A social worker says the strike at Dilico Anishnabek Family Care is preventing parents from seeing their children in foster care.
About 350 Dilico workers — many working in child welfare — went on strike on Monday in Thunder Bay, Marathon, Longlac and Nipigon. The agency serves 13 First Nations in the region.
An advocate for about 60 families with children under Dilico's care said about a dozen parents have told her their regular visits with their children have been cancelled — or they can't reach Dilico to arrange them.
"They're pretty much ... begging me to help them get their visits," Tannis Smith said. "They're desperate ... and nobody knows how long the strike will go on."
'What are the children being told?'
A spokesperson for Dilico said some worker-supervised visits were cancelled this week, but court-ordered visits have continued.
In an e-mail Thursday, Dilico’s Betty Carpick said visitation access will be reviewed and, depending on staffing, more visitations may be forthcoming.
Those visits can’t come soon enough, however. Smith said many of the families she works with struggle with addictions and, in many cases, parents have worked hard to recover from addictions to get their children back from foster care.
"Some of those kids … look forward to [visits] … with their parents. My question is what are the children being told?"
Not being able to see their children really affects families struggling with addiction, Smith noted.
"You work hard to maintain your sobriety and you look forward to your visits — and suddenly they're cancelled," she said.
"[Visiting with their children] is something that … gets people through sometimes … that one or two visits a week."
Smith’s counselling agency is organizing a peaceful protest for parents at Dilico on Friday morning.