Twenty staff members working for an urban Aboriginal child welfare organization were interviewed and asked to describe their approach to protecting children and supporting families while following the parameters of the Child and Family Community Services Act, the Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standards and Indicators, and three of the Community Organization’s policy and procedures manuals. This research sought a model of best practice for urban Aboriginal child welfare practice. A qualitative case study method was used that incorporated the values of the four R’s (respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility) of Aboriginal research. The challenges of operationalizing cultural practice/programming are multifold as individuals express and form their own meaning and interpretations of culture based on their unique life experiences, language(s), teachings, knowledge, protocols, relationship to specific community, relationship to land and all of creation, family history, ceremonies, worldview, and values. Nevertheless, a working definition of Aboriginal culture was defined in this research as ways of doing (the observable parts of culture that individuals express, share and/or do), and ways of thinking and feeling (the unobservable parts of culture that includes values, beliefs, philosophies, worldviews, and spirituality). The findings highlight a framework of which traditional Aboriginal values formed the core foundation. Traditional Aboriginal values considered essential in engaging children and families involved with urban Aboriginal child welfare services are: respect, non-judgment, integrity, caring, belonging, humility, working from a strength-based perspective, empowerment, sharing, and trust. The participants also acknowledged the significance of and respect for Aboriginal culture, the relevance of Aboriginal peoples’ history in working with urban Aboriginal children and families involved with the child welfare system, and the responsibility of the individual worker to engage in self-care and self-reflection. When workers examined, shared, and articulated their knowledge of traditional Aboriginal values, Aboriginal culture, and Aboriginal history in a responsible way to the children and families they assisted, the workers frequently witnessed positive change.
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Thesis advisor: Laitsch, Daniel
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