Kina Gbezhgomi and Sudbury’s N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre sign agreement

Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services (KGCFS) and the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre (NNFC) signed a new protocol agreement, last week. From left are Sandra Martin, president of the NNFC board, Marie Meawasige, NNFC executive director, Denise Morrow, executive director of KGCFS and Kevin Mossip, president of the KGCFS board of directors.

SUDBURY—Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services, serving Manitoulin Island and area and the N’Swakamok Native Friendship Centre (NNFC) in Sudbury are Indigenous culture-based organizations with mandates that are similar and complementary, yet distinct in responsibilities, governance, and community accountability structures. Both agencies believe that Indigenous children should be happy, healthy, resilient, grounded in their cultures and languages and thriving as individuals and as members of their families, communities and nations.

The two Indigenous social service agencies have signed a protocol to help children and families better know and connect with their culture. The goal is to help Indigenous families living off-reserve in Sudbury and surrounding areas, with child welfare services.

“This agreement sets out protocols for our two agencies to work together better to service off-Island Indigenous families in Sudbury and surrounding areas,” Kevin Mossip, board chair of Kina, told The Expositor. The two agencies work with children and families in Sudbury and surrounding areas. “We (Kina) also provide services here on Manitoulin. We want to protect, provide prevention and support families and children.”

Mr. Mossip explained Kina has been mandated since 2015 and prior to that, N’Swakamok had to deal with the Sudbury Area Child and Family Services, “the Sudbury office of the Children’s Aid Society.

The two agencies have always worked together, said Mr. Mossip. “That has always been the case, but this agreement sets out everything on paper.”

Denise Morrow, executive director of Kina said at the signing agreement last week that from April to December 2021, Kina supported about 3,200 family members living on and off-reserve and that more than half of its service volume includes people living off-reserve.

“We have a cultural team that delivers traditional supports, teaching and ceremonies,” Ms. Morrow said. “And we have collaborated with N’Swakamok in terms of those events.” She emphasized providing for and keeping those cultural connections is imperative.

“It is so central to identity in terms of promoting positive First Nation identity and the importance of that holistic well-being,” Ms. Morrow said.  

Marie Meawasige, executive director of N’Swakamok said at the signing, “the role of the friendship centre is to work in cooperation and to form a good working partnership with Kina.” The two agencies work with children and families in Sudbury and surrounding areas. They also provide court services on Manitoulin Island.

“Our organizations provide uniquely distinct and overlapping services that are preventative in nature, ensure that the needs of children who require protection are met and work to support and preserve the holistic needs of children, youth and families. We believe that children need to be supported in ways that nurture and promote their cultures, heritages, traditions, Indigenous languages, concept of the extended family and connection to community,” a joint press release states.

“In the spirit of partnership, we believe that bringing our services together by providing coordinated, collaborative, and accountable services will enhance the social, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being for Indigenous children, youth and families. It is with this understanding that our organizations have embarked on a journey together which is detailed within our protocol agreement.”

“In the spirit of fostering positive relationships and partnerships, the NNFC and KGFCS agree that the paramount purpose of this protocol is to build and maintain a strong partnership that supports and promotes the safety and well-being of Indigenous children, youth and families who access our cultural-based services,” the release continues. “This protocol agreement provides guidelines that both NNFC and KGFCS agree to follow with the objectives of enhancing communication, increasing collaboration, strengthening coordination, and supporting accountability.”

“We strive to have a strong, open, trusting, and transparent relationship where we respect and acknowledge each other’s mandates, support mutual capacity building, share resources, overcome challenges, celebrate successes, and maintain growth in our ongoing relationship.”

“The NNFC is a culture-based community hub organization that assists all Indigenous people migrating to or already living in the City of Greater Sudbury. The NNFC has developed and implemented programs and activities that serve the social, education, cultural and recreational needs of the Indigenous community. The NNFC is “committed to preserving language and culture, enhancing quality of life and empowering family and community by providing supports, services and partnerships for the Indigenous community in the urban setting.” The vision of the NNFC is “a holistic, healthy Indigenous community centre which promotes culture, language and well-being in a balanced way.”

“Kina Ghezhgomi Child and Family Services will honour and support our family’s and community’s inherent authority to care for their children based on unity, traditions, values, beliefs and customs. Our services ensure children are protected and stay connected with their culture, language and community while strengthening family and community relationships.”

“Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services translates into “all of us, we are one,” and is driven by our commitment to delivering positive support to children and families through client-focused service delivery processes. KGCFS is committed to fostering strong families through its delivery by inclusion of First Nations cultural practices. KGCFS has three office locations (Wiikwemkoong, M’Chigeeng and Sudbury) to service seven member First Nations and other families identifying as First Nation within the Districts of Sudbury/Manitoulin.”