Community Participation in Identifying Needs of Developmentally Delayed or At-Risk Indian Children in Northern Saskatchewan
Melville, Cornelia Kanzler
Each child has innate abilities. How the child functions, however, is dependent on the type and quality of the child's environment. Policies and practices of non-native society have greatly affected the environments in which Indian children have grown up. In the past, Indian children with disabilities were taken from their families and traditional communities and placed in foster homes near necessary services. Only recently have decision-makers begun to acknowledge the importance of the natural family, the cultural heritage and the environment, and the dynamic interactive relationship between them. In this study, nine members of a small northern Indian community were interviewed. They shared their perceptions of the needs of children in their community, and provided inside into what aspects of their community need to be considered when developing culturally relative interventions strategies. Most participants expressed concern for the well-being of all children, and felt that children should be viewed as the community's greatest resource. Associated with this concern was a shared genuine concern about parenting and the effects of poverty, abuse and neglect. All participants stressed that children with disabilities need support from, involvement with, and acceptance by the community, particularly by those who are in decision-making roles. Study participants also expressed some concerns about the usefulness of non-native formal systems of support and identified what they saw as barriers to access of the formal systems. As well, study participants also expressed some concerns about the usefulness of non-native formal systems of support and identified what they saw as barriers to access of the formal system. As well, study participants articulated specific difficulties in dealing with certain professionals. These difficulties resulted from language barriers, cross-cultural issues, feeling of intimidation, and lacking the confidence to express their concerns. This study has given us some insights into a community's perspective on the needs of children and their families. The challenges which have come forward from this study are two-folded: the need to explore and develop parental practices based on traditional values, but appropriate for dealing with the influences of today's world; and the need to support communities in their effeorts to take on the primary responsibility for child welfare matters.