturally safe and focus on healing and rebalancing relationships.

Happy National Indigenous History Month! We hope that you take this time to learn more about Indigenous history and celebrate the incredible work of Indigenous Peoples across the nation.

Are you part of an Indigenous initiative in Canada working to improve outcomes for individuals with FASD or working to improve the health of women and girls? Send us an email at connect@canfasd.ca and your organization might be profiled on our blog.

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