The wind changes direction


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This article was published 10/02/2020 (1137 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Families seeking a temporary break from their children — either to run errands, handle an emergency, or simply catch their breath — have a new resource at their fingertips.

Granny’s House, or Kookum’s House, is a one-year pilot project established by the Manitoba government and Gwekaanimad, a partnership of five community organizations.

Meaning “the wind changes direction” in Ojibwa, Gwekaanimad is comprised of Blue Thunderbird Family Care, Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, Andrews Street Family Centre, Mount Carmel Clinic, and The Winnipeg Boldness Project.

The province is investing $400,000 in Granny’s House, which will provide 24-7 access to child care to families who have been referred by Gwekaanimad organizations. Blue Thunderbird Family Care will operate the house with staff hired from the community, including a granny and several aunties (support workers).

“It’s a house where… there’s someone there 24 hours a day; there’s a granny that lives there and then there’s aunties that help out; where they can leave their kids and know that they’re loved, cared for, have peace of mind,” Josie Hill, executive director of Blue Thunderbird Family Care, said.

“Granny’s house is kind of a normal, natural thing that people used to have and probably still have within their families. A lot of our families though, through the history of Canada — residential schools, child welfare systems — have been torn away from their families. So a lot of those natural grannies and aunties sometimes don’t exist.”

Hill explained that Granny’s House has been a long time coming, as community organizations have been advocating for such a resource for decades.

“I’m so delighted. I wish we’d had this kind of resource (earlier). We probably need 10 of them. But we’ll start with one, and we’re delighted to start with one and to learn and see where we go from here. I think it would have prevented a lot of children from going into care (the child welfare system),” Hill said.

The Winnipeg Boldness Project will help co-ordinate and evaluate Granny’s House.

“Kookum’s House is an idea that many of us have been talking about for decades: a way for families to access temporary care while feeling supported in a safe and culturally appropriate way,” Diane Roussin, Boldness project manager, said in an email.

On its website, the organization says: “Our hope is that this pilot program will provide evidence that more resources such as this need to exist, and that community-led, preventative supports are necessary to increase family togetherness in the North End.”

Elder Mae Louise Campbell is a member of the Grandmothers Council, an advisory group which works with Indigenous and northern relations minister Eileen Clarke.

“This is our time to take back the true spirit of Indigenous ways of taking care of and healing our children,” she said in a statement.

Granny’s House opened Jan. 31.

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