New centre aims to keep kids out of foster care
With one in 20 First Nations children taken away from their families and put into foster care, its hoped a unique new women's centre in Vancouver will provide the opportunity for a new life to mothers and their children.
The 16-room Aboriginal Mother Centre, the only centre of its kind in the country, will house women with addictions who would otherwise have their children taken away, and provide support to keep families together.
One of the common ways people become homeless is when young people leave foster care and are unable to make it on their own.
Aboriginal kids make up 62 per cent of all foster children, a statistic Marg White of the Aboriginal Mothers' Centre says will spiral into other problems.
"So many of today's problems stem from the separation of family; too many of our children have grown up in foster homes," she said.
The new centre will work with BC Women's Hospital to identify pregnant women who otherwise would have their newborns apprehended.
Mother and child stay together with 24 hour supervision. Meals are provided and there's a strong cultural component.
"We will bring elders into the environment that they can come in and teach the culture, share their culture, share their knowledge," White said.
While the mothers are in the facility they'll also learn skills to get them into the workforce and become independent, a goal that the business community has embraced.
Heatherbrae Construction donated $250,000 of its fees to help build the 16 unit centre, complete with a daycare and playground. That's just one example of how the private sector played a crucial role in making the Mother Centre a reality. Builders Without Borders helped raise 20% of the $5 million budget from the private sector and from foundations.
"[The mothers] come by here to see the project. They understand the impact is huge," said Neil Griggs of Builders without Borders.
Aboriginal mother Juanito Santos, who conquered an eight-year battle with alcohol and prescription pills, cleaned up her life when she was faced with the possibility of being homeless.
But the mother of a five-year-old boy knows other mothers weren't as fortunate.
"A lot of them, their children will be taken away; some of them have died through addiction," she said.
The centre opens on Dundas Street in Vancouver in late April.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Mi-Jung Lee