Working Together For Over 35 Years
In 1984, Chief Harvey Yesno of Eabametoong came up with a name for what was then only a dream of a Native Child and Family Services Agency. The name he conferred on this dream was "Tikinagan" - to symbolize the care and protection the traditional cradle board provides to us in our earliest years.
Tikinagan was one of the first Native-controlled agencies in Canada. It was the first Native agency recognized as a child protection organization in Ontario along with Payukotayno Family Services and the first in Canada to have jurisdiction over both Native and non-native children.
Tikinagan was created to provide culturally-specific child and family services that emphasize a Native approach to child welfare. Previously, services to support and care for Native children and their families originated from outside the Native community.
In this region these services were delivered by a non-native CAS with minimal presence at the community level. Non-native workers who did not speak the Native language visited the communities only in response to crisis situations - to investigate reports of child abuse and to apprehend children. Children who were apprehended were taken from parents and a tightly knit community of extended family members and neighbours with a unique, distinctive familiar culture and then placed in non-native foster homes in southern urban communities.
Native people speak with passion about the manner in which their children were swept away from home communities under the guise of protective services. The 1980 Report of the Canadian Council on Social Development reported that Native children comprised more than twenty percent of the total number of children in care, while people of Native background account for only six percent of the Canadian population. As well as temporary removal, many children were removed permanently from their home communities and adopted by non-native families. Removing children from their families broke their connection with their home community and its circle of support and their cultural background. First Nations saw the "loss" of these children as one of the most tragic consequences of non-native control of child welfare services.
To prevent past practices from re-occurring and to improve services for Native children, families and First Nation communities, sections dealing with provision of services to Native people were added to the Child and Family Services Act in 1984. These amendments, contained mostly in Part X of the Act, allowed for the establishment of Native-run child and family service agencies as well as the use of agency subsidized customary care arrangements.
The Chiefs of this region acted quickly on the opportunity to gain control over child and family services. In 1984, the Chiefs of NAN and the Government of Ontario signed a Memorandum of Agreement outlining their mutual intent to move toward full Native control over child welfare services. The agreement provided for the takeover of Child and Family Services by the aboriginal people of NAN and established a framework for the creation of Tikinagan.
Tikinagan Child and Family Services was incorporated in October 1984. In June of 1985, the parameters of the agency were established and some service delivery of a preventive nature was initiated. In April 1986, Tikinagan was given approved agency status and on April 1, 1987, Tikinagan received designation as a Children's Aid Society with responsibility for all child and family services within its geographical territory.
Tikinagan was founded on two basic principles, as handed down by the chiefs. First, "that no more children be lost from our communities." Second, "that a child and family service agency be created that would work with the people for the people, while respecting culture, heritage, and the concepts of the extended family."