SCCYS hiring an indigenous liaison using Trillium Foundation money

Tyler Kula, Sarnia Observer

SCCYS hiring an indigenous liaison using Trillium Foundation money

The lead agency helping kids in Sarnia-Lambton with mental health is trying to make it easier for First Nations families to use its services.

St. Clair Child and Youth Services (SCCYS) is in the midst of hiring an indigenous liaison for a nine-month contract.

A $75,000 Trillium Foundation grant from the provincial government was recently awarded to make it happen.

“We’re looking to improve pathways, make our services for children and youth mental health more accessible to our indigenous communities that surround Sarnia and Lambton County,” said Teri Thomas-Vanos, director of clinical services at the Point Edward-based agency that serves about 1,500 children, youth and families each year.

SCCYS has been working closely with chiefs and councils from the area First Nations – Aamjiwnaang, Walpole Island, and Kettle and Stony Point – as well as with the Sarnia-Lambton Native Friendship Centre and the indigenous liaison with the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), she said.

“We’re talking together a lot more,” she said.

“The voice of all those communities has been reflected in our process to date along the recruitment path.”

Creating the position is a step towards making sure service providers are mindful of the language they use and the environment they create, she said, but also to bring services closer to the indigenous communities themselves.

“It is truly about creating safe space for conversations to occur, making sure we’re following the protocols of each community around communication, planning, making sure that the unique voice and traditions of each culture is represented,” Thomas-Vanos said, noting that includes engaging with families to find out what they think.

“It’s truly just about relationship building and conversation at this stage.”

St. Clair Child and Youth already offers walk-in clinic days in each of the First Nation communities, she said, but in annual feedback it was noted there was a gap in terms of what voices were being heard.

“So we identified that that was kind of an area of growth and opportunity,” Thomas-Vanos said.

Reticence around seeking help for mental health has been a huge barrier, she said.

There was no information available about what percentage of SCCYS clients are First Nations, she said.

Hopes are to have the new position filled by October, she said, and plans are already underway to secure funding beyond the nine-month contract granted by the Trillium seed grant.

“We’re committed, but at this point we don’t have any sustainable funding,” she said.

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