Edmonton

Family violence program keeps aboriginal children at home, out of care

A pilot project aimed to reduce violence against children living on reserves is showing strong results, says an advocate for Alberta women's shelter.

Walking the Path Together links outreach worker with children from troubled homes

A pilot project aimed to reduce violence against children living on reserves is showing strong results, says an advocate for Alberta women's shelter. 1:59

A program on Alberta’s reserves which aims to help those hurt by family violence is showing strong results, advocates say.

"It's knowing that we have done something positive out there and we have made a difference in the families we work with," said Darlene Lightning-Mattson, executive director of the Sucker Creek Women's Shelter in northern Alberta.

Walking the Path Together gives one-on-one help to children whose mothers have visited women’s shelters on First Nations reserves.

Five shelters participated in the project, which employed an outreach worker to follow up with the children of women who have reported domestic problems to shelter staff.

"Now our workers go into the client's home do one-on-one with mom and she also works with the children and their siblings," Lightning-Mattson said.

The outreach worker, referred to as an "Eagle Feather Worker," then acts as an advocate for the children within their community to ensure all basic needs are met.

This can include food for the children, as well as checking in with local schools to see if the child is having problems there. Special programs aimed at the parents deal with substance abuse and job training, to prevent future crises.

In the program's three years, the results have been dramatic, according to Jan Reimer with the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.

"Mom is going back to school, one woman even started her own business. We've got children — one was a drug runner and isn't anymore.

"So it's really had remarkable results," Reimer said.

According to the council, the program has been able to help 24 mothers go back to school or find employment in the last three years, and has kept more than 80 kids out of government care.

Demand for the program continues to rise.

"By this time, over three years …my numbers have increased over 50 percent," Lightning-Mattson said.

The project is paid for jointly by the federal and provincial governments, but is due to run out next spring.

The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters hopes sharing its results will drum up more money to allow the program to carry on.