Abinoojii Inakonigewin Systems Capacity Building Project Overview

In October 2005, the Grand Council Treaty #3 Chiefs formally adopted Abinoojii Inakonigewin, an Anishinaabe law in respect of the care and protection of children, and the responsibilities of families and communities. The Chiefs and Board of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services have always been committed to the implementation of Abinoojii Inakonigewin. To further this commitment, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services embarked upon a comprehensive engagement process in 2019-20 with the ten First Nations to promote understanding and awareness of Abinoojii Inakonigewin and to create dialogue for capacity building reflective of community values, protocols, and expectations.

Additionally, through the engagement process Weechi-it-te-win Family Services sought direction from the community leadership, Board of Directors, Elders Council, and each of their member communities individually. In August 2019, the Weechi-it-te-win Family Services Chiefs met and undertook a comprehensive review of Abinoojii Inakonigewin. This included a discussion of the benefits and challenges along with what has been accomplished through the Community Care Program service model, devolution, the governance structure, and traditional underpinnings of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services. As a result of their deliberations, the Chiefs unanimously endorsed the 'Declaration of Principles' to guide the development and implementation of a First Nation system under Abinoojii Inakonigewin. In June of 2021 a re-affirmation was signed by the nine First Nation area Chiefs to continue support of this project. The Chiefs and elders direct that the communities and Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will transition to Abinoojii Inakonigewin hand in hand, at our own pace and on our own terms.

The objective of this project is to continue the evolution and developmental process of Weechi-it-te-win Family Services and its' member First Nations in the pursuit of full implementation of their inherent jurisdiction in relation to services for children and families. Weechi-it-te-win Family Services has been a leader in the implementation of Abinoojii Inakonigewin principles and customary care, always seeking out creative, culturally safe solutions aimed at family preservation, family reunification and family resilience.

The project begins with strategic planning building upon the decades of work and recent engagement findings to develop a road map for the implementation of an Anishinaabe family service system which will guide the full transformation, transition, and transfer of child and family services jurisdiction in partnership with Weechi-it-te-win Family Services member communities. The following pillars guide the systems capacity building project to reconstitute as an Anishinaabe Agency within Abinoojii Inakonigewin.

1. Engagement:

Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will continually engage the Chiefs of their member First Nations, their Board of Directors, their Elders Council and Community Care Program Supervisors to obtain their advice and to ensure that the project roll-out and system development is consistent with the community needs, capacity, and expectations.

Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will liaise with their member communities and Community Care Program teams to ensure system readiness and that a balance is struck between community autonomy and Weechi-it-te-win Family Services mentorship as required. Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will research and develop system concepts, draft position papers based on the advice and input from key stakeholders and will be presented back for decision making and implementation.

2. Communication:

Ongoing communication with member communities and all stakeholders is vital for this project to be successful. Significant efforts will be undertaken to maximize the awareness of Abinoojii Inakonigewin, its' scope and components, and how that correlates to the community and system as transformation continues. Additionally, community members must be in a position to appreciate the benefits and implications of the transfer of full jurisdiction, their individual rights and responsibilities, the role of their community and service organizations as well as cross-jurisdictional relationships.

To this end, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will draft educational materials for individuals and communities utilizing multiple mediums such as FAQ's, informational videos, social media, brochures, website information, community information sharing sessions, etc., culminating in a jurisdiction readiness and transition toolkit for member communities. Weechi-it-te-win Family Services is also committed to ongoing and regular communication and advisory meetings with the Board of Directors, the Chiefs of member First Nations as a collective and individually, Community Care Program Supervisors, as well as the Weechi-it-te-win Elders Council.

3. Partnerships:

To ensure that a smooth transition to First Nation jurisdiction occurs for children, families, and communities, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will participate at all technical meetings at the local, regional, territorial, provincial and national levels as required. Additionally, because of the work that Weechi-it-te-win Family Services has undertaken to date it will be crucial for project success to maintain a high level of awareness of jurisdictional development at all levels to ensure that the 'Declaration of Principles' established by the Weechi-it-te-win Family Services Chiefs are upheld and adhered to in relation to the implementation of their jurisdiction and system transformation.

Currently, some Weechi-it-te-win Family Services member communities have begun the process of drafting their own community specific law that will function in tandem with Abinoojii Inakonigewin. As the communities continue to draft their laws, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services must stay in lockstep to ensure that the system is responsive and consistent.

4. Alignment with Abinoojii Inakonigewin

The Chiefs of the Weechi-it-te-win Family Services member communities are committed to the spirit and intent of Abinoojii Inakonigewin, however, they are also adamant that the institutions, application, and instruments of Abinoojii Inakonigewin must not take away from the autonomy, programs and capacity that have been developed in partnership between Weechi-it-te-win Family Services and the eight First Nations. To preserve and enhance the decades of work that has been achieved to date, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will outline and examine the scope and impact of structures within Abinoojii Inakonigewin and develop positions that are reflective of the aspirations and needs of member communities. Once approved by the leadership, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will then engage with Grand Council Treaty #3 to ensure these concepts are incorporated into their developments. This will include position documents that outline the benefits and challenges, scope and accountabilities on key components such as Ka Niigaanibowe't, Anishinaabe Abinoojii Board, Community Board and the Anishinaabe Abinoojii agency.

Additionally, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will conduct research into funding models to meet the needs of member communities, families, and children, without reducing current funding allocations. This research will be a comprehensive examination of the required funding to sustain enhanced Community Care Program's service delivery as well as governance structures and infrastructure all in a manner that ensures that children will thrive, and communities are vibrant.

5. An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families:

While Weechi-it-te-win Family Services along with the member communities have begun the work to ensure that services are consistent with the national standards within the act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Metis children, youth and families, there are concepts that will require refinement consistent with the objectives of the leadership.

These matters include a determination of the structure and scope of the Indigenous Governing Body (IGB) and related issues such as defining significant measures, reasonable efforts, assessments, and reassessments. Weechi-it-te-win Family Services with the Community Care Program Supervisors will develop options that are consistent with the Community Care Program, service model and cultural protocols.

6. Transition Plan to Reconstitute Weechi-it-te-win Family Services:

With the consent of the Grand Council Treaty 3 National Assembly, an agency can be reconstituted to administer Abinoojii Inakonigewin. Further, pursuant to Abinoojii Inakonigewin, an agency shall develop and monitor standards, monitor service delivery, maintain a case management system and related database, and manage some extra-jurisdictional matters, for example. Through the Weechi-it-te-win Family Services engagement initiative and consistent with the original vision, this project will transition Weechi-it-te-win Family Services from a mandated children's aid society to an Anishinaabe agency reconstituted to further the alliance with its' member First Nations and establish the complimentary Anishinaabe family service system.

This aspect of the project will involve intensive research, development, and engagement to support the Anishinaabe family service system. Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will undertake research on licensing alternatives for out of home placements and develop community standards. Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will design an appropriate case management system as well as develop a database potentially adapting current systems currently in use.

In partnership with member communities Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will research and draft options for alternative dispute resolution.

Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will draft policy and procedure in relation to intra and extra-jurisdictional matters including the roles, responsibilities and relationships amongst individuals residing outside of their First Nations or outside of the territory, and for non-member residents of First Nations.

Finally, Weechi-it-te-win Family Services will establish Anishinaabe quality assurance standards to monitor the system for continual improve and promotion of best practice. All to be utilized at the discretion of each First Nation community within this project to align with respecting and honoring their autonomy.

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