When I first looked at the workshop title all I saw was poetry and it sparked my interest, but when they started to explain what it was about, a whole new side of things came out. Being a child who grew up with both my parents in a safe and nurturing environment, thoughts of pain and suffering from being without them never crossed my mind. I listened to Shelly Johnson, the former CEO of Surrounded by Cedar, talk of a girl who had been in foster care since she was a baby and how she went thru 64 foster homes in 16 years, she is currently incarcerated. It is said that for every foster move there is 6 months of suffering for a child.
Jessica Stephens, of Surrounded by Cedars CFS, and her mom Kathy Robinson, also presented. Jessica talked about the spiritual side of the program, the kids finding themselves thru smudging, prayers, and dancing, with masks and skins, all of which give strength and emotional healing. She teaches the children about balance, balance with mother earth, and how she has 4 directions, seasons, nations, moon cycles, life cycles, elements and the power that the 4 has in balancing us. The program inspires courage and strength within the children because it engages them fully in the learning process, participation and inclusion of the children is a key element to success, making them feel safe and comfortable in their environment.
The Child, Family, and Community Services Act stresses the importance of preserving the child’s cultural identity, as well talks about their best interest being priority meaning their safety, development, quality and maintenance of relationships, views, and cultural heritage, no where does it talk about making their education a priority. The outcome is horrific, 80% of child-in-care do not graduate, 13% graduate with a certificate and only 7% are post secondary ready, of the 9400 BC children in care only 1.4% are prepared when they leave high school. Not only does it show educational precedence but it also reflects the parenting skills.
The Life Books provide an opportunity to offer children and family a visual history of their lives, there are two different books, Creating a Path for aboriginal children and My Journey for non-aboriginal children. Encouraging people to use the books, Surrounded by Cedar hopes that they will help build a strong sense of personal history and identity for the children. Their intention is to create different educational experiences, increased sense of positive identity and belonging, and restored self-esteem and hope, while attempting to change the emotional response towards school and education within communities that will have a positive future impact leading the way to educational success for children-in-care.
For more information visit: http://surroundedbycedar.com/life.php